Online community builder Sonnier joins WLSA

By Neil Versel
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WLSA Co-Founder Rob McCray

WLSA CEO Rob McCray

The Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance has hired industry community builder Paul Sonnier for the newly created role of vice president for partner development. In this role, Sonnier will help grow the organization’s membership and seek additional networking and business opportunities for existing members of the San Diego-based organization.

Sonnier has been successful in bringing together various players in this rapidly developing industry. Since founding the Wireless Health group on business networking site LinkedIn as an online community for the large number of telecommunications and mobile health professionals in San Diego-area, Sonnier has taken the geographic restrictions off the group and helped build membership to more than 5,100 people.

“He’s had the time and passion to put this together,” WLSA President and CEO Robert McCray tells MobiHealthNews.

Sonnier also co-chairs the Healthcare Communications Special Interest Group for CommNexus San Diego, an industry organization that promotes the large telecommunications industry presence in and around that city. There, Sonnier has engaged in many of the activities he will lead at WLSA, including facilitating business relationships and educating others about wireless and mobile healthcare.

“This [new job] is the validation of my efforts,” Sonnier says via e-mail.

Like the industry as a whole, WLSA is growth mode.

“I judged in 2009 that 2011 was going to be Year 1 in the wireless healthcare sector,” McCray says.

McCray started WLSA in 2005 in conjunction with Don Jones, vice president of business development for health and life sciences at telecommunications equipment maker Qualcomm. (Qualcomm is listed as one of three founding organizations of WLSA, along with Johnson & Johnson and investment bank TripleTree; McCray is a special advisor to Edina, Minn.-based TripleTree.)

While the organization has held its flagship Convergence Summit annually since 2006, WLSA last year started to add staff and inaugurated an academic conference to further its mission as an industry convener. The 2011 Convergence Summit, set for May 10-11 will be held in downtown San Diego for the first time to allow for more than the previous capacity of 150 attendees, according to McCray.

The Sonnier hire is part of this growth. Currently, the WLSA is made up only of businesses and institutions. McCray says he asked Sonnier a couple of months ago to start thinking about whether it would make sense to open up membership to individuals.

Still, he says WLSA does not want to become too large, too fast. “We’re a boutique, specialty, highly focused trade association, and we intend to stay that way,” McCray says.

“Others are focused on creating products and services and bringing people together,” he adds. “We’re not going to build a product or service.”