Q&A with Bonti, which will be acquired by Allergan
OC Startups Now will periodically run Q&A’s with interesting entrepreneurs, investors and other key players in the OC startup/innovation ecosystem, in their own words. This Q&A is with Fauad Hasan, the CEO of Bonti, who co-founded the biotech startup with Wajdie Ahmad.
Allergan PLC announced on September 14 that it would acquire Bonti, with HQ in Newport Beach, for an upfront payment of $195 million.
Hasan is a former director of biologics manufacturing and development at Allergan. The biotech startup launched just three years ago.
OCSN: What first inspired your interest in chemical engineering and biotech?
Hasan: I pursued chemical engineering because I was enamored with the science of developing revolutionary technologies. My initial focus was on the petroleum field, until one summer, I got an internship with a biotech company in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was not the same after that, as it was the first time I got to work on something that helped improve people’s health and had a direct impact on their quality of life.
OCSN: What was the catalyst for coming to Allergan in 2008?
Hasan: The opportunity to work with its unique product, Botox, and the entire neurotoxin platform, which is very different than other biopharmaceuticals or biologics.
OCSN: How did what you were doing at Allergan influence what you did at Bonti?
Hasan: In addition to my day-to-day responsibilities in the R&D group at Allergan, I was one of the few people who participated in the due diligence process of various potential M&A and in-licensing opportunities.
Some of these involved small startups and it was really impressive to see the innovation that goes into those companies. I was truly inspired by the value created by these entrepreneurs.
This influenced me to start Bonti with the objective of pursuing opportunities that are unique, and different from the marketed products, with the potential to address current unmet needs.
OCSN: How did the OC startup/innovation ecosystem help Bonti succeed?
Hasan: I think Bonti certainly benefited from an already-established startup ecosystem with several success stories in the medical device and the ophthalmology areas. All the support organizations and consultants, specializing in IP, finance/accounting, outside general counsel, etc., were either available here in OC or in San Diego.
OCSN: How were you able to raise so much money in three rounds in such a relatively short time span and where did the money come from? (Bonti closed a $15.5 million Series C round in January, closed a $12 million Series B round in March 2017 and completed an $8.9 million Series A round in 2014 – all for a combined total of almost $37 million.)
Hasan: A lot of hard work, combined with an experienced team and a clear story and strategy, were the keys, but more importantly, delivering on milestones helped gain the credibility and trust of investors.
At Bonti, we have been fortunate to have strong support from our investors. These included, mostly high-net-value individuals, family and friends, and small boutique venture firms.
OCSN: Was the end goal always to be acquired by Allergan?
Hasan: As a first time CEO, my goal from Day One has always been to create value for our shareholders and the company. It was good to achieve that with this acquisition, but with our rapid progress, we were also prepared for other options, such as an IPO.
OCSN: Will Bonti continue as an independent subsidiary under Allergan or be absorbed as a product line?
Hasan: Further details will be coming in the next few weeks.
OCSN: Will you and the other co-founders be staying on after the acquisition? Or will you create another biotech startup?
Hasan: This will be determined in the coming weeks. It would be great to create another startup in future.