Streamlining Science: Announcing Our Investment in Halo

October 26, 2022


Rob Biederman

We could not be more thrilled to announce our lead investment in Halo’s Seed round. When we first met founder Kevin Leland last October, we knew immediately his was a model we wanted to back. Having founded and run a similar business, Catalant, I knew how compelling a marketplace of high value talent could be to core enterprise customers. The “future” of work has already become “the now”; we continue to be convinced that the most thoughtful companies will increasingly migrate their overall talent mix towards freelancers and other sources of variable labor supply. The pandemic no doubt accelerated many years of overdue transformation in the enterprise workforce. I’m excited to play a role in continuing to drive it - this time as an investor.

(From left: Nancy Chou, Zoë Gibson and Kevin Leland of Halo, Rob Biederman)

Halo is a software company that allows corporate sponsors to find advanced, elite scientific and technical experts for external research collaborations. The company provides experts with access to funding, resources, and expertise, while sponsors are able to access larger, more diverse pools of external R&D resources (scientists, faculty, startups, etc). Halo also acts as the underlying system-of-record software to facilitate this workflow. Experts can search proposal requests (“RFPs”) and submit responses via a portal. Sponsors can post and promote their RFPs within the Halo network, compare and evaluate responses, collaborate with colleagues, and execute NDAs via an integrated eSignature functionality. In addition, sponsors are able to set up a brand page where they can feature their technology interests, build a followers list, and accept unsolicited proposals from experts. Halo replaces an otherwise limited, time-intensive, and manual RFP process involving high search costs via personal contacts, email, and MS Office tools. Time and cost savings have been significant for existing customers, which include some of the most forward-thinking global corporations. 

Of course, our consideration for any new investment begins first and foremost with the founder. Kevin has deep expertise within marketing and scaling startups. Prior to Halo, he founded a growth marketing consultancy for tech startups called Argyle Advisors. Before that, he was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Lightbank, a Chicago-based venture capital firm, where he launched and led marketing at Pawngo (US online pawn shop) and Snapsheet (claims management software). Our references on Kevin suggested a mature, resilient, and coachable founder deeply committed to his company’s success. We were also thrilled to follow investors and firms like our friend Anne Dwane at Village Global, as well as partner with Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, and Lenny Rachitsky’s Air Angels, undoubtedly one of the most thoughtful super-angel groups.

We were impressed by the company’s capital efficiency prior to our investment. Halo’s network growth to date has been driven by unpaid channels such as organic inbounds, referrals, and cold LinkedIn outreach - often an early positive signal that the business is serving a customer base hungry for its solution. The company leverages universities as a channel through which RFP projects are advertised to their faculty, students, and researchers. With the new funding, Halo plans to continue capitalizing on this approach, while supplementing it with targeted paid advertising and dedicated GTM headcount. With relatively modest fundraising to date, Kevin and a very small team of FTEs (~historically 1-4 employees, supplemented with contractors) have won impressive logos as recurring customers and achieved meaningful commercial traction. We are further compelled by their proven ability to create and sustain a subscription model, with a strong track record of customer retention.

Halo operates in an enormous market characterized by a dearth of high-quality alternatives: more than $2.2T is spent annually on R&D across commercial industries globally. Assuming companies on average spend 6% of total R&D on activities, services, and support that facilitate external R&D, then $134B represents Halo’s addressable TAM (excluding government agencies and foundations).


Global R&D Spend by Industry ($ in Billions) 

Source: R&D Global Spending (2018 Statista); R&D Global Spend by Industry (2018 Statista)


Within pharma companies, external R&D spend has overtaken internal spend with the former now making up more than 50% of overall R&D budgets. External R&D includes spend on acquisitions, licensing, and other collaboration opportunities. Primary drivers include access to new ideas and perspectives, ability to operate closer to the end patient, lower cost of development, cost agility and variability, as well as risk-lowering and sharing. Thus, we expect TAM to continue to grow over time. Halo also benefits from being in a position to expand the market itself. By facilitating external R&D, the company is able to drive adoption of this trend with companies and groups for whom the associated frictions were previously too great; a number of Halo’s customers fall into this category. We are optimistic that Halo can create and defend a moat in this space as its particular strategy continues to benefit from assorted tailwinds.

The company has performed admirably since our investment, with a handful of impressive new customer adds. We could not be more pleased to be in business with Kevin and the team at Halo.

Learn more about Halo's funding announcement here:

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