Healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs and investors once again descended on San Francisco this past January for the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (JPM). While the invitation-only JPM conference is the headline event, most people who come to San Francisco for the week are focused on what’s happening outside of the JPM, with learning and network opportunities literally around every corner.
With JPM in the backdrop, nearly two dozen healthcare and life science conferences and events occur simultaneously, nearly all of them within a four-block radius of JPM itself. These events cover a wide range of perspectives and topics, with innovation being the permeating theme. In a 24-hour period, an investor can take in presentations from a dozen private companies developing new therapies, seminars on disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, and global perspectives on industry trends across multiple continents.
There is not likely a richer aggregation of ideas and funding opportunities anywhere in the world. Dozens of high value networking receptions are hosted by industry participants, investment banks, law firms, accounting firms, technology companies and consultancies. Investors can assess and evaluate opportunities onsite, chatting with entrepreneurs and company executives. And those who seek funding or other collaborators have access to a global array of potential partners.
Without a doubt, JPM is the place where great ideas in the healthcare and life science space come to get funded, and this past year, JPM took place in the wake of a record-breaking 2018 for venture capital fundraising. According to Venture Monitor, a quarterly study published by PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association, 2018 saw a spike in both deal activity and deal volumes in the space, powered by ever-larger financing rounds. Investments of greater than $50 million, which constituted about 20% of all financings in the space a decade ago, now account for over 60% of deal activity. This is in line with the larger and larger share of venture capital deal flow garnered by healthcare and life sciences companies since bottoming out five years ago. In 2018, 14.6 percent of VC deal volume was in the healthcare and life sciences space.
The data above provides some insight as to why JPM has far outgrown its niche status on the fundraising circuit. Indeed, the rapid growth of the event has left many veterans complaining about the hectic pace and the insanely expensive prices for food and accommodations. But for all the premium pricing and festival-like frenzy of the networking opportunities, JPM is still the premier event of its kind. If you have the resources and are up for an adventure, it offers a tremendous window on the ways in which healthcare and life sciences are likely to evolve in the next few years.