The climate of overall uncertainty in markets is leading to a lower tolerance of uncertainty by investors: this translates into higher pressure on invested companies, especially Biotech start-ups, to deliver up to their expectations. We see this taking two forms:
- The multiplication of milestones, for investors to take go/no-go decisions: instead of yearly or twice-yearly reviews, now start-up teams need to be ready for interim checkpoints on a quarterly, or even monthly basis
- The imperative to bring innovative therapies to market in the shortest possible time frame, with more stringent constraints on headcount and funds
The first trend results in a push to shorten commercialization cycles. Here the agile methodology – extrapolated from a technology setting to product development in general – can make the difference. However, this process-heavy approach is often hard to embed in a start-up culture, which is typically informal and unstructured.
The ability to combine creativity and speed with rigorous process has become a key factor of success for start-ups: in fact, this allows to release frequent deliverables in short cycles thus managing investors’ anxiety.
The second trend, whereby the time-to-market needs to be kept to a minimum, brings the focus to a skill that is typically a weakness in start-ups: Launch Excellence.
Why do most start-ups, full of bright motivated people, lack this fundamental capability?
The first reason is the lack of local know-how: in Biotech, start-ups often look at global – or at least regional – launches, while they are often based in a single location. Within the small start-up team, it is difficult to have the depth of knowledge in each local market that is required for a new product launch.
Another frequent barrier is the lack of experience in basic operational tasks: localized go-to-market approach, customer segmentation and targeting, salesforce sizing and resource allocation are often overlooked.
Finally, in many cases we see that regulatory hurdles are underestimated: “My product is so great that it will be approved immediately, and with a very high price”: a quite naïve, yet common attitude by young entrepreneurs.
Launch excellence, in fact, is not rocket science. Taking the time to do the required homework, despite the investors’ pressure, increases the overall speed – although this seems counter-intuitive to many entrepreneurs. To invest more time in analysing, planning for local market access with support of external experts and the “right” network is a must to succeed in this new environment. The “brilliant basics” are never repeated too often: contract market research, identify KOLs and customer concentration as early as possible, sequence launch countries wisely to avoid multiple launches in critical countries at the same time…
In summary, in times of uncertainty two factors can make the difference in a start-up success:
- A truly agile culture, allowing to break complexity into fast development cycles that can deliver “something” to investors at high frequency
- A focus on Launch Excellence from early on, ensuring the presence of the right experts Professionals in the Healthcare Shapers network Roberto Minetti, Marc Anken, Michael Zürcher, Andre Pöhler, with their subject matter expertise and deep knowledge of key markets, can help Biotech start-ups deliver to the expectations of anxious investors… and even make the difference between success and failure.
Autoren des Beitrags
Roberto is an executive consultant with more than 25 years of experience combining Consulting and Industry roles, of which the last 15 have focussed on Pharma and Life Sciences. From Associate at McKinsey & Co., he progressed into senior roles in the leading Life Sciences Advisors: ZS Associates, IMS Health/IQVIA.
Marc Anken is an independent consultant for pharmaceutical marketing and communication. Marc earned a Master in Business Administration from the University of Applied Science Zurich and the Darden Business School in Charlottesville. He held different commercial positions in various pharmaceutical companies and therapeutic areas, for example with Vifor Pharma, Novartis Oncology, AstraZeneca.
For more than 30 years, André Pöhler has been supporting SMEs with passion and discipline in overcoming the challenges in the pharmaceutical industry.
With his independently established IT service company, which he manages to this day, he has specialized in the analysis and optimization of sales processes.