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532: How the CFO Office Cured an Operations Itch | Erik Ostrowski, CFO, AVROBIO

CFO Thought Leader

Release Date: 09/18/2019

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CFO Thought Leader

Filter: When we were talking at the executive staff level, it's from a mindset of accelerating around the curve. And so I think our CEO has really coined that phrase, but that's the lens that we're looking through and the question we're asking is what investments can we make now that will allow us not only to come out of this better, but accelerate around the curve. And allow us when we have changes in the macro environment to be tremendously successful.  

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CFO Thought Leader

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CFO Thought Leader

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When veteran CFO Ivor Macleod first contemplated joining an early-stage pharma company, the condition  known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) was not appearing in nightly news headlines and was yet to be ranked as the  number one cause of death among COVID-19 patients. Nevertheless, ARDS captured his attention—or rather, Athersys did.  The Cleveland, Ohio–based company, with fewer than 100 employees, met one of Macleod’s foremost criteria in that the company was  focused on the area of medicine known as “critical care”—a space that Macleod...

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CFO Thought Leader

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CFO Thought Leader

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CFO Thought Leader

Dennis McGrath was only recently married and a new home owner when he was invited to a Phillies game by the CFO of AC Manufacturing. At the time, McGrath was working for Andersen as an auditor of a roster of growing companies, among which AC—a maker of industrial air-conditioning units—was perhaps not the most glamorous. “At the end of the night, the CFO told me that he wanted to hire me and would pay me a lot more than I was then making,” recalls McGrath, who doesn’t hesitate to reveal what allowed AC’s offer to trump all other opportunities. Says McGrath: “I went for the...

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In the mid-1990s, when Jeff Epstein was busy satisfying the M&A appetites of media clients for First Boston, one of his smaller, but more boisterous clients asked him to join the firm as its CFO.   “It was the type of situation where if they had gone to a recruiter, I would never have made the resume cut because I had never been a CFO and I had never even worked for a CFO,” explains Epstein, who was 32 when he entered the lively entrepreneurial realm known as King World Productions. A one-time family-owned company, King World had seen its stature grow inside New York’s...

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“A CFO role was something that I had not yet really envisioned for myself,” explains CFO Erik Ostrowski when asked about the investment banking chapter of his early finance career. Still, Ostrowski says that he always found the challenges facing smaller or high-growth firms more interesting than those encountered by large enterprises.

“I had a choice as to whether I wanted to work for a larger bank that worked with larger, established companies or for a boutique working with smaller firms, and I found that I was pulled to emerging-growth companies,” he explains.

Today, as CFO of biotech company AVROBIO, Ostrowski says that he likes to remind himself that while there are many aspects of business that can be controlled, many cannot be. In terms of which variables are beyond a CFO’s grasp, Ostrowski lists the economy, followed by the performance of capital markets. As far as what CFOs can control goes, AVROBIO’s CFO makes it clear that a highly engaged CFO is often the determining factor when it comes to achieving effective investor relations.

Says Ostrowski: “Make certain that you are presenting the company’s business proposition in a clear and concise way. And be ready to answer anticipated investor questions effectively.”  –Jack Sweeney 

 

Ostrowski: There are many things in business that you can control and many that you can't. In terms of variables that you can't control, a good example might be how the economy is doing or how the capital markets are performing. What you can indeed help to control would be, for example, things on the IR side: making sure that you're presenting the company's business proposition in a clear and concise way and being ready to answer anticipated investor questions. Another thing is having the team of bankers and lawyers that helps you with the fund-raising process ready. These are things that you can control. By having these pieces in place, when business developments and capital market conditions align, you're ready to take advantage of the opportunity and, in this example, to conduct a successful fund-raise.


So, it was nice to see that play out recently at AVROBIO. Just a few weeks ago, we were able to raise $138 million for the company on the heels of positive interim data from our Fabry gene therapy program. I think that it was proper preparation along with favorable market conditions that helped to make that capital raise a great success for us. Over the next 12 months, my priority is to continue to help effectively manage the growth of the company as we continue to progress our activities not only in Fabry disease, which is our lead program, but also in developing treatments for patients with Gaucher cystinosis and Pompe disease, as we look to build out what we think is really one of the leading pipelines in gene therapy.