Nature Biotechnology hosted a panel discussion last night about financing biotech companies, focusing on how to foster growth of the industry in places that are outside of the so-called “bioclusters” (cities with lots of companies, universities and investors, like Boston). Entrepreneurs and investors from Europe, Asia and the US talked about their experiences funding and searching for funding.
The take-home message was that it really does pay to be in Boston, the Bay area or other biotech hotspots, no matter how good your technology is. Despite the hype and the high cost of doing business in these places, the audience learned that if you can move to a biocluster like Boston, and you don’t have a really good competitive reason for staying where you are, then move.
Why? Yes, there are lots of smart, experienced people here: scientists, managers, executives. There are plenty of investors here.
But really, it comes down to a matter of perception. Being in Boston, as opposed to being in Kansas City or Lisbon, Portugal, automatically gives you greater credibility with investors. Just like I’m sure it’s the case that an average scientist with a Cambridge address on his/her resume will probably be more desirable to a biotech company than another average scientist with, say, an Indianapolis address.
Not exactly fair in an ideal world, but that’s human nature. We like brand name clothes, shoes, schools, companies and cities. Boston, as I can see from this enormous conference, has huge brand name appeal in biotech.