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.