The 8th Early Stage Life Science Conference last week in Boston was a fantastic event as usual. Organized by Abigail Barrow, Director of the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center with support from Merck and Reid Leonard, Managing Director at Merck Ventures Fund, it offered a showcase of exciting early stage companies ranging from Bionic eyes, novel gene transfection approaches and cures for septsis and cancer. It included several impassioned presenters, talking about some novel ideas to advance healthcare — sure to get your inner geek on. But one of the most interesting talks was delivered by Richard Anders of Massachusetts Medical Angels — how to make pitches stronger. He was speaking about seed-round financing for early stage CEOs but his points are useful to job hunters. In the end, it’s the same goal – how to make a more compelling pitch. Whether it is an infusion of cash for a Newco or closing on a new job, his points are noteworthy.
1. Pedigree: Newcos must highlight strengths, experience and “know how” of the CEO and management team. The parallel for candidates is probably obvious. A good candidate must be comfortable talking about themselves and able to relate their experience and background in a compelling way. Talk about your education, work experience and why you are an “A player”. Translate your strengths into how you can add significant value while minimizing risk for the company. Eric Gordon, CEO of Atentiv, a personalized digital learning tool company is the master. If you can ever see him pitch, don’t pass it up. He has raised ~$116 million from investors and returned ~$1.4 billion in cash in 4 of 5 exits to investors and it shows.
2. Proof: Seed money is tight and so is the job market. According to Jeremy Halpern of Nutter McCleen & Fish, there is a massive decrease in seed stage deals – In fact, a 48% decrease 2010/2011 year on year, as venture funds go upstream to support later stage, less riskier companies. Now more than ever, an early stage CEO needs to demonstrate there is a market need for their product or a clear mechanism of why their solution works. A job candidate must do the same. No hand waving allowed. Early stage companies and candidates must clearly back up statements with proof and examples of success with solid metrics as well as third party validation. Be prepared to talk about your successes and what you have learned in the process. How would you translate those to the companies you are currently interested in joining? Who do you know and how valuable is the network you have built over the years to the companies you are interviewing with?
3. Get the story right: In a Newco presentation, the “story” must be focused and crisp. Too many new CEO’s get lost in the details and forget to summarize how an approach solves a major unmet need. I have seen candidates do a similar thing and fail to communicate exactly where their expertise lies and how they may provide a unique skill set to a hiring organization. A great elevator pitch is key. In both cases, it is critical to communicate a compelling story. Practice. Practice. Practice. Just as a Newco CEO spends significant time on her/his presentation, job seekers should do the same. And if you do get it all right, there should be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.