Today’s entrepreneurs have broader access than ever before to a growing number of university, community and corporate incubators, accelerators and foundries (which are startup studios that create and develop multiple companies in parallel or rapid succession).
In the Ann Arbor area, for instance, startup founders can get mentoring, educational programs, seed funding and office space at the University of Michigan’s TechArb student business accelerator and the Desai Accelerator, which helps recent U-M graduates grow their businesses. Ann Arbor SPARK also offers economic-development services to entrepreneurial high-tech startups as well as established companies.
To tee-up the joint Michigan Growth Capital Symposium and Coulter Investment Forum on May 16 and 17, a panel of business-development experts and venture investors offered advice to help life science startups accelerate the growth of their business, avoid common mistakes and attract venture investment.
“The best thing startup entrepreneurs can do is to surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are,” advised Sandra Cochrane, director of Western Michigan University’s WMed Innovation Center. SmartZones, state and private universities and Small Business Development Centers offer a variety of resources, training, special events and networking.
“I tell new companies to talk to their customers in order to confirm there’s an unmet need for their product/service and to validate their value proposition,” said Karen Spilizewski, vice president of BioEnterprise Corporation. “Companies need to get answers and understand their customers’ perspective.”
“Kill the idea quickly and get to quick failure so you expend fewer resources [on a business venture that does not pan out],” recommended Ibraheem Badejo, senior director of new ventures at J&J Innovation Center. “I have had issued patents for IP that I cannot pursue.”
Avoiding common mistakes
“If an entrepreneur cannot articulate a clear value proposition, it will be a tough sell to investors,” Spilizewski said. “Lots of companies are focused on the technology and science, but we [at BioEnterprise Corporation] focus on understanding what value is derived. An entrepreneur needs to bring value such as better patient outcomes, increased safety or lower costs [to the market].”
“The best technology doesn’t always win,” commented Bill Mayer, vice president of entrepreneurial services at Ann Arbor SPARK. “Startups need to look at how the team will execute on the value proposition, how they will commercialize their technology and how they will take it to market.”