Pitching Life Sciences in the Rice Business Plan Competition

April 19, 2016

An entrepreneur came up to me after the recent RBPC to tell me that they made a big mistake. In a feedback session prior to the competition, the majority of judges encouraged them to not provide many details on the science since they won’t understand it anyway. The team had what to me looked like an interesting technology but treated it like a black box in their presentation. My advice was to open up more and talk about the science even if all the audience did not understand. The majority of judges at that point disagreed with me so the team took the (fairly logical) route they thought would appeal to the majority and kept the science out of it.

Unfortunately, the problem is that, in a group of judges, or investors, there is always going to be someone that has some expertise in the science. Everyone else will look toward that judge/investor to validate the science. If you fail to win that person, the others will lose interest. The non-scientific judges/investors don’t need to understand it. In fact, if you make it too simple you risk “if it is that simple, somebody must have thought of it before”.

This idea that you should stay away from technical details comes out of confusion as to the real problem – if the entrepreneur spends too much time on technology and not enough on the business explanation, they look like the stereotypical scientist that cares more about the science than the business. A huge red flag. You don’t create a problem by going deep, you create a problem by spending too much time on science. Yes, there are investors that want a mostly scientific presentation for, say, a novel therapeutic, but, with a mixed crowd, a few slides with the real, not dumbed down, technology is a good idea. Not overly complex but enough for an expert to feel like you are not making it all up. Then get to the business slides. It will make you look like a scientific rock star that understands business – what every investor wants.

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