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Key Idea: Listen To Your Mentors

Gunars Valkirs says that they didn't start out thinking they would be a public company.

Key Question:


The single most important factor in your life is who you hang around with. Successful people know this and successful business owners seek out people who are ahead of them in the game. Kim, Ken and Gunars have had each other for decades but they have also had the same core group of mentors since the late 80s.

Q: What did the mentor advise?

A: They told the Biosite founders that they were sitting on an idea that was powerful enough to be duplicated. The mentors pushed the team to take the company public so there would be enough cash to invest in the research and development that produced today's number one selling product.

Think about it

Who are your mentors? When was the last time you took a problem to a mentor? When did you last take action on the advice of a mentor? Do you need some new mentors?

Clip from: Biosite is helping to save healthcare.

San Diego: Early insights by three people, Dr. Gunars Valkirs, Kim Blickenstaff and Dr. Ken Buechler, opened the way to develop devices that are now used virtually every second of a day to aid hundreds of thousands of emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors and patients to diagnose medical conditions faster and more accurately. In this episode of the show, you will see their little device, Biosite Triage® for rapid diagnostic testing, in action.

When they had the idea, everyone told them, "You're crazy. No way! It'll never work." 

They began their business in 1988. Today, it is a global organization with annual revenues over $250 million. And it is all based on a product line that never ever existed before they created it. The firm's first product, The Triage Drugs of Abuse Panel, was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1992.

They didn't stop there. They now test for congestive heart failure, heart attack, and a long check list of diseases with very strange names. Beyond their unstoppable energy and passion for continued research and exploration is the belief that their success to date does not begin to scratch the surface of the potential of diagnostics. Here you look into the heart of creativity.  

Editor's Note:  Since this episode was taped, Biosite was purchases by Innverness Medical Innovations.

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Biosite, Inc.

Kenneth Buechler, co-founder, President, Chief Scientific Officer

9975 Summers Ridge Road
888.BIOSITE (Customer Service)
San Diego, CA 92121

Visit our web site:

Office: 858.805.8378

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1988

Listen To Your Mentors

HATTIE: Did you always have the IPO in your mind?

KIM: No, absolutely not. When we started the company the model was going to be, we probably couldn't get public because it was a one product idea. We had no more than one product. It was this rapid drug-testing idea.

We thought it would be a 25 or $30 million business and someone like Abbot or Roche would come in and scarf us up, and for four years work it was worth $75-to-$100 million based upon doing $25- to-$35 million in revenue. So that was the plan. Never thought we'd go public.

HATTIE: At what point did you say whoa, we don't have to cash out. We can keep playing.

KIM: I think that probably started about the '95, '96 timeframe -- we had gotten this product launched, it was starting to ramp, we had some operational issues, but the cash flow was good, we were profitable. And Ted Greene and Tim Wollaeger at a board meeting one day challenged us saying, :Hey this was a one product idea, you've got to clone yourself. You guys have got to turn this into a strategy as opposed to a product company."

HATTIE: They also, I heard you say, planted the seed to do the public offering... the board, not the three of you.

KIM: Well, I have to admit I was scared of the thought of ever having to go public or run a public company. It was sort of the business equivalent of Mount Everest. And the stories that I heard about not only how hard it was to do it, the difficulty of being a public company afterwards, it makes you want to run from that potential challenge and experience.

HATTIE: Why do you think you all decided not to take your money and run?

KEN: Because I guess that wouldn't have been a fun thing to do. I think that we didn't feel that we were really successful at that point. I think we recognized we developed a product, but in no way I think did we consider that was success. I think that was a milestone, it was a stepping-stone to what we felt that we could really do. And at the time that was drugs of abuse. The technology for that was considerably different than the technology today that we use with the Triage meter. And so we recognized that there was this need, a totally new technology had to be developed. Technology that hadn't existed at all anywhere, and it was that challenge and that's what made it fun to continue to work.

GUNARS: The crucial time was 1992 when the first product went to market. It was successful, it was profitable. There was sort of a decision at that point, do we sell this company off and we could have, maybe for $100 million or something and gone off and done something else. Or, do we invest that profit and do something larger in this same business. And so we decided to invest the profit and really it resulted in two things. It resulted in the device technology that we now call the Triage Quantitative Device, and the antibody technology that really is sort of the source of how we can manage to do all of these projects cost effectively.

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