Pitching InSilico DB

Years of engineering effort starting off from an academic project allowed us to build one of the largest online genomics resources with more than 8,000 genome biologists worldwide: the InSilico DB collaborative genomics hub. It’s changing the practice of biology by allowing them to move from the bench to the computer for biological investigation.

Growth in InSilico DB subscribers up to September 2015

As a founder of InSilico DB I am a keeper of the story and responsible for communicating it. Unfortunately, though I made immense progress through great effort, I’m not a natural “pitcher”. Why? I don’t really know, but my best explanation is that the way I experienced my academic background is at fault. I got good at understanding complicated things, but not at explaining them.

But right now, explaining our vision to a wider audience is super important to reach the next level. Therefore, we figured the best way to kick this off was to get me on stage and be challenged. My co-founder Alain Coletta, got me into the Pitch competition at Web Summit. This got me really excited to prepare a great pitch!

Pitching InSilico DB at the Web Summit competition, photo from @gianni_dolce.

We didn’t make it to the semi-finals ;-( …, but learned a lot.

Here are the slides:

This are the presentation slides. For the notes see this

And the presenter notes are available here.

Iteration N+1

After pitching on the stage, in front of our booth, with my AirBnb hosts, on the street to anyone who would listen (yes Dublin is like that! And Web Summit is really a pitching fest with 1,000 startups vying for attention), …

I follow investors such as Marc Andreessen on Twitter. He was just having a conversation about pitches on Twitter, and Semil Shah shared his preferred presentation format.

Nice, simple, so let’s give it a shot for points 1–3:

  1. Vision/Problem:
  • We all have a genome, and sequencing it is now possible, and soon will become really cheap.
  • Since our genome is like our personal blueprint, this creates a digital version of us!
  • The are 30,000 biologists in the world that have the knowledge to interrogate and interpret this information to help us be healthier. For example, they could tell you that you’re at high-risk for skin cancer, in which case you’ll get your skin checked regularly, and avoid the sun.
  • Biologists need to analyse datasets on their own in order to test hypotheses, and build a story out of data for their discoveries
  • But since they’re not trained as data scientists and seldom know how to program, they are not able to use their knowledge.
  • The consequence is that the progress is very slow and genomics has yet to seriously impact our health and lifestyle.

2. Product

  • We therefore created the InSilico DB Genomics Collaborative Hub to allow biologists to analyse genome data without any programming skills.
  • We created a hub where data is centralised, it flows in, is standardised, curated and then flows out to various analysis tools scientists already use to interrogate and interpret the data.
  • Collaborative analysis of data becomes really easy and even fun!

3. Team

  • Alain Coletta and I did PhDs in bioinformatics. My job was to help biologists analyse their data, but it just didn’t work because every result I gave them they came back with many more questions, making my life impossible and them frustrated. One thing I did was concentrate all the biologist’s data into one database and just by looking, amazing discoveries became immediately apparent. We published them which got me into MIT where I saw the same problem, which is why I decided to replace myself by something better.
  • James Cauwelier was the first engineer before becoming VP of engineering at SparkCentral, a Silicon Valley startup that raised 18M, where he was responsible for scaling the IT team from 1 to 80. He also holds a master in biotechnology
  • Robin Duqué is an industrial engineer, is part of the founding team, was a software engineer at ING bank prior joining us
  • Virginie de Schaetzen, responsible for data quality, holds an MD degree and is part-time chief of the dermatology dept at the University Hospital in Liège, Belgium
  • The two founders of Ogone, a payments system having achieved the largest exit among internet startups in Belgian history, are very active in the building of the business
  • Lionel Perl, chairman of the board, he is an investment banker and private equity investor, he understood our vision and helped us create the company 3 years ago.

What do you think? Is it exciting? Can you help me improve this pitch?

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