Tag Archives: Investors

Investors Building Life Science Companies from the Ground Up

12 Dec

By Alejandro Zamorano, VP of Business Development, LSN

LSN tracks ten categories of life science investors around the globe. Recently, we have begun to follow and emerging trend of established investors creating and launching their own companies. These investors are cognizant of the critical importance of good management when it comes to asset commercialization. The school of thought behind this innovate approach is that emerging technologies stand more of a chance when strong leadership and organization is put around an asset from the get-go. So, why is this occurring and how exactly is this being executed?

From the firms LSN has spoken with, this approach is essentially an fusing two key elements – Access to capital and access to a network of experts, both of which help to make leaner, faster, and more efficient companies. It all starts with sourcing novel science from a translational researcher, and building a business structure around it.

Since the investor is starting the company, it is possible to structure the “perfect” company from the ground up. This goes beyond investor fit – it’s a custom tailored company to fill a portfolio need. This can create significant advantages early on in the company’s life cycle, as fundraising seed capital isn’t a problem. By avoiding this part of the process, the company can focus on moving the science forward. Moreover, the company can structure the management strategically from the get-go, by having a business-savvy CEO in place who has the sales experience required to turn innovative science into a company.

Add to this that the investor can shepherd multiple assets through the pipeline by outsourcing work to CROs, and you have a great lean model for building a portfolio of companies. This model is gaining traction, so stay tuned as LSN tracks this evolving trend.

The Myth of the NDA

12 Dec

By Danielle Silva, VP of Business Development, LSN

Most fledgling entrepreneurs are (understandably) protective about their technologies. In turn, it is common for them to ask investors to sign an NDA before engaging in a dialogue. An NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) is essentially a confidentiality agreement that two parties engage in to ensure that the information shared amongst the two parties is not made publicly available. Companies do this in an attempt to ensure that any technologies or processes that are integral to the firm’s operations are not disclosed to any other party. However, an NDA can discourage conversation, especially if incorporated into the introductory dialogue. So what is the right path to follow when considering whether or not to put an NDA in place?

Firstly, always consult your lawyer. This article isn’t intended to be legal advice, rather it is intended to help you think strategically when engaging investors. Many life science entrepreneurs may be tempted to make investors sign NDAs before even speaking with them. However, these investors typically look at hundreds or even thousands of deals every single year. An NDA could discourage a conversation. Especially when targeting investors that get a lot of solicitations, and NDA will probably constitute a burden. If you can’t express to an investor in the initial dialogue why your company has value, you’re probably not ready to start talking to investors. That doesn’t mean that there is information worth protecting, but you needn’t disclose “the secret sauce” in the introductory email.

Secondly, keep in mind that investors aren’t purely looking at your technology, they are also looking at you. Ideas are more like mushroom spores than lightning strikes – They emerge simultaneously from various sources, and the right leadership (not just the right idea) makes the difference between success and failure. Management is just as important as product from an investor standpoint. Many entrepreneurs we speak with are surprised by how many companies are in their competitive landscape. There is probably someone else doing something very similar to you, so rather than hiding your idea, show investors how you, as an executive, can do it better, faster, and more effectively.

Finally, remember that the purpose of your initial dialogue is supposed to facilitate a relationship. If things look promising and meetings surface, that’s the right time to discuss putting together an NDA with your lawyer. Avoid making it appear that it’s complicated to do business with you from the get-go. Again, always consult your lawyer before engaging in investor dialogue, but remember to keep a tactical mindset. Fundraising is a numbers game and the easier you make it to start a dialogue, the more meetings you’ll net.

Understanding Technology Risk & Investor Mindset



4 Dec

By Lucy Parkinson, Research Analyst, LSN

LSN recently released an article detailing the competitive landscape for therapeutic indications, and how your asset fits in. We all know that not all subsectors are equal from an investor standpoint; if you’ve been out there looking for investors, you’ve probably discovered whether your particular niche is currently ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. You’ve also probably noticed that investor appetite shifts, and that cold sectors can quickly turn red hot, and vice-versa.

So what drives these trends in life science investment, and what does it mean for your company?
 
Given the rapid pace of progress in life sciences, many investors find it hard to keep on top of every new innovation, particularly if their firm doesn’t specialize in life sciences. Though things change, opinions are often influenced by past experience. “We’re only human,” one investor told me last week. “We lost money on our diabetes investments, so we’d think twice about investing in that field again.” Many factors influence an investor’s risk assessments. One is the size of the potential market; it’s ironic that some investors have come to see larger markets such as diabetes and heart disease as unacceptably risky. A large market means established competition, expensive clinical trials and high overhead costs required to attain market share.

Even if an investor feels like they can rely on the science behind your product, they may have a prior opinion of your technology.  Some subsectors came to be seen as damaged goods due to publicized failures, and rather than focusing on the mistakes that were made and learning from those mistakes, investors may see an entire technology area as being a poor investment. Such failures can set a field back for years, as the gene therapy field experienced after a patient death in a clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. Fortunately, gene therapy has slowly recovered from this setback and is starting to see investment interest again.

So how can you optimize your search for financing if you’re working on something that’s seen as a tough sell?  The most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s not just about your technology; investors are also looking at you, and perhaps 50% of the factors that influence their investment decision will be related to you and your management team, not simply your products.  If you can show them that you’re a great business leader with enough experience in your field to learn from past mistakes made by others, and that you’ve got a solid team who have the skills to succeed where others failed, they may be willing to take a risk on you.

Next, look at investors who have backed successes in your field; finding an investor who’s a fit for your company and has invested in your area in the past is one of the most important aspects of fundraising. Seeking out the winners can help you hit the right target investors.

Finally, target funding sources who have incentives other than risks and returns. Foundations, patient groups and government funds might regard the promise of a potential breakthrough in your field as being worth placing a stake on, even without any guarantee of returns, accelerating the funding cycle, and shortening your time to market.

The Quest for the Perfect Investor Fit: How Much Does Life Science Expertise Matter?

2 Oct

By Danielle Silva, Business Development, LSN

Here at LSN, I speak with many life science entrepreneurs about investor fit. Typically, life science executives believe that fit is a one-way street, meaning that they need to do all they can to prove they are a fit for a prospective investor. While it is certainly true that an integral part of the fundraising process is proving that your company is a fit for the firm’s investment thesis, this is not a one-sided negotiation. It is just as important for life science companies to make sure a potential investor is a fit for what the firm is looking to attain, and therefore, finding a potential investor needs to be both a strategic and tactical play.

What many life science CEOs struggle with is whether they should favor investors that have expertise in a particular area versus investors that are experienced in a certain phase of development. The answer, by and large, depends on what the life science company is looking to achieve in the long run, but there is of course no easy answer to this dilemma. Many entrepreneurs consider the problem a simple one – why would you want an investor that doesn’t understand your technology, or one who does not have expertise in your particular indication area?

While it is certainly important for investors to have a basic understanding of your disease area, this is only truly important if you are seeking scientific advisors for your firm. If this is the case, then finding a partner that has expertise in your disease area may be favorable to finding an investor that has knowledge of your stage of development. But what if, conversely, the executive is seeking a quick exit or a recapitalization? In this case, it may be more attractive to find an investor with a laser focus on your particular area. These investors already have a great knowledge of the space and thus probably already have a solid network that will be willing to acquire the company once the firm hits certain milestones.

Most life science executives I speak with, however, are not seeking scientific advisors, and instead are seeking investors with the business acumen to help take their product from discovery to distribution. These companies would benefit from a relationship with an investor that has knowledge of their particular phase of development, and who can thereby help to scale their business. It is also very beneficial for companies to be partnered with investors who have a deep knowledge of their phase of the clinical development cycle. These investors will have the expertise to help life science firms partner with appropriate firms in the R&D services space (such as CROs and other service providers).

Again, there is no clear solution to this problem. If your company is seeking an investor with a deep network in the space, then choosing an investor with sector expertise may be the answer. These investors, however, may not be able to help you scale your business to the point where your firm is an attractive investment or acquisition target for a larger investor within their network. Simply put, the answer is convoluted, no investor is the same, and everyone brings something different to the table. Life science executives should clearly define their goals in terms of growth and exit before deciding on an investor based on sector fit versus development phase fit.

Creating a Dialogue with Life Science Investors

2 Oct

By Dennis Ford, CEO, LSN

I write about this subject often – I guess the main reason is that if I can get the message right, I can help educate life science fund-raisers that a current and accurate map does exist for raising capital. If you are in fundraising mode, please have an updated map. There, I said it!

The most interesting component of the fundraising dynamic is the concept of “introduction”. Scientist meets investor, buyer meets seller. One of the initial goals of any fundraising campaign is to get in front of potential investors, and this can be done in two general ways: the first being referral, and the second, fit. I will agree that a referral is often a good way to get a meeting, but many believe that it is the only way to get to a decent investor target.

Being a street-savy salesperson, I always get a bit riled when someone announces that referrals are the only way in. I mean, what if you get referred to an investor and he just simply doesn’t have a current mandate to invest, and if he did, it would be a medical device and you happen to be a therapeutic? My point here is that even though a referral may get you some preferential treatment in the form of a first meeting, there always needs to be a good fit. After all, it’s the final meeting that really counts. I am a big fan of the referral, but I am an even bigger fan of fit.

In my “sales guy mind,” the highest form of a qualified investor lead is a declared fit. A declared fit boils down to this: an investor actively declares a targeted and specific intent on investing in a certain part of the market. I think that is the highest form of investor target – self-declared mandate from the mouth of an potential investor. I mean, what else would a fundraiser want? OK, maybe I shouldn’t have asked that question… because I know the answer: a referred introduction, right?  No, wrong!

Of course, if you know someone who can provide an intro, that’s great. Sans that magical referral/intro, if you are a fit for the declared mandate, all you have to do is tell him via email or phone that you know what they are seeking and you are a fit. Honestly, that’s how it works. Spamming gets you a 1-2% hit rate, but reaching out based on fit gets you a 20-30% hit rate. Why? Because you match what the investor is looking for. Being armed with the knowledge of an investor’s current interest gives you the power to refer yourself.

Phase I of the JOBS Act: Are you ready for the general solicitation revolution?

2 Oct

By Lucy Parkinson, Research Analyst, LSN

Back in April 2012, the JOBS act was passed with the aim of (the clue is in the name) Jumping Our Business Startups. The SEC has moved slowly on implementing the JOBS Act and is saving the most innovative provisions for a second phase of changes, but as of Monday, September 23rd, the long-standing ban on making general solicitations to accredited investors has been rescinded. This will have a huge effect on the institutional landscape of investing, as companies can now use mass public advertising to look for investors, rather than being restricted to using funds from family, friends, and private networks of accredited investors.

So does your start-up’s fundraising campaign have to change? Not necessarily, but you may reap great benefits by using the new regulations to your advantage and seeking for investors with a wider net than was previously possible. However, obeying the restrictions surrounding general solicitation is not as straightforward as you might think. As such, any company looking to raise capital would be advised to spend some time with their lawyer before sending out a mass solicitation; similar to the domain of intellectual property, we could see an influx of law firms seeking to partner with emerging biotech companies to guide them through the regulatory quagmire and maximize their visibility with investors.

While many life science companies could benefit from following the new path laid out for general solicitations, some may wish to eschew the added regulatory burdens and stick with the old model that, in addition to accredited investors, allows them to ask up to 35 unaccredited friends and family to contribute to each funding round. This doesn’t mean foregoing all the benefits of the law; the investment groups themselves will have more room to advertise for contributions under the new law, and that may lead to investors having more dry powder to invest – particularly to under-the-radar angel firms, who have previously found it hard to advertise to prospective investors. Building partnerships with these lesser-known investors will remain as important than ever.

Will general solicitation be worth the added costs? It could be, and this is especially true for life science companies. One thing LSN has observed frequently about emerging types of investors in the life science space is that more so than investors in other industries, they often have personal motives. Essentially, what we’re seeing is funding provided by angels, family offices and venture philanthropy funds looking for more than just ROI – the founders of these investment vehicles often want to make an impact on the world by targeting a particular disease that has affected their life or runs in their family. So, when we start to see general solicitations blaring from every billboard, TV set or web search, life science pitches will have a unique draw that other startup prospects lack because in this industry, general and personal come together.

This distinction will only become more valuable when phase two of the JOBS Act rolls out equity crowdfunding. For that, we’ll have to wait until next year.

Hot Life Science Investor Mandate 1: Venture Philanthropy Seeks Early-Stage Companies for Several Allocations

2 Oct

A venture philanthropy group established in 2008 and based in the Eastern US makes equity and convertible note investments of approximately $1 million into companies seeking up to $5 million that are targeting cardiovascular and neurovascular diseases. The firm invests in privately held companies at both the seed and venture stage, and is planning on making 3-4 allocations over the next 12 months. The firm operates under an evergreen structure and is constantly seeking new investment opportunities.

The group is currently looking for companies in both the Biotech Therapeutic & Diagnostics and Medtech sectors. Within these sectors, the firm is opportunistic in terms of subsector, although they do have special interest in companies developing regenerative technologies. The firm’s main focus is on companies developing technologies for cardiovascular and neurovascular diseases – however, they will also consider investing in companies targeting diabetes and metabolic disorders. The firm looks to invest in companies with a product in preclinical or phase 1 of clinical trials for Biotech Therapeutics and Diagnostics, and companies with a product in development or prototype stages for Medtech.

As a venture philanthropy organization, the group is only willing to allocate to companies who have a clear impact on patient therapy and/or standard of care, an adequate level of IP protection, well-defined use of proceeds with quantifiable and achievable milestones, and a clear understanding of the next round of fundraising needs including how much and likely sources.