By @SimonCocking. Interview with Steven O’Connell, assistant director, IndieBio.

At IndieBio EU we work with early stage startups to enable them to take their scientific concepts to the next level and create viable startups. The programme can be described as a mini-MBA where we put teams through an intense programme of mentorship,business support and scientific due diligence to learn how to effectively run their business. With backing from SOSV – The Accelerator VC, it creates a highly stable support structure at all stages of the business lifecycle to optimum environment for success. Below is a segment offering my collective experience as the Assistant Director/Programme Manager & Chief Anarchy Officer of IndieBio EU. I come from both a Biotechnology & Business background so I understand the importance of both the scientific, technical and business requirements of startups. This year we have 13 exciting startups taking part and they can be found on our blog.

When a scientist,engineer or physicist embark on an exciting career in entrepreneurship it can be for a number of reasons. The will to change a problem is the driving force for most it is a mistake to think that scientific merit alone will create value in a start up and make it worthy of investment, scale up and hopefully a rather large exit. Those from a technical background say a PhD with X years of experience will find that starting a new venture will be a period of radical adjacency in both their personal and professional lives. In order to become an effective entrepreneur you must first become…an effective salesperson

Unlearn everything you have learned

As a wise green man once said (heavily paraphrased to apply to this blog post of course) it is important to understand that in essence you are no longer a researcher with X years of experience pioneering the development of a next generation of world changing biotechnology products. You are a car salesman. Your focus should be singular. Find the ideal customer. Make the sale. Move on to the next deal.

Adopting early sales strategies from the beginning of your venture will provide a wealth of data to shape your approach and your product market fit. Isolating yourself away from your potential customer base for fear of potential leaking of IP, fear they wont understand and sharpen their pitchforks or “leaving it off” when you acquire later funding and hire a sales team will not do you any favours. Companies with amazing products and great investment opportunities fall short by not running a sales strategy in parallel to their research and regulatory hurdles. While it may seem like something that is purely tangential until 12 months into your venture it will only stand to benefit you if it is implemented early. The more sales data you have to support your case, the greater your chances of securing a producer via letters of intent to manufacture and sell as well as confident investors willing to inject cash to close your fundraising and further de-risk your venture.

The CRM – Man’s new best friend

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are not often fondly thought of as wholly useful to an early stage pioneering startups. There are a multitude of platforms available to choose from but thanks to recent developments and my own experience at IndieBio I found one of the best candidates to date. The CRM I encourage any startup to help boost sales is Streak. It is a CRM in your inbox and links seamlessly with Gmail thus removing the need for third party platforms. It can allow you to create pipelines to manage literally any conceivable deal such as sales, research, event planning,journalism and fundraising. If you are not familiar with it I recommend trying it out to support your early sales strategy for any and all startups. I refer to it as an XRM tool. (X meaning anything, given Streaks versatility)

Closing thoughts

There are plenty of experienced salespeople out there in the big bad world who are happy to provide advice and support on the matter of using sales to improve “dealflow”. Do not be afraid to ask for advice on anything and make sure your CRM works around you, not the other way around. Even early stage biotechnology startups will benefit from that early engagement and it is important to make sure all co-founders and employees grasp the importance of sales training to prospect for new customers and potential partners.

If in doubt hire an intern to connect with customers while you tinker in the laboratory or even consider implementing a well envisioned Kickstarter campaign as early as possible.


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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