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Exploring the landscape: Unveiling opportunities and threats in exit strategies

Why you should think about your exit now

The exit is a critical step in the lifetime of almost any Life Science product, in order to deliver on the company’s mission and make a big impact on the treatment and quality of life of patients around the world. While it may feel counterintuitive to think of an exit while developing an innovation, it is essential to be aware of the various options that exits provide. This will enable you to steer swiftly when you find yourself in unexpected situations that will occur over the 10-year+ development cycle of the product. In this series of articles, we discuss the different exit strategies for Life Science innovations, share key insights, and ensure you can make an informed decision to push your innovation to market.

When science becomes business and a (start-up) company is born, the business owners embrace the responsibility to develop the scientific technology into a product. After all, the science is only making a profound impact on society once a product is made available to patients or the healthcare system. Prior to this phase, it is essential for life sciences entrepreneurs to understand the risks and opportunities of the various exit models that may be available to them, in order to steer to success. In this article, the third in our series, we illuminate the diverse exit strategies, shedding light on the potential opportunities and threats that accompany them.

Bringing Life Sciences products to market

In the dynamic world of turning scientific breakthroughs into tangible solutions, a pivotal role rests with the party owning the innovation and its intellectual property. This responsibility goes beyond mere ownership – it extends to ensuring that every dollar invested in product development aligns with the promise of returns when the product hits the market. Once crucial milestones are reached in developing the innovation and the business (i.e. as successfully completing the early development stages or developing a solid value proposition) robust market players and significant investment will come on board to bring the product to society and unlock its full market potential. Our focus in this article is on the pivotal role that exit strategies have for business owners in bringing Life Sciences products into the healthcare system, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the landscape ahead.

The impact of an exit on product success

To elicit the impact of an exit on product success, we would like to focus on how these strategies play a crucial role in getting Life Sciences products into the healthcare system. Consider it as being given a map to understand what may be ahead in this complex journey. In the next part of this article, we will break down the story of these strategic exits, highlighting where risks meet opportunities and innovation can truly turn into something that benefits society.

Licensing and technology transfer


  • Access to expertise and resources: Licensing and technology transfer provide access to the expertise, resources, and capabilities of the licensee. This can include R&D capabilities, manufacturing facilities, regulatory expertise, marketing and distribution networks, and established customer relationships.

  • Revenue generation: Licensing agreements typically involve upfront payments, milestone payments, ongoing royalties, or a combination of these. This provides a potential source of revenue without the need for significant upfront investments or market penetration efforts.

  • Market expansion: Licensing allows the technology or product to reach new markets or geographies where the licensee has an established presence. This can accelerate market entry, increase market share, and unlock new growth opportunities for the licensor.

  • Risk mitigation: Licensing can reduce the financial and operational risks associated with commercialization. The licensee assumes responsibility for manufacturing, marketing, and distribution, relieving the licensor of significant financial burdens and operational complexities.

  • Validation of technology or product: Licensing to a reputable and established partner validates the technology or product’s potential value, market viability, and quality. This can enhance the technology or product’s reputation, credibility, and market acceptance.


  • Limited market control: Licensing involves sharing control over the technology or product with the licensee. The licensor may have limited control over pricing, distribution channels, or market positioning, potentially impacting the long-term strategic direction. The licensor may have to rely on the licensee’s decisions and strategies, potentially impacting market penetration or revenue optimization.

  • Revenue sharing: Licensing agreements typically involve revenue-sharing arrangements, such as upfront fees, milestone payments, or royalties. The licensor may receive a smaller portion of the revenue generated compared to if they were to commercialize the technology or product themselves.

  • Dependence on licensee: The success of licensing arrangements is dependent on the capabilities, resources, and commitment of the licensee. If the licensee fails to effectively commercialize the technology or product, it may impact the licensor’s potential revenue and market reach.

  • Intellectual property protection: Licensing requires the disclosure of intellectual property to the licensee. Ensuring proper intellectual property protection, including confidentiality agreements and clear contractual provisions, is crucial to safeguard the licensor’s rights and prevent unauthorized use or disclosure.

Management Buyout (MBO)


  • Agility and decision-making: MBOs generally result in a leaner and more agile organizational structure. This increased agility allows for faster decision-making and greater responsiveness to market dynamics. The management team can quickly adapt to changes in the life science industry, identifying opportunities and implementing strategies to enhance the success of their product. It fosters a long-term perspective, ensuring that decisions and actions are driven by the goal of maximizing your product’s potential and achieving sustainable growth.

  • Market expansion: Being acquired by a larger company can open doors to new markets and customer segments. The acquiring company may have an established presence in regions or target markets that you haven’t been able to penetrate yet. This expansion can significantly increase the reach and sales potential of your product, ultimately leading to its broader success.

  • Entrepreneurial spirit: An MBO often sparks a renewed entrepreneurial spirit within the management team. With ownership at stake, they’ll have the freedom to innovate, take calculated risks, and explore new avenues for growth. This spirit can drive creativity, encourage out-of-the-box thinking, and lead to breakthrough developments that enhance your product’s success in the life science industry.


  • Organizational changes: The buyout process often involves organizational restructuring, which may lead to workforce redundancies or reassignments. This can potentially disrupt your team’s stability, morale, and productivity. Open communication, transparency, and supporting your employees through the transition can help mitigate the negative impacts on your product’s development and success.

  • Loss of control: Selling your shares means relinquishing control to the acquiring entity. Decision-making authority may shift, and your product’s future direction could be influenced by the new owners. It is crucial to negotiate terms and agreements that protect your vision and ensure the continued success of your product. Ambassadorship is an option to stay involved.

  • Financial constraints: Undertaking an MBO requires significant capital investment. This can potentially strain resources and limit the available funds for product development, marketing, and operations. It’s crucial to carefully manage finances, explore potential financing options, and ensure sufficient resources are allocated to support your product’s success.

  • Financial constraints: Undertaking an MBO requires significant capital investment for the acquiring party. This can potentially strain future company resources and limit the available funds for your product development, marketing, and operations. It’s crucial to carefully manage your own finances, explore sustainable potential financing options, and ensure sufficient resources are allocated to support your product’s success.

Merger & Acquisition (M&A)


  • Financial gain: A well-orchestrated and negotiated acquisition deal has the potential to yield substantial financial gains, significantly benefiting the company’s dedicated shareholders. This outcome underscores the importance of effective negotiation, strategic foresight, and a comprehensive understanding of market valuation.

  • Access to resources: The synergy created by a merger extends beyond financial outcomes. A merger can combine complementary strengths and resources to enhance the product’s development and market presence. It can also provide a transformative edge that reshapes the competitive position. Acquirers often bring substantial resources, including R&D capabilities, manufacturing infrastructure, distribution networks, and market expertise.

  • Accelerated growth: Through an acquisition, the company can surge forward, experiencing accelerated growth by forging alliances with established industry players. This alliance opens the door to unexplored markets, harnesses the power of pre-existing customer relationships, and expedites the commercialization of products, all while expanding the company’s footprint in the market.

  • Risk mitigation: The decision to sell to a larger, more established company brings inherent benefits that extend beyond financial considerations. This strategic move acts as a risk mitigation mechanism, leveraging the acquiring organization’s profound regulatory expertise and financial stability to reduce market and regulatory risks. The transition to a more robust and stable environment can set the stage for future success, fostering an environment where innovation can thrive with a heightened sense of security.


  • Loss of independence: The company may lose its autonomy and become part of a larger entity, potentially impacting decision-making and culture. This shift in independence necessitates careful negotiation and planning to preserve essential aspects of the company’s identity and operational strategies while capitalizing on the advantages brought by the acquiring entity. Finding the right balance between maintaining a degree of autonomy and harnessing the synergies of the larger organization is crucial for the long-term success and value realization in M&A scenarios.

  • Integration challenges: Merging two organizations can be complex, requiring careful integration of operations, systems and personnel. Cultural integration and alignment of strategic goals, roles and responsibilities are essential for a successful merger. These aspects should not be underestimated and often form a threat for success.

  • Valuation and negotiation: Arriving at an equitable valuation and negotiating deal terms can be challenging. This may demand not only expert guidance and a thorough understanding of market dynamics but also a careful assessment of the product’s long-term potential and the intricacies of competitive landscapes. By exploring these facets, we can navigate the often intricate path to a deal that ensures equitable benefits for all parties involved.

  • Potential conflicts: During negotiations, conflicts may surface, notably around intellectual property rights, management transitions and cultural differences. Addressing these conflicts requires a delicate balance of legal expertise, transparent communication, and a strong focus on aligning the interests of all parties involved to forge a successful partnership. Crafting a win-win scenario, where all stakeholders find common ground, is not just a lofty goal but a practical necessity to lay the foundation for a resilient and thriving partnership.



  • Access to capital: An IPO presents a significant opportunity to secure substantial capital that can propel the company’s growth initiatives. This influx of funds can be directed towards further research and development, enabling innovation and expanding product lines. Additionally, it can support the expansion of manufacturing capabilities, leading to increased production efficiency and scalability.

  • Enhanced credibility: Going public elevates the company’s credibility and reputation, positioning it favorably in the eyes of investors, potential acquirers, and strategic partners. The transparency and accountability associated with being a publicly traded entity can attract long-term investors who have confidence in the company’s growth potential.

  • Liquidity for shareholders: An IPO provides early investors and founders with an invaluable opportunity to realize the value of their investments, allowing them to monetize their holdings and diversify their financial portfolios. This liquidity can incentivize key stakeholders and attract new talent to join the company.

  • Increased market visibility: A public listing significantly enhances the company’s visibility and exposure within the market. This heightened visibility can attract potential collaborators, customers, and strategic partners who seek to leverage the company’s innovative products and offerings.


  • Stringent regulatory requirements: The transition to becoming a public company involves adherence to rigorous financial reporting, compliance, and disclosure obligations. These requirements can be resource-intensive and time-consuming, necessitating a dedicated team to manage these aspects effectively.

  • Loss of control: Going public inherently involves dilution of ownership, which can potentially lead to a loss of control over decision-making. Shareholders, including institutional investors, will have a say in key company decisions, impacting the long-term strategic direction.

  • Market volatility: Once shares are publicly traded, the company becomes susceptible to market fluctuations and investor sentiment. External factors, broader economic trends, and even industry-specific events can impact the company’s valuation and stock performance, leading to volatility that needs to be managed prudently.

  • Increased scrutiny and transparency: Public companies face heightened scrutiny from various stakeholders, including investors, analysts, and the media. Transparency in financial performance, corporate governance, and strategic initiatives becomes essential. A successful IPO requires robust financial reporting, a well-established product with a strong value proposition, and a clear vision for the company’s future.

Navigating exit strategies towards product success

The impact of selecting the right exit strategy in the Life Sciences industry holds paramount significance, shaping the future of products, resources and financial outcomes:

  • Licensing and technology transfer offer access to a wealth of expertise and resources, bolstering revenue generation and market expansion while mitigating risks.
  • MBOs provide agility and entrepreneurial spirit, enabling market expansion but also posing challenges in organizational change and loss of control.
  • M&As present financial gains, resource access, accelerated growth, and risk mitigation, but not without the potential threats of loss of independence and integration challenges.
  • IPOs, while granting access to capital, enhanced credibility, liquidity for shareholders, and increased market visibility, also come with the strings of regulatory requirements, loss of control, market volatility, and increased scrutiny.

Each path carries its unique opportunities and threats, emphasizing the need for strategic foresight, transparent communication, and strong negotiation to forge a pathway that aligns with the company’s goals and ensures sustainable success.

Read more about how you can ensure that you are deal ready and to tap into the various options that may pop-up along the way when needed, in the next article in our series.

Would you like to learn more about exit strategies?

In our series of articles on exits, FFUND discusses the different exit strategies for Life Science entrepreneurs. Learn more about the key insights into the available exit strategies by reading the following articles:

This article is part of the series Exit Strategies for Life Science innovations cocreated by Victor Bakker and Judith Smit.

About the author
Picture of Victor Bakker

Victor Bakker