Meet Al Hawkins – CEO & Founder of Milo Biotechnology

Al is the CEO and founder of Milo Biotechnology, a Cleveland-based company developing therapies to increase muscle strength and prevent muscle atrophy. He received his MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and SM from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Is this your first venture?

No, I’ve been starting biotech companies in different capacities for about 16 years; I knew I would be a terrible employee, so I turned to entrepreneurship early. I started Agave Group and TFX Bioscience in Madison, Wisconsin in the early 2000s and helped start multiple companies in Boston. In Ohio, I was co-founder of Abeona Therapeutics and on the initial team at BioMotiv. Milo, however, feels like my first truly immersive startup — it’s the one that I cannot stop thinking about.

How many times did you fail before finding success with your current company? What’s the most important lesson you learned?

Innumerable times — and Milo has a long way to go until I’d call it a success. I’m not sure that startups or entrepreneurs, even if they’re exit companies, ever succeed. It feels like we’re just trading old problems for new problems.

I’ve learned that no one cares about success nearly as much as I’d thought they would, and the fear of failure is much worse than actually experiencing it. That is liberating. No matter the magnitude of the success, you still have to get up the next day and do mundane things — the world will not be completely transformed. I better enjoy the process that could lead to success because the process is how my time ultimately is spent. I don’t know if one can really enjoy the products of success in an active and sustained way.

What benefits have you seen working with Rev1 Ventures and JumpStart Inc.?

Without the support of Rev1, Jumpstart, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, BioEnterprise and Cuyahoga County, Milo would not exist. They all, at some point, took risks on our behalf that many organizations would not have. Rev1 and JumpStart Inc. have an infectious enthusiasm for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship: their optimism has made me realize that we could do things that I previously thought were not possible.

Why did you chose to scale your business in Ohio?

I moved from Boston to be a CEO-in-Residence at BioEnterprise. In Boston, there is an informal hierarchy that governs who can do what at which stage in their career. That hierarchy would’ve never had me running a clinical stage biotech company. Ohio provides much more opportunity for younger entrepreneurs, and other Ohio biotech entrepreneurs are very open and collaborative. I think it’s linked to the enthusiasm and positivity that I mentioned above.

What is one thing that someone reading this blog could do to help your company?

If you’re a funding source, don’t be so afraid of biotech. Remember that we’re the ones who don’t have to sell a product in order to exit. We could also use an Ohio-based pivotal trial and commercial scale adeno-associated virus production center…just saying.