December 13, 2023

A Conversation with Slope’s New COO, Terry Edwards

This week, Slope announced the appointment of its new Chief Operating Officer, Terry Edwards. As the founder and former CEO of PerfectServe, a digital healthcare company that specializes in clinical communications and collaboration, Edwards successfully oversaw the company’s scale-up over the course of over 20 years before a private equity exit in 2018. 

Since joining Slope as a strategic advisor in early 2022, Edwards has collaborated with CEO Rust Felix to refine Slope’s go-to-market strategy and build out a senior management team. As COO, he will oversee operations and strategic vision to deliver a single clinical trial execution solution that orchestrates the entire biospecimen lifecycle.

We sat down with Terry to learn more about why he joined Slope, how he sees Slope being a disruptor in clinical research, and what his strategic vision for Slope looks like going into 2024.

You initially started as a strategic advisor for Slope in January of 2022. What compelled you to join full-time as the COO for Slope?

I became a strategic advisor right after Slope had raised its Series A financing round. It was clear that the dynamics of the business were about to change, so Rust Felix (Slope’s CEO) was looking for someone that could help him execute on the goals of the Series A. 

Our primary goals for the year 2022 included defining Slope’s strategy and then putting a management team in place to execute that strategy. With any early-stage business, it’s not only important to refine the concept, objective, and competitive advantage of the business, but you have to have a team of smart people behind it as well. Why does that matter? Because even the best assumptions about the concept of an early-stage business will be wrong. You need a team that’s strong enough to fix it by creatively iterating on the plan.

We spent the first quarter of 2022 nailing down that strategy, which is important because the strategy informed our plan and how we needed to resource it. We determined what kind of talent we needed, and we started recruiting. By the end of 2022, we had the team and the strategy in place, and we were beginning to execute. 

By the end of that year, I was committing about half of my available professional time to Slope. As 2023 played out, we made good progress and identified new challenges that are common for any early-stage company. It eventually became clear to Rust and me that to be as effective as possible, I needed to come on in a full-time capacity. We also needed to change the org structure, with a large proportion of the operation reporting to me. 

On a personal level, the decision to join as COO made sense for me because I thrive in this kind of environment. I love working in an early-stage company that has the potential to become a large organization that creates value. And I think Slope has the potential to be a very large player within the clinical trials space. We have a great team — not only of leaders — but of people, investors, and board members. The combination of the team, the board, and all of the people that are here, make Slope a really good place to be. We’re solving a real problem in the industry, and we’re in a very unique position. There may be some competitors who are dabbling in this space, but nobody has the strengths that Slope has. 

How has your experience serving as the founder and CEO of PerfectServe informed your approach to operations at Slope?

I have deep experience in healthcare, including scaling organizations and building teams. Like Slope, PerfectServe also had two different buyers — one being physician practices, and another being hospital and health systems. Health systems wanted to solve problems around communication amongst their clinicians, but they needed a solution that the doctors and nurses would adopt. Starting and scaling up PerfectServe was a long and challenging journey, but I learned how to manage expectations with my board, and I learned the importance of having the right people in the right roles as a company begins to scale. I learned how to deal with long sales cycles, especially when working with big, complex health systems. 

In business, it’s rare for a founder to stay on as CEO until a successful exit. Most get fired or quit, but I was successful and made it through until the end. Part of why I’m supporting Slope is because I have a very unique background that not many people have, and I want to share that experience and learning with others.

How do you see Slope being a disruptor in clinical trial execution?

What’s disruptive about Slope is that we have distinct but complementary value propositions for both pharmaceutical sponsors and clinical research sites. Sites use Slope software to avoid risks associated with visit deviations and lost or mishandled biospecimens. They perform these study activities using Slope’s software, which automatically collects sample data in the process. We then give sponsors instant access to that data, which they use to make critical study decisions. In addition, they have higher quality data, faster reconciliation, less risk, and significantly improved study compliance, monitoring, and reporting. No other organization in the clinical trial space offers this value, and it all works because Slope is effective at driving research site adoption.

Going into 2024, what is your strategic vision for Slope as an organization and as a solution? 

2022 was about recruiting our team. 2023 has been all about laying the foundation for our commercial go-to-market activities, while also growing our research site network to the point where today Slope is being used in some capacity by nearly three-quarters of all National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated research organizations. 2024 is about leveraging our site network to drive industry standardization, while delivering new data and insights that help big pharma sponsors execute studies with much greater speed and efficiency. 

Our work with sponsors this year told us they want to solve this problem — but in order to solve it, they need a solution that sites will adopt. Slope is that solution, and sites love us because we built it for sites first. The feedback that we are getting from sponsors is that Slope’s value proposition is resonating with them based on the fact that we’ve proven our ability to drive site adoption.

To learn more about Terry Edwards and his recent appointment as Slope’s COO, click here.

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