After spending 16 years as an equity analyst (the last nine of which at Goldman Sachs), Isaac Ro could not escape the fact that he was busy and bored.
The same work that had once challenged his every faculty had become more or less an exercise in pattern recognition.
“Good management teams are good, and bad ones are bad,” observes Ro, recalling the cynical mind-set that had been stalking his professional life inside the medical technology sector for nearly 2 years.
Still, Ro didn’t leave.Read More
“I loved working at Goldman, and I believed that if ever I were going to leave, I wanted to be running to something and not from something,” explains Ro, who admits that he had a self-imposed “high hurdle” to jump if he were to consider future opportunities.
To Ro, the classic equity analyst segue to corporate investor relations chief would be “just a different version of the same gig.”
“I needed to spread my wings wider and do something sufficiently different,” he remembers, “but I needed someone to sponsor me.”
Ro leaves little doubt that he had a CFO role in mind and that he had concluded that the best route for distinguishing himself from his IR-destined peers was through his existing relationships with successful management teams.
One such relationship that Ro had kept in place over time was with the management of a medical technology company that he had helped to take public in 2013.
“I had sort of mentioned to them over the previous several years that if an opportunity for me with them were to arise, I would appreciate a call,” reports Ro, who goes on to say that in early 2019, he received calls from a number of this firm’s management team members, who outlined how they were ready to launch yet another new medical technology company that they characterized as “similar but bigger.”
“The founders knew what I had to offer and wanted exactly that, and you really need this combination to have a chance,” comments Ro, who would step into the CFO office at newly formed Thrive, Inc., in June of 2019 and help to drive the sale of the company—less than 2 years later—to Exact Sciences for $2.15 billion.
Still, despite having helped the Thrive management to achieve an impressive exit, Ro’s job satisfaction wavered.
“It just felt like I had a lot of unfinished business as a CFO,” recollects Ro, who adds that he determined that the best way to broaden his CFO resume was to move beyond start-ups.
Taking the advice of a Thrive board member, Ro says, he then purposely focused on opportunities within firms that were already generating “significant revenue” and that had aspirations to go public.
It was this prescription that led Ro in early 2021 to enter the CFO office of Sema4—a company with 900-plus employees that was generating roughly $200 million in annual revenue.
“Sema4 is a very natural progression for me when it comes to keeping the learning curve steep,” notes Ro, who happily observes that he seldom gets bored these days. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Sema4 … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Ro: Sema4 is a health intelligence company. We are harnessing some cutting-edge technologies—specifically, DNA sequencing and artificial intelligence—and we’re marrying these in partnership with healthcare systems. Doing so allows us to help physicians make better decisions to improve patient outcomes, and eventually it will help to accelerate the development of new drugs. This means that at our core we are a data company. We have a world-class lab that helps us to generate these analytics.
This makes us very different. If you zoom out for a second and ask, “Who else is sort of in this sphere?,” what you typically find are companies at either end of a spectrum: Some have incredible genetic testing labs but are still trying to figure out what to do with the data, while others are software companies that are trying to figure out how to get access to data so that they can crunch it for the betterment of patients. We really started with a fully vertically integrated capability across both of these disciplines. I think that we are the only company that has world-class expertise in both of these areas.Read More
Sema4 has a couple of things going on that I think bear mentioning. One is that we recently announced the acquisition of a company called GeneDx for just over $600 million, which for us is a significant, transformative deal. It’s going to make us bigger, faster, and more profitable, which is awesome and brings with it a great team. So, we’re going to have an enormous amount of change to go through this year after having gone through the go-public process last year. There’s a lot of integration work to do, assuming that the deal closes in Q2 as expected, so this is really Mission #1.
Equal to this is just managing through what is clearly a very new and different equity market backdrop. We’re obviously dealing with seismic shifts in the economy, including everything going on with the interest rate environment, inflation, and the Fed. I mean, these are really seismic things that affect small public companies. It’s important for me to be in close partnership with the board to make sure that we navigate through these times very carefully and at the same time plan for the long term.
These two things are really top-of-mind for me, and I feel really good about the plans that we have in place. All of this comes right on the heels of going public, so we’ve been busy and we’ll continue to remain busy.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks in your career, especially in industries that are rapidly growing and evolving. Recognize that there are a lot of factors outside your control that will determine success, so you need to do the homework on every opportunity but solve for people first, timing second, and strategy third.” –Isaac Ro, CFO, Sema4
Sema4 | www.sema4.com | Stamford, CT