Posted by: Audrey Erbes | July 2, 2012

Preparatory Steps and Skills Needed for Successful Dealmaking


There’s currently a major emphasis on new ways to fund early stage companies as traditional venture capital dries up. Beyond attempts to find the continuing traditional VC and Angel Investor sources that survive the exit of VC firms and dedicated funds, there’s experimentation underway with all types of new collaborations and partnerships—implementing totally new ideas or returning to past approaches. It’s more important than ever, to learn preparatory steps and skills needed for deal making and collaborations and managing of alliances for success. Skip these at your peril and waste of time and resources.

I’ve been reading about new courses and workshops emerging to assist entrepreneurs in this important work and am amazed at the variety in their deliverables and pricing. I encourage you to do some comparative shopping for presenters’ experience, executive teaching skills and deliverables for the cost. For many years there were no offerings in the Bay Area which led me to develop my courses at local UC Extensions over 10 years ago at affordable prices with guest lecturers proven in teaching working professionals. These are still available at UC Berkeley Extension twice a year with less promotion than other programs but still worth your review. Be sure that you spend your time and money wisely to accomplish your specific objectives.

My advice to entrepreneurs developed over 30 years in the life science industry management working in international corporate and U.S. biotech industry, then consulting and now teaching and coaching working professionals about marketing and business development include the following suggested steps:

Step 1: There’s no quick approach to doing the “do diligence” and preparation for identifying, recruiting meeting and then sitting opposite a potential partner to present your story. I suggest that you be sure  to research and analyze the market environment and competitors now and in future in which your product/technology will compete before you develop a story or pitch. We call this carrying out an opportunity assessment so you are aware of all the objections you must be prepared to answer. Rushing to develop a product or company strategy and “positioning” or “story pitch” without this preparation and hard work is like putting the cart before the horse. In promotion the analogy is developing an eye-catching graphic or catchy positioning slogan before you know how your product will stand up against challenges in the market and is differentiated versus competitors in way that’s meaningful to customers.

Depending on your background and level of preparedness you may find some local courses of value in learning or doing the necessary preparation at our fine universities in the Bay Area. Some tried and true programs are to be found at the UC Berkeley and Santa Cruz Extensions which are less expensive than for profit and business school programs which can help one fill in the gaps in their background. For preparation I recommend my upcoming UC Berkeley Extension course Life Science Business and Marketing: Their Integral Role for Success (next class starts Oct. 11-12, 2012 in Belmont with 2-days of classroom and 2 months of coaching while working on your chosen project) designed to teach how to do research and analysis and identify industry informational resources that you will need. Life Science Business Development (next class starts Dec. 6-7, 2012 and follows with two months of coached project of your choice) focuses in depth on taking the understanding of your product and its market and implementing all the related functions necessary to make you successful in identifying partners and negotiating the deal that’s right for you.  UCSF offers long-time Idea to IPO which researchers working there tell me is a fine course for preparing scientists for developing a business around their ideas. This latter course may only be available to students and staff at UCSF.

Step 2: Attend pitch events like the excellent Life Science Pitch events sponsored by VC Task Force to hear others present to investors and when ready participate with your pitch. Practice in front of your colleagues but more importantly noncompany professionals as well. Check out the website for life science events at I also list these on my complementary Audrey’s Picks list. Listen to CEO pitches to investors at banking investment meetings to learn which “product stories” are most compelling. Each January JP Morgan’s Healthcare Conference provides free audio webcasts of presentations of hundreds of company CEOs for 3 months following the meeting. You can also pick up information on markets in these talks. Check out investor sections of company websites of interest for press releases about other similar banking meetings that occur year round that will allow you to access webcasts for free.

Step 3: Avoid the alligator pit. Attend local life science program meetings and hear presentations on companies and products in your field so you are not overlooking the infamous “don’t know what I don’t know” causing a major upset to your business model or product design. I try to cover a representative selection of local organizational meetings and programs as complementary service to keep our workforce strong through education and networking. For example, the Bio2Device Group offers weekly meetings with programs for free except the second Tuesday evening of the month when food is provided. MedTech Frontiers offers excellent free programs for medical device professionals. BioScience Forum offers cross section of programs which typically focus on biotechnology business models once a month which includes formal dinner. Check out the topic and speaker for relevance to your interests and then think about audience that might attend to determine if attendees are likely to be ones whom you want to meet.

Step 4: Read the many free excellent industry reports available online, such as, Ernst and Young’s Beyond Borders and the BayBio, PWC and California Healthcare Institute’s annual California Biomedical Report. Check out the many Bay Area legal firm website for reports on the industry.

Step 5: Attend BD conferences and meetings where you will meet potential partners on whom you can practice your pitch for response and identify contacts at companies of interest. I call these meetings the “watering holes” for business development professionals. One of my favorites is coming up again Sept. 17-19, 2012 in New York City—Elsevier Windhover’s annual meeting Pharmaceutical Strategic Alliance meeting—which I’ve attended for over 15 years and keep going back because I meet the movers and shakers in biopharma with highly stimulating ideas for responding to the challenges of our industry. Elsevier’s comparable medical device meeting IN3 Medical Device 360° Summit will take place in San Francisco Oct. 15-17, 2012. There are others later in the year and spring. Deloitte Recap’s Alliance conference typically takes place in the spring. See details on the fall meetings in this week’s Audrey’s Picks.

Note these meetings provide different takeaways than participating in “partnering meetings” developed via sophisticated software—these make arrangements for face-to-face meetings with specific companies at BIO’s Annual Meeting and regional conferences. You aren’t ready for latter speed dating meetings until you do the proper preparation as you don’t want to blow your chances for best collaboration by being unprepared or wasting time with wrong companies.

This past week we experienced the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act and its individual mandate with surprising alignment of Chief Justice Roberts supporting the decision in 5-4 vote. Potential penalties for states not expanding Medicaid coverage were not upheld. More on that as the dust settles but for now note BioCentury Today TV has excellent program on subject starting this week. It provides quick take on the immediate political fallout of the decision.

Upcoming Events During the Holiday Week include:

  • BioCentury TV Today, See new program Webcast Starting Sunday, June 24, 2012, Available anytime starting at 9:00 a.m. EDT; Topic: “Faceoff: Healthcare After SCOTUS;” Speakers: Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Tevi Troy of the Hudson Institute, and Dr. Roger Pilon, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies
  • Medtech Frontiers, Thursday Evening, July 5, 2012; Topic: “Opportunities Beyond the State of the Art in Electron Accelerator Systems;” Speaker David Whittum, Ph.D.



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