"Forty years old and going strong, Venrock is one of the oldest venture capital firms in the country. The firm began investing in healthcare in the 1980s, and was a Series A founding investor in five of the largest biotech companies ever created, including Centecor, Gilead, and Idec. The company has continued investing in the life sciences ever since. Its portfolio also includes Millenium Pharmaceuticals, Sirna Therapeutics, Fate Therapeutics, Ironwood and Achaogen.
Venrock bills itself as ""stage agnostic,"" offering seed investments all the way through late-stage investments. The firm prefers not to limit itself. It's most interested in novelty, which means me-too drugs are out of the question. With regulatory and reimbursement changes on the horizon, Venrock's fund managers are looking for game changers and products that meet unmet needs because those will be the candidates that will be successful in the new healthcare environment, Managing Partner Bryan Roberts explains.
But a drug candidate is nothing without a good team behind it. An experienced team isn't necessary; what gets this venture capital firm's attention is entrepreneurs with passion, intelligence and drive. And if the right team comes along, Venrock is willing to hunker down for the long haul, Roberts says. The firm's companies typically have longer growth periods as ""we tend to focus on scale and scale of return more than we do time frame,"" he explains. ""[We're] willing to accept the longer time period in order to create real value. ... That's been a differentiator for us from other firms. When entrepreneurs start, they want to become big companies so our track record of success in that space is attractive to them.""
Start-ups may also be interested to know that, unlike many other VC firms, Venrock hasn't given up on the IPO market. Roberts expects multiple biotech IPOs in the next year and a return to previous rates within two years. ""I think M&A will continue to be a great route for liquidity, but there will be biotech IPOs in the next 9 to 12 months,"" Roberts says. ""But they will have to be mature companies. The public won't bet on platforms or unproven things. The first [companies to sucessfully go public] will end up being people with Phase III data and then [the market] will loosen up a little bit.""
That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that venture capital investing may not be doing as well as 2009 Q2 reports made it seem. Many of the deals made last quarter were likely for legacy companies that venture capital firms had already invested in--and that will continue, Robert says. ""I think there will be a shortage of capital for a while. That said, I think that really good companies will continue to be able to raise capital whenever they want and it will be the companies that are less certain that will really struggle.