In 2014, Terry O’Dwyer and Neil Darkes left their roles at the global events company Terrapinn to launch LSX, an events business for senior life science executives.

Over the next nine years, the co-founders grew LSX to 26 full-time employees, launched new products (some of which didn’t work) and rode out a global pandemic that shut down in-person events.

In 2023, they sold LSX for low-8 figures.

Growing LSX, a life sciences events company

O’Dwyer has entrepreneurial DNA, he explained on the Dan Assor Show podcast. So starting his own company felt inevitable. He had spent eight years climbing the ranks at Terrapinn and was ready to build something valuable himself.

Deciding to partner with Darkes on this new venture came naturally. O’Dwyer needed a co-pilot to complement his personality and was glad to have someone to share the ups and downs.

O’Dwyer and Darkes attribute their success, in part, to keeping their core market top of mind: life science executives looking for investments, ideas and innovation to grow their businesses and create the medicines of the future.

LSX also launched an event for RNA experts in the U.S. and Europe. (RNA is the primary genetic material in viruses.) The series became key to LSX’s growth, O’Dwyer said, as LSX was the only events company bringing together scientific, investment and deal-making communities within the RNA ecosystem.

The event space is competitive, so they had to differentiate themselves. They tried some things that worked — like the RNA series — and some that didn’t. For example, they tried launching a database with a subscription model. This was “sexy” at the time, but ultimately the time and resources that went into the product did not produce the anticipated returns.

In fact, O’Dwyer cited this as one of his biggest challenges while growing LSX: “Remaining focused, keeping it simple and not being distracted by the millions of rabbit holes or shiny new opportunities that presented themselves along the way.” He relied on an advisor to keep him honest and carefully evaluate each new opportunity.

Then there was COVID. But surprisingly, “we had a good pandemic,” O’Dwyer shared. LSX retained most of its sponsors and moved events online. Without sinking money into venues, “our net profit catapulted.”

When the world began opening back up, they listened to their customers and sponsors, who craved to get back together in person, so LSX focused on in-person events, rather than pursuing a digital or hybrid revenue stream.

Across their event portfolio, LSX had more than 6,000 paying sponsors and representatives at sale.

Selling LSX to Informa Connect for 8 figures

After nearly a decade of growing LSX, O’Dwyer and Darkes looked to sell so they could realize their equity and find a partner who could accelerate growth.

They found their buyer, Informa Connect, through Collingwood, an advisory that helps media companies scale, raise money or sell. Informa Connect is a global events and information services company that organizes conferences and exhibitions and provides data-driven insights to industries worldwide.

“Together we’ll be providing the Life Sciences community with even more connections and partnering opportunities across a broader geographical area, and with renewed focus on partnering for specific therapeutic areas and modalities,” the acquisition announcement reads.

O’Dwyer said the most challenging part of the “incredible, intense, exciting and exhausting” deal was running LSX during due diligence. His advice for founders is to make sure you’re in a position where you’re working on the business — not in the business.

“It’s about making sure you have the capacity to do a process like this before really fully committing to it — and you need a lot of capacity,” he said. “It’s all-consuming. It’s very important we had carved out time to do it.”

O’Dwyer encouraged founders to share the workload. He let senior managers, who were also early investors, know what was happening early in the process. This move is perhaps controversial — many sellers wait until the deal goes through before telling their team — but helped alleviate some pressure.

In July 2023, the deal closed for low-8 figures.

After the sale, O’Dwyer said he planned to focus on his family, friends and health for a year before making his next moves. According to Darkes’ LinkedIn, he’s now a strategic advisor for LSX and, in November 2023, founded Holoday, which offers immersive and personalized spatial and digital reality experiences designed to improve behavioral health and stimulate wellbeing.