Perfect Pitch : “Crisply deliver compelling science that makes people sit up and listen”

August 22, 2016 ctheodoropulos

He has been there himself as a lead scientist for a biotech startup seeking funding for what became Alexion Pharmaceuticals. And now Jeremy Springhorn sits on the other side of the table as a Partner at Flagship Ventures.

More specifically, and sharply to the point for the entrepreneurs who will be pitching their companies and products at BioPharm America™ 2016 in Boston, Springhorn is now working tightly with Flagship VentureLabs portfolio companies to tease out the firm’s next breakthrough startups.

On September 13 at BioPharm America Springhorn will join a star-studded panel of biotech-pharma veterans to hear 30-second pitches from participants during a competitive session entitled, “The perfect pitch: Do you have what it takes to win over investors?”

The top candidates selected in this first round will advance to the podium for a two-minute presentation. The panelists’ top two choices from the second round will be awarded a full 30-minute followup meeting with the panelist of their choice.

“For participants, trying to define a single framework that is going to be compelling in 30 seconds to everyone on the panel will be difficult,” Springhorn acknowledged in an interview with partneringNEWS.

“What everyone will be listening for is a transformative therapy, or a drug that has very robust activity. Science that’s differentiated from the many run-of-the-mill and incremental advances is always going to catch people’s attention. And it is important to remember that, especially in this Boston meeting, many people in the investment community today are scientists themselves, which gives them a natural curiosity, and genuine affinity, for interesting and differentiated science,” he said.

Jeremy Springhorn, Flagship Ventures

Jeremy Springhorn, Flagship Ventures

partneringNEWS (pN): Are there key words that work better than others?

Jeremy Springhorn (JS): I would turn that question around and say that if someone only has 30 seconds, he or she will want to be as clean and crisp and explicit as possible about what the idea is and to avoid buzzwords. There are words they should definitely avoid, the jargon and terms that are too easily thrown around. They should drop the term “innovative” or “billion dollar,” for example.

It is less about saying why you think your idea is compelling and more about being sure that you are giving others a reason to find it compelling. This is what will win people over.

pN: For those participants who are selected to step up to the podium, what will it take to keep the interest going in a two-minute presentation?

JS: If someone has the science, or a therapeutic, that has given the panelists pause, something that is not just another version of things heard before, something that makes them sit up and scratch their heads, then they will want to hear more about it because it will have piqued their interest.

Now the presenter needs to get to the heart of the idea as quickly as possible and create a story that is compelling.

Beyond that, there are a host of things we will be looking for that are very similar to what we are doing here at Flagship as part of the VentureLabs group. These are the basis of what we call a venture hypothesis, seeing that beyond the good science, there is a real medical need and therefore a market for it. Then there are a host of other factors, like who is going to run with the company, whether this individual has what it takes to change and adapt because there is no idea, no product nor any company that will take a linear path from inception to success. There are always changes, always minefields.

Is there a good management team as well that is going to be able to adapt with a changing environment? This becomes very important. More than looking for a particular kind of character, we are also looking at who is wrapped around that person. Have they chosen good board members? Do they have good scientific advisers? Have they chosen fellow management committee members who share the kind of wherewithal that will be required? In a longer presentation, people will also want to hear if the product or idea is protected, and try to determine if it is feasible.

pN: Is it really possible to say something in 30 seconds, or even two minutes, that veteran dealmakers have not heard before?

JS: There are elements of science that are being connected today that have never been linked in the past and these hold intriguing potential. There are new areas of science that definitely deserve the attention that is being given to them. For example, the link between the microbiome and the immune system; in areas of epigenetics and how we can ultimately control inherited diseases; the vast areas of the genome whose function has yet to be identified; and, the many means by which cells communicate between themselves or other tissues in the body. There is so much science that is yet to be discovered including particular areas that have been disregarded in the past that, in fact, have been shown to be playing a vital role for intercellular communication and metabolic activity. There is a lot going on that can make me sit up and take notice, and that will make me want to hear more.

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