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June 24 - 26, 2025
Charlottetown | Prince Edward Island | Canada

Paul Dick and Lauren Carde issue critical start-up advice ahead of VetHealth Global 2023

Written by Joseph Harvey, Head of Animal Health at Agribusiness intelligence | IHS Markit

For many years now, Paul Dick & Associates have been supporting young businesses in the animal health sector. Ahead of the upcoming VetHealth Global 2023 conference, I spoke to the firm about its recommendations to start-ups amid the current difficult financial landscape.

Paul Dick and Associates has long been involved in nurturing many start-ups in the animal health sector and has a very clear understanding of what defines winners in this area.

The firm’s founder and president Paul Dick stated: “I always ask companies: Do you know the market? Does your technology fill an unmet market need? Are your people experienced enough to drive you forward? And do you have an initial investment? You have to have all four pieces to set yourself up for success.”

Founded in 2010, Paul Dick and Associates works with a broad range of animal health businesses. It specializes in the creation of effective and efficient business, development and regulatory strategies for the commercialization of best-in-class products.

The Canadian firm has evaluated around 300 start-ups ahead of the VetHealth Global 2023 conference, which is being held June 26-28 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The companies ranged from very early-stage businesses to ones that were more developed. The list was whittled down to around 50 that were screened more closely before 24 start-ups from across the world were selected to present at the forum in June.

Dr Dick said these businesses represent many different facets of the animal health industry, across different species and technologies. While he noted the general quality of start-ups has increased over recent years, investment remains the hardest component of building a young company – especially at this time of economic uncertainty.

Lauren Carde, the firm’s vice president of operations and regulatory affairs, commented: “I think the major companies have a responsibility to continue supporting start-ups. Not only because it’s in their best interest for start-ups to fill their pipelines but also because it’s in the best interest of the industry.

“It’s currently really tough for start-ups to raise money. Sadly, many start-ups fail or their technologies don’t come to fruition because they run out of money. I think many of the start-ups that come out of universities do not have a lot of experience in raising capital. Their founder may need to recognize they might be better as a chief scientific officer and bring in a chief executive to lead the company.

“More co-development agreements, where the big companies come in at an earlier stage and really help to move those products along, would be really helpful. I also think major companies could further increase their presence by creating additional seminars, webinars, conferences, workshops and events where they share know-how to help start-ups move along the development pathway.”

She also urged the industry’s top businesses to seek more collaboration with academic institutions, where there is “a lot of good research that does not create a ‘product’ and with this never reaches the marketplace”.

First, best and novel

Dr Dick suggested start-ups should have a vision of what they need investment for and project this clearly to potential backers.

He explained: “They need to know what they want from the strategics and the investors. Is it money, co-development or licensing? Do they want to be acquired? If you want to work with a large animal health company, what part do you want to do and what do you want your partner to do?”

Dr Dick also said start-ups need to be focused on realizing the maximum benefits from any investment they secure. He proposed young companies need to “create true value from the proceeds you’ve got and be able to show the next investor what you’ve been able to do with your funds”.

Dr Dick noted there is a big difference in the top 20 animal health companies and how they approach working with start-ups, as well as how early they look to partner within the development pathway. While he noted some firms are doing much more partnering at the discovery stage of development, others “just want a ready product to take to market”. Dr Dick suggested this diversity in needs is also apparent in the investor community.

He also pointed out many of the major firms will be swamped with the ever-growing number of opportunities to partner with start-ups – there are over 600 young companies targeting the animal health sector.

Dr Dick told S&P Global Animal Health: “You’ve got to be first, best and novel. If you have all three of those in an important market segment, you really could have a blockbuster and the big corporates will be interested. Although, being first is sometimes challenging because it could be a different regulatory paradigm.”

Ms Carde underlined: “You need to know your market. Sometimes companies might think they know their market or the competitive landscape but their expectations really differ to what we have in our minds. Sometimes it benefits them to pick a smaller target if there is a regulatory incentive, like the minor use minor species route. Then, they generate revenues and look to expand.

“We’ve seen the opposite too. Some companies really don’t realize the great opportunity they have for their technology. It’s really best if you can be honest about your mark potential and support your assumptions by using comparators that might already be on the market.

“It is good if companies can be multi-pronged but sometimes it can be better to focus on fewer product lines. Investors like a pipeline but they also like start-ups to be able to get at least one product over the finish line.”

Dr Dick concluded start-ups need to think about their end goals at the early stages of their development.

He said: “They really need to have a good idea about when they want to exit and how they exit. While it might be absolutely crucial early on, as business owners with great technology, you should always be thinking about your exit. A lot of the time, people really aren’t sure. Ultimately, it’s for the good of the company.”

VetHealth Global is the premier international animal health and nutrition business conference that will be held June 26-28 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. It is a must-attend event for animal health and nutrition business executives, investors and innovators. Since 2007, it has been recognized for its outstanding list of presenters, innovative emerging company sessions, professional business partnering program and top-rated networking events. This year’s conference is truly global in nature with keynote speakers from Japan, India and Canada and a panel discussion on the animal health industry in Africa. With unparalleled networking opportunities, 1:1 partnering meetings, interactive industry demonstrations, pitching sessions, panel discussions, keynote speakers and hands-down the best social events featuring warm, island hospitality, this is a must-attend conference for everyone in the animal health industry. Registration is open – reserve your spot today.