At a recent Medical Alley Association event on Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology, I was expecting to learn a lot about the bio and med tech innovation coming out of the Twin Cities, and I did.
I also learned that many of these phenomenal companies have trouble getting investor attention, which is ridiculous because Medical Alley is home to more than 1,000 healthcare companies. I was incredulous, being from the Midwest myself. One of the panelists even said he received advice from investors to move to the east or west coast if he actually wanted to raise any funds. At this point, I was fuming.
The truth is that many investors, especially blue-chip capital investors, are nervous about investing in companies based in Minnesota because of the distance required to travel, and a lot of health tech companies have a really hard time making it past their series A round. Half of all venture capital money spent in the United States goes to companies in California alone.
Despite the challenges companies in our area have experienced, we’re experiencing a shift. Coastal investors are slowly but surely starting to see the potential here in the center of the country – and people are sitting up to listen. In fact, TechCrunch and The New York Times have both recently reported on high profile investors leaving Silicon Valley to explore their options in the Midwest. Mark Kvamme, venture capitalist is quoted; “90% of the future technology market capitalization will be created outside of Silicon Valley. I think people will look back and say it was so obvious that the Midwest was about to emerge because the numbers had swung so far against it.”
I left the Medical Alley conference with seven pages of notes and a feeling of Midwest pride that still hasn't worn off. The advice shared by the excellent panelists are points that ring true for all startups in this region, especially in the health tech industry:
1. Tell your story, and tell it often
One of my favorite quotes I heard at the event was, “friend-raise even when you’re not fundraising.” While marketing and branding feels like a luxury for most startups, your story is the most valuable weapon you have, so an investment in some counsel on your messaging could turn out to be priceless.
2. Know your exit strategy
Planning your exit strategy at the onset is critical. If you wait until after your angel round to decide whether or not you want to IPO or get acquired, your whole strategy will change and the funds will be allocated entirely differently.
3. Be creative
While we wait for more investors to wake up and smell the Midwestern craft beer, creativity is required for funding. Some of the tips given by the health tech experts were to seek out smaller investment firms that may be more willing to travel to Minnesota, also to look into social venture funds that may support your area of innovation. Social venture funds are great sources of non-dilutive capital, as the contributors have already gotten the tax write-off – their agenda is to see the tech accelerate quickly.