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Spotlight on Executive-in-Residence: Neil R. Milano

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) recently unveiled its inaugural group of Executives-in-Residence.  These highly-qualified life sciences executives will mentor and advise emerging technology companies at the Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT), the EDA’s life sciences incubator.  The Executive-in-Residence program was created in collaboration with BioNJ.  

Neil R. Milano, of Montclair, draws upon his extensive financial background with both large and small biotechnology businesses to mentor and advise the more than two-dozen tenant companies at CCIT.  As entrepreneurs know first-hand, access to early capital is critical; knowing how to correctly leverage that early funding to effectively grow a business is equally as important.  Through a series of office hours, Neil, the first Executive-in-Residence - Chief Financial Officer (CFO), looks to impart this knowledge to CCIT’s emerging companies.  

With more than 30 years of financial and operational experience, including the last 15 with start-up company management teams, Neil has led companies through an Initial Public Offering (IPO), raised growth capital, managed preferred equity deals and debt financings, and was brought in to lead a company through Chapter 11 filings and restructurings.  

As the CFO for Nautilus Neurosciences, Inc., Neil launched Cambia®, an FDA approved product for migraine headaches. While with Nautilus, he grew the company from two to 65 employees.  Neil was also recruited by private equity groups Tailwind Capital and Warburg Pincus, where he spent several years as CFO of many of their portfolio companies both in the United States and Brazil.  

Neil received both a Bachelor of Science and an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Why did you choose to apply to the Executive-in-Residence program?
Having worked with startup companies for more than a decade and a half, I know the importance of mentoring and advising.  I believed, and am finding, that the Executive-In-Residence program is similar to an operating executive at a private equity firm, something with which I have extensive experience.  Senior executives with deep industry experience provide operational and financial support to portfolio companies.  With my life sciences background and the fact that I have worked as an operating executive in private equity, I feel that the Executive-in-Residence program is a meaningful way for me to mentor management teams and advise New Jersey-based growth companies.         

What do you hope to get out of this Executive-in-Residence program?  
Through my years of experience, I have come to learn that moving from a concept to a successful commercialization of product is a difficult road.   I hope to offer an independent perspective to founders and help them navigate business decisions such as fundraising, selecting advisory boards, hiring, strategic planning and financial matters.  My goal is to help guide CCIT’s emerging companies on the path to success, which, in and of itself, is my reward.  

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard over the years that you hope to impart on these emerging life sciences companies?
A Managing Partner of a large private equity firm once told me to identify a few key partners that share your values.  In order to build a successful organization, you are constantly in search of the right people or organizations, such as investors, vendors, employees and strategic partners, who will grow with you.     

What is the next challenge you want to undertake in your career?
My next challenge is to work with a private equity sponsor to identify and fund another life sciences start-up,  but most likely in a combined COO/CFO role and hopefully in NJ.  Having been part of seven prior start-up companies, I had the opportunity to work with great sponsors Tailwind Capital, Galen Partners and Warburg Pincus, all well respected life sciences investors.  

To learn more about CCIT’s Executive-in-Residence program, please visit http://www.njeda.com/eir and follow @NJEDATech on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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