John Reale, Managing Director at Integr8d Capital and Venture Lead at the TMC Venture Fund, joins the pod to tackle the Houston startup ecosystem from the medical tech perspective. After learning the ropes of the financial sector and trying his hand at his own entrepreneurial ventures, JR has channeled his energy into giving back to the future generation of startups-- so much so that he’s been named Investor of the Year. In this episode, JR talks Station Houston, Integra8d, TMC, and how you can get involved, too.
[00:00] Podcast begins - Investing in the Future of Health Science
[02:55] Working at the World Trade Center at 16 years old
[06:39] Getting in on the ground floor at Avalon Advisors
[12:10] Investing in people & finding a founder worth following
[16:55] Trying to fill the gaps in investing with Station Houston
[19:16] Leading the Texas Medical Center (TMC) Venture Fund
[24:10] Encouraging curiosity in investments & partnerships in Houston
Would you say the investment opportunities you take are heavily weighted to the people?
Many investors say they invest in people, not product, but John Reale takes that saying to heart because of his own experience as a young professional that struggled to find the right advice from the right people. Investing in a talented founding team is a central principle of John’s investment strategy. However, John’s advice to other investors is to understand and trust how that founding team learns and applies what they learn through mentorship to their businesses.
“How do people learn and what do they do with those learnings? How does it help them make better decisions, or have realizations and be objective about what they learned? I think the best predictor, frankly, of the future is people's ability to learn and take action.”
You lead the venture fund at TMC. What is that like? What are you doing down there?
After serving on the investment committee at the Texas Medical Center, John was granted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the TMC Venture Fund, a $50 million fund that invests in founders building the future of health. Currently, 18 companies from across the nation (and a couple international companies as well) are a part of the TMC portfolio and each brings a unique take to the state of health and life science. The TMC fund aims to bridge the gap in support for med tech startups, especially in fields growing in importance, such as biomanufacturing.
“We work with a lot of different people and we try to help them think about how they're going to shape the future of healthcare, of health, of life sciences, through accessing these great institutions with these amazing people who are part of our community.”
What else is needed here in Houston in order to make our startup ecosystem thrive?
A place where the Houston startup ecosystem struggles, according to John, is in sustainable partnerships that provide the foundation for new businesses to stand on. New businesses are needed to make an economy thrive, but new businesses in Houston still struggle to get investment and form innovative partnerships without the help of funds like TMC. Investors, business owners, and everyday people alike have a place in spurring new business growth and helping startups thrive-- but they first have to get curious about how to be involved.
“If you are someone who's a life-long learner, there's probably a place to apply that interest into figuring out [how to help]. In our team at TMC, we like to think of ourselves as part of that tissue that helps folks connect in and find opportunity. It's an opportunity to co-invest.”
How are you forging the future at TMC Venture Fund and Integr8d Capital?
John is forging Houston’s future with his enthusiasm for new opportunities and his willingness to learn more about the healthcare and life sciences industry. John isn’t a clinician and has no experience in the medical field, but healthcare-based investments are the future, not only for Houston, but for the world. Without any experience in the field, John knows he can still make a positive impact by being curious about partnering with founders in the healthcare sector and caring about that founder’s vision for their own future, too.
“I don't come from a traditional healthcare background, but figuring out how to navigate and be part of this healthcare life sciences community is one of the biggest opportunities in Houston for people because I think one of the interesting parts about healthcare is it touches us all.”