Building a business in any industry is a challenging task, but getting a startup off the ground in the biotech and life sciences world can be especially taxing. From R&D to the regulatory approval process to the need for constant innovation, these fields demand a lot from the entrepreneurs working within them. Since September 26 to October 3 is National Biotechnology Week in Canada, we’ve decided to compile some tips to help you get your foot in the door as a biotech or life sciences startup. Are you looking to navigate the challenges and rewards of these complicated industries? Check out our advice below!
- Search for innovative solutions
Innovative technology is the heart of biotech, but how do you create technology that people are going to truly want and—more importantly—need? The trick is to solve a specific existing problem. Dynamic technology can only create value when it’s directed toward a particular application, which is why you might want to consider solving for as tight a use-case as possible. For example, in the TED Talk below, medical engineer Nikolai Begg talks about his experience updating a surgical device known as the trocar. Realizing that trocar incisions are one of the most dangerous steps in minimally-invasive surgery, Begg identified a very specific problem that he could solve. This is the way bioentrepreneurs might want to approach innovation.
- Segment the market thoughtfully
Perhaps you have an understanding of the problem you want to solve, but do you know who your customer will be? Figuring out your solution goes hand-in-hand with determining who your target customer will be. Rather than trying to target every physician or every medical organization, try to keep your target customer archetype as narrow as the use-case you intend to solve. When segmenting your market, consider doing research on your potential customers. For example, in a B2B scenario, if you intend to sell to or be acquired by Johnson & Johnson, you’ll want to figure out everything to do with them—from their marketing and manufacturing specialities to what might be in their R&D pipeline. This kind of information will allow you to target them effectively.
- Know the biotech funding landscape
Every seasoned entrepreneur knows the difficulties of obtaining funding, which can be particularly onerous when it comes to biotech and the life sciences. Given recent trends in the world of venture funds, today there are fewer opportunities for early-stage biotech and life sciences startups to receive funding from traditional investors. While you might still find success with this approach, it’s increasingly likely that biotech and life sciences startups seeking first-round funding will have to look elsewhere. Corporate funding, angel investors, government agencies, patient advocacy groups and foundations—these are just a few of the potential options you should consider. Diversifying your approach to seeking funds will increase the odds of you landing capital. For more information on the funding landscape, check out this piece from Nature.
- Protect and strengthen your IP portfolio
Different industries will necessitate a different approach to intellectual property. For example, according to startup guru Steve Blank, entrepreneurs in the Web and mobile industries don’t need to be so concerned about their ideas getting stolen during the customer discovery process; however, biotech and life sciences entrepreneurs, on the other hand, should consult a patent attorney from the very beginning. When they do so, it’s advised that entrepreneurs make sure they’re the ones listed as the inventor on a patent application before spending money pursuing patent protection. Check out the video below for more specific tips related to biotech IP protection.
For more information about bioentrepreneurship, check out Nature’s Bioentrepreneur portal. Stanford School of Medicine also has a great collection of resources about bioentrepreneurship and the Kauffman Foundation offers a number of articles about entrepreneurship in the life sciences. Good luck and we hope you enjoy National Biotechnology Week!