For the first 30 years of my career, I was a corporate guy. I held a number of senior global business management roles in leading life sciences companies. I had my hands in everything at one time or another: imaging, instrumentation, consumables, reagents, informatics, services. I often carried the flag for growth initiatives, convincing teams “Let’s go, we can do this.”
I was also deeply involved in innovation. This included re-configuring product lines into market platforms, growing mature technologies in emerging markets and driving new businesses from inception to a growth trajectory. Others were rising stars but often they were too small to move the overall growth needle or the corporation didn’t have the resources to commit to a full commercialization effort.
We also drove M&A activities to acquire innovation, especially if it extended the life or capabilities of an existing business. I learned a lot of tough lessons about selecting and valuing the right companies to acquire. Some turned out really well, and others unfortunately had skeletons hidden in the closet.
So where am I going with this? First, early in 2020 I left the corporate track for something entirely new, but at the same time, a perfect application of my skill set. I am now the managing director of Boomerang Venture Studio in Indianapolis, a venture studio dedicated solely on identifying, launching and growing companies and technologies in the life sciences and healthcare sectors. What makes this role even more interesting is this:
I now have the means to realize all those great ideas and innovations that sit in the minds and on the shelves of life sciences corporations and turn them into growth engines.
Talking Innovation Is Easy, Delivering More Difficult
In the corporate world, we spent a lot of time focusing on how to move the growth needle, a strategic imperative. We set aside untouchable expense and resources to focus on innovation. No incremental funding was available, so we funded it by limiting incremental product development and improving resource allocation and management. We innovated, but they were mostly better solutions to known problems using known technologies, because that is what our teams understood.
Some of the best ideas remained on white boards while research prototypes sat on the shelf, either because there was no spare funding or because the solution required a different go-to-market model that we didn’t have the time to understand. We also contended with the usual day-to-day headwinds such as using our best talent to overcome technology obsolescence or overcome supply chain issues impacting product shipments.
We acquired companies but often the ones we really wanted were not available or too expensive or someone else acquired them. The ones we did acquire supercharged our core but we didn’t realize the true breakthrough we sought.
Meanwhile disruptive startups and overseas competitors were chasing our business. Being “nibbled to death by ducks” was the favored phrase of one senior executive.
Our corporate parent was similarly frustrated with the lack of true innovation and promoted inter-divisional collaborations with incremental funding for the top collaborative ideas. Crowd sourcing and open innovation were contemplated, but that, too, was never fully realized.
Some very large healthcare multinationals were ahead of us in their thinking and had established internal venture funds and corporate venture studios. Some partnered with external venture studios to tap into a wider network of innovation opportunities. These initiatives are time consuming to initiate, costly and difficult to maintain focus when facing competing pressures from a core business. So only a select few were able to afford it, Until now.
Venture Studio Driven Innovation for Every Corporation
Fast forward to early 2020 when I teamed up with well-regarded investors and entrepreneurs to create Boomerang Venture Studio, an outsourced venture studio service for life sciences corporations and first-time founders. What attracted me were the people but also the model:
“The venture studio model is a new model for entrepreneurship that combines company formation and building with venture funding to compress time, iterate more quickly, scale faster and with the ultimate goal of exit and exponential return on investment.“Martin Long, Managing Director, Boomerang Venture Studio
Boomerang Venture Studio focuses exclusively on life sciences and provides full-service outsourced studio capabilities to public and private companies eager to break through the barriers outlined above and bring internally developed ideas and innovation to market.
Here is some music for your ears. Not only is Boomerang Venture Studio a place to ideate and build new businesses, it’s also a source of funding and other resources critical to driving innovations to market. Studio services are configurable to the needs of each client and can also integrate with a corporation’s existing innovation and R&D capabilities.
I really wish I had this model available to me when trying to commercialize internal innovation while at the same time battling the 2007-2009 recession!
The Life Sciences Outsourced Venture Studio – de-risked opportunities and clear runways
So why is an outsourced venture studio a compelling opportunity for corporate life sciences innovations?
For starters, de-risking and launching new businesses is what we do 24/7. There are no legacy products, markets to shore up or earnings calls to divert our attention. We have a clear runway to be 100 percent focused on what we do best.
Boomerang Venture Studio applies design thinking principles to corporate innovations, calling on an extended brain trust to fully vet and exploit the potential of each innovation. The process includes a detailed assessment and recommendation to develop early prototypes and define an optimal go-to-market model. (Or not if the de-risking process does not show a reasonable path to success.) Based on these findings, corporations can do one of three things:
- Return the best-of-the-best innovations to their core R&D process, assuming all responsibility for commercializing the innovation.
- Engage Boomerang Venture Studio in a co-creation agreement to bring the innovation to market. In a co-creation agreement, the corporation has the option to embed emerging talent into the new business as part of its talent development and retention initiatives.
- Empower the Studio with full responsibility to bring the innovation to market, adopting an arms-length relationship and taking an equity stake in the new enterprise’s success.
One advantage of engaging with our Studio is our ability to allocate investment capital and equally important, time, to develop the innovation. Capital is made available from our venture fund, trusted institutional investors or both. In return, we take a share of downstream success. Equity and return to the corporation and the Studio is defined by several factors such as intellectual property value, cash committed, and historical and future effort. This sharing of risk and reward is attractive to many companies, the make-up of which is specific to each engagement.
Another advantage? Boomerang Venture Studio’s network. Our team is deeply connected in life sciences, business and investment circles. Some companies realize they don’t have all the answers or all the connections they need and the ability to leverage the Studio’s network to scout new ideas or make people aware of their potential market disruption is a significant value-add. Getting visibility to the best ideas is often half the battle on the difficult road to success!
And, it goes without saying that speed is essential when markets are changing, new competitors are emerging or life throws a major curve ball as we’ve seen with the global pandemic. Here again the Studio concept excels as we’re focused exclusively on getting de-risked innovations to market, adjusting course as needed and not distracted by the demands of running a complex corporation.
Having spent most of my career working in large corporations and knowing too well the struggles of the innovation process, I wish we’d had access to a resource like Boomerang Venture Studio. In my short time with my new team, it’s been eye opening to experience the passion, collaboration, and vibe of communities I didn’t even know existed.
The Extra Dimension of an Outsourced Venture Studio
Creating an outsourced innovation and commercialization relationship with Boomerang Venture Studio adds an extra, powerful dimension to a corporation’s innovation efforts. Our solution is plug-and-play, ready and easy to deploy, and optimized for life science companies anxious to innovate, delight customers and really move the needle on growth. As a former corporate life sciences guy who understands your world, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this exciting new world with you and explore opportunities. Let’s connect and take it from there.