Attracting Biotech Investors in a Down Market: Use A Compelling Corporate Presentation

Biotech companies have had a strong, multi-year run that was supercharged by the response of the sector to the pandemic with its development of the Covid vaccines and therapies. The speed and success of these developments showed the world the importance of biotechnology and increased the investment of capital from investors. Over the last 18 months, however, there clearly has been a reversal of this boom due to a variety of factors, not the least of which is that the world has reopened, and dollars are flowing back into sectors impacted by the pandemic. Investor enthusiasm for the biotech industry has seemingly waned over this period. Macroeconomic factors—geopolitical tensions, rising inflation, interest rate increases, lingering post-Covid dynamics—naturally pull money away from growth sectors like biotech. Sector-specific factors also have played a role, including continued attention around drug pricing reform; a seemingly more stringent FDA than in past years; a slowdown in M&A; and a shift by some investors toward more private company investments. On top of that, we’ve experienced a massive increase in the number of public biotech companies—many of which are now trading less than cash and some of which are raising the white flag. In short, the increasing competition for mindshare, dollars and scrutiny by investors has created a significant reduction in biotech valuations and investments, especially for new companies, putting added pressure on biotechs to succinctly demonstrate a compelling value proposition. Unfortunately, many corporate presentations fail to deliver. One of the occupational hazards for investors is that they sit through countless pitches, many of which are undifferentiated, as they seek the best new opportunities into which to entrust their capital. Given the sheer volume of presentations for a finite investor audience, time is investors’ scarcest commodity and if companies fail to capture interest early on, they’ve lost their opportunity altogether. Before your next presentation, take a step back and ask, “How would I react to this presentation as an investor?” Is the narrative aligned with the investment thesis? Is the competitive positioning easily understood? Is the science too complex to grasp quickly? Are data being dumped without explaining why they are important? Is the deck leading the presenter down a rabbit hole to get lost in the science? Are the anticipated milestones clear? Does the presentation tell a story that stands alone without a voiceover? At the end of the day, the goal is to clearly explain the investment potential in a concise and compelling way in which broad, diverse and time-crunched audiences can easily understand how the offering meets a need that isn’t being fulfilled in the market . It shouldn’t require a PhD to understand. It’s easy to bemoan the space or technical limitations of PowerPoint or Prezi as sources of muddled messages and outright banality that characterize many investor presentations but, ultimately, these are simply just tools. The success or failure of a presentation comes down to defining a clear investment thissis and articulating it in a succinct and compelling way. I’ve still seen brilliant and savvy leaders struggle with developing concise messaging that will appeal to investors. In my experience, many (not all) physician-/scientist-CEOs have a tendency to revert to their area of ​​comfort by using highly scientific terminology and concepts in ways that derail from the purpose of the presentation: articulating the business case in a finite amount of meeting time. Here are some best practices for successful corporate presentations: Make sure the business case is clear and compelling up front and pay it offAn effective presentation begins by clearly framing the opportunity in a manner that makes the investment opportunity compelling. A clear thought-out investment thesis—one that tells a crisp, business-based story in an orderly fashion—is likely to attract attention. Outline the “unmet need” in a way that uniquely addresses that market challenge, as well as what the vision of the future looks like and how it will be achieved. Ensure that all statements are fact-based and that the deck flows in a logical manner to drive back to the investment thesis. Science and data should support the story—they don’t actually tell the story. Many presentations rely too heavily on science and data slides without thinking through how the data should be used strategically to support the business case. They either delve knee-deep into science without explaining it (or think they are explaining it with more science) or dump mountains of data without explaining why it matters or how it fits into the presentation narrative. The audience should not be left in a position to muddle through and make sense of what is attempting to be conveyed. Be specific about catalystsBe transparent about relevant timings of activities, potential competitive milestones, and any assumptions that factor into the thinking that’s being presented. Even if clinical timelines aren’t firmly established, plant a rough stake in the ground with “anticipated” timings. Make the message impossible to miss on each slideOn a commonsense level, be mindful of the reason any slide is included in a presentation. There should be no ambiguity as to why a slide is part of the deck, nor should the audience be left with unanswered questions in response to the presentation. Every slide should include a headline that can easily break down the key message so that the deck stands on its own without the benefit of a voiceover. Don’t neglect presentation skillsMany companies focus so much on content that they forget about the importance of presentation delivery. It is well worth the investment to prioritize effective presentation skills. This requires humility, a willingness to be coached, and a commitment of time and modest resources. Physician- and scientist-CEOs, in particular, need to be especially mindful of getting lost in high science when answering questions, while managing to get back on track to deliver on the business need within the meeting time remaining. In the new Zoom environment, where important interpersonal dynamics and non-verbal cues are lost, honing presentation skills is more important than ever. Above all, put yourself in the audiences seat. It sounds obvious, but many people make the mistake of creating content based on what’s top-of-mind for themselves rather than for their intended audience. Remember what is most important to investors and cut anything that doesn’t add value to making the case for investment. A great presentation can make or break the trajectory of a company. Make it a priority to convey your business case as effectively as possible. Photo: andreswd, Gettyn ​​Images

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