Yes, I said rad. Because I am a child of the 80s, and because it is the correct word to use.
Last week we talked about Stakeholder Ecosystem Discovery, and some of the elements that hold founders back from conducting the robust, methodical investigation required in each stakeholder category. No doubt, it's time consuming, often frustrating and exhausting work, and like that toilet flapper that you keep meaning to replace, gets persistently put off in favor of what seem like more pressing needs, like forwarding a Very Important funny cat video to your BFFs. That said, Stakeholder Ecosystem Discovery really is prerequisite to a successful development program so, like seeing the water bill after another month of not replacing the flapper, let's see here are a few reasons Stakeholder Ecosystem Discovery is rad, to get you motivated.
1) Wow VCs with with a data-driven pitches
No, I'm not talking about scientific data. Or even market data. I'm talking about the data you have gathered during your Stakeholder Ecosystem Discovery process. Inevitably, you will be challenged on your development plans, your go to market strategy, and more. To be able to respond to these questions with data gleaned from real conversations with numerous relevant Stakeholders rather than assumptions or the opinions of the few other wackos you can find who like your idea is pure gold. It shows that you really have done your homework, have developed the skillset required to continue to deepen your Stakeholder knowledge, that you know how to challenge your own assumptions, and often, challenge theirs as well.
2) Rational development of your clinical trials
By understanding the endpoints important to each Stakeholder, you can bake key data into your clinical trial protocol that you might not otherwise have thought to consider. Several dozen hours of discovery work on the front end can save you years, and tens or hundreds of millions on the back end.
3) Better R&D planning
It's not enough that your product perform from a scientific and medical perspective. Other key factors of design must be considered long before you start laying out precious time and money for preclinical and lord help us clinical trials. For example, you may be stunned to find out that people actually would rather suffer from a chronic disease than have to go to a hospital and get infusions. Or they may not even have access to the right facilities - think, rural areas, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged. If there is any planet on which your product can be reformulated to an oral medication, you may have just saved yourself real angst down the road. If not, you may have just figured out how to save $100M+ - by not pursuing a product that will never be widely adopted.
4) Develop a skillset that keeps you agile for the rest of your life
No seriously, for the rest of your life. Once you know how to collect Stakeholder data quickly, you can deploy your new skill again and again as you develop new products, pivot existing ones due to unfavorable market conditions or scientific results, start new companies, or plan a menu for a large party. In the words of cycling great Greg LeMond (paraphrased with only a teensy bit of editorial license), Stakeholder Ecosystem Discovery never gets easier, you just get faster. But fast is good in the land where time is money.
Here's another reason not to be afraid of the process: You already know how to do it! Chances are, if you're involved in the life science industry, you have at least some degree STEM training (if not 371825469 years of it). This means that you are well-versed in the concept of hypothesis testing. Next week we'll dive into the "how" of Stakeholder Ecosystem Discovery, and how to use the skills that you already know (as well as build some new ones) to jump into the deep end of the pool.