BY JACEK GREBSKI
This may be largely dependent on industry but, if you have the possibility to actually test out a concept before going into full scale business plan writing, development, quitting your job, do so.
Clearly if you hold in your possession intellectual property (IP) that will cost a few hundred grand to develop, then by all means start writing that business plan, get that executive summary ready, and go put a team together, but in the event your idea is something niche, has a specific market segment, is a B2C business then start testing the waters.
The best way to go about doing this, is to simply involve yourself in the community for your business subject online, whatever it is. We, for example at f3fundit.com, started looking around the startup scene here in Europe, and we noticed that there was nothing that really brought it together, there was an old expired EU initiative that was now defunct, there were tons of resources, but they were hard to find. Simply put we thought there may be a market for a site that brings all this info together, so we thought about putting up a database of all relevant information, a Wiki of sorts, but that’s just boring. At this time, I was working on another project, and started collecting information and writing basic articles for my own – now defunct – blog, that for lack of time, just never saw the light of day.
Put one and two together, and the next thing that we know we’ve got a blog, with some info on it in the resource area. Now time to see if this thing is going to even make an internet blip – seems it did, this site’s been growing, and best of all organically, no marketing, no adwords, so now we’re actually working on a few things behind the scenes that should bring added value to our visitors and likewise the European Entrepreneurship scene.
What I’m getting here at is, it costs us a total of what, a domain name, and hosting that we already had to see if there was any viability behind f3fundit.com. And there evidently seems there is – then I recall another project I was a part of back in 2002, no market research, no feelers sent out, the idea was launch now because someone’s going to do what we’re doing. The thing was rushed out the door, we ordered volumes of the stuff that just sat in inventory for god knows how long, and could have saved a lot of money and made a lot more money later by not learning form our mistakes and instead preparing ourselves adequately.
Remember, entrepreneurship is not just about the idea, it’s also about “smart” execution, an intelligent strategy where you, your team, and your product are ready to launch, and I mean truly ready to launch.
Remember the saying 1st impressions last a lifetime, the same more or less holds true for products. If you launch something which will be received as crap,your company will be seen as just that. Image may not be everything, but it’s a lot. Test the waters before you hop in, make sure that there exists a need before you start planning for the whole thing.
Free Startup Consulting?
So you’ve got a problem, there’s a process and you just can’t seem to understand how to get around that process while keeping that something vital to your business model. You talk to your partners, they’re stumped as well, friends and family can’t help, and colleagues just don’t have the time to devote to the problem.
What do you do? Get a consultant. Sounds great except for the fact that these guys can charge a couple of hundred an hour and as a startup the last thing you have is a a few spare grand laying around that you can throw at someone who may not be able to provide you with an adequate solution. But there is good news.
And that good news is you’ve got access to consulting clubs and entrepreneurship clubs at universities and MBA programmes. Most majour cities will have at least one university that has a good enough MBA programme, and those students who are in those clubs will be more than eager to tackle any real world entrepreneurship, or consulting issues you may have. Why? Simple, it’s real world experience, and they’re learning from the real – day to day – problems of your company. Not only that they’ll be able to slap that bit about helping you on their CV’s and it’s sure to look good.
But aside from just contacting a club and saying “hey, I’ve got this issue” – turn it into something more, propose presenting your company to these students, and then pose your problem, ask them how they would fix it. If you’re a non-business type entrepreneur where you’ve just recently learned about i.e. business plans & P&L’s, but know how to say… rectify colon cancer (no pun intended), then the business help from these lads and ladies may be exactly what you need and are looking for.
Why not hire a MBA intern?
There’s even a chance that the person you’re pitching to could spend a few good months over the summer with you getting you an your company ready to pitch to the right people. If the relationship between your company and the school and some of the students is a good one, consider hiring a MBA intern.
In terms of a consulting club, this is a bit of a different approach as these guys are going for the MBBB (McK, Booz, BCG, Bain) group, and you should pitch your problem as a possible project for them. They’ll get hands on experience, and you’ll get a report that otherwise would have cost you a nice chunk of change.
Remember, as entreprenerus, we have to be resourceful, and utilize those resources around us effectively, and efficiently. Business schools are a great place to find those resources, the students are motivated and yearn for hands on real world experience. Why not give them what they need?
If interested in working with MBA’s – or if a MBA and interested in working with Startups – contact us – info @ f3fundit.com – we’ll put you in touch.
It took some time, but we’ve put together a list of what we assume are the most relevant events and conferences for the Biotech Entrepreneur. We say relevant for the entrepreneur because we have left out conferences on clinical / drug development, medical conferences, etc… and if you think we missed anything let us know.
March 8-10, 2010
Business for Scientisits
April 12-16, 2010
Chicago, IL, USA
BIO Legislative Day Fly-In 2010
April 13 – 14, 2010
Washington D.C., USA
BIO Intellectual Property Counsels Spring Conference and Committee Meeting
April 19-21, 2010
New Orleans, LA, USA
April 20-22, 2010
New York, NY, USA
BIO-LES Business Development Basics Course
May 1-3, 2010
Chicago, IL, USA
Partnering for Global Health Forum
May 3, 2010
Chicago, IL, USA
BIO Executive Presentation Workshop
May 3, 2010
Chicago, IL, USA
BIO International Convention
May 3-6, 2010
Chicago, IL, USA
2010 BIO Human Resources Conference
May 5-7, 2010
Chicago, IL, USA
11th Annual BioEquity Europe
May 19-20, 2010
June 1, 2010
ChinaBio Partnering Forum
June 23-24, 2010
The World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing
June 27-30, 2010
September 15-17, 2010
Boston, MA, USA
BIO India International Partnering Conference
September 21-22, 2010
Livestock Biotech Summit
September 28-30, 2010
Sioux Falls, SD, USA
9th Annual BIO Investor Forum
October 6-7, 2010
San Francisco, CA, USA
October 18-20, 2010
Washington D.C., USA
BIO-Europe International Partnering Conference
November 15-17, 2010
If you know of any other and worthwhile conferences or talks for the startup Biotech entrepreneur, let us know, and we will add to this list. Additionally, in terms of pure biotech-medical-pharma research. Head over to BioSpace – a really deeply designed database for the Life sciences community.
Competitive Intelligence? What’s competitive intelligence? According to Wikipedia “Competitive intelligence (CI) is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization“.
Clearly though this defines any organization, however, it is typically interpreted as some classified top super secret information on your competition and utilized to gain a competitive advantage. Sure it could be that, however, we’d like to think that CI is an ongoing process that defines the market sphere and accumulates relevant knowledge that can be put to use by members of the company and board in formulating a concise strategy.
So how does or should a startup go about collecting CI, read, talk, visit trade shows, collect “relevant” information on the industry, as well as other industries that directly affect yours. i.e. if a new technology launches which can lower your production costs, see if you can implement it, your competitor may not be able to or may not know the new complimentary technology was launched, and you can beat them on price. Starting to see the need for CI now?
That said – different industries need different levels of CI, that in a number of ways are relevant to the following factors.
Competitive Intelligence Criteria
1. Level of capital investment – low investment startups need worry less about CI than ones requiring a million+ to get to market? Why? Simple, with little investment your clients should be virtually at your doorstep. If you have long lead times, and are in a competitive industry, well… there’s a good change there exist a few competitors trying to do the same thing you are.
2. The Blue Ocean approach – if your business is simply not looking at your market’s competition and going after an entirely new or competitor irrelevant market segment (think MSFT XBox, Sony PS3, Nintendo Wii), your level of CI involvement may not have to be as high as other industry competitors. In the above example, Nintendo basically made the Xbox and PS3 irrelevant as they targeted a totally different type of home video game user. Notwithstanding, this approach requires a deep understanding of the industry.
3. Identifying specific types of CI – are partnerships necessary, is your business based on intellectual property (IP) or perhaps human capital? Are there technology opportunities, risks? Identify and assign roles to each to base and develop your CI strategy. There is after all no need to expend resources where they are not needed.
However since, we’re focusing on Biotech this week, we found a great list of CI requirements at nature.com for any Biotech Startup, the list can be found via above link and continues now.
Types of Competitive Intelligence
1. Intellectual property. Depending on the company’s resources, one should do a comprehensive patent literature search at least once a year. When searching for patents, it is useful to start with the European Patent Office, which publishes all patent applications within 18 months of when they are filed, usually after one year, whereas the USPTO will not publish patents until 18 months after they are filed. This is valuable information, because most countries do not make a patent available to the public until it has been reviewed by the patent office.
2. Market need and size. Identifying target market segments will allow the company to know what markets competitors are planning to move into or are ignoring. During the long development periods required for most biotech products, the market needs and size will change. It is therefore vital to keep CI up to date by regularly consulting with key people, such as members of a carefully chosen Scientific Advisory Board and a broad sample of experts in the relevant fields. Networking at professional or industry conferences is a good way to do this.
3. Partnerships. By monitoring new technologies entering the market and in development, the company can identify possible partnerships with other companies and academic institutions. Scientific journal and patent literature searches along with professional conferences can all be potentially fruitful sources of new partners.
4. Competitive environment. It is important to continuously monitor the competition. Some players will drop out, while new, potentially disruptive technologies developed by small firms may enter the market that may not be readily apparent as competitors. The company has to be very expansive in thinking about the possible kinds of competitors. By attending conferences and examining relevant ads, the company can assess competitors’ product strategies.
5. Marketing and distribution. By talking with distributors’ and competitors’ sales forces, the company can determine how competitors are getting their products to market. This information can help the company develop its own more efficient and targeted strategy for product marketing and distribution. The company can, for example, look at how much competitors spend on advertising or how big competitors’ sales forces are to create benchmarks for its own goals and performance. Although most people will decline to talk to a “competitor,” many will talk to their “peers” in other companies if the questions are asked in the right way.
6. Technology opportunities and risks. By reading the publications of competitors’ scientists and their academic partners and talking with them at conferences, the company can identify the bottlenecks that competitors have encountered when developing similar technologies.
7. Regulatory and reimbursement issues. Surveying the regulatory agencies is one way to determine the current regulatory requirements and identify new issues that might affect the approval of a product or the way it is labeled and marketed. With a CI process one can examine the various factors in the regulatory environment and anticipate changes that may profoundly affect the enterprise.
8. Financing options. One of the most vital tasks for the leader of any startup is ensuring the resources that the firm needs to operate are available. CI can help determine which venture capitalists are investing in the firm’s technology area and what organizations might be interested in acquiring those technologies. This data can better establish the value of a company during financing and can potentially strengthen a firm’s negotiating position. In addition, CI can be used in examining merger and acquisition candidates, government grants and joint-venture partners that could provide alternative sources of funding, thereby increasing the firm’s negotiation leverage.
9. Human capital. Salary surveys and analyses of job ads can provide important insights into competitors’ staffing strategies. Likewise, recruiting agencies, while keeping their client information confidential, may be good sources for industry skill trends and the strategies of non-client firms. This kind of information can allow the company to determine the type of people it needs to succeed in a market niche and what it will take to attract and retain them.
In all CI is a vital part of any business, and as mentioned before should be an ongoing and active process at all organizations, we oftentimes forget that we’re conducting it by talking to people, networking and reading up on relevant industry literature. But the rub is, that if you’re not actively participating in it, you will loose your competitive advantage. Take our recommendation, and have a talk about it at your next board meeting and have one person in the company actively collect CI and make strategic recommendations based on those findings.
How do you start a Biotech Company? Good question, for the most part it’s like anything else, you have a good idea, you write a business plan using a well defined guide, and then proceed to get things off the ground.
But we’ll let someone explain it better than we could, this podcast comes from Absolute Science and Welltopia.com where Mignon Fogarty interviews her husband Patrick Fogarty a post-doc at Stanford who in the 90’s started his own Biotech Firm with next to no knowledge of business. However you’ll notice a lot of the same trends we’ve been discussing here, engaging executive summary, a hook for the VC, scalability, market size and identification, thus further pinning the belief that a majority of entrepreneurial concepts are transferable between industries.