Blogging on Biotech: Reflections And A ‘Best of’ List

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For the past 2.5 years I’ve been experimenting with this blog, covering topics about biotech startups, the pharma industry, and venture capital – so I thought it would be a good time for reflection.

In my first blog post in March 2011 (here), I highlighted three reasons for doing it: (a) the life science community isn’t well represented in the blogging world and our share of voice is disproportionately low; (b) generating and sharing data-informed perspectives is in my DNA as a recovering scientist; and (c) social media connectivity is exploding and blogging is just a natural extension of interactive platforms like Twitter.  Those three reasons all remain valid.  In fact, the first one – life science voices – remains disappointingly valid.  I’d really like to see more VCs in the life science community engage via blogs in the open exchange of ideas.

Another reason for reflection is that this month my blog hit a milestone by crossing 500K page views.  Now most of those were probably drive-by click-throughs that landed on my site in their search for eyewear or my hot sauce, but it got me thinking about what posts got the most engagement.  This prompted me to throw together a list of the posts that capture lots of the themes I’ve written about to date.

So here it is, a sort of ‘Best of the Blog’ list, with a handful of links organized by topic:

Venture Capital and Biotech

  1. Debunking Myths of Biotech Venture Capital: data-driven challenge to many common misperceptions about biotech VC with links to posts around VC returns, loss rates, and holding periods,  among others.
  2. The Biotech VC Math Problem: reviews that mathematical challenge of returning big funds by reviewing the drivers of fund returns (ownership, hit rate, value of outcomes).
  3. Winner’s Circle: New Insights into BioPharma Venture Returns: sharing new data on the “winners” in VC-backed startup world, both in terms of multiple and cash returned.

Pharma Industry

  1. Culture as the Culprit of the Pharma R&D Crisis: the  brief case for bureaucratic culture as the main driver of Big Phama’s R&D productivity challenge
  2. If I Were A Big Pharma Head of R&D: three sets of  recommendations for addressing the culture problem around strategy, organization, and governance.
  3. The Long Term Bull Case for Pharma.  Why the global wealth effect, demographics, and the efficiency of drug treatment bode well for Pharma

IPOs, M&A, and Biotech Exits.

  1. What’s Behind the Booming Biotech IPO Market: the key drivers underlying the current IPO window, which might become the most prolific one-year window ever
  2. Biotech Past, Biotech Present – Reflections on the IPO Window of 1991-94: written before this current window, a snapshot of what a ‘great window’ looked like and its impact over time.
  3. Biotech M&A Earnout Payments: this and a related post cover the (surprisingly high rate of) payment of ‘biobucks’ in structured M&A transactions

Early Stage Biotech Investing.

  1. Lessons Learned – Reflections on Early Stage Investing: observations on management, coinvestors, diligence, investment models, and lawyers and their impact on early stage biotech
  2. Risky Business – Late Stage vs Early Stage Biotech: confronts the perception that late stage biotech is less risky, when its probably not the case
  3. More Than Half Of Biotech Financings Are Early Stage Deals: self-explanatory, but an integrated view of the data supporting active “early stage” deal volume
  4. Unleashing the Currency of Entrepreneurship: highlights the important role of equity and incentives and why the startup model in biotech works

Biotech Business and Investment Models.

  1. Virtues of Different Biotech Worldviews: both asset-centric and platform/product engine models of biotech can work, but each have different success factors.
  2. New Biotech Corporate Structures: Possible alternative approaches around novel corporate legal structures to address early stage biotech needs
  3. Biotech Models – Virtual Reality, Virtual Mythology: review of myths around virtual biotechs and how they can work (or not).

Advice for Bio-Entrepreneurs

  1. Top Ten Tips for Raising Venture Funding: as the title suggests, some thoughts on raising rounds of financing.
  2. The People Side of Biotech Deal-Making: some business development observations around getting traction with Pharma, including who to avoid
  3. High Performing Startup Biotech Boards: a few suggestions for how to have a more productive board dynamic
  4. Biotech Scientific Advisory Boards – What works, what doesn’t: SABs are key for many startups, getting the most out of them is the trick.
  5. Energetics of Fear & Greed in the Boardroom: perspective on how important it is for CEOs to manage their Boards’ balance of optimism and pessimism.

Those links represent about 20% of my blog posts, and I think capture lots of the themes I’ve written on over time.

For those data junkies, looking at the statistics for traffic to the site has also been fun.  Since launching it in March 2011, I’ve put up 114 posts, most of them also posted up on my Forbes contributor page.  Between those two sites, I’ve had ~500K page views across 350K visitors, with most posts being read by ~4K visitors over time.  These are all small potatoes compared to many of the Tech VC focused blogs with 100s of thousands of active readers, and a far cry from highly visible life science blogs like Derek Lowe’s In the Pipeline.  But it’s enough of a dataset to get a sense for what works and what doesn’t.  Posts about Pharma (rather than VC) tend to get the most traffic: my April 2012 post on culture (listed above) is my most viewed post with over 40K unique readers, nearly 10x more than a typical post.  But the posts on the nuances of biotech venture capital – either from a returns perspective or as advice to entrepreneurs – tend to generate the most inbound email traffic after the post goes out.  Clearly this site has a mix of reader types in the audience.  Hopefully I can maintain an interesting balance going forward.

It’s been a positive experience so far, and I’ll continue the experiment, but at least two things make it challenging.  First and foremost, the biggest issue is coming up with content and topics for 3-4 posts a month, which has been very hard to keep up.  My initial goal of two per week was clearly naïve, as content generation is hard.  Feel free to send me notes with ideas for what to cover!  Second, at times one does feel naked up in the blogosphere – being out there in the open with my opinion on different topics means I’ve probably irritated more than a few folks.  I’d like to think I’ve got more supporters than detractors at this point, but I guess it’s the downside risk of having a blog.  I will say this emphatically though – both of those challenges have massively increased my respect for what real writers have to do day-in, day-out to generate content and put themselves out there.

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  • Judit

    Bruce, Thanks a lot for your effort and dedication when building your posts. They have been truly inspiring and a must for me during the past months. Not to mention how useful they have been while starting my Biotech company. I acknowledge that it is almost impossible to express an opinion with which everyone agrees, but besides the supporters and detractors you might have gained, you should be proud of the many entrepreneurs you have inspired and help through this challenging and exciting adventure with your comments and recommendations. Hopefully you can figure out how to keep up with the blog!

  • http://www.hollyip.com/ Suleman Ali

    Good luck in continuing to find new topics. I think the writer always benefits a lot from this process of digging deeper and looking for new insights, and one’s consciousness takes on a more open way of looking at things.
    I found your blog gives a lot of structure to what I’ve always found to be a very chaotic area. And I suspect you’re making a contribution far beyond what you actually write, because it’s essentially opening up a lot of issues for discussion in some sort of structured way.
    For what it’s worth your blog came second in my recent ranking of favourite patent/biotech blogs. You were beaten only by IPKat which has the advantage of having a team of authors writing on a more diverse set of topics.
    I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for sharing your wisdom

  • LJStewartTweet

    Bruce. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Some of the data you’ve dug up and reflected on is no small task. We all benefit from your effort.

    Thank you!

  • http://vishrasayan.blogspot.in/ Murali Apparaju

    Reading your blog is education for me! – thank you & keep posting please!