Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Lion's Den: 100+ Philly start-ups growl for cash at ImPACT

2015 winner PhotoSonix tells what it's like

They were a few faces in a big crowd: Adam Dakin and his team from PhotoSonix Medical, a Fort Washington start-up trying to sell the FDA and doctors on its Clens anti-acne therapy, were one of 140 applicants for last fall's "Lion's Den" fundraising competition, an event at last fall's Philadelphia Association for Capital and Technology (PACT) Impact Capital Conference.

With its ultrasound-and-light treatment -- an alternative to antibiotics -- PhotoSonix made all the cuts: it was picked as one of  80 "Featured" firms that met basic requirements; then one of 45 "Presenting Companies" invited to make quick pitches before a busy hall of attendees.

"And we were picked," said Tessie McNeely, Chief Science Officer. "Fairy Godmother came up and said, 'You get to pitch tonight.' "

With two other firms - PurpleCloudTechnologies (hotel software) and Fitly (food and calorie counts) -- PhotoSonix was called to the Lion's Den presentation, at the Crystal Tea Room in the Wanamaker's bulding, to face a grilling before five Philly-area founders and investors.

All five judges committed cash -- $350,000 in all. (The other two Lions' Den finalists got offers from at least one judge; PhotoSonix was a rare unainmous pick.)

They didn't leave it at that.  The partners over the next few weeks called dermatologists, checked FDA rules, and completed a round of due diligence at a level Dakin said is more typical of large venture capital firms than a group of local "angel" investors.

They liked what they heard. The five raised their total initial investment to $540,000. Wells joined the PhotoMedix board. The founders felt buoyed by the judges' close observation and advice.

Early money attracted more. State-backed Ben Franklin Technology Partners added $250.000. "Fence-sitters" joined in, once they saw others were committing, Dakin said. PhotoMedix blew past its $1 million early-stage target and collected $1.7 million before year's end -- enough to start clincal studies.

The firm is now preparing its first venture capital fundraising -- "in the range of $10 million," Dakin told me.

Another 140 hopefuls have signed on for this fall's Lions' Den, to be held during this year's Nov. 29-30 Impact 2016 Capital Conference at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown.

Impact Chairman Sean Denham, a partner at the accounting firm Grant Thornton, said his hope to attrac another 30 applicants over the next week before the deadline. College students welcome.