Carin Rollins ’94 and John Marlow ’90 are two Colgate graduates who are rapidly becoming household names in biotech. Both were invited back to Colgate on February 11, 2019 to speak about their experiences as innovators and industry leaders. The event, “How Liberal Arts Grads are Driving Innovation”, was co-sponsored by Career Services, Thought Into Action, Colgate’s Biology department, Neuroscience program, and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
Rollins is CEO and co-founder of Hinge Bio. Inc, a California-based biotechnology startup putting multimillion-dollar pharmaceutical innovations on the market. Marlow is co-founder and senior vice president of RingCentral, a cloud-based telecommunications company that boasts 4,500 employees and offices on four continents. Marlow also serves as legal director of Brainsonix, an ultrasound-based brain mapping system intended for faster and less invasive surgery and treatment.
RingCentral was among the first corporations to design wireless, centralized communication systems, intended to break away from the clunky, on-site phone boxes used by many corporations when the company was founded in 2003. Today, they’re the largest business communications provider in the world, and still growing rapidly as many businesses modernize their systems.
“Innovation, to me, is a way of thinking,” Marlow said. “We just replaced hardware with software, and that was a big thing.”
Rollins agreed. “You have to show that a prototype is working—that the market is pulling for your product,” Rollins said. “Otherwise you won’t go anywhere.”
Both Marlow and Rollins admitted that being an innovator and entrepreneur demands a tremendous amount of work—and some luck. Marlow used his own experience as evidence.
While seeking out funding for RingCentral in 2003, he was rejected by hundreds of investors during formal meetings. But he happened to run into a Class-A investor at a bar. That individual “instantly got it,” Marlow said, and agreed to fund the project. That support led to a second top-level firm investing as well. While it wouldn’t have been possible without a functional product, the amount of painful luck was, according to Marlow, “undeniable.”
Rollins also reflected on her experience at Colgate during the seminar. “The skills I learned in the liberal arts gave me the skills I needed to succeed,” Rollins said. “It’s how I am able to wear so many different hats as a CEO and entrepreneur. I wouldn’t be where I am without Colgate.”