We asked a bunch of CEO’s for their best advice about starting a business.

Navigating the path of entrepreneurship is no walk in the park, and that’s exactly why we gathered insights from our seasoned founders during our recent monthly meetup. As we delve into their candid advice, it’s crucial to recognize that the entrepreneurial journey is a rollercoaster – highs, lows, twists, and turns. But hey, isn’t that what makes the ride exhilarating?

Our founders have been there, done that, and are graciously sharing their pearls of wisdom. Buckle up and let’s explore their unfiltered advice on what every aspiring business owner should ponder before taking the plunge.

1. Accountability Matters: “Find someone or find somebody to hold you accountable.” The entrepreneurial road is often winding, and having a support system ensures you stay on track when the going gets tough.

2. Stress Check: “Sit down and evaluate how much stress you can take over the next couple of years.” Recognize that entrepreneurship comes with its fair share of stress. Be honest with yourself about your capacity to handle it.

3. Customer-Centric Approach: “Don’t be afraid to ask your customers why and get feedback.” Your customers hold the key to your success. Engage with them, ask for feedback, and turn them into sales advocates.

4. Problem Solving for Profit: “Find a customer, solve their problems, and make money.” Start with the problem and the customer. Innovation is great, but it needs to translate into profitability.

5. Define Your Why: “Know your why.” Understanding why you’re in this game is crucial for navigating both the peaks and valleys. It’s more than just making money; it’s about purpose.

6. Build a Complementary Team: “Find someone as dedicated to you that can help and has complementary skills.” Being a lone wolf is tough. Surround yourself with a team that complements your skills and dedication.

7. Measure What Matters: “Pick two things to measure that define your business success.” Focus on meaningful metrics and measure them frequently. Don’t overwhelm yourself; simplicity is key in the early stages.

8. Are You Sure?: “Ask yourself: are you sure you want to do this?” Dip your toes in; test the waters. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Assess your commitment and, when the opportunity strikes, embrace a little bit of well-timed luck.

In closing, remember, these insights are not meant to discourage but to empower. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and keep pushing forward. The entrepreneurial journey is an adventure – an unpredictable and rewarding ride that molds not only your business but also you as a resilient and dynamic individual. Here’s to your journey and the success that awaits you!

NextGEN exists to provide community support for founders. Want to be a part of these conversations in the future? Reach out and get connected. We will plug in you.

Scott Pancoast: From Venture Capital to CEO; A journey of perseverance and innovation

Embarking on a journey that spans venture capitalism to CEO roles to board memberships, Scott Pancoast’s career epitomizes resilience and adaptability in the ever-evolving business landscape. 

Venture Capitalist to CEO

Scott Pancoast, Zylo Therapeutics

Scott’s professional trajectory started after Harvard Business School with a decade at Chemed, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Cincinnati. He played various roles and eventually sought new challenges. A pivotal encounter in 1994 with an entrepreneur who sold the first ear thermometer company ignited Scott’s interest in high-growth tech startups. This marked the beginning of his foray into venture capitalism: Through a family investment firm in San Diego, he began investing in RFID, software, and life science companies. He not only invested in these companies, but was an active board member, guiding them through Series A and B (and sometimes C, D, and E) rounds, and wrapping them up with a nice little bow for future investments and exits. 

In 2004, one of these companies asked Scott to be the CEO, so he pivoted, becoming the CEO for the then-private company…a company that had no money.  So, he recast the business plan and raised $8 million, and shortly thereafter, took it public. Over the following ten years, he raised an additional $50 million and forged worldwide partnerships with Pfizer, Merck-Serono, J&J, and Biogen, which brought in another $40 million. After a failed phase 2 study, however, he stepped down and moved to Greenville, SC where his son was attending Furman University….thinking that he had retired. 

Retirement was not meant to be. In 2017, through a series of fortuitous introductions, unlikely heroes, unsavory events, and some legal drama, Scott found himself with a licensing agreement with Einstein College and access to $800k in funding that he had raised. And, Zylö Therapeutics was born! If you’re ever interested in learning all the details, we have found that Scott is an open book, believing we can all learn from each other’s pitfalls and failures. Ultimately, what began as the “worst year of his life” turned into a true “lemons into lemonade” story. Over the next two years, Scott raised an additional $3M in an oversubscribed Series A round and followed that up in 2021-2022 with an additional $5.2M in an oversubscribed Series B round. 

Zylö Therapeutics

Zylö Therapeutics is revolutionizing topical drug delivery through patented silica particles called Z-pods®. Licensed from Einstein College of Medicine, this technology forms the basis of a topical delivery system addressing bioavailability challenges. Zylö can load “active” ingredients into Z-pods®, which then get incorporated into a cream, lotion, or gel and provide a slow release of the ingredient.

Navigating Challenges and Pivots

In an industry marked by challenges, Scott’s leadership at Zylö has been defined by resilience. Zylö recently received their largest order, and, to say it was a saga to get the goods delivered is an understatement. From machinery not functioning, to working weeks on end (nights and weekends included), to making the drive (yes, the drive!) from Greenville, SC to Minneapolis, MN in the middle of winter (cue freezing rain in the mountains!), Scott and his team have proven they are willing to work to get it done. 

As Zylö advances, Scott faces the daunting task of scaling up operations and simultaneously instituting quality control. As far as the future, Zylö is focusing on the non-pharmaceutical cosmetic industry, with products boasting impressive results for hair growth, anti-aging, and UVB-protection (we’re raising our hands for the anti-wrinkle products!). Many of these products will have “Powered by Z-pods®” on the packaging, a la “Intel® inside.”

Apothec—Spinning Out Pharma Assets

Scott plans to spin out Zylö’s pharmaceutical assets into a new venture named Apothec, short for Apothecary. This strategic move aims to independently fund and advance pharmaceutical programs, providing a unique focus on areas like lupus, severe burns, erectile dysfunction, and diabetic foot ulcers. The objective is to realize an even larger ROI for the Zylö investors. Scott, as Co-Founder of Apothec, plans to remain Executive Chairman until he can get the right CEO in place, at which point he will remain an active board member. 

Mentorship and Community Engagement

Scott actively engages in mentorship programs. His recent participation in NYU Stern School of Business’s Endless Frontier Labs where Zylö was one of 78 accepted out of 1400+ applicants reflects a commitment to continue to learn despite all his experience. Scott’s involvement with NEXT highlights his dedication to connecting, educating, and providing mentorship within the business ecosystem. Scott’s name is synonymous with SC Angel Tax Credits as a local expert and advocate for improving the system. 

Scott’s journey from venture capitalist to the helm of Zylö Therapeutics is a narrative of tenacity, adaptability, and visionary leadership. As he continues to pioneer innovations in drug delivery and venture into new territories, his story serves as inspiration for entrepreneurs navigating the intricate landscape of business and innovation.