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Future Founder Series — Part 1: Best Advice

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Alix Ventures: Supporting Early Stage Life Science Startups Engineering Biology to Drive Radical Advances in Human Health

Calling All Innovators Click to Reach Out 🚀

We are honored to feature investors at:

KdT Ventures, 11.2 Capital, Healthy Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Maverick Ventures, Blue Bear Ventures, B Capital Group, 7Wire Ventures, Soma Capital, Undeterred Capital, Craft Ventures, Artis Ventures, &Alix Ventures.

We asked our guests:

What is one piece of advice you would share with future startup founders?

“Stay grounded. Things are (almost) never as good or bad as you think.”

Mack Healy — Partner @ KdT Ventures

“Always be raising… from the right investors. Some founders take the stance that it is a distraction to take investor meetings outside or before a formal fundraise because the company is “heads down”. When you look at the truly thoughtful and value-add investors, they honestly want to get to know the founders and understand their business before making an investment decision that could be a 5–10 year relationship. Do your due diligence on the investor, because the actual value-add investors are willing to wait and could be the catalyst to a breakout company.”

Jacob Smith — Principal @ 11.2 Capital

“Founding and leading a company is a LONG journey. Make sure you partner with folks with whom you have good rapport, good lanes of communication, and a shared vision. You’ll meet enough doubters/detractors on your journey — make sure they’re not also in your company and board room. As a corollary, raise money from the right people: don’t always seek to maximize valuation — optimizing for local min/maxes often means you miss the global.

In addition to being long, the founder journey can also be lonely. Even outside of your company and investors, it’s worthwhile to foster a “personal board of directors” or others that can be thought partners with you and relate to the founder experience.”

Anya Schiess — General Partner @ Healthy Ventures

“Sounds simple, but do more research on your potential inventors and talk to founders they’ve worked with instead of just going by reputation. Startups take a long time to grow — you want capital partners who are aligned with you on vision and ambition and patient for years to come. Would you bring on a C-level hire without doing thorough diligence and referencing?”

Kevin Zhang — Partner @ Upfront Ventures

“Pick your market carefully. Some markets are notoriously tough, and if those are the ones you choose to enter, go in eyes wide open.”

Ambar Bhattacharyya — Managing Director @ Maverick Ventures

“Never underestimate how long a startup will actually take to build. Always think that you will work on this idea for at least 10 years.”

Deepak Gupta — Managing Partner @ Blue Bear Ventures

“Really focus on nailing your initial market. Use the unique insight that you have in an industry to figure out what that market is and then hone the product, value proposition, and go-to-market strategy until it’s crystal clear to target customers why they should buy from you. If you’re really solving an important problem then there will be plenty of opportunities to grow the initial market to something much larger, but you have to really deliver for your first set of customers.”

Adam Seabrook — Principal @ B Capital Group

“Think exponentially, not incrementally. Particularly in healthcare, there are enormous, entrenched problems that require holistic solutions that can scale. The industry has been plagued for decades by incrementalism, which stifles innovation and impact.”

Robert Garber — Partner @ 7Wire Ventures

“Do your diligence on VCs by asking shut down or failing companies in their portfolio how the VCs have treated them during the most challenging times. It is easy for VCs to be nice and helpful to rocket ships, but how they help struggling companies shows their true colors.”

Jessica Li — Investor @ Soma Capital

“Avoid getting wrapped up playing games that don’t matter and signaling things that no one cares about. An example is taking the lowest possible salary even if it’s less than you can afford because you think it signals commitment to your company to investors. Optimizing for what you think investors want without considering second order consequences (e.g. too low a salary = constant financial stress which pulls attention away from the business) is actually short-sighted and isn’t conducive to building a long-term company. I promise that no one is going to pass on your company at the Series A because you paid yourself $100k instead of $60k.”

Joe Wilson — Managing Director @ Undeterred Capital

“Make your first customers unbelievably happy, even if it means scaling back growth. A retained, referenceable customer is invaluable.”

Elena Painter — Principal @ Craft Ventures

“At the earliest stages, founders receive a lot of advice and feedback from their community of fellow entrepreneurs, investors, and others, and sometimes the feedback is conflicting. I advise founders to develop the skill of knowing who to ask what. The right person to give feedback on your regulatory approach may not be the same person who should give feedback on your business model. Honing the judgment of who to listen to on which topics and ultimately making your own calls is important.”

Ameena El-Bibany — Principal @ Artis Ventures

“In terms of chess — you first have to know what the pieces are, then how the pieces move, but it can take a lifetime to learn how to get good at moving the pieces. Startups often can be boiled down to its simplest parts and its these levers that you can push/pull to maneuver outcomes.

Recognize problems for what they are, running an early stage startup often feels like you are constantly putting out fires: it takes time to learn how to put them out, but it takes even longer to know which ones to ignore.”

Chas Pulido — General Partner @ Alix Ventures

Insights

This piece was a delight to learn more behind the philosophy of multiple healthcare and life sciences investors. Several themes surfaced: (1) do your diligence and partner with the right investors to make your company a reality, while thinking long-term (10+ years!); (2) nail your initial market and treat your first set of customers (and future references) right; and (3) be your own filter and final arbiter (whether that’s advice from various advisors, choosing which battles to pick, or fixing emergencies). We hope this is helpful for both upcoming and existing startup founders alike!

📣 If you enjoyed this post please clap 👏 & comment 💬 to let us know

Alix Ventures, by way of BIOS Community, is providing this content for general information purposes only. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Alix Ventures, BIOS Community, or its affiliates. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by Alix Ventures employees are those of the employees and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alix Ventures, BIOS Community, affiliates, and content sponsors.

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