• AMBIO Healthtech

The marathon with hurdles of developing a life science startup

Myths, legends and often popular misconceptions about an overnight success and garage inventions surround tech startups. Surely, sometimes this is true and the media makes a big shush of it. But more frequently, success is actually composed of many hours of hard work, serendipity, persistence and resilience to failure. These traits become even more important for life science startups that often begin their journey in the research lab (and actually stay there for many years before any entrepreneurial attempt).

To have a good start, researchers need deep competence, access to labs, funding, collaborations and publishing in the scientific outlets. On another hand, digital health idea development often requires different skills such as programming and in-depth understanding of, for example, biomedical engineering- or clinical processes.

Then, a real clinical need is essential: questioning whether their innovation is actually solving a real health problem helps to draw assumptions about the market potential. Even when all these elements are in place, let’s be realistic - researchers do not necessarily have entrepreneurial aspirations or business knowledge for seeing their research as a potentially commercializable outcome. Here they need to be able to perform a market analysis and, without a doubt, an inspiration to further develop their project as entrepreneurs.

Besides rewards of potentially improving health and lives of people, there are many struggles in the startup journey. Life science innovations that have realistic market potential and those that are pushed by the entrepreneurs towards commercialization continue their journey through many not-so-intuitive roadblocks that require expert knowledge. Our experience shows that the largest roadblocks for the entrepreneurs in life science lie in the areas of business modelling, clinical evaluation, regulatory approvals, fundraising, go-to-market strategy and market adoption.

For instance, let’s take an essential task of CE marking that needs to be accomplished by a medical device inventor. Finding clinical partners to perform a clinical evaluation, dealing with all the documentation, ethical approvals, funding, planning a scientifically sound trial and reporting it can often require skills that are beyond the regular skill set of an entrepreneur. Similarly, how to access and convince health care providers, private or public payers, or patients to purchase the innovation? These and similar questions are often outside the curriculum of life science education and eventually hinder life science innovations from becoming commercially successful.

What strategies can a startup in life science choose for effective progress?

First, the search on almighty Google. There is definitely lots of free information available on the net on a variety of entrepreneurial topics, starting from minimal viable product development to fundraising tricks, however, one must be very critical when making the strategic or startup development decisions based on information found online. Not that good quality information sources are not existent, it is that it takes already a certain level of prior experience, critical thinking and TIME to filter what information is credible and useful, and what is just a mediocre scribble dressed in fancy Valley jargon.

Startup acceleration programs can often be a great way for aspiring innovators to excel in their progress as they can offer access to vast general training resources, coaching support and entrepreneurial networks. In addition, many programs also provide a chance to receive seed investment in a case of successful acceleration. However, the caveat is not to get overwhelmed by the availability of this type of programs but to choose wisely and to be critical, considering the reputation of the organizers and experts, the relevance of the program's content to the actual stratup's product or service, the required time allocation and, not the least, participation fee giving away equity or cash (there is no such thing as free lunch :) and many other things.

Attending dedicated events, conferences or webinars can also be a resourceful way to get immersed into the challenging world of life science entrepreneurship. In addition to hearing inspirational talks, learning in valuable workshops to deepen knowledge on a certain topic or hearing about sector’s trends, innovators can also work on getting their name (or their startup) exposed and their network expanded (harder for the webinars, though). On the other hand, one must be aware of potentially high registration fees, sometimes overly stretched-out schedule of the event with less engaging content, not only consuming valuable time but also taking precious energy that could be better spent for networking.

Finding mentors or hiring experts for personalized consultations can be another way to effectively move forward while getting constructive feedback and guidance on the relevant matters. Specific, experienced mentor or expert knowledge not only helps to accelerate the processes and saves valuable time, but also allows entrepreneurs to focus their efforts on actually delivering products and services answering real patients- or health care organizations’ needs. However, experts and mentors can be hard to find locally, and their services can be costly, unless access to them is facilitated through entrepreneurial programs and specialized organizations.

No matter what gets you moving ahead, it is vital to realize that developing a life science startup from an idea to a successful business is a marathon with hurdles and not a sprint; it will take much more patience, learning, perseverance and time to commercialize and to reach an eventual investors' exit than in any other industry.

Therefore, thanks to our wide international network of experts in various fields, to educational programs and events we at AMBIO Healthtech guide startups and organizations in finding a unique progress path best suitable to them. We help to develop essential knowledge, achieve tangible progress and form new connections in the international scene of life science innovation and entrepreneurship, which, in essence, enables them to advance much faster.

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