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Shark Tank Event by eClub: Pitch your scientific idea to investors

Sunday, November 17, 2019

As scientists, we are trained to do research and make new discoveries but in most cases our business acumen remain in dormant stage. There are many scientific findings that have the potential to fuel into a business opportunity. However, not all scientific endeavors turn into commercial enterprise. If you have a wonderful scientific idea and you think that you can translate it into something profitable in terms of a business plan or start-up, a fundraising pitch to investors is often the very first and critical step. This year on October 1ST, eClub organized a ‘Shark Tank’ event where UMass researchers had an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. We had John Burke (CEO at Applied Biomath, LLC), Mitchell Sanders (CSO, Alira Health, Board Member & Founder of two Alira Health Ventures) and Zu Shen (Vice President, MBI) as judges. The event was well received by graduate students and postdocs and the pitch winner won the cash price of $200.

The objective behind this event was to learn how an entrepreneurial scientist could present his or her idea in front of investors and raise capital successfully. As scientists, we all are familiar with scientific talks and discussions. However, when it comes to engaging investors for 10-15 min of pitch we can fall short if we don’t understand the difference between the two types of presentation styles. The investor will invest money in your project only if he or she finds your idea holds a good business potential. Therefore building narrative during your pitch is fundamental. Your idea should be unique and should address a big problem in the marketplace. It is better if you begin your pitch with a compelling and influential story and then slowly built upon the realistic reasons to rationalize that why your idea matters.

The ‘Shark Tank’ event helps us to understand these differences and prepare us to effectively pitch our ideas. The take away points from the event include -

· Pitch presentation should cover broader areas compared to scientific talks. It can’t be only focused on scientific details and techniques.

· Typically limit your presentation to 5-10 slides.

· Establish the existing market need and talk about your business opportunity to occupy the market. It is important to consider that if your market is big enough to achieve venture scale return.

· Consider your competitive landscape. Highlight your sustainable competitive advantages and discuss about barriers to entry.

· Talk about your business strategy, which should include recurring revenue, profit margin, and volume growth etc.

· Discuss your unique selling point or proposition.

· Discuss your team, advisory board, their roles, skill sets and qualifications.

· Chalk out your funding requirements and how funds will be used. Present your financial projections with timelines i.e. short-term and long-term goals i.e. over next three to five or ten years. Show breakeven points, growth assumptions and burn rate.

· Discuss your exit strategy (IPO, merger or sale).

· Importantly, ask clearly what you need from the investors.