Friday, February 18, 2022

As a University of Iowa undergrad with ambitions beyond his hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, John Slump’s business plans were not always welcomed with open arms. 

“Not a viable business,” a professor wrote.

“Why don’t you get a real job?” his father wondered.

The motivation for Slump’s earliest business idea — which eventually led to a successful company called Corvida — was when his sister was diagnosed with melanoma. During this time, Slump realized that chronic exposure to highly potent chemotherapy medications frequently left healthcare workers suffering from reproductive deformities and leukemia among other ailments.

Slump collaborated with friend and classmate Jared Garfield to write a business plan as an assignment in a class called New Business Formation. Garfield’s pitch was a GPS golf ball, but it was quickly overruled.

“I said, dude, I’m pretty into this medical idea,” Slump said. “What if we came up with a medical device to make chemotherapy prep and delivery safer?”

The students submitted a 25-page plan. In hindsight, Slump recalls that the assignment was meant to be 10 pages maximum. “We missed the memo,” he said with a laugh.

With support from David Hensley, executive director of the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Center (Iowa JPEC), and Lynn Allendorf, director of Iowa JPEC, Slump and Garfield launched the “B+, Not Viable” business and occupied office space in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory.

“Iowa JPEC supported us on our business plan circuit, we went out and raised probably $100,000 in business competitions over a couple years,” Slump said. “This was my first foray in the medical device business as a 20-year-old. We raised $250,000 from family and friends.”

It wasn’t easy.

Slump participated in “everything that was offered” from an Iowa JPEC competition perspective.

“We cleaned up and won a lot of those things,” he said. “We won the Tulane competition, Jared did one where he got to drive a race car around the Indy 500 track, and we won that one. We went to Idaho, got money there, won money in Fort Collins, Colorado, we were going national and flying all over the place. Probably one of the bigger ones is we won $30,000 from Innovate Illinois. I was 23 and the top presenter out of 130.”

Slump recalls the financial reality as a young entrepreneur attempting to fund the travel required of him to attend events and pitch opportunities.

“I got all these credit cards and I would use them to travel and pitch my company to whoever would listen,” Slump said. “I would get the [competition prize] money and start paying off the credit cards. I would buy diapers [for his newborn son] or pay rent. I would use the expense reimbursement like a no-cost loan. I did this for a year and racked up $50,000 in credit card debt. At the end of 2009, we got some guys to fund our $2 million Series A and got to negotiate employment agreements and got on salary — we were super stoked.”

This strategy paid off multi-fold, as Slump would eventually hold significant positions in medical device startups including Attune Medical, Surgical Innovation Associates (SIA), and FARAPULSE. FARAPULSE was recently acquired by Boston Scientific for $500,000,000. Slump is currently chief financial officer of SIA, a rapidly growing commercial stage medical device company in the surgical products arena. When asked what advice he would give to young entrepreneurs craving a successful and fulfilling career, he responded with the following:

“If you know your market, then trust yourself and maintain your conviction and be relentlessly perseverant,” Slump said. “You’re going to get a lot of no’s relative to your yes’s. You have to be willing to kiss a lot of frogs, take a lot of no’s, and be perseverant. Never give up, never surrender, believe in yourself. People would tell me I could have picked an easier business for our first company, but it was the best decision I made.”

Slump will headline the Innovation and Inspiration Speaker Series on March 3, the second of three hosted by Iowa JPEC.