Miles apart & at your fingertips: Virtual collaboration at J.P. Morgan and beyond

The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference looks different this year. It will not be defined by the brick and mortar, foot on the ground, hustle and bustle of event hopping and business card exchanges of years past.

The virtualization of the conference, as we have seen with other virtual partnering events these past months, broadens the playing field for entrepreneurs. Geography, time zones, and travel are no longer barriers to entry. Access to information is available right at your fingertips. The greatest minds in business, science, and entrepreneurship are merely a click away.

On the other hand, the democratization of resources and know-how is flooding the field. More people are taking advantage of these opportunities. Inboxes are full. Meetings are back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Partnering is now happening around the globe 24/7.

While so much has changed about partnering in this virtual world, the same perspectives of old still apply:

  • Do your homework on the investors: Look at their portfolio, what investments they’ve made, how many investments they’ve made per year, listen to them speak at conferences about their investment strategy, what they look for, and ask around about their fund.  Remember taking on an investor is like a marriage, you want to know who you are in a committed relationship with.
  • Your network is your path in: A warm introduction from a member of your extended network is significantly more effective than a cold call, email, or LinkedIn message. If you don’t have a strong network, look for opportunities to tap into an existing network like, business associations, fellow entrepreneurs, alumni groups, colleagues, and friend circles.
  • Positioning yourself to be of interest is the name of the game: When you can, you must find a way to set yourself apart from the crowd by knowing how to effectively pitch your story and idea while clearly outlining your value proposition and differentiation. Time to dust off your elevator pitch.

In a virtual world, industry arguably has a greater chance of finding and progressing the best of the best ideas, simply through the increase in those able to participate — but there is also a chance that the best idea could fall through the cracks, filed away in an unread email or a stood-up in a double-booked Zoom meeting.

At the same time, entrepreneurs are facing new challenges. The competition is growing, and finding your way in, while sitting alone at your computer, is daunting. If you’re an entrepreneur, you may be asking yourself, ‘how do you take this risk, right now, today?’

What I hope we have learned over the past few months and can apply to 2021 is the importance of scientific discovery and the speed of innovation. In the healthcare innovation space, each and every day quite literally could mean life or death. We need innovators, now more than ever, to take the leap, to see today as the opportunity to launch, build a brand, build a technology, and leverage every single connection and resource that can help. We are all learning what it means to navigate today’s landscape, and through the drive and resourcefulness of this innovation community, we can work together to find the answers to our greatest questions. 

This year’s J.P. Morgan Conference will not consist of sore feet walking down Post Street. It will not be defined by the conversation you have in the line for the bathroom, or the number of parties you attended. This year JPM will not be about the opportunity to serendipitously meet new people. My greatest piece of advice to entrepreneurs in this virtual world is leverage your existing network to build the connections you need, and to then pay it forward and give back to the innovation community by helping others do the same.

Apply, apply, apply to every opportunity you can. Send those thank-you notes. Get crafty. And start today.


Erika Kula is the Director of Sourcing Innovation at Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JLABS. In this role, Erika leads the strategic direction and operational activities for the QuickFire Challenge, a global innovation sourcing vehicle. 

QuickFire Challenges aim to empower and enable potential groundbreaking science by encouraging students, entrepreneurs, researchers and start-up companies to tackle some the world’s most challenging problems in healthcare.

To learn about the latest QuickFire Challenge opportunities and how you can apply, visit