Jan 24, 2020·5 min read
Continuing with our feature series on the members of TiE Boston, we spoke with TiE Boston Board Member and Charter Member, Joe Gentile, on his journey and what led him to TiE.
How did you get your start?
I was born in the United States to Italian immigrant parents and grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts. Having lived in Massachusetts my whole life, I decided to attend college in Boston; this led me to Northeastern University. I selected NEU primarily for the co-op program, as it allowed me to pay for school while enrolled. Growing up, I had always been a ‘nerdy’ kid who had a love for technology and engineering. I was particularly interested in the intersection of engineering and biology, but formal biomedical engineering programs weren’t available back then. My advisor at the time suggested a double major in Biology and Engineering and that became my track. After graduation, I leveraged my co-op connections and found a position working for a small company in Boston that was developing medical imaging equipment; primarily ultrasound and CT imaging systems. After a few years with that company, I had the opportunity to join, along with four of my colleagues, a start-up called Advanced MMR, which was primarily focused on ultra-fast MRI imaging technology. Working for a start-up allowed me to take on multiple different roles, and it was at ANMR that I had my first interaction with the business side of medical technology.
I found a new interest in the strategic and financial side of the business and decided that I needed to go back to school and take some classes. With a young and growing family, full-time programs were out of the question. I decided to take night classes at Boston University and over the next few years earned an MBA degree with concentrations in strategy and finance. Over time, it became apparent that ANMR wasn’t going to meet its potential as a standalone company and was sold to GE Medical Systems. GE’s acquisition presented me with a decision: I could either move to Milwaukee and continue working for GE or stay in Boston and find a new job. I decided to stay in Boston. This led me to HP Medical Systems (now part of Philips NV) where I worked for over 10 years and, most importantly, met Satish Tadikonda! While at HP, I initially worked as an Engineer, then Project Manager and later in more marketing, business development, and strategy roles. I eventually left HP and moved to Becton Dickinson as VP Strategy and Corporate Development. Within a couple of years of joining BD, I became the Vice President and General Manager of their Bioscience Business Unit and, over a period of 10 years, together with a great team of people, saw our business grow to over $1Billion.
Having spent the better part of two decades working for major corporations, I got the itch to move back to early-stage companies. I was advised that in order to make the transition to a small company I would need to shed my “big company guy” image and that the best way to do so was via Board roles at startups. I joined the Board of ChanTest Inc. (later sold to Charles River Labs) and Stemgent Inc. At Stemgent, I eventually transitioned to COO and later CEO. The company was later sold in two parts to ReproCell group of Japan and BioIVT. Satish also began inviting me to participate in various TIE events: initially Angels, then TIECon and ScaleUp, and later, CM and Board roles. It proved to be great advice and a wonderful experience.
How did you find TiE Boston?
My first interaction with TiE Boston was while I was working for BD. Satish Tadikonda, who is also a TiE Boston Charter Member, introduced me to the community. TiE had an early focus on tech but wanted to move into the Med-tech space; Satish asked me to help generate some ideas and formulate an approach.
What about TiE Boston prompted you to get more involved and stay with the community?
Professionally, TiE Boston opened up a whole new pipeline of ideas and people to connect and work with. Beyond the business aspect, the people are all well versed and very easy to talk to. The community has created endless opportunities for me to learn, grow, and connect. Moreover, there’s no sense of hierarchy or politics within the community. All the members are there to broaden their horizons and expand their networks. Everyone views TiE Boston as having a higher purpose that is about supporting the next generation, it’s about giving back to the community.
What advice do you have for the next generation?
My number one piece of advice is to make sure that you have created the right team. As an investor, one of the first things I look at is how does teamwork work together? Do they ask questions? Do they seek out advice? Do they complement each other? do they have the right set of expertise and diversity of opinion? What are their values, personally and professionally?
Secondly, many sacrifices come with starting a company, and you have to ask yourself if you are ready to deal with it. For example, you might be in the office 16 hours a day, working weekends and holidays and not be making that much money. Can you deal with the day-to-day challenges while providing leadership to your team? Can you manage your investors as they turn up the pressure to make progress? There is a mental, social and economic toll that comes with being a founder and it isn’t for everyone.
What’s next for you in your career/life?
Looking forward, I want to continue my involvement as a mentor with my portfolio of early-stage companies. Being an advisor is one of the most rewarding aspects of my professional life. I have found that it’s the perfect way to stay sharp and continue learning. I have created a plethora of lasting relationships that I will take with me for the rest of my life. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing a company that you mentored, exceed its goals, and blow out expectations. It could be anything from reaching ten employees to having a multi-million dollar exit, either way, it’s an unparalleled feeling.
With a somewhat more manageable schedule, I have been able to rekindle my interest in renaissance art and was recently appointed as the Co-Chair of The Patron of the Arts in the Vatican Museum Society. Being the co-chair of the Boston chapter, I am responsible for organizing and promoting local and international events with the end goal of raising funds for the restoration of artworks in the Vatican Museums. Our mission is to support, restore, and continue the fantastic legacy of the Vatican Museum.
Finally, I recently became a Grandfather, and that is what is most important. I am so excited to see my family grow, and I can’t wait to watch this child grow up!
Thank you to Joe Gentile for sharing his story and to Hugh Rossi for capturing it. To learn more about TiE Boston and how to get involved, check out boston.tie.org or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.