Comments on EBD Partnering Analysis #BEU15 
Posted by Carlos on Oct 14, 2015

Last month, EBD and IMS partnered to analyze meeting outcomes from four conferences, covering nearly 5,000 participating companies.

Their report is available here (PDF).

As we are knee-deep in scheduling meetings for BIO Europe, we thought it might be interesting to compare their results with ours.

To be fair, our experience and success in scheduling meetings at conferences will vary, depending on why we are at the conference in the first place.

For BIO Europe, for example, we will be there representing two out-licensing opportunities, seeking new clients, and fund-raising for a new company in formation.

This lineup of activities will vary slightly from year to year, and even conference to conference, depending on what is on our plate at that moment in time.

Nevertheless, with those caveats aside, here are a few of their results, along with our comments.

Regardless of the number of profile fields completed, on average companies had a ~15-20% success rate for accepted invites. 

Right out of the gate, IMS are out with a surprising result…or is it? Our initial reaction was disbelief, as one would think that nearly blank profiles would lead to reduced number of invitations and acceptances. But, it is also quite easy to copy/paste a company name into a search engine, find out who they are, and then decide if a meeting request is worthwhile or not. This is certainly consistent with what we do.

A more interesting question might be, “What % of companies achieve a ~15-20% acceptance rate?” Looking at our own data over time, we average 23.8% Acceptance rate, but that varies between 14% (BIO 2014) and 40% (BIO 2015).

Service providers face the steepest hurdles in scheduling meetings 

No question about that at all, but that will vary according to the type of service being offered. We believe that a company offering “standard” services (for example, a contract research organization) may find better uses for their marketing budgets, especially if they are new or unknown in the industry.

…A large segment attended conferences and did not send any invites.

If we are reading the data correctly, over 20% of companies attending these conferences did not send out any meeting invitations. And, 40% sent out 10 meeting invitations or less!

Consider that it costs roughly $5,000 per attendee for a conference, when you factor registration, flight, hotel, etc. If the company is paying to send someone to a conference, why are they not sending meeting invitations? Isn’t that a major purpose for the conference in the first place?

This is especially odd since many of the sessions are now available online after the conference.

Relatively little variation in meeting acceptance rate across equity stages. 

Whether you’re seeking Preseed investment, Seed, or Start Up, your acceptance rate will be <20%. Companies seeking IPO have a slightly better chance of securing meetings with investors. Later on, the presentation shows a graph (slide 15) which shows percent of scheduled invitations to investors by therapeutic sector. This is probably the most interesting result in the report, at least for us. This supports something we have “known” for many years, but have never seen quantified until now.

Pharma likes…early-stage, private companies…oncology…

The last few slides present little in terms of surprises. Pharma (whatever that means) predominately meets with early-stage, private companies. And preferably those with advanced assets in oncology, CNS, and Infectious disease areas. But, the latter may be a reflection of the assets which are available, and not necessarily pharma interest.

For instance, we see that there are the same percentage of meetings scheduled for CNS and digestive disease assets. But is pharma interest in both of these therapeutic categories the same? How many transactions are in one therapeutic category versus another? We believe that if these data were corrected for the actual number of licenses, then the picture would be quite different.


We applaud EBD for opening up their databases to IMS for this analysis. It’s quite interesting to know that our meeting success rates, for example, are in keeping with broad industry averages. We find it very curious that so many companies would register and attend without fully leveraging the partnering systems. One wonders how different this would be if the data were split out by conference.

For example, are there more meeting invitations sent out at Biotech Showcase, since that is geared more towards companies seeking investment? Or do people register there and conduct many meetings at the hotels and other conferences taking place that week?

This also demonstrates the kind of effort needed to arrive at a conference with a full schedule of meetings (if that is you goal). For example, if your goal is 25 meetings, at a 20% acceptance rate, that is roughly 125 meeting invitations. Sending 5 invitations a day means you need 25 days to complete this task.

Now consider that calendars will be largely filled during the week prior to the conference. That leaves us wth roughly 30 days from the time partnering opens to the time we can still have our meeting requests reviewed and accepted.

This is exactly why we start our partnering activities in advance of the partnering systems opening up. You need the time to bookmark companies, review them carefully, then prepare and send customized, thoughtful meeting invitations. Only then will you achieve the desired result, which in our mind is to maximize the value of the investment of cash and time in the conference.

See you in Munich!

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