Dissecting the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference: The View From VC

Happy 2012!

We’re back to work and our team is making final preparations for the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference next week in San Francisco.  For our Menlo Park office, this means a simple drive north to the Nikko Hotel, where we set up shop for five days.  For our Westport office, this means another cross-country flight to the west best coast.  (Our East Coast team used to look forward to this trip to the tropics in the middle of winter, but now that global warming has lead to temperature parity across the country, we can’t boast about the weather this year.)

I thought it would be fun to offer a day-by-day of what “goes on” during the busiest week of the healthcare investing year:

SUNDAY – The team gets together for a working dinner (usually involving the hotel “room service” menu) of going through our existing portfolio companies and discussing the 3 or 4 things that will be most critical to accomplish during the first calendar quarter of the year.

MONDAY – The first “official” day of meetings and presentations.  We have 4-6 group presentations for our whole team and 2-3 smaller group meetings.  The group presentations are typically 60 minutes each and the day moves like clockwork.  On Monday evening, we migrate over to our favorite gallery in Union Square for our always anticipated (and well attended) networking reception.

TUESDAY – Day #2 of meetings begins early, often with invites to corporate breakfasts, sponsored by the large pharmaceutical companies.  Then it’s back in the conference room for another marathon of listening to brilliant entrepreneurs tell their story.  In the evening, we take our pick of dinner and cocktail invites.  It’s fun to look forward to seeing former colleagues at the evening events, which (as long as you’re not hosting) are always more relaxed.

WEDNESDAY – Our final full day of presentations and the last evening for group dinners, corporate cocktail parties, and hanging out in the Westin St. Francis lobby (hoping to rendez-vous with old friends and acquaintances).

THURSDAY – At the end of the week, we have a working breakfast where we complete scorecards for all of the new deals.  Basically this is as simple as each person ranking their favorite prospects from 1 (best) to ## (least favorite).  Each company receives a score (lower = better) and the companies are all ranked.  We debate any discordance in scores and assign specific follow up and diligence items.  In the past years, our high quality deal flow has usually translated to new investments.

This year, we will also use our time on Thursday to discuss personal plans for 2012.  The discussion will revolve around our specific strategies for new deals in biopharma, medical devices, and healthcare delivery/IT.  During a time of many challenges for our healthcare investing peers, Canaan is committed to sourcing and nurturing the best new healthcare companies.  We’re making sure to spend plenty of time being thoughtful about how to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of FDA reform, narrowing reimbursement, and a shrinking syndicate universe.

Then we’ll bid our farewells and head back to our respective offices, thankful that the following Monday (MLK Day) is a holiday.  After JPM, everyone benefits from an extra day to recuperate!


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