THU AM News: Angel investor urges focus on business development for startups; Health officials waiting on final ‘green light’ for pediatric COVID-19 vaccines

— An angel investor with Wisconsin Investment Partners urges startup founders to prioritize business development expertise as they build out their team. 

“One of the earliest people I like to see come in is somebody who has a real good sense about business development,” said WIP co-manager Bob Wood. “If that’s your particular skill, that’s great, you’ve got a great starting point. If not … get somebody in there soon that can.” 

He spoke yesterday on a panel of startup experts held as part of the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, hosted in Madison by the Wisconsin Technology Council. Panelists shared their perspectives and suggestions on how to assemble an executive team during the growth phase of a startup business. 

Ben Camp, CEO of Madison-based RehabPath, says members of the company’s executive team were hired on a contract basis before they fully joined the team. He said being able to “date before you marry” is helpful for many burgeoning companies. 

“Startups don’t have a lot of margin for error, you know, a wrong hire at any level but especially the executive level can really set you back and can potentially be devastating,” he said. 

His company, which provides addiction treatment resources, is based at StartingBlock Madison, a coworking space for entrepreneurs and others that also offers business growth services to startup members. The organization’s executive director, Nora Roughen-Schmidt, described a “consensus model” for decision-making among leadership teams. 

She said by giving all members of the team “a real stake in the game,” companies are able to build a more cohesive culture. 

“Some of the teams at StartingBlock are putting in 14 hour days every single day, so there’s a certain amount of just camaraderie and respect that comes from everybody putting in that much time and effort toward a similar goal,” she said. “I see a lot of really positive group dynamics, problem-solving and a shared love and passion for what they’re doing, which is really important.” 

Panelists cautioned entrepreneurs in attendance against being too generous with their reimbursement for executives, urging them to consult with advisors about the level of equity and other methods of payment that make sense for their business. They also pointed to the importance of developing company culture as the executive leadership team is coming together. 

“I like working with people I like working with,” Wood said. “You can tell pretty quick, are you going to enjoy working with this person? Do they have the kind of qualities that you’re going to want a long-term relationship with them?” 

Along with avoiding personality clashes and non-team players, Wood also suggested that entrepreneurs should be thinking about how to balance their own strengths and weaknesses as they bring on others at the executive level. And Roughen-Schmidt said the timing of these hires should be strategic to match the company’s own rate of growth and funding. 

“What I see is people making space in their process, whether on paper or in their brains, for when this is going to be happening and how it’s going to happen,” she said. “And also just making sure that they can afford whatever those next steps are as well.” 

The Early Stage Symposium continues today at the Monona Terrace, with a keynote address this morning by Young Enterprising Society co-founders and brothers Khalif and Que El-Amin.

Listen to a recent podcast with Khalif and Que here: 

— Health officials in Wisconsin are waiting on the final “green light” from the CDC before the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can be provided in the state. 

The Department of Health Services says vaccinations can begin once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases the new clinical guidance and vaccinators can review that information and complete related training. 

“CDC has indicated that it is coming soon, and we do hope that it is very quickly,” said Stephanie Schauer, program manager for the agency’s Division of Public Health Immunization. “As soon as we have that guidance, that really is the green light that providers need to go ahead and review that written information, make sure that all their vaccinators are trained … it’s really that last key step.” 

The agency says nearly 500,000 children in the state fall under the age range of 5-11, making them eligible for the smaller-dose pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. The dosage is one-third the size of Pfizer’s vaccine for adults. 

“We need to make sure that vaccinators have all the info, they know how to draw up, they know the amount to administer … It’s different, it’s not radically different, but it is different,” Schauer said yesterday during a call with reporters. “They need to make sure they’re doing it correctly and safely for pediatrics.” 

She said DHS is hopeful that guidance will be released this week. 

Wisconsin initially received around 170,000 doses of the pediatric vaccine based on the number of eligible children in the state, and Schauer said those doses are “in route or already in providers’ offices” while the state awaits the final go-ahead. She said DHS doesn’t know exactly how many doses the state will receive in the coming weeks. 

“The CDC does reassure us that there is sufficient vaccine and it will be distributed on a pro rata basis,” she said. “Vaccinators will be able to go ahead and place orders coming up, we’re just not quite there yet.” 

DHS Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases Dr. Ryan Westergaard calls the recent approval “a huge step forward” in the state’s fight against COVID-19. He’s urging parents and guardians to get their eligible children vaccinated as soon as possible to protect them from potential long-term symptoms of the virus. 

The DHS site shows 58 percent of the state’s population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 55.2 percent have completed the vaccine series.

See the latest numbers on vaccinations: 

— Meanwhile, CVS Health has announced that six locations in Wisconsin are now accepting appointments for the Pfizer pediatric vaccine.

According to a release from the company, these sites will be prepared to start giving shots on Sunday, “upon receipt and confirmation of vaccine supply.” The Wisconsin locations are among 1,700 CVS sites around the country that will be providing the vaccine to kids. 

See the release: 

— Covering Wisconsin Director Allison Espeseth is hopeful that this year’s longer open enrollment period will allow more customers to get health insurance coverage through 

Open enrollment for 2022 plans began Monday and runs through Jan. 15, giving consumers an additional month to select plans compared to last year. But she says navigators are urging people not to wait until the very end of that period, as consumers should be selecting a plan by Dec. 15 to get benefits that start Jan. 1. 

“In most places, navigators continue to serve consumers virtually (phone or video) given the ongoing pandemic,” she told in an email. “However, because we know this can pose challenges for some consumers — whether due to language needs or technology barriers or other reasons — navigators can still make appointments to meet in person.” 

State officials are encouraging residents to explore their options for the coming year, as average rates on the individual market including plans on will be 0.3 percent lower in 2022 than in 2021. Plus multiple insurers have expanded their coverage options in Wisconsin, a release from the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance shows. 

“Overall, we want the public to know that now is the time to take another look at the health insurance market place,” Espeseth said. “Covid relief legislation provides new savings opportunities for most consumers, including those who may not have been eligible before.” 

See the state’s insurance assistance portal: 

— The state Department of Justice collected over 57,000 pounds of unwanted medications during last month’s Drug Take Back Day, a release shows. 

DOJ says Wisconsin’s effort collected more medications than any other state in the country during the national event on Oct. 23. Texas is the only other state that collected more than 50,000 pounds of meds.

“Thank you to the folks from across the state who made Wisconsin’s Drug Take Back the most successful in the nation,” Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a release. “By safely disposing of tens of thousands of pounds of unused and unwanted medications, Wisconsinites have ensured that those medications won’t be diverted for misuse.” 

Wisconsin has 497 permanent drug disposal boxes that can be used year-round, located at hospitals, pharmacies, health clinics and law enforcement agencies, the DOJ says. The medications collected during this year’s Drug Take Back Day were transported to Indianapolis for incineration. 

See a list of drop box locations in the state: 

See a map of collections by state: 

— The latest Marquette University Law School Poll shows more registered voters were concerned about inflation in October than in August. 

The poll, which tapped 805 registered Wisconsin voters between Oct. 26-31, found 64 percent of respondents are “very concerned” about inflation, which is up from 49 percent in August. Another 28 percent said they’re somewhat concerned and 7 percent are “not too concerned or not at all concerned.” In August, those numbers were 35 percent and 14 percent, respectively. 

Forty-one percent of respondents said the state is headed in the right direction, while 51 percent say it’s on the wrong track, according to a release. In August, 39 percent said Wisconsin is headed in the right direction and 52 percent said it’s on the wrong track. 

Meanwhile, 40 percent of respondents said they’re “very concerned” about the COVID-19 pandemic, 34 percent said they’re somewhat concerned and 25 percent said they’re not too concerned or not concerned at all. The previous poll in August did not include this question. 

Of respondents who haven’t been vaccinated against the virus, 56 percent said they will definitely not get the vaccine and 18 percent said they probably won’t get it. Seven percent said they will definitely get vaccinated and 15 percent said they will probably get vaccinated. 

See more results in the release: 

— Wisconsin can expect over 800,000 hunters to participate in the deer hunting season as the gun season comes up later this month.

DNR Director of Wildlife Management Eric Lobner during a virtual press call said hunters who participate in Wisconsin’s Nov. 20-28 gun deer hunt boost the economy statewide. Lobner added those hunters, numbering higher than the average annual State Fair attendance, bring billions of dollars to retail stores as well as restaurants and lodging businesses in rural areas.

Lobner told the state is on track to issue roughly the same number of licenses as last year.

He said Wisconsin saw 876,600 licensed deer hunters during last year’s deer hunting season. That’s up from the roughly 792,000 licenses DNR issued in 2019, he added.

While DNR officials on the call would not offer a deer population estimate, District Wildlife Program Supervisor Jeff Pritzl said harvest levels during the earlier-starting bow, crossbow and youth hunting seasons point to roughly stable or increasing deer populations compared to last year.

“As we look towards the gun season, all the arrows are pointing in the right direction,” Pritzl said.

A new gun deer hunting season means a new influx of deer carcasses to test for chronic wasting disease too, but Wildlife Health Conservation Specialist Amanda Kamps told the true prevalence of the disease with no known cure won’t be very clear until early to mid-December.

She said the southwest corner of the state has seen many CWD cases since the discovery of the disease in Wisconsin roughly 20 years ago, but to determine if that’s still the case, hunters will need to participate in testing efforts by providing carcasses to sample.

Help from hunters during gun deer season is especially important because that’s when Wisconsin sees the most deer hunting in each year, she said. And more carcasses to sample from means more accurate data.


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