Category Archives: General Venture Capital

Within Venture, A Booming Biotech Sector Is Shrinking
October 19, 2015

Venture capital in biotech has had a great run over the past few years: funding going to private biotech companies is at historic highs, new venture funds are getting raised, and exits have been happening via robust IPO and M&A

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VC Returns Revisited: Biopharma’s Outperformance
September 8, 2015

Biotech has been on a tear over the past few years supported by a combination of scientific advances, great IPO and M&A exit environments, and robust capital markets for fundraising. Watching the public indices gives a good indicator of broader

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The Venture Funding Boom In Biotech: A Few Things It’s Not
July 23, 2015

Venture-backed biotechs continue their blistering pace of funding. According to the latest MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), with data from Thomson Reuters, over $2.1B was invested in biotech companies in 2Q 2015, bringing the year

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Data Snapshot: Venture-Backed Biotech Financing Riding High
April 21, 2015

Biotech venture funding metrics continue at historic highs, highlighting that the robust financing environment in the public markets continues to fuel the private markets as well. Last week the quarterly Thomson Reuters data on venture capital funding came out via

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Venture-Backed Biotech Today: Reflections On Exits, Funding, and Startup Formation
January 22, 2015

Biotech is definitely red-hot, and has been for the past eight quarters. Immuno-oncology, cancer metabolism, gene therapy, orphan diseases, NASH, autoimmune – there’s a broad range of disease settings that are capturing the excitement and imagination of investors today. With some


Talent: The Biggest Issue In Biotech Boardrooms Today
September 25, 2014

As with everything in life, it’s always about the people.  Bet the jockey, not the horse.  Great entrepreneurs and C-level executives are very hard to come by in R&D-intensive biotech companies, and its probably one of the biggest bottlenecks in


Early Stage Biotech Venture Scarcity: Fitness, Fear, And Greed
September 22, 2014

The ever-shrinking number of biotech venture capital firms was a common refrain during the 2008-2012 period; it’s true that a large number of firms went under, closed their doors for new investments, or moved into zombie status.  I wrote on


Startups, Exits, And Ecosystem Flux: Bullish For Biotech
September 8, 2014

The world is awash in cool new tech startups and poised for “A Cambrian Moment”, according to a recent special report from the Economist. For those that haven’t read it, it’s a very interesting set of articles about the trends


Data Insight: The Return Distribution Of BioPharma VC Financings
August 11, 2014

Return distributions in venture capital across different sectors have been a frequent source of commentary, and new data from Correlation Ventures provides further substrate for that theme. I’ve highlighted data from Correlation Ventures (CV) in the past, looking at top

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Perspectives on VC-Backed Biotech: Looking Backward & Forward
January 3, 2014

Tis the season for reflecting and predicting, so I figured I’d follow the custom and share some of my thoughts about the state of biotech in 2013 and the year to come. Reflections on 2013. The Biotech IPO Returns.  This


Correlation’s Fresh Look At Venture Capital Returns
November 18, 2013

The broad underperformance of the venture capital asset class during the past decade is widely discussed; there’s a frequently-cited assertion that U.S. venture returns trailed the overall public equity stock market in the 2000s. Few if any published analyses have


VCs: Adding or Subtracting Value to Biotech Startups?
October 14, 2013

Last month legendary investor Vinod Khosla commented that 95% of VCs add “zero value” and 80% probably “add negative value” in how they advise startup companies in their portfolio.  This is a stunning indictment of the VCs that Khosla has

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Winners’ Circle: New Insights Into BioPharma Venture Returns
September 17, 2013

Successful deals in venture capital take on a life of their own, especially the rare massive outlier return.  Unfortunately for venture capitalists, Facebooks and Twitters are very rare. Understanding the nature of “winners” requires a good grounding in what a


Debunking Myths About Biotech Venture Capital
May 22, 2013

There are lots of myths about venture capital and biotech in particular, as noted previously on this blog.  Many of these myths are deeply held beliefs about returns, what works and what doesn’t, and the state of the industry.  Told


VC-backed Biotech Holding Periods: Tortoise or Hare?
May 8, 2013

Biotech just takes too long, especially when compared to the overnight success of technology ventures, or so the oft-cited criticism of venture-backed biotech’s perceived longer holding period goes. Despite being a well-accepted belief  held by most venture professionals, LP’s, and


Atlas IX. Onward and upward.
May 1, 2013

Last week, Atlas Venture closed Fund IX at $265M, as reported this morning by Dan Primack.  We set out to raise $250M, and closed above-target with great support from our existing LP’s and some great new ones.  With this closing,


Life Science Venture Financing Terms: Favorable Five Year Trends
March 22, 2013

Euphoria in the markets seems like a common theme these days.  In fact, this week the NASDAQ Biotech Index (NBI) hit its all time high, even higher than in the 2000 genomics bubble.  It’s up 49% since Jan 2012.  Add


Lessons Learned: Reflections On Early Stage Biotech Venture Investing
February 8, 2013

Venture capital is often called an apprenticeship business in large part because experience matters and takes time to accumulate.  But successful firms are able to translate and transfer experiential wisdom through institutional memory, which involves codifying what works and what


Early Stage Biotech Showing Positive Signs of Scaling Its Wall of Worry
January 15, 2013

As 2013 begins, and the JPM conference is behind us, it’s a great time to reflect on the state of the biotech industry and the sentiments around early stage investing in particular.  While pessimism abounds in many corners about the


JPM Takeaway: Pharma Wants to Engage Earlier & More Actively
January 11, 2013

Most of the news flow around the JPM Healthcare conferences centers around the main event: public companies presenting their earnings forecasts, R&D updates, new partnering deals, and the like.  There’s also a small private company track at JPM, and there are


The Entrepreneurial Diaspora Enabled By Biotech M&A
December 18, 2012

The recycling of equity capital through realized returns is a critically important element of biotech investing.  When public biotech companies get bought, like Genentech by Roche, or smaller deals like Cougar by J&J, a large number of biotech-focused equity funds


Unleashing Biotech Innovation With The Currency of Entrepreneurship
December 5, 2012

The translation of cutting-edge science into new clinically-relevant therapeutics is the ultimate goal of many academic investigators, industry researchers, and investors.  This stage of R&D is the most challenging, and typically frought with scientific and technical risks: taking a new


Data Insight: Venture Capital returns and loss rates
November 7, 2012

Much of the public dialogue about venture capital returns is based more on myth than fact, which reinforces inappropriately limited views of relative sector attractiveness, underlying risk profiles, and the “business models” that work in venture.  A big part of


The Energetics of Fear and Greed in the Boardroom
October 25, 2012

Like many things driven by human nature, venture-backed biotech boardrooms often swing between the emotions of fear and greed.  Fear of losing your shirt, or the greed of demanding more of the story than is warranted.  It’s the age-old imbalance


New Data on Venture Capital Returns: Exits Are Indeed Improving
October 3, 2012

Correlation Ventures, a new analytics-driven venture firm, just came out with some interesting data on US venture capital returns over the past decade. Instead of taking a “birth” vintage approach to returns, which is the way venture fund vintages and

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The Quiet Outperformance of Recent Biotech IPOs
August 1, 2012

Biotech IPOs have long been viewed with skeptism, especially over the past few years in comparison to the high-flying media darlings in the Tech space.  But recently a number of the social media phenoms have fallen from grace: Groupon is

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Contrarian Opportunities in Biotech Venture
June 2, 2012

Pharma have been retooling their therapeutic strategies and R&D priorities considerably over the past decade, shifting in and out of various disease areas.  As they are the eventual home for many of the biotech programs we and other early stage


Not-so-Breaking News: The VC Model Needs Retooling
May 15, 2012

“We Have Met the Enemy… And He is Us” is the very fitting title of a recent report on the state of the VC market with a focus on the GP-LP relationship.  This thoughtful and thankfully analytical report highlights a


Biotech Past, Biotech Present: Reflections on the IPO Window of 1991-1994
May 2, 2012

Twenty years ago the biotech world was in the midst of one of the best IPO windows in its history.  Nearly a hundred biotech companies went public from 1991-1994, including a number of the great companies that have become household


Biotech VC Returns: Diversified Funds vs. Healthcare-only Funds
April 9, 2012

Over the past decade biotech investments made by diversified venture capital firms have outperformed those by healthcare-focused firms.  Its unclear why the difference exists, but the historical data suggest it’s a striking differential. Examining the NVCA Benchmarking Database powered by


The Biotech Venture Capital Math Problem
March 15, 2012

Everyone has heard of the monster returns to some venture funds from high-flyng social media and technology companies: Facebook’s potential 800x for Accel, Google’s 350x for KPCB and Sequoia, Zynga’s 100x+ for Union Square, Foundry, and Avalon.  These single big


High-Performing Boards in Early Stage Biotech
March 3, 2012

Having a highly functional and productive Board of Directors is a key ingredient for success for most companies, but its of particular importance for early stage startups. The web is full of advice around what are the “best practices” for venture-backed


Bridging The Real Gap in Biotech Venture Funding: the Elusive Series B
February 9, 2012

Biotech pundits often talk about the challenge of raising an initial round of capital for drug discovery startups, highlighting the perceived “gap” in early stage funding.   And it certainly isn’t easy raising that first significant round of institutional capital.  But


Startup Biotech Paradox: Data Positive, Press Negative?
January 24, 2012

Today’s headlines were replete with the customary quarterly whinging about biotech funding. Several pieces emphasize the doom and gloom in the startup biotech landscape, and include quotes from respected venture investors lamenting the end of early stage and the broken


An Early Stage Investor’s JPM Reflections: Themes, Notes, and Quotes
January 13, 2012

Flying home from JPM 2012 and thought I’d share a few reflections from our early stage venture perspective on what we heard (or didn’t) around the year’s kickoff biotech event. While most of the attendees were focused on Inhibitex and


Biotech’s Glass Half Full for 2012
January 2, 2012

Happy New Year! Its another January and we’re taking stock of last year and pondering the one before us. Reflecting on the Life Science landscape, there are a number of good reasons to be optimistic about where things are today:


Sunk Costs Don’t Matter in Venture, Until They Do
December 9, 2011

The sunk cost bias in venture capital is widely derided as a driver of poor returns in the asset class.  It’s the psychological root cause of why good money gets thrown after bad: VCs hoping for an unlikely outcome because they

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Risky Business: Late Stage vs Early Stage Biotech
November 18, 2011

Last week, late stage biotech Alimera blew up after the FDA sent it a Complete Response Letter (CRL) rejecting its Iluvien product for eye diseases.  The stock is off 80%.  This was supposed to be a derisked, late stage investment


Chicken Little and Life Science Venture Capital
November 1, 2011

The sky is falling.  The sky is falling.  Seems like every day there’s another piece of news about the drop in Life Science venture capital (and here), with bouts of flagellation around each new quarterly press release from NVCA/PwC MoneyTree, Dow