Guest Post By Dennis Ford, CEO, Life Science Nation
“Scientist-entrepreneurs remain unprepared for the reality of how difficult the process is for connecting with a partner in the market place.”
I spend a lot of time observing and analyzing early stage investment trends in the life science industry. The product of this research has led me to identify the biggest trend in recent years: that new categories of investors are surfacing to fill in the void left by the lack of VC funding.
Part and parcel to the new investor group’s trend is a bevy of new entities that are spending time and money vetting and grooming biotech and medtech start-ups. They range from world renowned hospitals, research clinics, academic tech transfer offices, patient groups, foundations, both private and public sector initiatives all morphing into different forms of life science incubators pushing scientists and their innovative technologies to commercialization. The essential idea is that there is enough general domain knowledge to pick the likely candidates for success based on their own sector or indication expertise. This is a great concept and is still getting off the ground. However, what most of these initiatives fail to grok is that “the last three feet” of the fundraising/commercialization is the actual going out into the market and finding the channel partner or investor and getting a deal done!
I have met and interviewed countless graduates and winners from these entrepreneurial programs. They graduate with eager smiles and hearts full of enthusiasm, take a deep breath, and then say…now what?
It was Edward R. Murrow who said, “It has always seemed to me the real art is not so much moving information or guidance or policy 5 or 10,000 miles. The real art is to move it the last three feet in face to face conversation.” Although he was speaking about international exchange, I think the quote is wholly applicable to the life sciences.
This last three feet is exactly where LSN staff spends most of their time. At the end of the day, where the real failure lies for many of these initiatives is in that scientist-entrepreneurs remain unprepared for the reality of how difficult the process is for connecting with a partner in the market place. Everybody understands their marching orders, but hardly anybody has been given the training and tools to carry out the mission.
What I am talking about specifically is the basic, tactical sales and marketing 101 skill set (the training) to go out and fundamentally execute a partnering campaign. This has to do with using databases to gather and vet lists of targets to go after, and identifying the low-cost, cloud infrastructure applications (the tools) that will enable and support the endeavor. For example, once you have gathered together the targets that are a good fit for your partnering initiative, you have a list – and the associated tasks – that you will have to manage. Most scientists will go right after the color-coded Excel spreadsheet to do this, which may as well be the kiss of death.
Cloud applications like SalesForce.com can provide you with a fabulous automated list, as well as task-management capability for a small monthly fee. Email applications such as iContact are a necessary tool for your outbound partnering campaigns, and you get a lot of compelling reporting for a low-cost monthly fee that will provide insight into who is clicking and interacting with your emails and outbound marketing. Newsletters, blogging and whitepapers are another excellent way to reach out to targets to either start a dialogue (or continue a dialogue) with multiple clients. These Cloud apps have created an affordable, easy-to-use campaign management infrastructure that just wasn’t here a few years ago. These applications are the picks and shovels for the gold the entrepreneur is trying to mine.
My point here is that there is not a lot going on tactically in teaching the last three feet – how to find and start a dialogue with investors, how to arrange a meeting, schedule a roadshow, run a meeting, and nurture & cultivate an ongoing relationship with your prospective partners. All the aforementioned criteria are critical in finishing what has been started with the scientist-entrepreneurs. After all the pie-in-the-sky strategy and perfect pitch role-playing is done, you still have to go that last three feet, stick out your hand and introduce yourself.