PULSE candidate|Jolyon Martin
Guest blog by Jolyon Martin, co-founder and Head of Business Development at PetMedix
I first heard about the Programme for Upcoming Life Sciences Entrepreneurs (PULSE) when a mentor of mine, Dr Darrin Disley (investor, serial entrepreneur, and currently CEO of Mogrify) got in touch with me to suggest I apply. I had already been through the Accelerate programme run (at the time) by Hanadi Jabado at the Cambridge Judge Business School and had benefited greatly, so I was uncertain what more another programme like that could teach me. But I trusted Darrin’s advice and applied and was accepted.
The first key difference between PULSE and other programmes I’ve been through or know of is the make-up of the group. Half were current researchers at the Crick, and half were budding young entrepreneurs at various stages of company and career development. I feel this mix was a real strength. Those with less experience could learn from those already starting their journey, and those with more experience could still benefit from going back over the lessons they’d learned along the way.
The programme itself was very broad, with experts coming in to run workshops on fundraising, IP, and a host of other relevant topics. What emerged as a key takeaway for me was how to present the same opportunity differently depending on the background of those I was speaking to. It helped reinforce the ‘know your audience’ side of presenting yourself and your company as some groups were mostly focused on the science, or the exit, or how we’d get to market. By taking the time to prepare for the questions I’d likely be asked by a specific group, it also helped me cement a broad understanding of my company and work. This means that when, for example, someone that is asking all scientific questions suddenly asks an IP one I have previously considered that response and can field the question.
In terms of advice for founders early in their career I’d say: fundraising always takes longer than you think, network widely, and do your homework. With fundraising, from first coffee to money in the bank generally seems to take between 6 months and a year so plan accordingly and do what you can to start the process early. In terms of networking widely, that can be daunting if you’re new to it. I’ve walked into a lot of rooms where people that have known each other for years (and often aren’t as diverse as the society they are part of) are huddled in conversation and breaking in can be tough.
Find people to champion you, whether they are a mentor, a friend further along the journey, or even someone in a related industry. Cold calling a VC is rarely successful, but if you can get your message/teaser materials into the hands of someone they know and trust then that can be half the battle. Finally, make sure your message is getting to the right people in the right way. Really hone your exec summary and make sure it gets to people that could potentially be interested, or you risk wasting your valuable time and theirs.
A more general piece of advice I have for founders, particularly young/new ones is to ask for advice. People like to give advice, and it feels good to help people, so you will find that there are plenty of people out there that are happy to help you out. Be respectful of their time and how much of it they are willing to give you, but if you’re genuinely interested and willing to put in some effort then you can often get really meaningful guidance from those that have done it all before.
Similarly, if you get a no (for example from a VC) then ask for feedback. They might not give it to you, or it might be generic, but often times they can tell you something that really makes a difference.