How to maximize your start-up’s chance for success

By Mariam Giorgadze and Thomas Galassi

Although the challenges that face biotech start-ups vary greatly depending on the nature of a company’s technology, there are a set of generalized “best practices” that entrepreneurs can learn from to increase their odds for success. Many of these practices form the foundation of the “Lean Lanchpad” program, which has seen 60% of its life science companies find seed funding to launch their start-ups. Below are some lessons that can be learned from this highly successful program:

Work with your target consumer

Today, when consumers in every industry are so sophisticated and have access to so much information or solution providers, no product or service can be pushed. Therefore, start-ups should focus on building their product while infusing the real feedback from their target consumer. For many life science start-ups this may involve working with doctors or hospital administrators to learn about any practical issues that may arise, even if the product being pushed is scientifically sound.

Prototyping and Iteration

Frequently, inventors spend a lot of time perfecting a solution in the lab without ever receiving feedback from their target audience. It’s crucial to not assume that the target audience will accept a solution, even if the issue being solved is completely understood from a scientific point of view. This is true whether the target audience is doctors, patients, or hospital administrators. Getting feedback early on in the design process can prevent major sunk costs for a company down the road.

Understand your business model

Designing a world changing invention is not enough to launch a successful company; it is only the first step. No matter how useful a technology is, a company must understand its target consumer, market opportunity, revenue model, and potential partnerships to be a success. All of these will form the core of a company’s business model. To learn more about business model generation click here.

While there is no way to guarantee the success of any start-up, following the advice above is a great way to maximize the chance of success. By following these “best practices” a company can begin to show investors that they know what it takes to bring their product to market, which can potentially lead to seed funding and be the difference between a successful or failed company.

To learn more tips on how to maximize a biotech start-up’s chance of success attend the BBI lecture series which begins with a kick-off event September 13.

Three types of non-technical team members crucial for biotech startups

By Mariam Giorgadze and Thomas Galassi

Even a company with a useful and innovative technology will fail without the right team guiding it to market. Here, we discuss three types of people whose complementary expertise is crucial to the success of a biotech company. To contribute your expertise to a biotech startup, click HERE. To meet technical experts, attend our Entrepreneurship Networking Event on Sept 13th.

Complimentary co-founders

To turn their inventions into investable companies, inventors should recruit teammates with strong business development and engineering capabilities. Teaming up with people who understand how to negotiate with investors, sell ideas, and quickly and efficiently build up viable solutions to the company’s problems is critical. This is a core part of BBI’s mission – bridging the gap between business professionals and inventors to facilitate their successful networking to help them form the teams.


While having co-founders with complimentary skill sets is crucial, an experienced advisory board is what will take companies to the next level. Having access to people who have gone through the same path as a start-up will be an invaluable asset to the company. No matter how well prepared the founders of a start-up are there is no substitute for the experience of someone who has been there before. An experienced advisory board can provide shortcuts to get things done, access to professional networks, and also provide objective opinions on the company’s ideas. While recruiting the right advisors may take some time, it certainly pays off as time well spent.


According to recent report from the global health innovation company Startup Health, investments in health care industry have become more stabilized since experiencing major hype back in 2014. Although 2016 has seen 1.8 billion dollars in funding towards the healthcare industry, investors have gotten more conscious about what they invest in. This is largely because some of the healthcare solutions that previously received major investments have yet to achieve sustainable growth.

To successfully achieve sustainable growth, it is also crucial that a start-up finds the right investors for that company. While all investors will be able to provide capital, the right investor will push the company towards profits by providing guidance, networking opportunities, and stability which will ultimately lead the company towards sustainable growth.

Obviously, finding people that meet the criteria above and having an innovative technology to work with is an extremely difficult task. Fortunately programs such as Entrepreneurship Lab NYC and the Bench to Bedside Initiative (BBI) exist to help entrepreneurs accomplish this task. These programs hold events such as BBI’s Entrepreneurship Networking Event on Sept 13th, where individuals can meet people with the skill necessary to form successful start-ups. If this is something you would be interested in you can register for this event and find team members using the links below.

To find team members click HERE.

To register for the September 13th event click HERE.

Teams begin to form as BBI releases 2016 syllabus

Amidst early-bird teams forming weeks before the class kick-off on September 13th, BBI released the Fall 2016 syllabus. The expanded syllabus lists the BBI alumni (September 13th and October 11th) and industry experts who will lead the sessions and with whom seminar participants will be able to network with after the sessions. The syllabus also summarizes the new mentoring and pitch sessions and expanded assignments to help teams formulate their pitches.

Anyone interested in learning about the seminars can sign up for the first class and kick-off on September 13th or visit the BBI website. The course objectives and syllabus are detailed below.

Schedule: Tuesdays or Wednesdays, 6:00-7:30 PM @ Zuckerman Auditorium (417 E. 68th St.), OR Belfer Research Building (BRB)  Rm. 204 or 302 (413 E. 69th St.)


To register for the series click here.

To find a team click here.



Newly Expanded BBI Seminar Series and Pitch Competition Returns on Sept. 13

By Thomas Galassi and Sarah Kishinevsky

On September 13, BBI’s seminar series “From Bench to Bedside: Business Fundamentals for Entrepreneurial Scientists” will return for the 4th time with newly added sessions leading up to the Pitch Day Competition. A common theme among previous participants was the need for more mentoring from industry experts. In response to these requests, this year, BBI will expand its series from ten to twelve meetings. The extra meetings will add mentoring sessions focused on market analysis, as well as a day for teams to present practice pitches to Tri-Institutional licensing officers. These enhancements should leave teams more prepared to benefit from what have traditionally been BBI’s two most productive classes: the mentored “elevator pitch” class where teams give a brief two-minute pitch of their business plans to industry experts, and the first round pitches, where teams will qualify for the final Pitch Day competition.

BBI is also changing the scoring criteria for the Pitch Day competition. Unlike years past where the performance of participants was based on only a written business plan and final pitch, teams in this year’s series will also be judged on their market research, funding assessment, and elevator pitches. The new emphasis on these topics will likely allow the participants to finish the class as more complete, well-rounded entrepreneurs and will hopefully further build New York City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

BBI’s “kick-off event” will take place on Sept. 13 in the Zuckerman Research Center (417 E 68 Street, New York, NY) at 6:00 PM

The BBI series will begin with the “kick-off event” featuring a keynote address from Dr. Renier Brentjens, Director of Cellular Therapeutics at Memorial Sloan Kettering and scientific co-founder of Juno Therapeutics, and finish with a networking session where participants can begin to form teams for the Pitch Day competition. As in years past, teams participating in the series will build business plans around patented technologies from Weill Cornell Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and Rockefeller University and present to investor judges at the Pitch Day competition in December.

To learn more about the upcoming seminar series and sign up for the kick-off event click here.



BBI Matches Inventors with Business Professionals

By Mariam Giorgadze and Thomas Galassi

On May 24 the Bench to Bedside Initiative (BBI), together with Hacking Health NYC and gyro:human, hosted its inaugural Commercializing Life Science matchmaking event. The purpose of the event was to help inventors form successful teams around their patents by connecting them with talented business professionals outside of their respective fields with complimentary backgrounds. Ultimately, the hope is that these teams will form successful business enterprises and solve some of the most pressing matters in healthcare.

At the event, 10 inventors affiliated with BBI and more than 40 interested business professionals heard a keynote address from Patrick Freuler, CEO of Audics. During his speech Patrick talked about how his company, which distributes low cost hearing devices, dealt with the early challenges that face many start-ups saying: “At the very beginning pretty much everything went wrong: we had this average product, no support system and we had to have a very iterative approach to get it done.” Patrick also spoke about his philosophy on team building for start-ups, highlighting the importance of “creative generalists who can wear multiple hats and get things off the ground.”  

In addition to the keynote address, the event also featured booths run by successful entrepreneurs who were willing to share their secrets to success with attendees. These entrepreneurs included:

IMG_2793Attendees at the matchmaking listen to tips for success from business experts

Specifically, these entrepreneurs spread their knowledge and experience on following topics:

  • The specific problem his/her company aims to solve.
  • The market outlook for the company.
  • How to successfully overcome the major challenges in their respective fields
  • Startup team dynamics

Attendees had the option to rotate and attend two company sessions based on their interests. Attendees found that this format was a great way to spark interesting conversations, generate new ideas and connect with like-minded individuals.

Following the event, BBI has begun helping attendees work with inventors and share their expertise. Hopefully, this event, as well as future ones like it, will help create an environment where Tri-I start-ups can thrive.



“Patents 101 for Academics” Series Builds Tri-I’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

By Thomas Galassi and Sarah Kishinevsky

A new series teaches academic inventors how to use patents to attract funding

Patent strategies are crucial to the success of many biotech companies. Compared to other industries, investments in new medical inventions are relatively costly to develop, but less costly to imitate. Proper patent protection reduces the likelihood of imitation by competitors and therefore incentivizes investment in product development.

The importance of patents was not lost on our community. A recent Bench to Bedside Initiative poll  found that:

  • Over 60% of the Tri-I community was interested in attending a class on patent law, intellectual property, and university tech transfer.
  • Over 88% of the Tri-I community felt it was necessary to pursue opportunities outside his/her university in order to expand his/her C.V.

To address this unmet need, Weill Cornell’s Dean’s Entrepreneurship Lab teamed up with the Cornell Center for Technology Licensing (CTL).  Within one month of the survey’s publication, the Dean’s Entrepreneurship Lab and CTL hosted their first “Patent Class Mini Series.”

This series consisted of 4 sessions, and aimed to educate academics on how start-up companies founded from academic institutions can best protect their intellectual property. Lectures covered topics ranging from “what is patentable” to how to avoid the mistakes that frequently doom biotech start-ups shortly after inception.

Attendees of the Patent Class Enjoy Conversation During the Networking ReceptionAttendees of the patent class enjoy conversation during the networking reception

Upon the class’s completion, respondents rated each lecture and the class as a whole. The results of the evaluations indicated an overwhelmingly positive reaction. Even more telling was that when asked for suggestions, several respondents indicated a desire for additional lectures.

Table 1: Summary of Patent Mini Series Evaluations (1 = worst rating and 5 = best).

Question Average Rating
How would you rate lecture 1? 4.79
How would you rate lecture 2? 4.67
How would you rate lecture 3? 4.23
How would you rate lecture 4? 4.94
How informative was the series? 4.71
How interesting was the series? 4.58

In response to these evaluations, the Dean’s Entrepreneurship Lab and CTL will be holding another series on patents this winter. Classes such as these are sure to build up Tri-I and NYC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.




Tri-I: Potential for Biotech Startups?

By Thomas Galassi

BBI feels the pulse of the community through survey and participation numbers

Biotech Venture Funding by City

biotech funding by city

In 2014, despite ranking second in NIH funding,  NYC ranked 7th among U.S. cities in terms of venture funding for the biotechnology industry.

The question of why NYC does not rank better on the above list is not new. In 2009 the Center for an Urban Future released a report examining this question. The report found that NYC lacked “a deeply ingrained high-tech ‘ecosystem’ that allows for frequent, casual interactions between the web of people who form the core of any dynamic tech sector.” To address the problem, the report suggested that local universities and research institutions needed to “promote and support a more entrepreneurial culture among faculty and post-doctoral researchers” similar to efforts that have been made by Stanford and MIT.

Since 2009, local government has stepped in to help. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) recently launched the $150 million Early-Stage Life Sciences Funding Initiative and has been developing and supporting programs such as E-Lab and Harlem Biospace.

While city and state support is crucial for biotech entrepreneurs, it is the steps taken by local universities which will have the biggest impact on closing the gap between NIH and venture funding in NYC. This is because it is the universities that develop, and own, the intellectual property around the innovative technologies behind biotech start-up companies.

Fortunately, several signs support the notion that local universities are, and will continue to be, committed to building a support system for biomedical entrepreneurship. The Tri-Institutions of Weill Cornell Medicine, Rockefeller University (RU) and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) have supported a number of programs, including the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute; the Dean’s Entrepreneurship Lab, Biotech Club, and Daedalus Fund for Innovation at Weill Cornell; the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at Rockefeller and of course BBI, which has seen attendance at its annual pitch day competition increase more than five-fold over the past three years.

A recent Bench to Bedside Initiative (BBI) poll of 133 Tri-Institutional students and post docs shows that the overwhelming majority of trainees at these institutions feel that universities should be actively encouraging scientists and clinicians to commercialize their inventions. Moreover, the poll indicates that trainees believe that start-ups and strong entrepreneurship programs can earn universities recognition and also make them more appealing, an indication that these programs will be crucial towards the recruitment of the most talented students and post-docs by university officials in the future.

BBI Survey Results

BBI Survey Results

Ultimately, what the polling data and actions by local universities tells us is that although NYC has traditionally lagged behind in the formation of biotech start-ups, we should not expect this to be the case for long.