For biomedical and healthcare entrepreneurs, a good idea is not enough. To get an idea, invention or discovery to market takes not only persistence, grit and good luck, but also four things that are the bedrock of bioentrepreneurship: education and know-how (knowledge, skills and abilities), experience, networks and money.
SoPE Box: Bioentrepreneurs sit on a four-legged stool
Most biomedical and healthcare workers are technopreneurs. They create or discover something and then look for someone to make or buy it. Market perceivers, on the other hand, see the process in reverse, identifying a large unmet market opportunity and crafting a solution with a compelling value proposition. The reality is that for a biobusiness to be successful, like any other business, it must satisfy three criteria: it must satisfy a customer need or want or deliver something customers don't yet know they want; it must solve their problem and create customer-defined value; and it must have a business model that generates sustainable profits. Bioentrepreneurship education meets these learning objectives. It does not teach people how to be entrepreneurs any more than a surgical residency can teach someone how to be a surgeon. We take those with the inherent personality traits and talents and teach them about entrepreneurship and how to create value.
Like old Dr. Osler said, to learn about medicine without seeing patients is to never go to sea at all. The same holds true for bioentrepreneurship. Case studies are useful but only to a certain extent. Bioentrepreneurs need to fail early and fail often to be successful. They need "clinical experience" to grow. Internships, knowledge exchange and transfer programs and entry-level jobs fill the gap and put them on the right road early.
Life science technology entrepreneurship is a full-contact relay race that requires multiply talented individuals all pulling toward the same goal. The size and pressure of networks in a robust innovation ecosystem is a key determinant of success, whether it be a technology transfer office in a university, a business or an individual. Social and personal networking are critical survival skills.
Ultimately, despite the best intentions or disruptiveness of the idea, firms need money to start and grow. Access to capital, particularly early, high-risk seed-stage capital to get companies through the "valley of death" determines who will survive to the next stage and who won't. Most money for bioscience ventures is in the major U.S. and international bioclusters. Sometimes, innovators just have to follow the money.
Biomedical entrepreneurs sit on a four-legged stool. That wobbling feeling you sense is a short leg. Be sure you establish a firm foundation and the door to opportunity will open quickly.
Dr. Arlen MeyersProfessor of otolaryngology, engineering and dentistryUniversity of ColoradoFounder, CEO and president Society of Physician Entrepreneurs
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