This is the third in a three-part series on biotech accelerator programs. Please see my previous posts for information on why you should consider applying to an accelerator, and factors to consider when making your selection.
Congratulations! You've been accepted into an accelerator, incubator, or mentoring program, and things are going great. That's the end of the story, right? Not necessarily! Here are three tips that will allow you to make the most of your experience.
Develop a Portfolio of Accelerators
It is not realistic to believe that any one program will be a panacea, providing every element of support an early stage company might need. In combination, however, a portfolio of accelerator, incubator, and mentoring programs can really propel your company forward. We have benefitted greatly from several of these programs, including the Illumina Accelerator, Johnson & Johnson Innovation JLABS (JLABS), Springboard Enterprises, Lean Launchpad, and the California Life Sciences Institute FAST Advisory Program. Like leaping from one lily pad to another, we were able to use each program to help our company develop and grow right when that support was needed most.
Don't Wait to be Spoon Fed
Program administrators can only do so much to make the connections you need. At some point, you have to exercise some agency in identifying what it is you need, and use the accelerator as the vehicle to obtain it. The reason we have been successful at leveraging these programs is that we do not sit back and wait for information to be handed to us. We aggressively use the network available to us through these programs for business development, identifying potential investors, and addressing other company growth needs. We follow up. When we need something, we ask. Long after first introductions, we keep relationships going by providing updates when we achieve milestones. By maintaining these connections, we are able to maintain a list of stakeholders with whom we have cultivated a real relationship, so that when the time comes to reach out to them, it's not out of the blue.
Don't Get Stuck in the Nursery
Participation in multiple accelerators should not supplant your company's natural maturation process. It can be easy to get too comfortable continuously seeking outside support; and although accelerator admission is certainly an accomplishment to celebrate, it can be easy for founders to become addicted to winning these competitions and not spending enough time on R&D efforts needed to achieve meaningful milestones. Accelerator application and participation can be very time-consuming and resource-intensive, and it is important to recognize the inflection point between needing structured support and going at it alone.
Accelerators, incubators, and mentoring programs can greatly increase the odds of your company's success, and can offer returns lasting much longer than the formal program duration. Get out there and do your homework to find the right one, and if you are accepted, think strategically about how you can maximize your experience both in the short and long term. And when you make it big, consider ways that you might give back. Whether mentoring or investing or starting one yourself, accelerators are an important part of today's biotech ecosystem, and it only works when we all do our part in laying the foundation for the next wave of innovators.
Dr. Lucia Mokres is the Chief Medical Officer of EpiBiome, Inc., a precision microbiome engineering company that employs a genomics approach to profiling complex microbial communities and deploys bacterial viruses to selectively eliminate problematic bacteria without the use of small-molecule antibiotics. In addition to her work with EpiBiome, Lucia educates Stanford medical students, physicians and other healthcare professionals in bedside manner, teamwork, leadership, and nonverbal communication skills; and serves on the Association for Women in Science Mentoring Committee. She co-founded the Veterinary Innovators Network, a leadership and advisory group of veterinarians working in venture capital, entrepreneurship, innovation, and business. In her spare time, Lucia trains as an elite level cyclist, and is a national and state medalist in road and track cycling at the master's level.
Lucia graduated cum laude from the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University School of Medicine.