By Lucy Parkinson, Director of Research, LSN
If you’re the CEO of an early stage life science company, you’re most likely attending a lot of events in order to find investors and strategic partners. Due to the long term capital needs in this sector, there’s a particularly high interest in family office conferences as a potential source of funding. However, from LSN staff attending many of these events and also hearing from LSN clients we’ve discovered that many of these events are not always as advertised. Buyer beware when checking out an event. Watch out for the following warning signs:
Flood of Consultants. Seeing a lot of names of advisory or consulting firms in the attendee list of a conference you are looking to attend is an obvious red flag. The main point of partnering conferences for early-stage companies is to connect with as many relevant investors as possible. Pitching to firms that do not directly allocate capital is not an efficient use of anyone’s time.
Not Life Science Investors. Let’s say that there’s a good number of real investors at a particular event. How many of them invest mainly in life sciences companies? We see events that claim to help early-stage life science companies acquire capital, only to notice that many investors are not even in the life sciences sector. Unfortunately, this phenomenon happens quite frequently when events are organized by groups that lack the life sciences expertise.
Lack of Focus on Private Venture Financing. Another aspect that these events often fall short on is their lack of focus on private investors. Most early stage companies are launched by private investment. Meeting public focused investors can be a nonstarter.
Lack of a Global Outlook. Conferences dedicated to a local regional focus can be fine, but having both regional and global players is exponentially better. Look for conferences that encourage a global perspective. Especially with the emerging investor market in Asia, a global outlook presents additional opportunities.
Topic Focus. Look for conferences that are dedicated to fundraising and networking. A general life science conference will have too many speakers and topics that just aren’t relevant to raising capital. Instead, look for conferences that seek to help you make the connections and provide the fundraising opportunities that you need.
Networking Time and Partnering Opportunities: Some events claim to be networking and partnership conferences, yet they fail to set aside more than an hour for dedicated networking and partnering. If you’re looking to network at these events, make sure there’s actually enough time set aside for networking to occur. LSN has been involved with both single and multi-family offices for five years, and our staff have been to many “Family Office Conferences”. Mostly what you will find is a lot of service providers and financial consultants. Typically family offices prefer to stay off the radar screen. They are easily inundated with requests and ideas. Instead, they prefer to find one firm they like and trust and then stick with that firm for their deal sourcing needs – and it’s typically not a “Family Office Conference” provider.
LSN works with 250 family offices, about a third of whom are actively investing in life science and have provided us with an investment mandate. A subset of these family offices ask LSN to filter and funnel companies that meet their criteria directly to the family office. We draw upon these relationships to present our Family Office panels at RESI. To achieve this, LSN has had to learn the family office marketplace in depth. It’s a slippery path, because everyone thinks it’s a good idea to target a family office for capital for their idea du jour, which makes the family offices go further off the radar as they can get easily inundated. Family Offices are in the mix when it comes to early stage investments and so are the other 9 categories of investors. To find an investor that’s fit for your stage of development and product or service, you’ll need to seek out conferences that provide actual investors and dynamic partnering.