Entrepreneurial Strategy

It’s our 8th anniversary this week!

I can’t believe that 8 years could pass so fast. This milestone has made me think about the past 8 years and what I have learned.

As a scientist, I started GlycoMar with a lot of enthusiasm for our technology and a desire to translate that into drugs, but little idea about how to make it into a business. I had a couple of advantages: first I had been approached by a company that wanted me to supply compounds to them, second the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology was opened the week I started. The company that wanted our technology later became Verona Pharma Plc, now our collaborator and licensee.

I had some vague ideas about business plans and business models, but spent most of my time focussing on what the company would do and hardly any time focusing on our market and strategy for value creation.

This time last year I was lucky enough to spend a week at MIT Sloan Management School Trust centre for Entrepreneurship. I was one of the students on their weeklong Entrepreneurship Development Program – an inspiring week which I should have done years earlier.

The two outstanding lectures of the week, for me, were given by Fiona Murray, on the subjects of ‘Creating Value’ and ‘Capturing Value’. Professor Murray has done a lot of work on biotechnology entrepreneurship – see her paper “Entrepreneurship and the construction of value in biotechnology

The key message I took home was Entrepreneurial Strategy – something I did not have 8 years ago. Prof Murray’s final slide asks 4 key questions:

Does this idea create economic value?

  1. What is the value proposition of the product?
  2. What is the market segment?

Can we capture this economic value

  1. Can we protect our competitive advantage?
  2. Where in the value chain are we focused – how do we deliver the value?

If you think about this, for an entrepreneurial drug discovery biotech business like GlycoMar the available strategies are limited. I believe that the most realistic strategy is built around capturing value in the form of intellectual property and delivering this value by out-licensing – this is not revolutionary, but once it is clear everything else follows.