We all know conferences are important. To be on the same page, let’s brainstorm the word. What comes to mind? A long list of associations – networking, partnering, businesses, meetings, new people, knowledge, presentations, talks, panels, companies. We could go on and on – one thing is clear: they are one of the most effective tools for sales, marketing and partnering.
With a growing global infrastructure, more travel services than ever before, and journey costs decreasing, the opportunities to reach further flung events are ever-expanding. But why, for instance, should a young European startup fly all the way across the pond to attend a US biotech conference?
The answers are quite straightforward. One point is networking: An American event allows access to US-based investors and introduces startups to a large customer base. There are also more companies in the US than in Europe, which makes finding suitable partners much easier and more likely. On top of that, the US has the largest stock market, meaning there is more money available to be distributed.
When we asked Kevin Johnson, Co-founder and Partner of Medicxi – a life-sciences focused investment company with headquarters in London – why he thought European biotechs should travel to the US, he said:
“Well, it’s basically about getting your name or your product out there and interacting with other people. And let’s face it, the center of gravity of the biotech market is in the US anyway! You can either pretend that’s not true, or you can just go with it and say ‘okay, a lot of the people I need to speak to are out there’, and then get on a plane and go.”
In short, America offers many opportunities for young biotech companies to evolve. One window of opportunity is the BioPharm America™ conference in Boston, Massachusetts. Organized by EBD Group, a life sciences partnering company, BioPharm America delivers a variety of assets to its attendees. Startups in particular have the opportunity to meet investors and executives in one-to-one meetings, to participate in educational sessions and workshops, and can apply to pitch their ideas or introduce their company to venture capitalists and investors.
In 2016, with more than 500 companies from 32 countries, BioPharm America was not only a meeting point for American entrepreneurs, but also for several European ones. “We went to BioPharm America to gather contacts for our Alzheimer’s disease vaccine and to learn more about the state of the art in general,” Per Wester, CEO of Alzinova AB, told us in an exclusive interview.
“We met all sorts of big, medium and small sized pharma companies and VCs. I was surprised at the cosy atmosphere and the comfortable size, not at all too big to scare people away. Getting a good overview was very doable!”
Alzinova AB is a Swedish biotech startup that works as a service provider on the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Like Alzinova, several other European biotechs attended BioPharm America. Amongst them the French nanomedicine company Nanobiotix, that developps therapeutic technologies based on physics.
With their headquarters based in Paris and affiliate office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Nanobiotix is present not only in the European, but also the American life sciences sector. We asked them what they would tell a European biotech company that couldn’t decide whether or not to attend BioPharm America.
“For European companies the conference is certainly a great way to get a sense of what Massachusetts in particular and the US in general can offer in terms of networking in both sciences and the industry,” explains Patrick Tricoli, CEO of Nanobiotix USA. “It is also a good way to make yourself visible and accessible to different people. Especially this year, with the Boston Biotech Week taking place at the same time, it is really worth going.”
Wester agrees with him: “If you have the time and the money, it is very much worth going,” he says. “You have the opportunity to see the most important people in one spot!”
Johnson, who has been in the life-sciences business for nearly 30 years and thus knows his stuff, adds: “There are actually not that many meetings globally that really concentrate that much talents over a short space of time. BioPharm America is a very well-crafted and very well curated conference and you always come away with something good at the end of it, which is why I’m happy to fly across to attend,” he says.
“It’s quite a good melting pot of both US and European companies, there’s quite a few from my neck of the woods there as well. It is not the fact that it’s in the US, it’s the fact that it’s very well done, and it just happens to be in the US.”
Tricoli also points out that the conference is taking place at the perfect time. It is right after the summer break when companies are moving forward with their projects for the second part of the year – there is a greater willingness to cooperate with others and share ideas. “In two days you can easily meet all of the key stakeholders of the biotech and biopharma world,” he says.
The previous attendees report similar experiences when it comes to the question of what they got out of the event. Amongst other points, they list the development of their global and local network, the initiation and follow-up of business relationships and contacts, or the discussion and presentation of their assets.
“We really enjoy the size of the event, the accessibility of the participants and the interesting panel discussions. It gives us the perfect opportunity to meet with our different stakeholders, potential partners, service providers and investors,” concludes Tricoli. “This year, Nanobiotix is participating because we have generated key data in the last 18 months and we want to present them at BioPharm America 2017.”
Although it definitely includes a certain effort to organize a company trip, just ask yourself this: Why put all your eggs in the European basket, when there is another promising basket just across the pond?