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Dr Lisa Drakeman, Former CEO of Genmab: Entrepreneurs must accept rejection but keep going


From bio-tech high-flyer with the largest IPO by a European biotech company on record, Lisa Drakeman, former CEO of Genmab, turned her entrepreneurial skills to providing healthcare for the working poor of South Carolina. At Volunteers in Medicine, a charitable clinic providing healthcare for thousands living in what has been designated as a medical and dental desert, Dr Drakeman discovered that high-tech medicine and high impact healthcare require the same skills.

These range from finding creative problem-solving solutions to dealing with rejection – an inevitable part of the fundraising process.

Rejection has to be accepted by entrepreneurs and – although it is hard to handle – “keep going”, she told her Cambridge MBA Leadership Series audience, taking them through a personal journey that started with a tiny American biotech company and led to the creation of global giant Genmab A/S, based in Europe and America.

“It may be shocking to find out you could do an excellent job, believe you’ve done everything right and you’ve go to an investor and you’re just not a fit for them, so there’ll be lots of rejection. That doesn’t mean that what you’re doing isn’t a good project, so if you can’t tolerate rejection, it’s not the right field. It’s a very hard thing to learn to handle.”

Dr Drakeman, whose bio-tech career led to four new treatments for unmet medical needs, adds that she advises everyone to ask themselves if they would be happy walking away from a project.

“If the answer is ‘no, I feel I have something unfinished and I’ll be unhappy for a long time’, then keep trying.”