Monday, April 30, 2012

Interning and Market Analysis

I've been interning long enough to complete a few assignments for different groups of innovators.  I'm in a better position now to comment on my role and have a little perspective on biotech start-ups, but hopefully we can revisit this often.  As an intern, I take up short, task-based assignments to help a team of innovators at an early stage in the start-up process.  C4C generally works with companies while they are still just a twinkle in someone's eye, before a business license appears or office space is leased.  Lately, I am working with teams hoping to put together commercialization grants- that is, ask for money to do the kind of work that starts them to be profitable.  This is work the NIH won't usually pay for. 

In order to convince someone this is a good idea, there needs to be some assessment made about how profitable any idea could be.  We call this market analysis- I've done a few of these now.  These grants need something to bolster the science as a solid investment.  You've got a new idea that could vastly improve common hip replacements?  $mart.  You've got an idea that could improve a small fraction of hip replacements?  How $mall is small?  Your idea might only be useful in a fraction of pinky toe joint replacements, but is crazy expensive?  Not sure if anyone will pay for that.  The market analysis can help to focus the innovators on where they are going to take their inventions, and it provides reassurance to investors (in this case, the University) that this won't be a waste of money.  So I investigate how much is spent on this technology, on related technologies, and what does the market still want.  For example, cancer treatment is a huge and competitive market with many players, but if you could cure cancer, people would buy it.  In other markets, it's the cheaper, easier, faster trifecta that can be used to drive the market forward. 

I pull together facts including competitors and context, and then make a recommendation.  I'll be interested to see some of the follow-up from these analyses- do my teams get funding?  Do they shift direction?  Some teams I have worked with personally, some I just get an email from their tech manager and return another email with the analysis, these ones feel much like my freelance work.  The projects where I get to work with the team, the most interesting part for me is meeting the EIR- the Entrepreneur-In-Residence.  These are folks who describe themselves as 'serial entrepreneurs' who have a host of start-ups under their belt, and are hoping to mentor these big shot professors/noob businessmen into their first company.  They use an interesting vocabulary and have a fascinating professional history.  I seriously need to pick their brains more.

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