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10/10 Founder Series — Part 8: Advisory Board Building

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Alix Ventures: Supporting Early Stage Life Science Startups Engineering Biology to Drive Radical Advances in Human Health

Calling All Innovators Click to Reach Out 🚀

We are honored to feature Founders at:

Teiko Bio, 54 Gene, SwiftScale Bio, ProteinQure, STRM.BIO, Strand Therapeutics, Concerto Biosciences, Phenomic, Resistance Bio, & Travera

We asked our guests:

“What should founders keep in mind when building out their advisory boards / how should they approach this?”

“You should be clear in your mind about what value the advisor can provide for the company (insight into deal structuring, market terms, etc), and vice versa, what value does the advisor get from spending their valuable time (i.e. exposure to new science, meeting new collaborators, etc)? Get people who, if you were paying your own money, you would be happy to pay. Big brand names are nice, but if they don’t provide value for the company, it might not be worth it”

Ramji Sriniviasan — Co-Founder & CEO @ Teiko Bio

“Advisory board members can serve many purposes. Use them to complement your expertise, gain advice from experience, constructively challenge, fill blind spots, and promote your company.”

Michael Jewett — Professor @ Northwestern, Co-Founder @ SwiftScale Bio, Pearl Bio, Design Pharma, amongst others

“There are advisors for reputation and advisors who actually dig in. Both can be useful, but I would much prefer someone who is actually going to provide tangible help (intros, advice, hiring connections). That often means getting advisors with less prestigious CVs. But I think those people are underrated. A famous name, may help with hiring or partnering intros but they are much less valuable for improving your science and fundraising (assuming they aren’t actually committing non-trivial amounts of time). I also think for early stage companies its better to have advisors you meet 1–1, rather than advisory board meetings. Unless you are superfocused in your technology and application of it.”

Lucas Siow — Co-Founder & CEO @ ProteinQure

“Start working with your advisors before formally structuring them into your team. It will be very obvious who is creating value. Be honest with them and move mountains to get more of their time.“

Jonathan Thon — Founder & CEO @ STRM.BIO

“What is the point of this person and their expertise? I see a lot of companies who try to list the highest profile names as their “advisors” who are barely involved. Investors will find that pretty quick, and it will actually have the opposite effect than intended.”

Jake Becraft — Co-Founder & CEO @ Strand Therapeutics

“As much as possible, try before you buy. And try a LOT before you buy. We talked with >40 potential scientific advisory board members before selecting our first 2 SAB members. Develop a “job description” of sorts, and know what you’re trying to find. Then test that through real-world interactions (actual problems you’re facing, actual data you’re interpreting). Only sign when you’re ready.”

Cheri Ackerman — Co-Founder & CEO @ Concerto Biosciences

“I got lucky and teamed up with a biotech veteran (Mike), he basically built the SAB with masterful skill and a network built up over decades of existence. I think as a young founder tons of hustle to create luck and then hope for the best, similar to fundraising. Key to, at least, being on the same page great advisors when you finally do get a meeting is to do your homework — read their papers, know the field, ask good questions — figure out what they question they have outstanding / you could perhaps help answer with your work / company. Also what I’ve learnt from Mike is that building a network of scientific advisors / KOLs / SAB is just the start. Keeping them up to speed, such that they can tell you honestly if your program’s a pile of something nasty is a whole different ball game.”

Sam Cooper — Co-Founder & CEO @ Phenomic

“I’m a recovering academic and I need to remind myself that there should be a defined reason for bringing an advisor on. Either they can help build the clinical trials, validate the technology, or provide access to markets predicated on relationships. Ultimately, I should be cultivating that advisor’s expertise internally. So, bringing on an advisor should reflect the direction the company is heading.”

Nick Goldner — Co-Founder & CEO @ Resistance Bio

“Understand if you are building an advisory board or a credibility board. If you are attracting industry luminaries to give your company credibility, be very careful about taking their advice. They are probably looking five years over the horizon, and their advice might not align with your startup business needs for a very long time. If you are building an advisory board whose advice you want, find people who are in the trenches and can give you current and realistic advice. But then you need to be OK with the fact they are probably not well known and will not lend you much credibility. Be clear in your own mind what you want. Getting both good advice and credibility from an advisory board is really difficult.”

Clifford Reid — Co-Founder & CEO @ Travera

“ A few advisors who have done the exact thing you need to do is more important than many generic advisors.”

David Mace — Co-Founder & CEO @ SwiftScale Biologics

“The needs of companies change at each stage and it’s hard to find members at the beginning of the journey that can be true advisors throughout the lifecycle of the company. Oftentimes when founders are starting a new company, the focus of the advisory board is on names and reputation (which is what is needed). But that changes later on to include the needs of the company.”

Abasi Ene-Obong — Co-Founder & CEO @ 54gene

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Alix Ventures, by way of BIOS Community, is providing this content for general information purposes only. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Alix Ventures, BIOS Community, or its affiliates. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by Alix Ventures employees are those of the employees and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alix Ventures, BIOS Community, affiliates, and content sponsors.

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