20 Jul Six Wisconsin firms to present at BIO Mid-America VentureForum
Madison, Wis. – At least six Wisconsin biotech companies will present at an upcoming venture capital forum – an event that may be another signal of the rising influence of regional gatherings over individual state forums.
The Wisconsin companies will travel to Minneapolis for the Sept. 21-23 BIO Mid-America VentureForum, sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Companies will present business plans and technology developments to venture capital firms and other investors.
Daniel Broderick, managing director of Mason Wells and an advisory board member for the VentureForum, said the event is designed to connect biotech companies with investors and each other. There will also be a collection of “third-party” attendees such as attorneys and consultants, so companies will have a chance to recruit and share advice.
Companies were selected for the competition through the advisory board, which reviewed executive summaries and business plans submitted by dozens of prospective companies. Currently, 35 Midwest companies are involved in the event, though Broderick said the organization is “gunning for 50 slots” after the next round of evaluations.
The VentureForum, now in its third year, was created in an effort to bring high-profile investors to the Midwest. Realizing that state events were drawing barely a dozen venture capitalists, biotech associations from Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and others began meeting with BIO representatives to put together a more attractive climate.
“The whole idea was to form a critical mass in the Midwest to get companies to come, [and] actually give our companies a better opportunity to present,” said Jim Leonhart, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association. “The venture world is telling us `you guys need to organize’.”
Regional conferences such as VentureForum are more effective for attracting investors than state conferences, Broderick said, because they offer a bigger picture for them to look at. While most state events will barely draw 10 investors, the VentureForum is expected to draw between 40 and 60 venture capital firms from the whole country.
“In two days in Minneapolis, I can get exposed to 60 companies, and I can spend two days in any state and be exposed to 12 companies,” Broderick said. “Which one am I going to choose?”
That choice is apparent to many companies, as well. Sal Braico, chief operating officer of the antibiotic resistance research company ConjuGon, said ConjuGon typically attends four to five conferences such as BIO each year and always selects regional and national events.
“At the last Wisconsin venture capital conference there were only VCs located in Wisconsin,” Braico said. “I didn’t see any from out of state, so it didn’t make much sense for us to present there.”
Because of its Minneapolis location, this year’s forum so far has a greater number of Minnesota firms lined up. But Broderick said the final group would be more balanced. Prior to Minnesota the forum was held in Illinois and Missouri, and Wisconsin plans to bid to host in 2007 after next year in Ohio.
Wisconsin is recognizing the power these events have in creating new partnerships. Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, said that the WTC will engineer its venture conference in October as a “Wisconsin Early-Stage Symposium,” preparing more early stage companies to attend conferences on the scale of the VentureForum.
Still said that he doesn’t see the two conferences overlapping and, in fact, that the symposium is being engineered as a complementary event. “We see our conferences trying to prepare companies that are at an earlier stage for these kinds of conferences, so they can be plugged into national and regional funding,” Still said.
“We realize we need to something on a regional basis to give attention to Wisconsin,” Leonhart said. “We’re better off assisting companies to get to places where the venture capitalists are.”
Other than ConjuGon, Wisconsin companies chosen in the first round of BIO evaluations are NeoClone, a producer of monoclonal antibodies; clinical diagnostics and life sciences researcher EraGen; biopharmaceutical manufacturer Mirus Bio; Renovar, a manufacturer of organ transplant drugs and GeriGene, a researcher of aging medications. All companies are headquartered in Madison except GeriGene, which is in Elkhart Lake.