Graham Mills, Co-founder, Biotechspert, Cambridge

Please tell us a bit about Biotechspert. What problem were you trying to solve, was it something you had encountered yourself?

David & I have both worked across a wide variety of roles in the life sciences, including in academia, R&D, business development, IP law, and venture capital. In each role, we realised how incredibly reliant companies are on external expertise to support their growth, whether you’re an investor performing due diligence on a new opportunity, or a biotech executive trying to understand the regulatory pathway for your product in a new market.

But while everyone is so reliant on this expertise… it’s no simple matter sourcing it! We either rely on out-dated knowledge broking platforms, or ask a friend of a friend if they might know someone who kind of knows the field.

As such, we decided to found Biotechspert, a data-driven platform for rapid identification and connection with specialist experts around the world, leveraging machine learning principles to ensure we find the best expert wherever they may be, and connect them with you rapidly.

What is the technology behind Biotechspert?

Our technology automates the entire process of expert identification and connection.

Firstly, our algorithms trawl a vast array of datasets, quickly identifying who the most influential experts are in any given niche. We parse a variety of metrics to give a combined Biotechspert Score, how suitable they are to provide advice for the request.

Once identified, we use our automated and optimised system for soliciting their expertise. Graham spent a lot of time doing this in venture capital roles manually, and through this and large scale A/B testing, we’ve built a highly effective outreach process to recruit experts for our clients.

When experts and clients agree to speak (usually in <24h from request submission), Biotechpsert handles all elements of call scheduling, hosting, payment, and feedback, meaning for both parties all that’s required is they hop on the phone at the scheduled time, we handle the rest!

How do you think Biotechspert can be related to other industries? For example the tech sector? Do you see similarities between the life sciences consultancy sector and technology consultancy?

This is the really exciting thing about Biotechspert – the technology has been fundamentally built to be industry-agnostic. We see it as an engine, able to parse any datasets to identify key experts or influencers based on whatever metrics both we, and our machine learning tools, deem valuable. So for example, while right now we focus on academic, clinical, and patent datasets, we’re now engaging with companies around using our engine on investor datasets to better link with investment opportunities, as well as political and regulatory datasets to identify key contact and experts in these fields also.

We started in life sciences because it’s a field we’re intimately familiar with, but in terms of the need to access specialist expertise – this is a problem faced across sectors, industries, and geographies. What we’re building is a tool for all of these areas, to leverage big data and machine learning to automate this process of consulting across the world.

What was your own experience in finding the technical expertise in building your product?

Funny you should ask – because we’ve actually used our own platform to find experts for ourselves also! In general though since the start we have been lucky to be surrounded by a fantastic group of mentors and investors, including through the Allia program, who really understand and have built, scaled, supported, and exited companies in both the life sciences and tech spaces, which has been great for general strategic advice.

For specialist expertise though, prior to our platform being developed, we have been more limited to trawling our contact networks and sending countless cold emails, which naturally is time intensive and often doesn’t lead you to the exact expertise you need. Going to expensive consultancies or knowledge brokers isn’t an option for most small companies, and for large ones sinking multiple millions any given year into finding this expertise is the norm. Our aim with Biotechspert is to revolutionise this process, bringing automation and machine learning to the global consultancy sector, and beyond.

What has your experience been of tech talent and the ecosystem in Cambridge?

Cambridge is a unique place, and we feel incredibly fortunate to be based here. The city has been generating world-class research for centuries, and altruistic and ambitious professionals for equally as long – and it shows. There’s an endless stream of altruistic yet experienced professionals willing to provide advice and mentorship throughout our growth. While we’re in the business of sourcing expertise for our clients, we’ve relied on similar expertise about our own company to build the traction we’ve achieved to date. It’s also a great brand name, and gives us great credibility when we engage internationally to connect with experts and clients alike. One thing I would say though – the Cambridge ecosystem has a strong bias towards IP-heavy innovation. While this is great, and a partly a product of the University itself, there could be more support for startups who aren’t relying on patented technologies to fuel their growth.