Tips from investors for presenting your company to get real results

December 9, 2015 Erin Righetti


Biotech Showcase™ 2016 investor tips Biotech Showcase™ 2016 investor tips

With Biotech Showcase™ just four weeks away, public and private mid-, small- and micro-cap publicly-traded life science companies, as well as private life science companies, need to start thinking about their presentation to investors and potential partners. Building a profile and becoming “known” is a critical part of raising money, as is their presentation. Presenter guidelines are posted online, but here are a few valuable tips for presenting from the investors themselves, from the Perfect Pitch panel at BioPharm America™ in September. Led by Douglas MacDougall of MacDougall Biomedical Communications, the workshop enabled audience participants to give a 30-second “pitch” to a panel of seasoned industry investors. The panelists were:

  • Richard Anders – Founder, Executive Director, Mass Medical Angels
  • Ann DeWitt – Senior Director, Investments, Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures
  • Peter Kolchinsky – Managing Director and Portfolio Manager, RA Capital
  • Sara M. Nayeem – Principal, New Enterprise Associates
  • Marta New – Principal, Baxalta Ventures
  • Dennis J. Purcell – Founder and Senior Advisor, Aisling Capital
  • Phillip Samayoa – Associate Director, MRL Ventures, Merck
  • Geoffrey von Maltzahn – VentureLabs Partner, Flagship Ventures


Here are their invaluable tips for presenting your company to achieve maximum effectiveness:


You want to very quickly turn on the receptor in their brain to want to learn more. That’s the key. – MacDougall

Provide a glimmer, quickly, of exactly what you do, or as close to exactly what you do that you can tell me. With multiple agendas, it isn’t quite clear how you did any one of them. And so I begin to think that you’re probably doing something extremely important or maybe two or three things extremely important, but I don’t have a clear enough idea of what those important things were. So I would say, focus. Crystalize your pitch down into one nugget rather than multiple nuggets. – Anders

I love examples. I would like to understand for example, what is the problem with the current drug that this technology would have fixed?  If you frame it that way, then I would get that “Aha, oh I get it, I totally want that.” – Kolchinsky

If something is totally different, it solves a problem, too, at the same time. Explain that. – MacDougall

It’s important to say what your target is, there are certain targets that all of us are interested in. If you have less time and you can’t talk about those extra second and third programs, then at least give something really enticing about the first program. Also, with the drug delivery filing, what’s the target, what’s the indication? Those are things I want to hear immediately. If I don’t hear anything else I want to at least know what are you’re going after.  – Nayeem

One of the things that I think every pitch should have is talking points on what they’re doing. In order to be able to have an idea attach to someone’s brain, they’re really going to be able to take away three words, maybe five words from it. And so if anything, pick those words and repeat them multiple times in what you’re saying, so that people walk away saying “Aha! I got it.”  – von Maltzahn

There’s a rule in the communications business called message math where 9×1=0. That means if you give nine messages during your pitch only one time, they’re not going to get any of it to walk away with. It’s just too much information. The other side is 3×3=1. So you have three messages that you’ve boiled down in your key pitch, and you try and repeat them three times so that people will walk away with one of them. That’s how the human brain works. Some people simply have too much stuff going on. Really focus on what you want to accomplish and what you need to make that accomplishment. – MacDougall

Ultimately, don’t do any math. We all studied biology for a reason. – Anders

If you are speaking in a language that is different than the room that you’re in, slow down a little at least for the first five seconds so people can get a feel for your accent. And then you can speed up a little bit. That five seconds makes a big difference. This is for Americans, too, when you’re over in Europe or over in Japan or different countries. Slow down. It gives people time to start registering what you’re saying and make that translation fix in their brain so that the rest of what you’re saying will be heard. – MacDougall


A quick ask. Like “once I get done with Phase I, I’m going to try and raise 20 million.” Explain where you are in looking for money in just a couple of words, just so we know what we’re dealing with, and whether we should be following you for a year or so and seeing what you’re doing, or if it is an immediate need. So, a quick ask. – Purcell

That’s three seconds at the end, ‘I’m looking for 20 million dollars to go to the next level.’ You’ve got the people with the money, you’ve got to get that connection going, that’s really important to have the quick ask. – MacDougall

Don’t just throw a lot of names  at us and a lot of money to try and impress us. I don’t need to be impressed, I want to find out what you need and what you have. – MacDougall

I think it’s really great to let people know that there’s something really significant going on with management, and interest of people who have been successful. This is really helpful. I can at best infer what you do, but I have no idea what you do. I think a pitch where I have no idea what you do is a difficult pitch. At a minimum I should know what you do and the fact that incredibly accomplished people are on board. – Anders

Remember the ask, guys. That’s what you’re up here for. Remember the ask. – MacDougall


It’s great to bring slides on an iPad or something like that, but definitely not 65, something more like five to ten. It should be clear what it is that you’re working on. For me it’s important if you’ve had any connection inside of Sanofi, and in the ask tell me what you’re looking for, and the people involved. Early stage investing is a lot about who you’re writing the check to, the experience of the team. All those things for me are up front, and then most important for me is that you’ve done your homework on what it is  Sanofi or Genzyme is about, what type of investments that we do, and what are the capabilities of our organization that you’re looking to have access to via building a relationship with equity. All those components are important for me.  – DeWitt

I want to highlight that the opportunity at any face-to-face meeting or pitch is to establish this initial contact or human relationship. There’s only one first impression. All face-to-face meetings or even sometimes, phone calls, help us establish that. Because we operate in a very risky environment, and so one way to derisk our investment is to invest in people who we can help start building trust with and work with together. I would encourage you is to try to find that human connection by establishing eye contact and by using some of the keywords that we have used to describe how we invest, that might help you get a faster response. – New

If you call it the Hambrecht & Quist conference and not the JP Morgan conference we’ll definitely have a second meeting. – Purcell

I’ll give you a different view. I’m a data junkie, I love data. I want to assess whether or not something is working and if it fits a certain framework that I understand very quickly. If you come in with a presentation on an iPad then I’m going to be jittery hoping that I can reach across the table when you’re not looking and swipe through to the data slide. So if you can bring something that is printed out, and if you don’t mind I’ll flip through quickly to get the data slide and reassure myself that there are signals that I can latch onto and then flip back and go back to the beginning properly, that will be conducive to a productive meeting. We try to be prepared for any kind of a pitch that  we might get by having our team map out all the technologies that are competing within a given space. Every drug that’s in development for melanoma, everything that’s in development for rheumatoid arthritis, all the way through to preclinical. Maybe academic projects don’t make it into our analysis. We do this so when we hear a pitch we can put into context quickly and understand who are the immediate competitors, what are the comparables, what other data sets have we seen. When I heard the immuno-oncology pitch I needed to know was is it an immuno stimulating molecule, an immuno innovation inhibitor, was it sort of a CART-T kind of technology, was it a vaccine, if a vaccine was it sub-unit, was it oncolytic virus? For us, given that we are data junkies, and probably we’ve never met you before, I can get to know you much better through the data you’ve got and how you analyze data, and determine what kind of a scientist you are. Do you appreciate the importance of different kinds of controls, or are you going to oversell based on a poorly controlled trial and claim “oh this clearly works”? That’s how I get to know people.- Kolchinsky

It’s really important to understand who you’re meeting with. There are some real data junkies out there and they really are into the science. The management team is important as part of the decision. Also I would assume that they have probably done the background work relevant to the space, so you don’t need a competitive slide deck. I think that’s a waste of time because that’s what’s used in the Q&A . Unless it’s a really competitive space and you need to show what the differences are. It’s important to customize your presentation decks. – MacDougall

For me, I definitely like to see data, but at the start of a meeting sometimes some companies come in and the first slide is just a data slide with the typical science title with no punchline to it. I like to understand the history of the company first. I want to know if you’re going out and pitching other investors or doing road shows for IPO or whatever. Always have an investment highlight slide. It answers, “why should I be interested in this?” and at the bottom, the last line should be what are you asking for, whether 20 million series A or whatever it is. And then either a separate slide that’s just a brief discussion of how has your company been funded to date, where the technology derives from, how long it has been in existence. Sometimes you just have no context for understanding what kind of company they are talking about. Has it already had 80 million in capital in and been re-capped twice, do you have value-added investors, has it been more of a friends and family funded and we don’t really know who has invested in it? Who would be our co-investors and how would we think about the syndicate, how would we think about the history, the capital in? And we always ask, what’s your last post money valuation to get a sense of where the company is at. That may not relate to where you think your next round should be, but it’s important information for us. It is very company dependent but a lot of venture investors do want to have some context for the history of the company before you delve into the meat. – Nayeem

Data is really important. The best thing to do at these short meetings is have a discussion about the meeting at the beginning for two minutes, to go over what you want to see, what’s important to you, if you have done the background on it, do we want the full story or can we jump ahead to the data, and determine how much time we want for Q&A, rather than you just jumping into your 65-slide deck and only getting to slide 9 before the meeting is over. It can be very helpful to make a conversation and actually build that relationship with the person in the meeting. That relationship is so important. An investor once told me, “if I don’t want to have a beer with that person by the time they got the one-on-one meeting, I’m not going to give them any money.” It’s so central in these meetings to get things started and get people interested in you. – MacDougall


Valuable information is conveyed more by difference than by similarity. It’s really easy to say “we are “X” and everybody is “X.” If a company is uniquely designed because they want cancer immunotherapies, if you say you’re a cancer immunotherapy, maybe it will dock well with them, but everybody is in immunotherapies these days. I used to be in the newspaper business. Many people know the famous headline, “Headless body found in topless bar.” That’s a much more interesting headline than “Murder last night.” Think about what’s different and unique about what you’re doing, not about what’s exactly the same.  – Anders

Present the opportunity first, and the company second. There is a lot of time that can be saved if you go right to the product that you’re trying to sell. – MacDougall

Don’t tell me that regulatory is an important part of the drug business. I know that. But I don’t know why you’re an important part of the regulatory part of the drug business. That’s the unique part. It’s like the headline “Murder last night” – regulatory is important, sure, but why are you special? One sound byte would differentiate what you do from others, and that would be very helpful to me. – Anders

An example of throwing out a drug that you helped through the process, or a company that you worked with, could be very powerful to make you unique. – MacDougall

It’s the same thing with Alzheimer’s. We know that Alzheimer’s is a big problem. Just give one sentence to explain, what’s the differentiator? – Purcell

I can’t tell you how many pitches I get, and in many ways I’m very different from everyone else here. First of all, angels have a lot less money to invest. I don’t go to JP Morgan and don’t take those kinds of meetings. But I can tell you how many presentations I get where the first five slides are people telling me that cancer or diabetes is a big market and a big problem. That’s not news to me. News is what I want. Something that’s different, something that’s unique. Because I know that cancer is a big problem. I even know various cancers are big problems.- Anders

You’re going up to someone after a talk or you’re at a conference and they’re trying to rush out because they have their next meeting and you’re trying to be pushy and get them to take your business card. And they will take it but when they look at it later will they actually remember who you were in the context of all the people they met?  For me, for a biopharm company, I want to know what disease you’re going after, what target, what stage are you at, how much are you raising. Those four things at a minimum are going to get my attention and make me remember. If you don’t give me those pieces of information, I probably won’t remember who you were – Nayeem

Overall, the effectiveness of your pitch is part of building the larger brand for your company or organization. It’s about quickly letting people understand what you do, and conveying it in such a way that they can go back and tell their team the same message. It’s your first impression. Get it right.

For other tips from top executives on navigating Biotech Showcase/JPM week in January, register for this free webinar “Maximizing Your JPM/Biotech Showcase Week in San Francisco,” on Monday, December 14, 2015, 11:00 am EST, 8:00 am PST, 17:00 CET.

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