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Dear IndieBio founders, family and friends,

I am excited to share with you that today I am joining Mayfield, a top-tier venture capital firm with a fifty year history of people-first investing, as a Partner to co-lead the Engineering Biology practice alongside Ursheet Parikh. I am also transitioning to the new role of Venture Advisor at IndieBio. I will keep my IndieBio board appointments for the foreseeable future. And I will continue helping with pitch decks, milestone setting, business model construction and introductions for all the IndieBio companies because you are all still, and always will be, my portfolio.

There is more to this transition than Mayfield and IndieBio. …

ArcGIS data visualization courtesy of Esri

Speed wins fights, patience wins wars

Dear Founders & CEOs,

We are in the middle of an unprecedented shock in modern history. Nobody knows how long this will last. Nobody knows how this will end. I do know this. Nothing is ever as good as it looks or as bad as it feels. We will be fine. We may even be better from it. As they say, never waste a crisis. But first, we must survive it.

You are all IndieBio companies. Which means you are already survivors. Born and bred in the basement on Jessie Street in the Tenderloin. Walking into the office meant stepping over the hardships of life just to face it again in the lab. But this shock is different. Covid-19 will test us all. Our businesses, our commitment to community and our commitment to family. It will hurt and frustrate us. A lesson learned from 2001 and 2008 is that good companies will die because the world has changed around them and they do not wish to recognize it. Do not make that mistake. Public equities have been cut 25% in a couple weeks. …

How Jungla went from IndieBio to a $65m exit in three years

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It’s a simple idea, really, that if you could read every letter in your genome, we would understand completely what makes you, you. Of course, that’s too easy to be true.

Whole genome sequencing was the holy grail of genetics in the 1990s and the Human Genome Project was finally completed in 2003. We learned it may be a simple idea, but way more complex in practice. What makes you you may be in the genes, but what do those genes mean? And what about the ones we haven’t seen before? …

We make the case that the twin catastrophes of climate change and a crippled health care system shouldn’t be viewed as a threat to the economy, as an economic suppressor — but rather a historic opportunity for reinvention and economic gain.

Roughly, $35 billion is raised by venture capital funds annually, around the globe. Another $55 billion of private equity gets invested into growth opportunities. The promise of that annual $90 billion is to triple their money within ten years.

To most people, that ten year, $270 billion prize sounds like an enormous amount. But I’d argue it’s vastly underestimating the opportunity in front of us.

I think of R&D as an industry’s “mutation rate.” The same way any organism uses epigenetic (environmental) signaling to increase its mutation rate under survival stress, industries and economies invest in R&D to make sure they’re still going to be operating when the world changes rapidly around them. Some firms buy their innovation through acquisitions of startups that have opened a new market. While not native to the DNA of a company, this acquisition or in-house innovation can be transformative, like a virus that takes a host in a new direction.

If you look at the global R&D spend, across both industry and investment markets, you don’t necessarily see the recognition and awareness of just how much the world is changing. Only the healthcare sector and the software/internet sector show rapid increases of their mutation rate in the last five years. The auto industry’s R&D is slowly climbing, but not at the pace you’d imagine for an industry that’s about to suffer the disruptive shock of autonomous and electric vehicles. The mutation rate in computing/electronics is actually going down; it’s also going down in chemicals, energy, telecom and aerospace. In consumer products, the mutation rate is flat.

Image courtesy of The Opte Project & Lyon Labs.

Biology is the technology that unlocks the $100 trillion opportunity. But we need to do more, systematically, to harness the power of biology. We need better design.

What? Design?

To highlight the underappreciated role of design in scientific progress, we showcase how design operates at three different scales. At the molecular scale, at the company scale, and at the geopolitical scale.

We all remember the story of friar Gregor Mendel and his pea plant experiments in the garden beside the St Thomas Abbey in Moravia. As he interbred yellow peas with green peas, and tall peas with short peas, he discovered recessive and dominant traits in genetic inheritability. The beauty in the story is that we can understand it — we can empathetically project ourselves into his mind, and follow his observational logic to his extrapolations of scientific principle. In comparison, science today is so often dizzying. …

How policy design can impact the 7 Year Cliff that scares away bigger venture participation in sustainable technologies.

Here’s the question we want to tackle today: How can we speed up the scientific development and commercialization of sustainable technologies to restore the planet’s health?

It’s a big thorny question.

We start by illustrating the pathway of science projects as they translate into commercial adoption, along with its common funding mechanisms.

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The illustration is useful because it helps clarify the essential challenge.

The next great planetary health technologies are out there on the left. How do we get them to more rapidly make their way to the right?

Imagine you’re a policy analyst, or a politician, or a systems designer. You’re the guiding hand on the economy. The carrot and the stick are in that hand. You want to make sure we solve climate change, but you also don’t want to destroy the economy and cause massive social unrest. You’ve got a big fat financial incentive you can use to impact that flow. But where do you put it? Into basic research on the left? Into subsidies over on the right? …

It is my great honor to announce a strategic partnership between IndieBio, an SOSV accelerator, and New York State. We are bringing IndieBio, the world’s leading biotech accelerator to the Empire State, to build a booming biotech industry together with the scientists, universities, incubators and venture capitalists on the east coast.

So why New York?

New York has a long and storied history in biotech and genetics, with pioneering academic and research institutions like Columbia University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, Mount Sinai, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Rockefeller University, Cornell Tech, and the New York Genome Center. Combined with the pharma companies that are based in the New York and New Jersey area, this region is the number one talent pool in the country. …

IndieBio and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA ), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) are excited to announce a historic new collaboration aimed at accelerating the formation of biotech startups which will tackle the issues of drug abuse and addiction in the USA via the “$100K to Start a SUD Startup” Challenge.

Estimated at seven hundred billion dollars a year in total cost to the economy, drug abuse is one of biggest health-related issues in the country. Drug use and substance use disorders (SUDs) affect millions of Americans and impose enormous costs on society. In 2014, nearly 27 million people in the U.S. …


Arvind Gupta

Partner @Mayfieldfund, Founder @Indbio, Former Design Director @IDEO, I invest in human and planetary health

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