Whether you're starting a venture from the ground up or pivoting to something new, the quality of the people driving that momentum will define its success. In an area as new and nuanced as Psychedelic Medicine, getting to the right leadership team needs to be a priority.
Executive search is about more than just finding people with the right credentials. It's about finding the right balance of qualities, the ones that set them apart as stewards of the organizational vision and of the people they're positioned to lead. And it's about their ability to define and embody a culture that emboldens everyone in that organization to exceed their own expectations. Whether you tackle this on your own or enlist a firm of executive recruiters, it's important to have these priorities aligned.
The right talent in the exciting and competitive space of Psychedelic Medicine will mark the difference between those ventures that struggle to survive and those that thrive.
The CEO is arguably the heart and head of any organization. CEOs are the foremost champions of an organization's mission and vision. While other roles in the leadership team are focused on specific expertise, CEOs are, ideally, polymaths, able to dive into the trenches on any of the company's operational spheres. And they are the last line of defense when the difficult choices need to be made. This versatility is especially relevant in the nascent Psychedelic Medicine industry, where a tremendous amount of white space still exists.
Focusing your executive talent search on adaptability and learning agility will pay dividends. Ask your CEO candidates about their experience developing expertise in new therapeutic areas. Have they had experience working across the clinical spectrum - discovery through to commercialization? Do they have a history of crafting the narrative around an early-stage company, then delivering on the promise of that narrative?
The top CEOs in today's business and social environment must be champions of diversity. This is not unique to Psychedelic Medicine but it is every bit as impactful. They recognize that success is the net result of investing in the talents and experience of the teams below them. And they're committed to building the spaces that allow that diversity of qualities to grow, thrive and — in the case of Psychedelic Medicine — shape the future of the field.
In a recent interview with The Bedford Group Transearch, Cybin Corp. CEO Doug Drysdale discusses what drew him to the psychedelic medicine space, why the industry is so unique, and the talent acquisition challenges he's faced. Click here to view.
Apart from the CEO, no other role is as important as the organization's Chief Scientific Officer. It's the CSO who will drive the organization's discovery and preclinical stages in Psychedelic Medicine. And it's this quintessential leadership that will define the scientific direction shaping everything from the research methodology to the company's core value proposition.
The unique makeup of scientific and academic qualifications embodied in the CSO role will shape each market participant's vision and steer their course through the opportunities available in the Psychedelic Medicine space. It is also most likely that the CSO will be key to building an advisory board and will play the lead role in establishing the organization's external clinical capacity. As the head of scientific operations, the CSO combines scientific prowess with leadership skills and business acumen.
No one would argue the importance of having a proficient and experienced CFO managing the financial operations of an organization. What is much harder to hone in on these days is the broader strategic role you want your CFO to play in external-facing matters. The importance of finding a CFO with talent in this sphere is predicated on the strength of your CEO as the prime external conduit.
For firms in the Psychedelic Medicine space that rely on capital raises to grease the rails of innovation, the CFO will need to be a great storyteller. Competition in the sector (as well as Biotech and Pharma at large) is currently fierce. Investors have finite time and funding to offer. So, it's imperative that the primary contact for all things financial also be able to promote the mission and vision those finances are fueling.
The high level of industry competition also carries other obstacles. While Biotech boards are reluctant to hire first-time CFOs, and prefer to hire from within the sector, demand simply outstrips supply. Experienced CFOs in the Biotech spheres are becoming increasingly difficult to secure.
Depending on the stage of your organization, many Biotechs have gone the route of a multi-headed hydra, pairing a CFO (often an investment banker profile, with deep connections on The Street) with a seasoned VP Finance (focused on reporting and controls). This allows the CFO to manage the external-facing components of the role, while ensuring that things at the operational level run smoothly. Given the dynamics of this functional space, you can expect this trend to continue and find its way into Psychedelic Medicine.
Whether searching on their own or with the expertise of an executive search firm, competitors in Psychedelic Medicine will likely need to go outside Biotech and Pharma (to IP-focused, adjacent industries, like technology), or elevate someone with experience in the life sciences sector to a first-time CFO role. Whichever the case, it will be one of the most important choices an organization will make.
We noted earlier that the ideal CEO is a polymath. Of course, ideals in executive search and executive placement are much like they are in any pursuit — aspirational.
That's why the COO in Psychedelic Medicine is such a crucial hire. Functionally, COOs are the organization's second in command. But fundamentally, they are something entirely more significant — they are the CEO's other half. The skills of COOs and CEOs should complement and enhance each other. The CEO is just one person and, even in the best of circumstances, will have limits on their time. In that way, when the CEO can't be everything and everyone in a given situation, the COO is there to cover the gaps and keep the whole operation running as smoothly as ever.
A COO, especially when it comes to startups or groundbreaking ventures, needs to be extraordinarily versatile. The role of COOs may change from year to year (or even day to day) as they adjust to the evolving needs of the organization and often act as a catch-all or functional incubator until other senior roles need to be hired when growth milestones are achieved.
That adaptability, paired with CEO compatibility, is the COO’s core value to an organization — to be everywhere that the CEO can't. Companies ignore the importance of a COO at their own risk.
The majority of companies in the Psychedelic Medicine space might consider themselves at too early a stage for this role. But, given the competitive nature of the CSO marketplace, organizations should be looking to engage and secure top CMO talent, proactively. As the inevitable clinical trials and product rollouts arise, organizations could find themselves without medical executive options when the time comes.
The unique treatment pathway for Psychedelic Medicine, the existing social norms and attitudes around the space, will come with increasing regulatory scrutiny and concerns around safety. Finding and integrating the CMO role into the leadership team early will help mitigate any resistance. An established CMO provides the clinical lens required to best ensure clinical and regulatory success.
Companies that wait too long on filling this role could find themselves too far down an undesirable path, one with a reduced likelihood of a favorable commercial outcome.
If you have questions, would like to discuss your executive search needs with one of our partners, or are interested in leadership opportunities in Psychedelic Medicine, complete the contact form below.