Entrepreneur of the Year finalist: Frank Segrave

Founder of Silvergate Pharmaceuticals talks about the importance of patience in startups

For Frank Segrave, it’s all about the littlest patients.

After nearly 30 years as an executive in the pharmaceutical industry for Walmart and Cardinal Health, Segrave left the C-suite behind to fill a need for children suffering from serious illness and chronic conditions.

“I am currently living the biggest risk that I have ever taken,” Segrave says. “I invested a large part of my life’s savings into founding Silvergate Pharmaceuticals as a startup company focused on innovating FDA approved drugs for the unmet needs of pediatric patients. This was a gigantic risk for me after spending 30 years under the safety net as an executive in large corporations.”

Greenwood Village-based Silvergate Pharmaceuticals addresses the fact that most companies develop and test drugs on adults, leaving doctors and pharmacies to guess at how to adjust and dose for young patients – wasting time, resources and money in the process.

In August 2013, the FDA approved Silvergate’s powdered version of Enalapril, one of the nation’s most commonly prescribed drugs for hypertension. Known as Epaned™, it was created with taste, ease of administration and dosing in mind – all the aspects that would “most benefit children,” Segrave says.

Segrave has led Silvergate to significant growth, including $23 million in outside capital and more than 30 employees. He credits that success in part to advice he received from billionaire Sam Walton.

“Mr. Sam told me to always stay focused on the needs and wants of the customer,” Segrave says. “Empower your employees to take care of the customer-patient. If you take care of your customers and your employees, you’ll have a successful business.”

So far, so good. Segrave offers his own advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Have passion and enthusiasm for your business. Focus on the unmet customer need. Have a disciplined business plan with flexibility for the unexpected,” he says. “And be an advocate for your customers and employees.”

The one mistake I’ll never make again: “Having patience to let programs develop is important, but when evidence is available that a program is not working, you must take decisive action to move on to the next strategy and program.”

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