With our colleagues at NASDAQ, we recently co-hosted an informational luncheon for private-company CEOs and CFOs on the IPO process. Guest speakers included a life science venture capital investor and a CFO of a company that went public in 2016.
The management teams in the audience for the well-attended event had plenty of questions for our guests, on everything from how to prepare for an IPO to avoiding pitfalls to making the transition to being a public company.
Our speakers had much to say. Below are a few of their most important pieces of advice:
While the window for IPOs has been closed for most of this year, there have been signs of hope recently, with several transactions being priced. However, some bankers we speak to think it may not be until early 2017 that the overall market for life sciences companies really comes back.
Although disappointing for management teams that are trying to responsibly conserve their cash until better days, we think the wait could actually be a good thing for many companies. The extra time allows you to better polish your story and message, and build critical new relationships with potential investors. We think the remainder of 2016 is a pivotal time to be busily prepping ahead of a potential upturn in the market.
Over the last 20 years, I have listened to hundreds of earnings calls. As a sell-side analyst, they were a routine and not-much-fun part of the job. Four times a year, you lock yourself in your office and listen to call after call of management teams highlighting their achievements or trying to sugar coat the not-so-positive news.
Most of the calls were pretty standard, and came off as well thought-out and comprehensive. But every so often you would hear that call where the sell-side analysts are unforgiving in their questions and the tone is so negative you almost feel badly for the management team. In my role here at Westwicke Partners, I’ve learned what really goes on behind the scenes to make those effective earnings calls appear effortless: a lot of hard work and practice starting about a month ahead of time. Who would have ever thought?
I recently was able to sit in on a “banker bake-off.” It was very interesting to sit on the side of the table with the management team and hear how the various banks “pitch” their strengths. It didn’t take long to identify how each bank brings something unique to the table.
One bank talked about its relationships with the buy-side accounts while another bank highlighted its research analysts’ expertise in the company’s therapeutic space, and yet a third bank spoke highly of its track record for successfully getting private companies public.
Often in meetings, investors will ask a CEO or CFO about a competitive product. Doesn’t the other drug work faster? Aren’t there fewer side effects? Isn’t it cheaper? I hear those questions all the time during road show presentations and meetings. Usually management’s first response is to take a defensive position. While they may not totally “bash” another product, they seem to quickly start listing all of the negative attributes.
That’s not the right approach. Instead, when asked to compare your drug, product, or service to the competition, you should do two things: First, know why the question is being asked. Then turn a negative question into a positive response. Let me walk you through my thinking and how the positioning can actually be shifted in your favor.
It’s hard to believe I have already been working at Westwicke Partners for 90 days. After a long career as a sell-side equity analyst, the last three months have truly given me a new perspective on how I view company management teams vs. how the Street views them.
For 25 years, I was paid to poke holes in stories — and believe me, in many cases it was easy to do and I would ask myself, Why can’t this management team just get it right? Now, looking from the inside out, I can more clearly see some of the reasons.