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10 Questions w/ Shahram Seyedin-Noor — General Partner @ Civilization Ventures

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Shahram Seyedin-Noor

Shahram Seyedin-Noor is Founder & General Partner @ Civilization Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on supporting cutting edge innovations in health tech and biology.

Prior to founding Civilization Ventures, Shahram was a life sciences entrepreneur and angel investor for more than a decade. Shahram was the founding CEO and later Executive Chairman of Inspirna (fka Rgenix), a biotech company with multiple first-in-class therapeutics for cancer now in Phase 1b clinical trials. Prior to Inspirna (fka Rgenix), he was founding CFO and VP of Corporate Development at NextBio, a genomics pioneer acquired by Illumina. Shahram sits on the boards of Foresight Diagnostics and Rewrite and has been one of the first checks into frontier tech companies such as Omada Health, CatalogDNA, Evonetix, BilliontoOne, Lemonaid Health, Avantome (acquired by Illumina), Bina (acquired by Roche), Rocket Pharma (IPO), and Counsyl (acquired by Myriad).

Shahram began his career in Silicon Valley over twenty years ago at Wilson Sonsini and went on to advise some of the world’s preeminent technology leaders while at Goldman Sachs. He earned his JD from Harvard Law School, where he led 175 editors as Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard International Law Journal, and obtained a BA in Economics from Pomona College. Shahram founded CV in 2017 to support innovations that could — with some luck and perseverance — improve human health, preserve the world’s natural resources, and further our shared civilization.

Learn more about Shahram’s work on BIOS Podcast:

We sat down with Shahram Seyedin-Noor to ask his viewpoints on everything from top founder portfolio traits, seeking mentorship, to advice on preparing for fundraising…


What are the top 3 common traits of founders in your portfolio?

“Among the best founders, there are three absolutely critical traits: positivity, deep intelligence, and integrity.”


How does your investment criteria change in a recessionary environment?

“It doesn’t. We were rigorous during the bubble, we’re rigorous now (to the best of our abilities). We stay steady.”


How has your worldview evolved since you first started your VC career?

“I focus even more on the founders and their character than before… and I was already very focused on that! Technological differentiation, large market size, product-market fit… are table stakes. But only great founders can build great companies.”


Outside of operating experience & higher education, what is one seemingly random thing you look for in a founder’s background?

“Are they independent thinkers? I’m an immigrant who wore funny clothes to school, learned English as a second language, and got accustomed to being an outsider. Many great founders start out as outsiders — and then become dominant insiders.”


Outside of investing, what is one seemingly random activity that helps make you a better VC?

“I walk and just think for an hour — outside in nature — every day. It’s where I come up with my best ideas.”


What has been the most helpful piece of advice you received throughout your career as a venture capitalist?

“Ignore the hype. No one told me that per se, but it seems obvious. The best investments are the contrarian ones.”


As an early stage investor, we often pick companies whose directions change. Can you talk about pivoting vs. staying the course?

“Stay the course if you’re on the right track; pivot if you learn that your product is no longer better/faster/cheaper. It’s not the strongest that survive, but those who can adapt.”


As a founder building something new in the world, you are often in need of knowledge you don’t possess. How would you recommend founders go about seeking mentorship?

“Network. Like crazy. Read. A lot.”


How does your evaluation process change when it comes to backing first-time vs. repeat founders?

“If you’re a repeat founder, we look for greatness — ie., prior success — either in actuality, or in terms of deep learnings from ‘failure’. If you’re a startup newbie, we look for the potential for greatness.”


How do you advise founders in your portfolio to prepare ahead of time for future fundraises?

“We work very closely with founders to tune their story and decks. I always tell founders: measure twice, cut once. Get the deck and pitch right now so you don’t waste your precious VC meetings.”

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❤️ Thanks Andrew Yashar for your help in putting this together :)

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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