Guest Post By Dennis Ford, CEO, Life Science Nation
Recently, I have been interacting with a lot of startup incubators and accelerators, revolving around fund raising boot camps that LSN teaches for scientists. Basically, LSN’s “Discovery to Distribution Boot Camp” stays away from the strategic and concentrates on the tactical aspects of commercializing and raising capital. The marketing task is all about doing the research and finding a list of investors that are a fit for your products or services. It’s really a marketing 101 exercise: the first step is LSN helps them identify all the companies on the planet that look like their firm. In marketing parlance, this is identifying and sizing the competitive landscape.
Why is this important? This exercise – when done properly – will not only include most of the look-alike companies, but also the look-alike-companies and their lead and co-investors that have invested in the past and present. This über list of investors is quite valuable, as we know that these investors will understand the company, the market and the product, service or technology. I refer to this list as the global target list, and the reason is that these investors are a fit.
The next aspect is finding even more investors that are a fit based on present mandates to invest in the future. These investors have dry powder (investable capital), and are looking to allocate. When done properly, LSN can help them aggregate a list of relevant investor targets in their orbit that have shown a distinct past, present or future investment interest. Sounds simple enough, but here is where the world of the scientist collides with the world of the generic sales and marketing.
Time and time again when we put on these boot camps, the inevitable questions arise. The list is great, but am I allowed to call these investors? I hear that if someone doesn’t refer you, investors won’t talk to you. Can you prove to me or give me a reference of someone that has actually called an investor cold? I want proof that getting a list of investors that are a fit is how entrepreneurs actually raise money. On and on, the skeptical scientists create a thousand reasons why getting a list of investors that are a fit for their particular market segment or indication won’t work, and how in the past it worked like this (the old, outdated map). Enter the sequel to the Valley of Death version 2.0: The Chasm of Skepticism.
I make no bones about who I am and where I come from; I am genetically a sales person. I have been selling for decades, I am a selling CEO, I am an entrepreneur with 8 startups under my belt. Of the 8 startups I have been involved with, I have been part of the executive management team, the CEO or the founder. I have been part of 2 IPO’s and 4 acquisitions, with 2 more in the wings (I hope). So please imagine my reaction having spent my life in sales, marketing and business development when I have to debate whether a person who is a startup entrepreneur is allowed to make an outbound phone call to a complete stranger to move his/her company along.
What is even more chilling is this ethos is passed around in the life science marketplace as some sort of rule. Entrepreneurs shun rules. Entrepreneurs break rules. Entrepreneurs don’t listen to the status quo out-of-date dictums, and they don’t use old antiquated maps! They create new ones they do whatever they have to do. They jettison their comfort zone. They embark on hideously uncomfortable journeys. They do whatever it takes and making a blind cold call to a complete strangers who are a known fits for their product or service isn’t even the ante into the game. So here is how to get across the chasm of skepticism: get a list of investors that are a fit for your firm, do an email introduction, and then call and set up an intro meeting, then rinse and repeat.
On June 4, 2013, the Venture Development Center hosted LSN’s “Discovery to Distribution Boot Camp.” We witnessed first-hand the world of the scientist colliding with the world of marketing and sales. But what was interesting is that the founders who already had been around the block a few times embraced the new approach to fundraising, more readily than others who wanted proof that it works before they will try it.