Following an introduction to a potential investor, your Executive Summary is most likely to be your next form of communication. The goal of this document is to persuade the reader to have a meeting with you and listen to your Pitch. So keep your Executive Summary to a maximum of 2-3 pages of captivating and non-confidential information, and save your lengthy Business Plan until it is requested. Below you will find key points that should be considered in writing your Executive Summary.
Contents of the Executive Summary
In a few sentences, you should be able to give a clear and concise overview of what your company does and why the investor should be interested to learn more. This may be similar to your 30 second elevator pitch that draws the reader in and helps them to identify if it is in their area of interest for investment.
The Problem and Solution
You have identified a problem for which no one else has the answer. Or maybe you can address the problem with a better, faster, or cheaper method. In non-confidential terms, you should be able to describe the solution that your company will deliver and the value that it offers to the customer. While your technology forms the foundation of the solution, remember that the investment is for a business opportunity and not a science project. So do not go overboard in the early stages of describing the technology at the expense of adequately addressing the business opportunity.
As precisely as you can, describe the market that you will target. If there are additional markets and opportunities outside of the one you will be targeting, then feel free to point out the potential, but make sure you have your initially targeted market well defined. For example, you make have a new therapeutic that can treat several types of cancer. But clinical trials are costly and you will initially be focusing on one of these, so be as clear as possible on the one you will be targeting.
Whenever possible, perform a bottom-up analysis of your market with realistic and well grounded adoption rates. While a top-down view of the market serves as a good reality check for the bottom-up analysis, do not just include this top-down view where you have picked some arbitrary percentage that you assume will use your product.
Competition & Differentiation
Now that you have defined your initially targeted market, you need to consider the competition in this space. Do not make the naive mistake of thinking or stating that you have no competition. Typically this means that there is either no market or you do not know the market well enough, neither of which will go over well with a potential investor. In life sciences, what is the current standard of care? What therapeutics or diagnostics are currently in clinical trials that may beat you to the market? What differentiates you from the rest of the companies competing against you for market share? How is the market fragmented and who are the big players? You should have a clear handle on all of these issues before moving forward.
The percentage of ownership resulting from an investment is proportionate to the level or risk associated with your business. The closer you are to a commercial product the less risky, and therefore more valuable, your business will be. If you are early stage, include your scientific proof of concept. If you have begun or are preparing for human clinical trials, be sure to showcase your progress and the stage of your company. Minimizing risk is key, so if there are alternative applications with your technology then you should demonstrate your capabilities. External validation by paying customers, partnerships, or co-development is a great sign for your product and company.
Defensibility and sustainability are extremely important, and in the life sciences this is typically accomplished through your Intellectual Property (IP). You should address the status of IP owned by or licensed to the company, including the exclusivity of the license. One question that may not be important to include in the Executive Summary, but will certainly arise in the process of the Pitch or subsequent due diligence, is your Freedom to Operate. Having a patent does not mean that you can practice the invention without infringing on an issued patent, so for the sake of your business and investors, you should discuss this with your legal counsel.
Regulatory & Reimbursement
The regulatory and reimbursement process is lengthy and costly. When appropriate, your Executive Summary should include a plan with a clear path to clinical approval and payment. If you are developing a therapeutic, have you identified the clinics that treat enough patients to enroll and complete a clinical trial? As a medical device company, have you considered going through the CE process in Europe prior to FDA clinical trials in the US? Once your device is approved, are there existing reimbursement codes that can be used, or are you actively working on a reimbursement plan? Will your product or solution be only marginally better than the competition and make reimbursement nearly impossible? Alleviate the concerns of your potential investor by demonstrating that you are an expert in the field and know what needs to be done to get through these value adding milestones.
Many investors care more about the team than any other aspect of the business. You need to convince the investor that not only is the business opportunity outstanding, but you have the best possible team to execute the business plan and achieve the next value added milestone. Briefly list prior accomplishments that will alleviate the investor's concerns over your ability to add significant value to the company with the capital they are investing. If your team is incomplete, work with the investor to identify key hires that you envision with this round of financing.
You think that you have a great idea, but who else believes you. Renowned experts in the field will not only give insightful advice to keep your business on the path to success, but they will also be seen as validation of you and your technology. Be sure to retain and leverage the best advisors possible for the stage and type of technology you are developing.
To ensure that you are reasonably budgeting time and money to get to the next value added milestone, there are several questions that should be considered. Depending on stage of your company, you may include:
- capital you have received through grants and prior investments, partnerships, or collaborations
- current and future expected burn rate with any new capital
- anticipated financial requirements to get to next value added milestone
- milestones at which time you will need to raise additional capital
- money and time projected to break even or an anticipated exit through merger, acquisition, or IPO
You have described the present stage and future plans for your company. Now it is time to specifically ask for the capital you need to get to the next value added milestone and indicate what you are offering in return for the investment. Be sure to tie the financial ask back to the specific use of proceeds from this round, and specify whether you intend for the investor to receive a Convertible Note, Preferred Stock, etc. Also keep in mind that investors have preferred investment sizes. Do your homework on potential investors to determine if you are targeting the right person or firm. Approaching a Venture Capital firm with a billion dollar fund that usually invests in late stage companies will not make an investment in your early stage venture.
Exit Strategy & Opportunities
An investor will be interested in getting significant returns on their investment through a positive exit event within several years. Here, you should show that you are cognizant of this endgame, and ideally give examples of mergers, acquisitions, or IPOs for comparable companies that have taken place in your sector in recent years. Consider the total amount of money you plan on raising over the lifetime of the company and how this equates to return on investment multiples for you and your investors.
Get an Intro - Get an introduction to your targeted investor from someone that knows you and the investor well. Do not just blindly send out your Executive Summary with the expectation that you will ever hear back from anyone - chances are you will not.
Layout - Consider including a deal 'snapshot' with the team and investment opportunity in a small column on the side of the page. An example layout is available from Angelsoft.
Length - Remember that the goal of the Executive Summary is to persuade the reader to have a meeting with you and listen to your Pitch. So keep your Executive Summary to a maximum of 2-3 pages of captivating and non-confidential information.
Scientific clarity - You are pitching a business opportunity, not a science project. Do not overwhelm the reader with technical jargon that only an expert in the field would understand. If you can not explain it to your mom then your description is likely to be viewed as too technical.
Appropriateness & Fit - Do your homework on the people you are reaching out to with your Executive Summary. Do they have a history of funding companies like yours? If not you might be wasting everyone's time.
Non-confidentiality - Keep the document top level and non-confidential. You should not expect anyone to sign a CDA, nor should they expect you to divulge anything confidential at this early stage.
Contact info - Hopefully your Executive Summary leads to a meeting where you can further discuss the business opportunity. Do not forget to include your contact information, and make this look as professional as possible (i.e., use your email address with your company website).
The following resources are available to help you in the early stages of developing your business, contacting the right potential investors, and raising money: