Tag Archives: business development

The Successful Life Science Company: Three Tips to Insure You Survive Your Success

By: Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Keeping your expanded team well informed, supported and rewarded will insure the continued growth of your company.

Keeping your expanded team well informed, supported and rewarded will insure the continued growth of your company.

What do you do when things start to go well?  Sounds like an odd question but it is something that every Life Science entrepreneur should consider even in the early days.  It is very easy to lose sight of the intangible contributions of your early team as you start to have some compelling profits and the company is growing.

The early days
When you are just getting started, you will have a small but very passionate, focused and solid team.  (If you don’t have this, you soon will not have a business at all).  You can easily sit around the same table at lunch and share what is going on, your ideas for what should happen next and anything else that concerns the company.  Furthermore, everybody is more than willing to put in the insane hours and total commitment it takes to build your company’s success.

What happens when you start to see success?
You and the team have launched your first product or service and you are beginning to see revenues and maybe even some profits.  At this point you and the early founding team may have added a few more people but it is still possible to squeeze together in the same room.  Whether you realize it or not, the culture of your company is by necessity changing.  With the growth of your company, the way that you communicate and get things done needs to scale as well.  This is where some processes and procedures come into play.  Ad Hoc worked well when it was just three of you.  This cannot work as the team grows.  There needs to be communication between the R&D and Sales & Marketing teams but it would be a waste of time and resources to call all of you sales people in for every R&D meeting and vice versa.

Nurturing the goose that laid the golden egg
At the start, everything was about getting your first product or service to market.  Now that you have successfully launched, you need to grow and expand profitability by boosting sales with your commercial team, reducing costs with your operations team and begin and expand your market reach with ‘follow-on’ products (or services) by launching your next product development effort and/or business development efforts.  You need many more hands to get this all done and so the team will now grow significantly (sometimes doubling and tripling in size).  Many will bemoan the loss of the ‘small company feel’ but if you hope to be successful transforming the company from its startup roots, this  is essential.

The easier part here is to start to adopt some of the tried and true processes and procedures that are often associated with large established companies (you just need to scale these down to fit your company so that you don’t import a bunch of bureaucracy).  The hard part is maintaining a positive culture.

Keeping it ‘real’ with the new team
Your company works best when everyone’s individual goals and aspirations are well aligned with the company.  In the early days, only those people that shared your passion and vision would have joined as founders.  By definition you are all aligned and that is partly because you will each individually be successful if the company is successful (financially, better reputation, etc.).  Later employees will often not be well aligned as they do not have the same interests and passions as the founders (the link between their personal success and that of the company will usually be weaker).  However, the company will do best when it can utilize all of the talents, intelligence and ideas of everyone on the payroll.  Get this right and you will see a continued positive impact on the bottom line.

Tips for Boosting Innovation as Your Company Grows:

  • Adopt empowering HR policies.  Consider why someone at the bottom of the compensation scale would want to share their good ideas with the company.  Perhaps there is a monetary reward, opportunity for promotion or other benefit that would encourage this and other employees to ‘go the extra mile’.
  • Nurture a culture of respect and fairness.  A company where employees can share their concerns without being afraid of repercussions is critical.  So is taking care to recognize excellence in the company and to reward it frequently.
  • Maintain excellent communication with the troops.  There is confidential stuff for sure (but share as much as is appropriate).  As the company grows, you may wish to have quarterly ‘State of the Company’ meetings (both in-person and remotely with those in the field), a company newsletter and other tactics for sharing how the company is doing on a regular basis.  This will allow everyone to better connect what they are doing as individuals with the ultimate fate of the company (kind of like in the ‘old days’ when the three of you founders plotting over a pizza at lunch).

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Three Tips to Insuring That Your First Sales Are Not Your Last

3d line chart

Upward sales momentum is rarely smooth, especially in the early days. Use insights from your first customers to win the larger number of pragmatic customers that dominate your market.

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Growing sales from your initial product launch requires a special approach with disruptive technology in the Life Sciences.   In a typical Life Science or biotech startup, your very first sales will likely come from some (hopefully most) of your beta evaluators.  Often, you will have a slew of sales at the beginning followed by a very frustrating period of time where every new sale takes a huge amount of time and effort to win.  Some have called this the ‘Valley of Death’ since it looks like your sales momentum has fallen off while you are burning through your capital reserves.

What’s going on?
Geoffrey Moore discusses this situation perfectly in his book “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers” (This book has become a classic and is a valuable source of insight to any entrepreneur with new technologically advanced products).  The premise here is that most if not all of your first customers are ‘Early Adopters’ but the market that you really want to reach and where the success and failure of your company hang in the balance is with ‘Mainstream Customers”.  There are never enough Early Adopter customers to be an attractive market.  However, these customers are valuable since they will help you to figure out how to reach the bigger market later on of the pragmatic ‘Mainstream Customer’.

Know thy customer
Knowing the difference between the characteristics of an ‘Early Adopter ‘ from  a ‘Mainstream Customer’ holds the key for getting across Moore’s ‘Chasm’ or the ‘Valley of Death.’  Here is how he defines both customer types:

Early Adopters … buy into new product concepts very early in their life cycle … they are people who find it easy to imagine, understand and appreciate the benefits of a new technology, and can relate these potential benefits to their concerns … [They] do not rely on well-established references in making … buying decisions, preferring instead to rely on their own intuition and vision…”1

“[Mainstream Customers] … are driven by a strong sense of practicality.  They know that many of these newfangled inventions end up as passing fads, so they are content to wait and see how other people are making out before they buy in themselves.  They want to see well-established references before investing substantially.”1

Tips for winning ‘Mainstream Customers’
The following tips have been field tested and shown to work.  They are based in part on the insights gained from knowing the difference on what it takes to appeal to your first customers and what is compelling to all the rest.

      • Build early credibility using Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s). – Learn who these people are from your first customers (you might think that you know who they are already, just validate this with these customers first).  Engage with these Key Opinion Leaders through collaborations, sponsorships and other ways (see  blog post ‘The Key to Key Opinion Leaders’ ) and get their endorsements and testimonials.
    • Get published – There is no better way to validate the impact of your new product though publication.  Work with your beta-evaluators and early customers to help them to publish.  Academic journal publications are most desirable but look to get poster presentations, articles in trade publications (printed and electronic) as well.  As good as the papers that your own scientists are publishing, the ones by outside investigators will hold the most value for the ‘mainstream customer’.
    • Stay visible while building credibility – Start a blog where you r scientists can showcase their mastery of this field of study and how your products are impacting your customers. (Be sure to keep your blog posts free of anything that looks and feels like an advertisement, keep this about the science)Where possible, see if you can get early customers and Key Opinion Leaders to be guest bloggers for you by submitting a post or two.


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Startups and the Role of the “Other” Development

Business people

There IS a difference between Business Development and Corporate Development

By: Michael Kaiser

It is an accepted fact that Business Development is not the same as Corporate Development, although they may (or can) intertwine. Even today, business development stands as a euphemism for sales and marketing, but especially in the case of high technology that definition is less acceptable and more complex. Whereas business development is an organic growth, corporate development’s inorganic role is the opposite, with its emphasis on mergers and acquisitions, alliances and joint ventures.

What is Corporate Development?
There are several definitions of Corporate Development but the following ones address the essence of this subject:

A) Corporate Development applies to planning and strategies that assist a company to achieve its goals (Wise Geek -1)

B) Corporate Development refers to the planning and execution of a wide range of strategies to meet specific organizational objectives (Wikipedia – 2)

C) Corporate Development encompasses the various facets of the corporate portfolio, growth, and strategy. (Boston Consulting Group – 3)

Does a startup need a Corporate Development team?
The answer could be “No and Yes”.

“No” because the entrepreneur(s) behind the birth of a new company based on their vision, initiative, creativity, technology, personal values, trade connections, etc. are building their product and/or service offering on the premise that the growth of their business is dependent on sales and marketing. At the onset of a startup, its actions will resemble more those of guerrilla warfare than those of a strategic military operation. And therefore…

Yes” because a lack of growth, or inversely, an unexpected growth demand requires the help of seasoned experts for corrective advice to prevent mistakes and steer the company towards success. And that’s where the professional corporate colonels and generals devise the client’s strategies.

More importantly, a primary reason a startup has to deal with a corporate development team is the need for investment sources, such as venture capital and crowd funding described as the “the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money …to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations… in support of a wide variety of activities, startup company funding, inventions development, scientific research…  Crowd funding can also refer to the funding of a company by selling small amounts of equity to many investors.” (Wikipedia – 2)

Corporate development strategies
The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analyses of startups, mid-sized or large companies is just one basic tool used by corporate development professionals in order to objectively determine and address the challenges and opportunities of new technologies, products and services. Here is a brief example provided by a consulting firm on the subject of some critical questions for an alliance or joint venture case  (Boston Consulting Group – 3):

  • In which areas—geographies, product lines, or functions—might an alliance or joint venture make sense? Is it better than an outright acquisition?
  • For a given opportunity, who are the right potential partners?
  • How can we prepare for alliance or joint venture negotiations—for example, for value capture and split?
  • How can we ensure constructive management and decision making in the alliance?
    • How can we set up an active joint-venture-and-alliance portfolio-management process for evaluating strategic options?

Another consulting firm defines corporate development as a function with three features of excellence (Ernst & Young – 4):

  • Strategic alignment with broader business goals
  • Well-documented transaction processes
  • Close relationships between corporate development and the rest of the organization

The bottom line
As social media, software and hardware applications, local and global connections and narrower opportunity and time horizons emerge due to advanced technologies, startup companies in the life sciences and other high technology sectors have to increasingly depend much earlier on the role of professional corporate development working in unison with a company’s organic business development in order to sustain their financial and market viability.


  1. Wise Geek (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-corporate-development.htm)
  2. Wikipedia  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_development)
  3. Boston Consulting Group (http://www.bcg.com/expertise_impact/capabilities/corporate_development/default.aspx)
  4. Ernst & Young (http://www.ey.com/GL/en/Services/Transactions/Toward-transaction-excellence–The-DNA-of-the-corporate-development-function)

Suggested reading

  1. Deloitte (http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/Services/Financial-Advisory-Services/Corporate-Development/696435131bc16310VgnVCM1000001a56f00aRCRD.htm)
  2. Forbes Magazine: (http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottpollack/2012/03/21/what-exactly-is-business-development/)

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