1. 管理、管理、还是管理。 初创型生物科技公司的成功主要依靠管理团队，这不是什么新鲜事。风投的原则就是，在发展初期找到合适的创业者和管理者是关键所在。但对刚刚起步的生物科技公司来说，做到这一点往往并不容易。
Venture capital is often called an apprenticeship business because experience matters and takes time to accumulate. But successful firms are able to translate and transfer experiential wisdom through institutional memory, which involves codifying what works and what doesn't. Back in 2007, we did this with our life science team by pulling together a detailed list of "Lessons Learned" from our existing biotech portfolio. We recently went back and revisited that list of reflections.
Since 2000, we've invested in nearly 60 biotech companies, so we've had a reasonable 'n' to think about and inform our collective observations.
Below is a very distilled and rather sanitized summary of our "Lessons Learned." At the macro level, many of these are rather prosaic and not very insightful, but practical reality of each deal is where insight becomes actionable (and inaction causes issues). To spare the innocent, I've dropped most of the company names, but all of these points were largely informed by experience in the trenches not abstract thinking.
1. Management, management, management. It's not news that the success of a biotech startup depends largely on the management team. This is an axiom in venture: getting the right group of early entrepreneurs and executives around the table is critical. But this is often not easy in early stage biotech companies.
• Different management teams are often required at different stages of a biotech, and the reality is that many seed- and early-stage deals don't need a CEO. They are science-driven companies that need great Chief Scientific Officers to build the fundamentals of the story, and a BD executive to help build the broader vision. It's upon that progress with which a company can recruit a great CEO. Putting a founding CSO in as the CEO early on can create unnecessary conflict: having the conversation about a perceived "demotion" to CSO when hiring the future CEO is uncomfortable and avoidable. Same goes for putting the lead BD entrepreneur in as CEO early on to "fill the role". Keeping the role vacant in the beginning prevents future discomfort, or at least minimizes it.
• With weak management, boards often begin to run companies. And then it's a vicious cycle: At the 1Q board meeting, the management thinks they are responding to the board so they chase after XYZ; then at the 2Q meeting, the board says they think chasing ABC is a better idea, which the management does thinking it’s being responsive; and then at the 3Q meeting, the board wonders why the company has no direction and chaos ensues. Never a good cycle, but of course it’s not as simple as this. A good board is able to provide direction, governance, and input, and a good management is able to distill that feedback and integrate it into the strategic direction of the company. It's a healthy balance and tension. But keeping the board away from whiplashing the "day to day" program choices of what to "chase" is key. An important nuance is worth mentioning here though: an active board chairman or single lead investor playing the role of an acting CEO is very typical in an early stage startup, and is a good thing (especially given the point above about not having a formal CEO in a science-led startup at the beginning).
• Making management changes quickly is almost always the right answer. We historically have not moved fast enough to make senior management changes even when we knew it wasn't working. Trusting one's instincts is important: If it feels like it’s not working, it probably isn't. And the team working in the company probably sees the same thing from their view of the executives. Further, if real management questions are present at the closing of a new investment, it's unlikely to improve. I find it's often worth being explicit about this with the existing team before the closing to lay out expectations and possible action plans. Closing the deal and then firing the CEO immediately after doesn't feel like the high road.