The Top 25: #8 Stacy Feld, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Johnson & Johnson Innovation–JJDC has been operating as a corporate venturing unit for nearly 45 years, having formed in 1973 to support innovation and create strategic options in areas of interest to J&J. During that time, it has remained one of the largest and most active groups, investing more than $400m in more than 30 investments last year, and had a range of talented staff come and go only for the next iteration to step in and fill their role.

The cycle has continued in the last couple of years, with experienced leaders such as Brad Vale and Michael Chuisano moving on from JJDC it has provided opportunities for other members of the team to step up and make a name for themselves. Stacy Feld is one of those who has taken on the challenge.

Feld, vice-president at Johnson & Johnson Innovation–JJDC, joined the organisation in November 2014 as a senior director for consumer scientific innovation. She was appointed vice-president in November 2016 and now leads on consumer and health technology investing.

Before joining J&J, Feld was a partner at Unilever-backed Physic Ventures, again leading on consumer health investments. Prior to that she held leadership positions in the business development groups at Genentech and Third Wave Technologies and was a technology transactions attorney at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati.

Having been at J&J for more than three years, she is still fascinated by the scope of the organisation, which she thinks offers opportunities to startups not available elsewhere.

“There are very few companies that are actively investing and innovating across the entire health and consumer continuum, from baby care and beauty to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals,” Feld said.

“I see how this can be intimidating at first to entrepreneurs, but it is also a unique opportunity for young companies to gain access to this immense level of scientific and market expertise. A big part of Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s role is helping entrepreneurs effectively navigate this large organisation and leverage J&J’s scale to achieve impact for patients and consumers.”

Feld joined the company as she felt that her motivations more aligned with that of corporate venturing rather than traditional VC. Her passion is helping entrepreneurs build companies and fully develop their ideas all the way to commercialisation.

She said: “At JJDC, we are not just looking for financial returns or favourable exits. We are looking at ways we can enable consumers and patients to live longer, happier lives. We are unapologetically a strategic fund because we are committed to bringing ideas to market. I do not consider it a success until that happens.”

An example of that philosophy can be found in La Lumiere, the developer of light-based phototherapy device to treat acne. JJDC contributed to a $20m series B round for the company in November 2014, the month Feld joined the company, and later acquired it before launching its product under J&J’s Neutrogena brand.

“I see it as a great example of identifying a need, working creatively to advance the science and then leveraging J&J’s market expertise to bring the product to consumers on a global scale,” Feld said. “It represents an important illustration as to how J&J collaborates with entrepreneurs to develop, commercialise and scale first-in-category products.”

JJDC launched its consumer investment practice five years ago but keeps the majority of its consumer portfolio confidential so details of Feld’s investments are hard to come by. She did disclose that the organisation has eight companies in the portfolio, including two successful exits, across a range of segments.

JJDC is one of the first corporate investors in the consumer market and one of the challenges it has faced is ensuring there is a clear firewall in place to prevent spillover of sensitive information from companies it is investing in to J&J and its consumer products divisions.

“As consumer investing expands, it will be important for newcomers to similarly demonstrate to entrepreneurs their process for managing confidential information – it is critical in gaining trust. Trust is essential to an effective board, building a strong management team and growing the company to reach its full potential,” she said.

When looking to the future, she only has one professional ambition: to continue to do what she loves to do. “It is impossible to say how my role will evolve over time as I accumulate more experiences,” Feld said. “But I am certain that I will continue to work my hardest to enable entrepreneurs to turn great ideas into successful solutions and to do so in a way that it highly ethical and beneficial to all parties.”