Made with Biology Funding Napkin 2023

Nucleus Capital
3 min readMar 21, 2023

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What does it take to raise capital for Synthetic Biology companies in 2023?

Biology has increasingly become an engineering discipline and with the convergence of biology and software a new class of high impact companies has harnessed compounding attention over recent years. Consequently, Venture Capital funding for this new breed of companies increased 7-fold from 2016 to 2020.

The Boston Consulting Group estimates that: “By the end of the decade, particularly Synthetic Biology could be used extensively in manufacturing industries that account for more than a third of global output — a shade under $30 trillion in terms of value.”

Driving forces behind this meta trend are moore-law-like drops in the cost of underlying technologies and a strong market-pull for sustainable solutions, partly driven by consumer sentiment and regulatory pressure in the context of climate change.

At Nucleus our goal is to become an integral part of the early stage funding landscape and a strong ally to scientific entrepreneurs operating this new breed of companies in Europe and the US.

With the aim of providing guidance to entrepreneurs and fellow investors, we’ve compiled a set of key milestones to hit from Pre-Seed to Series A, essentially answering the question:

What does it take to raise capital for Synthetic Biology companies in 2023?

Before we dive in, we’d like to thank Point Nine for the inspiration and the original idea! We hope you don’t mind that we’re building on your concept.

Given the drastic change in the fundraising environment from 2020/21 to today, it was particularly tricky to generalize. Our observations are based on CRM data from 167 funding rounds in Europe and the US in 2022, triangulated with external sources. While Pre-Seed and Seed rounds remained relatively robust, Series A valuations took an average 20% hit compared to 2021. It is important to note that the general sentiment for IP-driven “green technologies” has remained positive and funding rounds are still happening. While we believe the data is directionally correct, our sample size represents only a fraction of the total funding that the sector received, hence you need to take our analysis with a pinch of salt.

What’s probably more relevant than round sizes and valuation data, are the qualitative milestones which we believe provide a good framework on where startups need to be on the ladder of proof to unlock the next stage of funding:

Diving deeper into what’s particularly important in 2023:

While valuations might not have corrected as much as expected, the bar for getting funded has certainly shifted upwards:

Pre-Seed:

  • A good idea of key cost drivers for your techno economic model and how they might change over time and at scale. Understanding the sensitivities is key.
  • A clear idea on how you’re planning to make money and what your margins could be.
  • Lastly, it’s essential that your business model allows for true scalability and avoids becoming an agency-type business.

Seed:

  • With increasing competition in nearly all bio-enabled product categories, it is vital for founders to deeply understand the competitive IP landscape & respective white spaces.
  • More than 2 Joint Development Agreements with early customers proving willingness to pay. LOIs are heavily discounted these days!

Series A:

  • The importance of having a clear plan on how to scale CAPEX off balance sheet is essential, e.g. through CDMO partnerships or project finance or asset-backed finance.
  • At this stage having first customer off-take agreements signed and early revenues booked is paramount and will make the difference between a top quartile Series A and the rest.
  • Bioprocessing scale-up and Capex financing experience within the core team required.

As you can see, investors require entrepreneurs to be even more resourceful in the current climate. However, several Nucleus portfolio companies achieved the above milestones at their respective stages and hence we know it is possible to do so in an 18–24 months time frame between rounds.

We hope that our “Made with Biology Napkin” sheds light on investors expectations and clarity on what it takes to raise funds in 2023. Since this is our first-ever attempt at a Napkin (admittedly, the visuals of a real Napkin are not quite there yet!), we look forward to receiving feedback from the Snybio community and thank our entrepreneurial scientists for their feedback and reference points!

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Nucleus Capital

Backing inevitable companies in Synbio / Food / Decarbonization at the earliest stage. Read more at: https://www.nucleus-capital.com