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How to Bootstrap Your Idea


Bioentrepreneurship requires persistence and ingenuity. It does not necessarily require a lot of money to conceptualize and sell your idea. Most early-stage companies are bootstrapped.

The process of biomedical and health entrepreneurship involves the pursuit of opportunity with scarce resources with the goal of creating customer-defined value through biomedical and health innovation. It does not necessarily mean creating a company, which is but one way to create and deliver value. Other ways include licensing or selling intellectual property, an “intrapreneur” deploying innovation internally in an organization, building a non-profit as a social enterprise, or leading educational innovators.

There are 5 basic steps in the process:

• Problem seeking

• Problem solving

• Idea assessment, vetting and risk evaluation, and mitigation assessment

• Technical, commercial, and clinical feasibility assessment

• Commercial launch, development, and exit

The risks, time to market, capital requirements, regulatory issues, reimbursement and business models and IP issues will vary depending on whether you are creating a drug, a medical device, a digital health product or service, or a business or clinical process improvement.

Unfortunately, most ideas come to a screeching halt because they either lack funding for early stage technology development or they lack business development expertise. Here are some ways to jumpstart your technology on a shoestring:

1. Raising money is about telling your story to people who are willing and able to give you money, including your early adopter/innovator customers. You will need to develop an elevator pitch, an innovation plan or a business model canvas before building a business plan to communicate your idea. If you don't have the skills to do that, identify and recruit people who might be able to help you. Places to look are industry networking events, business schools and entrepreneurship programs looking for case material for their students, and intellectual property law firms who frequently sponsor commercialization development workshops. In addition, several local, state, and federal agencies sponsor business development seminars and workshops for free. In addition, there are several apps or online sites that can help you collaborate like or

2. Consider partnering with a university colleague. Private entrepreneurs are gun shy about partnering with universities because they see them as an unfriendly, unfamiliar environment that wants to control any intellectual property rights resulting from a collaboration. Things are changing. Technology transfer offices are becoming more user-friendly and flexible. They are increasing eager to develop industry contacts and networks. Contact the director of your local university technology transfer office and see if they are interested in your idea. Partnering with them will provide you access to funding sources like proof-of-concept funds, awards from business plan competitions and SBIR/STTR grants. Several universities have business development enterprises that will connect you to experts and potential funding sources willing to donate their time and expertise.

3. Contact your local angel network or business school offering a business plan competition. High-net-worth individuals who might be interested in your idea are difficult to identify without a finder. For a list of angel networks, go here. In addition, raising money from non-accredited investors is getting easier with the recent passage of new crowdfunding rules. Even if you don't get funding, pitching your idea will give you invaluable experience in reformulating your ideas.

Here are 7 things to put on your bootstrapping to do list and 10 other places to find money:

4. Digital health pitch competitions are another way to not only find money, but partners interested in piloting your technology as well.

Bioentrepreneurship requires persistence and ingenuity. It does not necessarily require a lot of money to conceptualize and sell your idea. Most early-stage companies are bootstrapped. Then again, most companies fail, so walk before you run.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
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