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Among the many lessons that David Moss has learned along the trajectory of his 25-year finance career, the one to which he refers simply as “the $3 million sweatshirt” is perhaps the most enduring.
Even after 20 years, Moss can’t help but mention the sweatshirt bearing the logo of Pets.com, which he kept as a souvenir from an earlier career chapter involving a $3 million investment in the infamous dot-com retailing upstart. Pets.com began operations in November 1998 and shut down in November 2000, becoming one of the more high-profile victims of the dot-com bubble. However, looking back, Moss says that while the economy’s sudden gyrations certainly contributed to the firm’s demise, other mistakes also came into play, including the filling of leadership roles with executives from large enterprise companies.
“Someone from a large business often has a difficult time in adjusting to dynamic environments where you have to get your hands dirty and wear all of the hats and take the trash out,” says Moss, who clearly has kept his appetite for investing in early-stage companies—especially inside the biotech realm, where he now resides as CFO and cofounder of INmune, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company. “We don’t have a lot of complexity when it comes to how we built the business or the way that our accounting works, ” adds Moss, who, along with two other cofounders, formulated a plan to self-fund INmune. “Our mantra is to keep things simple,” explains Moss, who says that the firm’s capital structure underscores this philosophy, along with a preference for selling only common stock. –Jack Sweeney
Guest: David Moss
Company: INmune Bio
Headquarters: La Jolla, CA
Moss: Tell us about a finance strategic moment?
CFOTL: One very strategic moment in our business at INmune had to do with something that we did that was very unusual with regard to our financial situation. When companies go public, they typically go and hire an investment bank first. Then they go and draft all of their financial documents, and then they go and do their IPO and raise the money. We did the opposite here at INmune, which is probably very, very rare. We went and actually drafted our financial documents, got them approved by the regulatory authorities like the SEC and the NASDAQ, and then went and got our banks to do our capital raise. We did this because we wanted to be in the driver’s seat. We have this view that you want to drive your own destiny. You put yourself more in the driver’s seat, show that you can do it, and then try to bring your financial players on board. That’s what we did here.
As a result, what does this mean? There are positives and negatives with everything that you do. One positive is that because we drove the deal, it was mainly on our own terms. We also were able to maintain a lot of insider ownership, because we’re big believers in this business. We believe in simplicity, so we wanted a simple cap structure. We didn’t want to go into preferreds, we didn’t want to go into convertible debt. We didn’t want to go into warrants or anything like that. So, we kind of drove that on our own. A negative is that we weren’t able to attract investor audiences as large as we would have if we had been more flexible in our terms and our deal structure. But all of this led to us ringing the bell on the NASDAQ, where we were actually the first biotech IPO of 2019.