What Makes A Good Innovation Challenge Application?

30 Nov

By Christine A. Wu, Senior Research Analyst, LSN

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Every RESI Conference, LSN holds a fun life science competition – the Innovation Challenge. Thirty early-stage fundraising companies with top-tier life science technology exhibit in a poster-board format for a chance to pitch to investor attendees one-on-one and place as one of three winners voted by conference attendees. Out of our hundreds of applications, how do we choose the top thirty? As the Innovation Challenge application deadline draws near (it is tomorrow folks!), the LSN scientific review team has compiled a list of what we look for in a company and its application.

While the following surrounds the Innovation Challenge application itself, the criteria and the tips we provide are also guidelines for companies to use for their fundraising process. Much of our evaluation and the questions we ask are based on standard criteria that entrepreneurs will face when speaking with investors.

What makes a high-score company?

The LSN scientific review team uses a detailed rubric with a 200-point scoring system. Our evaluation process is based not only on scientific merit, but also on how ready the company is to present to an investor (“investor-readiness”). A perfectly scored company would have a transformational technology that can achievably address a high unmet need using a differentiable novel approach or target. Alongside high innovation, differentiation, unmet need, and market fit, the 200-point company would have a broad IP position, an experienced management team and CEO with top-tier advisors, and strategic alliances with manufacturing and clinical partners. The company will also receive high marks for having what we call “investor-ready” marketing material (executive summary, pitch deck, website).

Application Tips

Clearly describe your technology.

Like any marketing material, you need to be clear. Be sure you understand and answer the questions fully. The team has seen unclear responses as to what a company’s technology is and its significance in improvement.

Be honest with your answers.

The team frequently reviews applications that state they have no competitors in the space, when the honest answer is, there are. Novel products do have competitors before them, for established technology does exist in the indication your product targets. Be honest with whom your competitors are, and then address what the key differentiators are to your product. Even if your product is an incremental improvement, be honest and highlight this and it can still be attractive!

For example, competitors for your disease-modifying therapeutic may be symptom-treating therapeutics in the same indication that are either commercialized or being developed. You should identify these symptom-treating therapeutics and highlight your novel target approach that makes your product disease-modifying.

Explain your current standings in detail.

Outline everything you have in terms of your current standing, while also providing your outlook of where you hope to go. Avoid ambiguous statements such as, “CEO is an experienced entrepreneur”. Instead, provide details that highlight the CEO’s experience – years as an entrepreneur, number and names of companies exited, background expertise, etc.

Provide near-future and long-term horizons.

If you do not have certain criteria, such as a strategic alliance or IP, it’s OK. State your current standing and provide what steps you are currently taking to reach that milestone. For Alliances and Collaborations, state your verbal relationships; for IP status, state how many you have filed or are planning to file. Providing us your strategy is better than a simple yes or no.

Put in a balanced effort.

You should not spend 5 minutes on this application, and neither should you spend 5 hours. Your answers should be brief, as well as detailed – we have received hasty, effortless applications in which we quickly discard with a low score. On the other hand, you also shouldn’t spend an excessive amount of time on the application, as these are all straight-forward questions that you should be comfortable in answering and have down pat. Remember, as your executive summary should answer all these questions alone, this application is the backbone of our evaluation process and essentially your executive summary to us.

Send us your marketing material.

If you have marketing material, send it. This includes your pitch deck, executive summary, website, videos – any supplemental material that can boost our understanding of your technology and whether your company is investor-ready. The application provides limited space – while this forces you to get straight to the point, supplemental material explains what an application cannot (i.e. figures, graphs, pipeline, non-confidential data, etc.).

Overall, applying for the Innovation Challenge is great practice for fundraising companies. For those who have yet to apply, be sure to take note of these suggestions and apply here before midnight tomorrow!

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