An interview with Life Science Nation’s CEO Dennis Ford regarding the up and coming Redefining Early Stage Investments conference series – By Ying Tam
Ying Tam, Head, Digital Health Cluster, Venture Services, MaRS:
Dennis, what is the key differentiator of the Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) Conference?
Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series:
The sweet spot. RESI is the only “dedicated” early stage global investor conference out there that I can find. On another note, we actually deliver 10 categories of early stage investors. Also, to your point, RESI is unique and the only one that goes across the silos of Drugs, Devices, Diagnostics and Healthcare IT, which is one of the reasons why JLABS has stuck with RESI as title sponsor for three years now. Many investors have multiple investment mandates covering multiple silo’s in the life science arena.
Ying Tam: Who does the RESI Conference compete with?
Dennis Ford: There are other conferences that we share the marketplace with. RESI is focused on Preclinical, Phase I and Phase II funding strictly. Other conferences tend to be more general and more focused on Phase III and commercialization centric in their content and RESI has 16 panels of dedicated to early stage investment content aimed precisely at fundraising CEOs and scientist-entrepreneurs.
Ying Tam: Explain how you and other conferences know you are getting the right investors?
Dennis Ford: I attend these conferences regularly and pay very high fees ($3,500 + USD) to go and therefore get the attendee lists. From the last one I attended, I downloaded the alleged 120 investors attending and gave them to our research group to validate. What we found was 22 investors that actually had investment mandates for early stage preclinical and the rest were I-Banks, consultants, and finance BD folks who go to these events trying to get fundraising CEOs to pay them a monthly stipend for services to aid in raising capital. All of which is fine for them and a draw which creates revenue. RESI only allows “real” investors with vetted mandates. RESI Investors need to adhere to these strict guidelines. RESI@JPM had 500+ investors so the numbers speak for themselves.
Ying Tam: What about Pharma partners?
Dennis Ford: All of the Big Pharma players globally regularly attend RESI conferences and present on our RESI panels. They are seeking technology assets for their pipelines. Pharma attendees are the scouts and BD players and are typically the buy side staff for the Pharma.
Ying Tam: How is RESI business model different?
Dennis Ford: I created the RESI conference and the business model is a real challenge because the price point has to stay relatively low for our scientist-entrepreneur and fundraising CEOs audience. The challenge is investors don’t pay (and won’t) so only half the attendees pay and that makes it hard from the business side. I can understand why other conferences in the market are more general and have a broader content reach as that really helps the bottom line. That said, RESI is a success on many other fronts which is providing a vehicle every 45 days for CEOs to get in front of investors, start a dialogue, that leads to a relationships and hopefully an allocation. We now have 5 RESI conferences a year, JPM, Toronto, BIO, Boston, NYC and that means that a CEO can get 16-20 investor meetings per event and that is a BIG deal as fundraising is a numbers game. RESI provides a vehicle to match up investors and scientist-entrepreneurs and if they attend all 5 RESI meeting can have a dialogue with up to 100 investor meetings and that is a game changer.
Ying Tam: How successful is RESI in terms of getting companies funded?
Dennis Ford: We have run some metrics and have found 15-20% of the firms who buy our global investor database, attend our RESI conferences, and use the techniques outlined in my book do raise capital. We can do better than that but that would mean really getting the sell side players educated and more efficient at branding and messaging and understanding how to run a compelling fund raising campaign.
Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series
Dennis Ford is an entrepreneur and author with expertise in sales, marketing, and business development. He has spent most of his career launching new companies. Over the last decade, he has worked extensively with global alternative investors interested in high-growth early-stage technologies. His expertise encompasses using database subscription services to create business solutions and using the Internet to create an interactive dialog between buyers and sellers. He is a big proponent of using profiling and matching technology to find that all-important business fit in the marketing and selling process. Before LSN, Dennis was the President and CEO of Brighton House Associates (BHA). BHA was launched in order to improve the way hedge fund and private equity fund managers raised capital and marketed their funds to investors. Ford is the author of The Peddler’s Prerogative and The Life Science Executive’s Fundraising Manifesto, two well-received sales and marketing books.
Ying Tam, Head, Digital Health Cluster, Venture Services, MaRS
Ying Tam is a seasoned entrepreneur and business executive, and is currently Head of Digital Health, Venture Services for MaRS, one of the world’s leading urban innovation hub. MaRS works with a large network of corporate partners and venture funds to help entrepreneurs launch and grow the innovative companies that are changing the future. Ying has co-founded several start-up companies, including Mindful Scientific, a medical device company addressing concussion diagnostics and management, abridean (acquired by nCipher PLC), a software company developing application provisioning and identity management solutions, and i-HRx (acquired by Healthconnex), a digital health company focused on chronic disease management. He has significant strategic and functional experience with operating roles in a wide range of organizations, from early stage companies to major multi-national corporations.