A common mistake startups make when appealing to investors is not understanding what they want to know. New companies often approach the funder assuming that he will automatically see the potential of the company’s product and welcome it as a worthwhile investment. While this problem exists in all professions, it is especially true in the fields of science and technology, says Shalini Cornelio, a business consultant with a background in biological sciences.
Cornelio will offer advice to entrepreneurs who are seeking funding in an upcoming presentation, “Communicating with Wall Street: What analysts, bankers and investors want to know.” Part of the “Meet with Money” series, the event takes place Friday, March 4, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT) in North Brunswick at 675 Route 1. The event is free, but attendees must register by E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, company affiliation, and contact E-mail.
Scientists who start their own companies are used to interacting with peers who understand the work they are doing, Cornelio says. When they come to Wall Street, they are unprepared; they haven’t considered that they will be speaking with someone who is not familiar with their work and what their company has to offer. It ends up being a frustrating experience on both sides.
“That first communication is so important,” says Cornelio. You have to convince the potential funders why they should invest. How does your product or service fill an important need in the industry and society, and how will the investor make money on it? It’s about education and clear communication, being able to tell your story in a very simple way and make sure it makes sense to someone unfamiliar with your work.
Cornelio has been interested in science and technology since she was in sixth grade living in India. “I read about gene cloning in Time Magazine. I thought, ‘this is so cool, I want to do this,’” she says. Her father, who worked in finance, and her mother, who studied and loved literature, were taken by surprise when she told them she wanted to pursue a career in science.
After graduating from Mount Carmel College in Bangalore, she moved to the U.S. to study at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a PhD in immunology, then moved to New York City to conduct post-doctoral work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
She learned from her work at the center that she was more interested in the business side of science than lab work. It was then that she decided to move to Wall Street. “It was a big step,” she says. “I never had a business class, ever, and jumped in cold.”
Her first few jobs involved giving investment advice to banks. Cornelio was a member of an award-winning equity research team at Citigroup, and later worked for Oppenheimer & Company, Maximus Capital, and Alexandra Investment Management, where she was responsible for global healthcare investments.
Between 2008 and 2009 she founded her own company, Cornelio Consulting, which she continues to lead today. She is also a partner at Primary i-Research LLC. The companies provide business development, strategy, and corporate services. Their clients include healthcare investors, investment banks, and venture capital or private equity firms seeking unbiased views on biopharma companies, including clinical data, regulatory events, and product launches.
While Cornelio works with businesses of all sizes, she particularly enjoys working with young companies. New organizations seek advice on raising funds, and as they grow, they often need help with research and development, she says.
Cornelio’s upcoming presentation at the technology center is hosted by Sam Kongsamut, an NJEDA executive in residence with the Life Science Incubator at CCIT.
Kongsamut is the president of Rudder Serendip LLC, providing consulting and advisory services in pharmaceutical/biotechnology R&D and business development with particular emphasis on neuroscience and aging. He is also a collaborating partner with Pharma Nest/MedNest and an adjunct faculty member of Rutgers University.
In addition to these roles, he promotes new and forming companies through a meetup group, Life Sciences Hub (www.meetup.com/launch-NJ-Life-Sciences-Hub). “I help improve the life sciences ecosystem in New Jersey,” he says. The group’s mission is to create an entrepreneurial community in New Jersey giving people the necessary tools to launch their startups. It is a collaborative movement looking to work with any group that has a passion for entrepreneurship.
Kongsamut points to a change in research and development in New Jersey. Where much of the work had been handled by large pharmaceutical companies, it is now being led by smaller groups headed by new entrepreneurs. That’s where he and Cornelio and their expertise in communicating with analysts, bankers, and investors come into the picture.
Cornelio’s consulting career has come full circle, she says. It involves an understanding of finance that was influenced by her father, an ability to communicate clearly influenced by her mother, and her passion for scientific discovery, which she traces back to that day in grade school when she read a magazine article on gene cloning.