For the budding life science entrepreneur, you want to establish an agreement with the investor that works in the long term. Negotiation of an agreement cannot be avoided, but need not be onerous. As discussed earlier in Part Four of the series, there are several different structure strategies which can be deployed. The actual structure depends on the results of the negotiation. Similarly, Valuing Your Life Science Startup is a component of the negotiation.
Negotiation is not uniquely different for the life scientist in a business framework versus in any other aspect of life. Components to consider include the following:
Power Differential – Who Has The Power?
- Are you desperate for money and can’t proceed without the investor?
- Are you unable to run the company without input from the investor?
- Are you hoping that the investor will help you establish a qualified board?
- Are you hoping the investor will help recommend key team members?
- Alternatively, is everything in place and your project is so compelling that you need little from the investor some cash?
Similar Or Conflicting Personalities
Are you an introvert who does not enjoy playing games with other people and who repels from any aspect of manipulation? In this case, be upfront and tell the investor that the deal is the deal and you’re not interested in wasting a lot of time going back and forth. Highlight to the investor that this deal is not capricious but has been well thought-out, and it is fair in your mind and is a win-win solution for both parties.
If you are more extroverted and enjoy the experience of working with a car salesman to purchase the car at the lowest price, then you have an entirely different strategy. In a sense, you find the negotiation to be the fun part and will feel cheated if you don’t get the best deal. Understand that if your investor is also of a similar bent, this will be a long protracted experience which potentially both of you will enjoy. It could also turn really nasty. If the investor is more introverted, you may have just lost that investor as a partner.
We All Want To Win
With the exception of the above car salesman analogy, almost every negotiation is best done with the assumption that both parties win. Funding a startup is not a zero-sum game. You need adequate monetary support, guidance, autonomy, and motivation in the form of company ownership to successfully launch your business. Your investor needs a certain return on investment, risk profile, and a sense that your startup will add value according to their belief system. In your negotiation, make it clear that you want both the investor and yourself to win. A good investor will understand a win-win scenario. An investor who disagrees should be told to look elsewhere.
Be Aware Of Triangles
Negotiation is almost impossible if it involves more than two people. With every additional person, you increase the number of pairs of negotiation several-fold. With three people there are three times as many negotiation requirements. That includes the entrepreneur negotiating with two investors and the two investors negotiating between themselves. This makes the process substantially more complicated and should be avoided at all costs. Get the investors to agree to have a lead and accept their terms. And only negotiate with the lead. If a non-lead won’t buy into that, dump them before you waste a lot of time.
Negotiation is not something new to you. You have been negotiating for things your entire life and have strategies that work and strategies that do not work. As opposed to the earlier topics, this is familiar territory. Do not change how you negotiate at this critical moment of your life. Choose a strategy that works for you, has a high comfort level, and typically achieves the outcomes you want. If you hate buying from car salespeople, now is not the time to decide you want to become a high-pressure negotiator.