Newsletter editorial, April, 2021
Many life science start-ups are spinouts from academia with a scientific founding team. Naturally, their focus is often on the scientific discovery that they have uncovered and for good reason. Excellent science is essential in life science entrepreneurship.
However, establishing a successful start-up rests not only on one but three pillars: Science, business opportunity and team.
Especially the latter has often been either forgotten or neglected by several of the start-up companies I have encountered throughout the years. Not out of an ill will, but out of lack of understanding of how important it is to have the right team in place before developing a solid business plan and pursuing substantial funding.
In many cases, scientific founders can acquire some competencies in market assessment and business development, and several of them may even have prior experience in engaging with companies through consultancies. This gives the scientific founders some of the necessary skills and know-how to have a basic understanding of the translational path.
However, there is a big step from knowing how to develop and evaluate the right business model to be an expert, and unfortunately, many academic founders do not appreciate the true value that someone with business experience can bring to the table.
In some cases, that will lead to a lack of success or even failure.
Early on in my career, I had to acknowledge this myself when I co-founded Elypta, a cancer biomarker company. Thankfully, I had at that time seen how teams with combined competencies enabled a rapid progression in life science start-ups. With that knowledge, my academic co-founder Francesco Gatto and I agreed that we needed someone with solid business experience in the team to raise capital for advancing the business case that it was.
Early on, we were lucky to find Karl Bergman. He had an engineering background but was very competent in drafting a solid business plan due to his years of experience in the consultancy business. Based on his experience and our science, we raised funding, and today, the biomarker is in clinical trial towards FDA approval.
However, setting your team is not solely about competencies. Shared values, a joint vision and good chemistry are important components to set out on the long journey that life science entrepreneurship is. There will be ups and downs, and whereas it is easy to celebrate the ups, it is important that the team can work through the tough times.
Therefore, I can only advise that you thoroughly select your team members when establishing a new start-up company. You will learn from each other and have a higher chance of success! Today’s story from BII alumnus Adcendo is a fantastic example of that.
At BII, we help founders set the right team. For this, we have partnered with Coulter, one of the leading recruiters in the life science industry, to assist with gap analysis within the team and find candidates that can strengthen the team, such as a new CEO or Chairman of the Board.
We are confident that this will result in a stronger portfolio of companies and ensure that our start-up companies have a chance to build the right team for success.
CEO, BioInnovation Institute