De smeerolie voor Leidse biotech startups | De koers van het Bio Science Park
“You can see that they are growing, many of our startups have raised financing and found customers.” – Stéfan Ellenbroek, Director of unlock_
Starting a business in biotech is difficult. Before you can make money with such a business, you are often years and many rounds of investment later. It works very differently than in other sectors, how do you tackle it? With the new incubator unlock_, the park wants to help its startups on their way.
“Look over there on the left, that little table?”, Stéfan Ellenbroek bends over conspiratorially, then whispers, “That’s a startup of ours. Those guys are talking to an investor right now. And behind them is another group, do you see them? They’re talking to a grantmaker. And that woman at that group back there? She’s a banker.”
It’s a sunny November afternoon, but at De Keet, the restaurant of Biopartner 5, few young biotech entrepreneurs are paying attention. Today is their chance to secure funding. Ellenbroek: “This afternoon is called ‘Show me the money’, with which we bring startups into contact with potential financiers. In this way we hope to ensure that the Leiden Bio Science Park continues to grow significantly in the future.” Ellenbroek himself is not the organizer of Show me the money, but it is certainly no coincidence that, as program director of the new Leiden biotech incubator unlock_, he is present today. “Many companies you see here today have a place in our incubator. They started the program in March this year, we guide them for a year to help them grow. That, of course, includes funding.”
Show me the money
An “incubator”-the Dutch translation of the word means “incubator”-helps fledgling companies take their first shaky steps in the world. Until last year, Leiden didn’t have one for startups in biotech, Ellenbroek explains: “Many of the facilities that startups need were already available at Leiden Bio Science Park. Biopartner and PLNT at the Langegracht, for example, offer accommodation and ‘Show me the money’ has also existed for years. But we noticed that we often received the same questions from startups; after all, every young company encounters similar problems during its growth. That’s when we started thinking, couldn’t we approach this in a smarter way? That became unlock_.”
In the program of unlock_, Leiden biotech startups learn entrepreneurship in a structured way. Ellenbroek: “We use the ‘Healthcare Innovation Cycle’, a system developed at Harvard University that provides a tight rhythm in which you can grow healthily as a biotech company. Our startups first go through PLNT’s ‘venture academy‘. This is a three-month entrepreneurial course to which we have added life science-specific components. So they not only learn entrepreneurial skills like defining a product or accounting but also, for example, what the reimbursement system in healthcare looks like or how to make a biotech startup investable.”