How Sexy Is Your Startup?One story worth seeing for anyone in the pharma/biotech industry is The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley. Elizabeth Holmes was a wildly influential woman of science, a firebrand trailblazer in the biotech sector. Her big idea was to perform hundreds of disease-screening tests using a small amount of blood from a finger prick—virtually bypassing the need for needles and conventional blood laboratories. She was going to reinvent the entire healthcare industry… come hell or high water. Ms. Holmes is a chemical engineering “president’s scholar”–turned Stanford dropout–turned Silicon Valley darling… When she was seven, she tried to invent her own time machine. At nine, she announced that she wanted to be a billionaire. Modest and self-effacing? Not a chance. Yet she able to orchestrate the biggest scandal in Silicon Valley, the likes of which mimic Bernie Madoff’s con of Wall Street. In the documentary, it becomes clear that Ms. Holmes is a master storyteller. Her surprisingly deep voice (which some say is contrived) and rhythmic hand movements… The “Eureka!” moment of her alleged invention… Her philanthropic desire to change the healthcare industry… It all captivated investors to the tune of raising $400 million. She became a billionaire, and her company Theranos was valued at $9 billion. But she over-sold her story. If you haven’t watched the documentary, you should take time to do so. Eventually, Ms. Holmes was exposed… She never had the product she allegedly invented. Her company went from $9 billion to zero, and she is currently under indictment by a federal grand jury for fraud and other offenses. We are not saying you should take any lesson away from Ms. Holmes other than that she had a story to tell… and her story resonated with thousands of people. And we are not saying that a startup should focus only on its story and try to dupe people out of millions of dollars. But we do stand firm in our message that smart branding—with a compelling story—can and does make a difference.
Early Smart Branding Can Yield Big ResultsMany biotech and pharma startups are formed by people who might be more comfortable in a lab than walking into a venture capitalist’s office for the first time. This is not the time to ad-lib or leave your storytelling to chance. Business is business… And selling your science is a business. There are some critical mistakes you can make during VC meetings that will surely close doors early and often. These include poor communication, misunderstanding your audience and overselling (or underselling) your vision.
Practice Makes a Perfect TeamAnother challenge for startups is that they are made up of new players on a team that has probably never played together before. Each player on the team may have different talents, but more importantly they may have different visions for the company. This is where early smart branding can allow a team to come together. One mission, one voice. VCs and early investors are all looking for the same qualities:
- Do you want to focus on one treatment or several?
- Which treatment provides the broadest coverage?
- Is the method or treatment available to cover different applications?
- How difficult is market entry?
- Do you want to get acquired or create a standalone company?