Random Observations from the Winter MedTech Conferences

The second week of January found San Francisco, once again, abuzz with folks engaged in the business of medicine. The 28th annual JP Morgan Conference held the spotlight, packing the Westin St. Francis tight and the OneMedPlace and OneMedTV (www.onemedplace.com, www.onemedtv.com) crowds held court in impressive fashion across the way at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.  A repeated nod to Brett Johnson who has constructed his OneMedPlace organization out of whole cloth and in a few short years has entered the consciousness of the industry.

From high level, the theme of this year could have been, “Things are Clearly Better – Right?” Many conversations held that thought or some close derivative as banker after banker expressed optimism, but couldn’t exactly put a finger on why. An unscientific sampling of private companies found that that those with the best VC pedigrees are finding funding while those with second tier sponsorship or that may have fallen behind original development schedules seem to have been forsaken by the system. A “down round” seems to be the best possibility for this group and many have either taken very expensive strategic money from large corporate players or have simply gone dark.

While the IPO market is still expectant (but not delivering), smaller banks seem to be doing deals at a good pace. The deal machine at Rodman & Renshaw chugs along at a good pace and regional players seem to have accelerated their deal flow as well.  Craig Levine, a banker at Chardan Capital Markets (www.chardancm.com) indicates that their deal flow – both financing and strategic – is picking up in Asia and the US.  In speaking to management teams in atendance, it seems that the anticipation of a better financing climate is leading many bankers to suggest shelf registrations for their small public targets.  This could be as much a marketing move to lock up a relationship as anything, but the shelf idea seems to have fresh legs this winter.

Despite the absense of hard evidence, the pall that hung over the 2009 version of the events has lifted and the players are smiling – we will have to see if the dollars follow the mood.

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