2016 / 31 October

A lamb amongst a pack of wolves

Public speaking makes me nervous. I do it quite often and I jump at opportunities because I like to get out of my comfort zone, but the fact remains, it takes its toll on me.

I recently spent two days attending the Australian Biotech Investment Conference, enticed by the opportunity to present Health Delivered in one of the “early stage” company spotlights. As the final speaker, I chose to attend both days, so I could learn what was important in the eyes of the audience and try to tailor my message to their interests.

It’s one thing speaking in front of a group of students or even peers when the balance is either in your favour or at least equal. But it’s very different when the audience is full of multimillion dollar investors and multinational organisations. This fact is amplified when the first day is spent talking about investments and acquisitions of hundreds of million of dollars and particularly when you realise the room is full of people who develop and market products that you are actively seeking to reduce the need for.

So for the first day I definitely felt the imposter syndrome creep in. A lamb for more reasons than being forced to wear a suit. But as I listened and absorbed information I realised that this was not a problem. It was an opportunity. Thus on the second day, and leading right up to my talk, I was writing and rewriting my pitch to try and be as relevant as possible. And then I stood on stage and delivered all my key points. What I could not change was the order of slides, as I had to submit those a week ago, but decided to approach the talk with flexibility so I could tweak the main points to suit.

That said, the talk wasn’t perfect and the positioning wasn’t as strong as it could have been. But by watching multiple presentations throughout the event I can safely reinforce the following:

  • Reduce your text. No one will read your blurbs, no matter the size or number of screens. Why? Because they’re too busy checking their phones or laptops. Give people a reason to pay attention. Biotech in particular is drier than the Sahara.
  • Focus on your team. One area that let me down was that I didn’t introduce our team, why we’re different and why our advisors have gotten on board. As a super early stage company, they are your point of leverage and they bring credibility to the table when your name cannot.
  • Focus on partnerships. Again, another missed opportunity was to highlight all the organisations that are wanting to work with us. There is power in numbers and power in brands and that needs to be highlighted. It’s like seven figure social validation.
  • Highlight your exit. It seems obvious, but it’s always missing. Investors want to know their returns, so if they’re not clear on how you’re making them money, they likely won’t want to engage in a conversation.

One key takeaway is that the Australian investment space is still really fragmented, often bordering on broken. That we consider biotech, medtech and healthtech in the same sentence is ludicrous.

It’s very different to want to monetise a billion dollar product over a decade of research and development than it is to build a consumer driven, health focused product. Ethics, efficacy and clinical trials are crucial when it comes to long term health outcomes, but the entry point for us is almost polar opposite to big pharma. Conversely, investors in the early stage, innovation side very rarely are aware of how important proper clinical trials and adherence are within the health space so they want to cut corners. By trying to find the middle ground, you end up being neither one nor the other.

Oddly, this middle ground is a space I am comfortable with. As a company, we are able to play the longer game because our success is in doing things the right way and finding that sweet spot. It’s certainly frustrating from a timing and investment point of view, but at the same time there is more to be said for not selling out to any bidder.

Perhaps this means I’ll always be a lamb within a pack of wolves because I will always be somewhat of an imposter compared to the usual way of doing things. My ‘element’ is not wearing a suit and tie, talking about adherence and efficacy. These are important concepts, but no more (or less) important than the need for us to understand our audience, their motivations and the reasons to need our platform.

While Australia has performed well in biotech, there is still work to be done in healthtech. Looking at what is occurring overseas, the mindset needs to shift away from traditional models and start to adopt newer methodologies. It won’t be perfect and it won’t always work, but hopefully sooner rather than later, things will change.

Understanding the value and importance of proper healthtech innovation will definitely come from overseas. Watching companies like Alphabet and Apple take to healthcare over the next twelve months (and beyond) will likely enforce some seismic shifts in the industry. With Apple sitting inside the top ten biggest companies in the world, their weight of numbers and approach to customers and their market will force everyone else to start taking consumer-driven health management seriously. I predict that in a short period of time, we will no longer be lambs but instead will be leading the pack.

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