Last year was a record 12 months for venture-backed biotech and pharma companies, with deal activity rising to $28.5 billion from $17.8 billion in 2019. As vaccines roll out, drug development pipelines return to normal, and next-generation therapies continue to hold investor interest, 2021 is on pace to be another blockbuster year.
The median step up in valuations from seed to Series A is now 2x, higher than in all later rounds. As a result, biotech startups will continue to attract more investment at earlier stages from a larger, more diverse pool of venture capitalists.
This may also change the nature of biotech founders themselves: As a blog post from Y Combinator suggests, these founders are trending younger and perhaps less willing to cede control to VCs and hired executives than they might have in years past (i.e., via the “venture creation” model so predominant among early-stage biotech companies).
Founders are some of the most creative people out there, but legal documentation should be anything but.
As longtime members of the biotech startup community — as executives, entrepreneurs, advisors and legal counsel — we’ve seen our fair share of founder missteps early in the fundraising journey result in severe consequences.
In this exciting moment, when younger founders will likely receive more attention, capital and control than ever, it’s crucial to avoid certain pitfalls.
Clarity trumps creativity
Founders are some of the most creative people out there, but legal documentation should be anything but. Keep it as simple and clear as possible. That means using National Venture Capital Corporation documents that everyone knows and understands, as well as keeping organized documentation for employee intellectual property (IP) assignment and NDAs, option grants, independent contractor agreements, tax documents and other key contracts and paperwork.