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November 15, 2003

1 Proof of concept. Demonstrate a tangible and viable product. Experimental betas should be field-tested or put through simulation.

2 Product diversification. A software designer that commits resources to developing a broad portfolio of applications signals that biodefense is a core business, not just a pet project on the side, and increases funding potential. A combination of hardware and software with mission-specific technology covering diagnostics, mitigation, communication, and recovery flags the firm's versatility and potential profitability by servicing different buyer needs.

3 Product track record. A developer might boast about its overall success in DNA mapping, highlighting examples of prior genomic work using its software. Successful civilian sales can be a good indicator of how revamped applied technology in the defense arena can perform.

4 Scientific talent. A biodefense firm's brain trust should include talent with intense research, academic, engineering, medical, and product development experience. Investors will also look for those who have had careers in or connections with the military, inspiring confidence that managers know how the science can be practically applied to the mission at hand.

5 Knowledgeable managers. While arguably a CEO's main job is business development and navigating politics, he or she should also be highly conversant technically. It wouldn't hurt to have a former medical doctor or lab scientist take the head honcho's seat. The client expects software developers be tuned in to biotechnology issues as much as they are with computer issues.

6 Good connections. Skittish investment bankers will preferentially back firms that have secured previous biodefense funding from one of the federal agencies, venture funds, or grant programs. The rationale is that if the government — the leading client of these products — will back you, then a private investor should as well.

7 Cash is still king. Show that you made efficient use of that cash flow without squandering large sums on overhead.

8 Team player. Also valued are joint venture and consortium relationships with name-brand defense firms. If you successfully team up with a Northrop Grumman or a Computer Associates, that's a winning strategy.

9 The beat of your own drummer. Venture investors like one-of-a-kind proprietary products. The ability for a company to own its niche increases the chance of success.

10 Efficiency. Demonstrate that your operation can mass-produce and deliver large quantities on demand when and where the client wants it.

—Jason B. Lee



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