By David J. Colligan
The First Annual Critical Path Life Sciences Accelerator Program sponsored concluded Thursday, January 12, 2017. As part of the final preparation of the eight startup companies who participated until the end of the program, a panel of investors was assembled to present their experiences as investors in various roles. David Colligan of the Colligan Law Firm was selected to present his experiences as a lawyer for investors, both Angel and Venture Capital, as well as a lawyer for many startups. Kevin Centofanti, president of Brooks Houghton Investment Bank, was selected based on his ability to assemble large pools of capital to finance rapidly growing startup companies. Theresa Mazullo of Excell Partners was selected as Excell Partners runs several different venture capital funds that have many startup companies in their portfolios. Lindsay Stencel of Launch NY was selected as she is a general partner of a venture fund in Columbus, Ohio and serves part-time as the seed fund manager for Launch NY here in Buffalo, New York. Sharon Weinberg was on the panel representing Empire State Development’s new $10,000,000 fund to support entrepreneurs with actual funding. Alex Zapesochny was on the panel because of his successful co-founding of Icardiac and other successful startups before that which had a successful run from startup to exit.
Each of the panelists were asked questions and responded to subjects of great interest to the Critical Path participants. The panel discussed many issues and the issues were divided almost equally between “investment killers” and “real positives.” Amongst the investment killers that were discussed were startups seeking to: penetrate a market that is too small an opportunity; having a sole founder or a small team; cap table problems; likeability of the founders seeking fundraising; length of time for life sciences to get to market; and reasonable valuations. Amongst the subjects that were real positives, the panel discussed: big markets; experienced, diverse management teams; robust IP portfolios; strong due diligence binder; obvious exit opportunities; amongst other topics.
The panelists tried to leave the participants of the Critical Path Accelerator Program with some simple to remember concepts. One panelist suggested people should follow the ABF Rule. ABF stands for “Always be Fundraising.” Another panelist said that having sales success or channel partner acceptance helps convince funders and financers to invest in startups by using the standard: “Does the dog eat the dog food?”
The Critical Path Life Science Accelerator Program handed out two $50,000 awards after the final pitches which were held in the afternoon of January 12, 2017 at the Buffalo Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC). Winners of the awards were Abcombi Biosciences and DDG. All of the participants stated that they gained a great deal of knowledge from the Critical Path program and would recommend it to other startups in the future. They said that they would have taken the course if there were not cash prizes at the end. The Buffalo start-up ecosystem continues to grow and expand in support of entrepreneurs and Critical Path’s support of life science business startups is just the latest addition.