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Seth Bannon, Founding Partner at Fifty Years, on How Science Startups Build the Future

This is the fifth episode of SOSV’s new podcast ‘Deep Tech: From Lab to Market’ hosted where Founders and Investors share how ‘deep tech’ innovation can go from lab to market. It is available on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and other platforms. Subscribe on Twitter at @LabToMarket.

About Seth and Fifty Years

Seth Bannon is the Founding Partner of Fifty Years, a $50m early stage deep tech fund.

  • Seth is a long-time advocate and campaigner, who turned to technology and investment to solve the world’s biggest problems around sustainability, food, and the digital divide.
  • A graduate of Y Combinator, Seth was named twice to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Social Entrepreneurship.
  • Seth believes business will be about more than just profit (more here), and Fifty Years has supported a range of startups shaping the world for the better — from microbe engineering for sustainable chemistry, to small satellites for low-cost global internet coverage, to clean meat.

Note: SOSV and Fifty Years have co-invested in several companies, notably in the life sciences sector, such as Memphis Meats (clean meat pioneer, raised $181m), Geltor (synthetic human collagen), Catalog DNA (DNA-based data storage) from our IndieBio program, and Opentrons (biology lab robots) from our HAX hardware program.

Find more in our portfolio and this post on HAX’s investment themes in a post-Covid world.

Episode Overview

In this episode, Seth talks about:

  • What prompted him to create a fund focused on the world’s biggest problems, and how its name relates to Winston Churchill’s prophetic 1931 essay titled Fifty Years Hence.
  • How Silicon Valley needs to go back to its roots: focusing on technology to lift all sectors — including food, industry and healthcare — to the digital age.
  • Why biology is having its ‘Internet time’.
  • The challenges PhDs face when they become founders to translate their research.
  • How magnetic, resourceful, resilient doers are founders with high potential.
  • Why Seth’s favorite question is ‘Why?’
  • His approach to opportunistic investments in deep tech.
  • Using publication research for initial technical due diligence in new domains and why experienced deep tech founders can help with due diligence better than professors.
  • The benefits of portfolio network effects.
  • How deep tech companies can use the ‘Tesla approach’ to launch products and scale.
  • Finally, we discuss the affects of the Covid-19 pandemic on venture, and the silver lining of how such an intense global events might give rise to major scientific advances in a compressed timeframe.

References Mentioned

Timely Memes




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Benjamin Joffe

Benjamin Joffe


Partner @ SOSV — Deep Tech VC w/ $1B AUM | Digital Naturalist | Keynote Speaker | Angel Investor | Mediocre chess player, worse at Jiu-jitsu