Sicktech is the interface of biomedical and clinical sick care entrepreneurs (sickcare professionals or otherwise) with investors and other stakeholders.
The number of sicktech conferences has exploded in biopharma, medical device, digital health and care delivery, among others, so, given the limited time and money available to startup and scaleup sickcare entrepreneurs, they have to make choices about which to attend. Like many dating services, the result is more about the quality of the participants and their motivations than the number of attendees.
I've attended and participated in many of these conferences in different roles and I can tell you that going to a Biopharma-Investor conference is much different than pitching your latest digital health gizmo at a startup pitchfest or demo day.
Sickcare conferencitis is part of the sick care innovation bubble problem.
Here are some tips that might help you decide how to get the biggest bang for your startup sicktech meeting buck:
Define your objectives in attending the meeting. Is your pimary purpose to network with others and learn, or is it more specific, like connecting to investors who are actually willing and able to invest in your product, find people who can help you accomplish your next critical success factor, like getting regulatory approval, or connecting to sick care system partners who can pilot or help deploy your product, or other strategic partners who can help with distribution channels or securing a spot in an accelerator or scalerator?
Ninety percent of hospital and health system executives surveyed indicated that new revenue streams were an urgent priority expected to yield a return in the next three years, a new study from Boston-based Partners HealthCare and healthcare private equity firm Fitzroy Health found. Every participant acknowledged the need to diversify revenue and you might connect to potential partners at a sicktech conference.
- If you plan to attend a conference primarily billed as an investor conference, ask the organizers to give you the names of the investors and their companies that will be attending. Do your homework before attending the conference to see whether there is a good fit.
- See whether the revenue model (pay to pitch) or the price (too much for a startup entrepreneur) passed the smell test and whether the location justifies the travel expense.
- Contact others who have attended the conference in the past who had the same objectives you did and find out whether they would recommend it to you. What is the net promoter score for the conference? (HINT: It is unlikely the conference organizer will be able to provide you with that number. Instead you are likely to be referred to the website with glowing testimonials.)
- While you might not meet the date of your dreams, you might make connections with people who can, in fact, help you find others who can.
- Decide whether you want to attend "collision conferences" where multiple industries or verticals are present, or whether you just want to hang out with people who are in the same industry as you. The hazard of doing the latter is you run the risk of being at a place where the blind are leading the blind, where you don't learn about people in other industries are solving a problem similar to yours, and you preclude seeing around corners and how technologies are crashing together, like data and biotech or medtech/techmed.
- Figure out the percentage of attendees who are likely to be sick care practioners, investors, entrepreneurs, technologies or those from sickcare delivery systems.
- Review the content, structure and organization of the conference. Is it mostly panels discussing things that are not immediately relevant to you? Are there breakout sessions to teach you tips on techniques? What is the star power of the keynoters and their approachability?
- Can you make apppointments with people you can target to meet on an app before the conference or, instead, will find yourself in one big Meetup?
- Check the vendors list and the kinds of products and services they offer and the prices they are likely to charge as a measure of who they think is likely to be in the audience.
The most valuable asset an entrepreneur has is his or her time. Do your homework and don't waste your time and money at a conference that does not do the job you want it do for you at your stage of company or professional development. There are plenty of free meetups at home.
Arlen Meyers,MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs on Twitter@ArlenMD.
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