Life science companies across the board are expensive; Foregen is no exception. Unlike the more familiar tech start-ups that can be bootstrapped and operate with little to no regulation, life science startups are extremely capital intensive and have to navigate a complex field of red tape for many years before seeing a profit. This radically different startup and payout structure results in a different company life cycle that can result in different funding pathways. Because the life science life cycle is far less familiar to the casual observer, I thought it would be beneficial to write an update on how we anticipate getting startup funding for Foregen – one of the first key steps to providing a regenerative therapy for circumcised men.
There has been some confusion as to how we are going to fund this research effort. That has been my fault, as we could have been clearer. We were still figuring out the best funding strategy before so we were hesitant to make any definitive statements.
In my recent WSCS speech, I mentioned that we were pursuing a $1 million dollar equity-based crowdfunding campaign in 2016, yet now we have a $20,000 monthly donation goal. We’ve been asked, “So what’s going in?” There are 3 potential routes to getting Foregen funded so we can continue to make progress towards our ultimate goal of genital integrity. Below, I’ve outlined the pros and cons or each as well as the likelihood of us pursuing the option.
Title III of the JOBS act passed in December, 2015. What Title III allows is for companies to run equity-based crowdfunding campaigns with non-accredited investors. Think Kickstarter but for company stock instead of trinkets.
On first glance this seems like the perfect solution to the circumcision problem. Circumcision in this country has imposed significant sensory and mechanical penile deficits on over 100M American men, which detracts from the intimate, sexual experience of approximately 200M Americans. It would require a minutely small fraction of these men to invest small to moderate amounts to raise our first $1 million dollars. Although promising in theory, there are significant obstacles that make this funding route unlikely at least through mid to late 2016.
After Peter Adler and I spoke with two partners of different law firms and the CEO of one of the biggest crowdfunding sites in the world, DreamFunded, we’ve discovered that although technically now legal, equity-based crowdfunding campaigns are not possible until mid to late 2016. This is because the portals that are legally mandated to conduct the crowdfunding campaigns have not been given the green light from the federal government, thus making running one of these campaigns impossible.
Additionally, even if it were possible to run an equity-based crowdfunding campaign, it would cost us minimum $50,000 just to comply with all the SEC filings, a significant chunk of the $1 million raised, and this is without guarantee of success. If our campaign did not reach a wide enough audience and we failed to raise the $1 million then that expense would be an enormously costly and timely setback. So although it would be nice and particularly symbolic for us to raise the money via a crowdfunding model, for the reasons that it is not yet possible and when it is it will be very costly and risky, we are putting the equity-based crowdfunding campaign on hold indefinitely, while changing our focus to the two currently more promising routes to funding: professional investment and donations.
What I’m calling professional investment is the standard model of investment. These professional investors devote a great amount of their time identifying promising new companies. Then they invest money for equity, and when the company does succeed, the initial investor’s equity has greatly appreciated and they have made many fold their original investment.
There are many significant advantages that come with professional investment, beyond just the capital to begin operating full-time. Because these investors are usually veteran business executives, their money often comes with key strategic advantages as well as introductions to other investors and key players in their industry. The world of investment capital is relatively small; investors know investors, so when you do recruit one investor to your cause, you also gain access to his or her entire network.
Foregen is in a far better position than we have been to raise professional investment money. From the variety of conferences we’ve attended and presented at, to the attention we’ve received in the media, just to people’s general awareness that genital cutting is a significant problem and impairs one’s sexual life, which is also a lucrative field to address from an investor’s viewpoint, we have developed many relationships that may develop into large investments when the time is right.
As of now, we are going to continue operating with the donation model as an investment is not imperative to continue our research on human tissue for the immediate future. However after we publish and patent our results on human tissue later this year, we will likely pursue the professional investment option granted we raise the money on mutually beneficial terms with our new partners.
$20,000 per month in Donations
You may have noticed that we have updated our homepage to include a donation bar which counts how many donations we have pledged on a monthly basis. This bar is set to $20,000 as it is the monthly minimum needed to continue operating as a research institution for the foreseeable future before we begin the costly regulatory approval process.
Since we are setup as a nonprofit dedicated to either coordinating or conducting research that ultimately provides men with the option to regain genital integrity, it is our mission to take whatever route is most expedient in pursuit of that goal.
Since you do not receive equity in exchange for your monthly donation, we are dedicated to paying back this favor – your belief in us – in other ways. We have kept track of all our donations and do have a list of all the donors who helped in these critical early stages to get us to a point where we could scale up by either a concerted donation effort or professional investment, so thank you for getting us where we are. We will be sure to repay the favor in the future as our influence continues to grow. What form this favor takes is still to be determined, but it is a moral imperative for us to repay your early belief in us in whatever way we can: whether it be expedited progression through our expected waitlist or a discount off our final services, we cannot say definitely right now, but we will not let donations today be forgotten when we are successful tomorrow.
If this is a cause you could support via a 5$, $10, $25 monthly donation, I encourage you to make a small monthly contribution to help push the bar to $20,000 so we do not need to be dependent on outside investment but rather we can make this happen together as a community.