A Word on Emerging Clusters

20 Nov

By Jack Fuller, Business Development, LSN

As a Boston-based company, Life Science Nation is by all accounts located in one of the greatest life science hubs in the world. An emerging company that can claim residence in Kendall Square somehow finds a certain level of implied acumen simply by virtue of being there. Investors also tend to gravitate toward the east and west coast “superclusters” when setting up offices. So how do companies outside of these geographic areas find and engage potential investors, given this apparent disadvantage?

Emerging Bioclusters such as St. Louis, Chicago, Colorado, and Florida – to name a few – have been growing through a combination of university, government, and private initiatives. Each cluster brings a unique dynamic of infrastructure and resources that have allowed the formation of innovative companies. I have spoken with several individuals at regional investment organizations who suggest that these are vibrant, growing communities of first class entrepreneurs and scientists.

As important as a regional network may be, an executive in an emerging cluster must maintain a global perspective. Any person looking to raise capital in today’s life science industry needs to think and act globally. Local investors and clusters are excellent at taking the first step, and have great experience in new company formation. Typically, good science and a solid management team are able to seed a company. However, in an emerging cluster, the funding gap between seed and a substantial series A tends to be larger than on the coasts.

Companies in emerging clusters have a few interesting value propositions they can distinctly take advantage of. First, many clusters are established around high-quality research institutions that provide a steady supply of qualified talent and innovation. Similarly, other clusters are home to major players in non-traditional “biotech” spaces such as AgBio and healthcare IT that can be taken advantage of when establishing local infrastructure and expertise.

One of the most important factors to an investor is the return per dollar invested.  There is a significant reduction in the cost of running a biotech company outside of Boston or the Bay area. When done correctly, a company can stretch $3-4M in the Midwest, to the equivalent of $6-7M on the coast. This decrease in operating costs means bigger returns for the investor. Investment in emerging clusters has been underfocused, and a savvy entrepreneur needs to leverage the regional momentum and resources available to become even more attractive than a similar company based in a major cluster.

When targeting global investors, the capital efficiency and strength of the management team become key factors in attracting significant interest. The question many investors will ask is: is this team going to be able to execute? The history of success stories, while present in emerging clusters, is still an area of concern to an investor.

All life science companies face the same challenges when raising capital. However, companies in an emerging cluster now have an opportunity to take the leap to the global stage. Take the question of execution out of the picture, and highlight the significant upside of investing in a company based in your region.

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