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Fast-growing Real Chemistry names new CEO to lead agency’s digital transformation

Fast-growing Real Chemistry names new CEO to lead agency's digital transformation
Written by publishing team

Real chemistry has been on a ripple in growth over the past two years, gobbling up smaller companies and adding hundreds of new employees. It also more than doubled its revenue, which is expected to approach half a billion dollars this year.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Marketing Communications Agency, formerly W20, underscored the shift, which has been accelerated by the pandemic’s impact on healthcare, with a new name and rebranding last March.

Now, a new CEO is being appointed as well.

Jim Weiss, who has run the company since it launched as a solo business 20 years ago, handed over the reins on January 3 to Shankar Narayanan, the former chief operating officer of payment analytics firm Equian, the company announced Thursday afternoon.

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Weiss will move to the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors and will also take on a new position as executive advisor to New Mountain Capital, a private equity investor for Real Chemistry. In his advisory role, he will focus on identifying investment opportunities “where life sciences and technology meet”.

Why the change?

“I’ve always been good at figuring out the right time to do things and make changes. This is one of those moments,” Weiss said.

With the 1,800-person agency having an “important inflection point,” Weiss said it’s critical to bring in a CEO with a background to lead the company into its next growth phase.

Weiss said Narayanan “brings just the right expertise” as Real Chemistry expands its technology-enabled data, marketing and communications capabilities and integrates recent acquisitions, ranging from a celebrity marketing store to a social media analytics company.

Narayanan has consolidated nine different companies into Equian while doubling revenue, Weiss noted, helping put it up for sale to Optum pharmacy benefits manager. At Cognizant, he’s grown the life sciences business from $800 million to $1.3 billion in revenue.

After working on the motive side of a large company and taking a year off, Narayanan said he wants to return to his biopharma roots in a role where he can lead digital transformation at a smaller company with a more resilient entrepreneurial culture. Real Chemistry checked all the boxes.

“This is an organization that cares deeply about the work we do for our customers and deeply about the people who work here,” he added. One of his main priorities will be to help the company expand and “mature operationally and technically” so it can grow without sacrificing its culture or reputation for quality. It will be based in Boston.

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For Weiss, he said moving into the board of directors and advisory roles would allow him to leverage his strengths in networking, routing and big-picture monitoring to “make sure we figure out where hacking is headed” to quickly change the life sciences industry.

“We have always done a good job looking around the corner, staying ahead of trends and riding these waves of evolution. That is why we are doing so well,” Weiss added. “I think in this role I can help ensure that [continues] …because the opportunity has never been greater or more urgent.”


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