We asked our prestigious BioStars mentors* to give us their insight into the most underrated aspects of biotech entrepreneurship:
Having your strategy for making money and your value proposition set early on is crucial; “Money makes the world go round. The best ideas will be of no interest to investors if it won’t make them money”. The idea alone is not enough. For those entering entrepreneurship direct from the research world, this can sometimes be a hard thing to hear, but is vital to understand for making it a success. In addition, as one mentor points out, having first-hand experience of failure is one of the best teachers and is not something to be feared or hidden away. Another prominent but reportedly underrated factor is understanding the regulatory landscape and potential hurdles to clear – these can take a long time to address and will bite you further down the road if you don’t have a strategy to deal with them. Communicating your unique selling point effectively to a variety of audiences, getting good intellectual property advice, managing your time properly and showing humility and kindness – two attributes often shunned in the aggressive business world – will all contribute to giving you an edge.
Our mentors also had some words of advice for those wanting to ward off common misconceptions that might befall them as budding biotech entrepreneurs. The message coming through clearest is that a good idea alone is not enough, the science alone does not merit a business. It is vital to understand the investors’ perspective and have clear reasons for why they should invest and how the business is going to deliver returns. Making money is not easy in the extremely competitive global market and it is rare for an idea to be truly unique and without competition, moreover any new idea that wants to breakthrough will have to overcome an array of regulatory hurdles. The regulations will vary depending on the technology, but they are rigorous and having a strategy to meet them and properly estimating associated costs is crucial for success. That being said, and whilst confidence is king, the chances of success are slim; serious time investment and a willingness to meet with and combat failure is essential for achievement. The first version of your idea is highly unlikely to be the best, and there may come a point where the scientist has to take a backseat, bringing in a specialist CEO to enable deliverance on the business objectives. Throughout all of this, what remains undeniably important is the need to keep a skilled team working together in order to battle the obstacles between ‘great idea’ and ‘great business’.
(*) Thanks to Prof. Kieran Clark (University of Oxford), Dr. Euvian Tan (Profiscio Ltd), Dr. Duncan Young (Astra Zeneca), Robert Rickman (Chain Biotechnology Ltd), Samantha Macro (MedImmune), Philip Webber (Dehns), Dr. Satish Keshav (University of Oxford), Dr. Jeanne Williamson (Williamson Biotech Solutions), Dr. Roberto Martinez (Phoreon), Dr. Eleanor Stride (University of Oxford), Tim Bird (Fieldfisher), Dr. Phil Clare (University of Oxford) for their input.