lunedì 27 febbraio 2012
La politica dell'evidenza, e quella della magia (o del "voglio")
Stuck between evidence and policyFebruary 2012
Politicians speak of small business as a source of job growth, but they must not be, including the many small life-science businesses with which I engage here in the Midwest. The inputs are often university technologies, and funding is tough beyond friends, family, angels and SBIR/STTR grants. Even the proliferating business plan competitions can put a few beans in the pot. The bugs in this system are many.
Universities have been using a playbook based on fear of losing on one of those very rare big wins. Don’t pass the ball for fear of either a touchdown, incompletion or an interception. The safer bet is to stay in the huddle as the game clock runs out. Time and money is lost in the analysis process and the expectation of reimbursement of IP expenses early on. Small angel funds then treat a $200,000 investment as if it were $200 million. That makes sense to them. Capital is a scarce commodity in a recession, and these funds are tiny.
There are few venture funds left for life-science startups. Those that remain focus on later-stage deals such as driving sales after U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval or funding projects that larger firms spin out, de-risked somewhat after the preclinical work is done.
The good news is that many are aware of this problem and explore new, more open approaches. Perhaps the desire for blockbuster entrepreneurship can pass to a more personalized version that is less bureaucratic, more about doing and then failing fast with grace. Today, we are seeing more corporate partnerships funding projects at small firms as large organizations have become less egotistical and isolationist.
Drug discovery happened for decades in smaller firms, but lately, that has been accelerating. This impacts the instrument industry (more auction sites as small firms fail) and the contract research organization industry (smaller projects with fewer molecules spread over more fragile clients). The impact on careers as the pace of creative destruction accelerates is a change we do not like. It is more important than ever to locate in a dynamic life-science cluster where an ecosystem of small and large firms, management talent and capital sources all co-exist.
I’ve made foolish investments (in retrospect) and suffered the consequences. Moving from the 1 percent back to the 99 percent is not fun, but I own my decisions. What I like even less is government making foolish investments with my money and yours. There is never an apology.