Hundreds of thousands of researchers around the world are working to improve life and address imminent threats to humanity. Often, the research ends up in the “Scientific valley of death” in the form of publications and patents that never see the light of the day.
Welcome to “Lab to Startup” a podcast aimed at showcasing the effort needed to translate lab research to startups. The show has two main goals: 1. Sharing the stories of those scientists and engineers who have successfully founded startups based on the research at university and national labs. 2. Highlighting the resources and tools needed to help those aspiring to launch startups in the deeptech space.
We also want this show to be a way to communicate those technology development stories to the general public (taxpayers funding the research) in the hope that they will continue to support such research and startups.
About the host
Naresh Sunkara, Ph.D. is a chemical biologist, entrepreneur and the founder and Executive Director of the Berkeley Postdoc Entrepreneurship Program at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been running this program for the past ten years that has helped graduate students and postdocs at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and at several other universities in the US.
He was previously a postdoc at UC Berkeley developing lipid nanoparticles for delivery of mRNA based drugs targeting viruses and cancers.
Translating lessons learnt on diversity from academia to startups and the tech world.
Freeman A. Hrabowski, III is the President Emeritus of UMBC (The University of Maryland, Baltimore County) who served as president from 1992 to 2022. His research and publications focus on science and math education, with special emphasis on minority participation and performance.. He was named in 2012 by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. In 2022, Dr. Hrabowski was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In Addition, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) also launched the Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program, a $1.5 billion fund to help build a diverse scientific workforce.
We talk about the state of diversity in academia, the challenges, experiments and outcomes; how diversity is a hard problem; and topics like the pipeline issues, hiring, mentoring, building culture and several others, that academia has made some progress in and how the tech industry could extract lessons from the work done in academia.
- State of the union on diversity in academia and industry
- Tech industry has done an abysmally bad job when it comes to diversity
- Diversity is hard:
- Majority of students taking STEM courses in the first two years of college do not graduate in those fields
- Empowered university
- Meyerhoff Scholars Program
- Idea of Grit
- It takes a long time to build a program; bring about change; small wins matter
- Challenging ourselves and asking hard questions is super important to solve tough problems
- Pipeline problem: Need industry to work with colleges early on by providing internships, so they can evaluate and build the pipeline
- Hiring practices: Hiring people who don't look like you
- Don’t treat it as a way of giving a chance- a deficit model
- We need mentors and champions
- One should be able to talk about weaknesses and how to address
- What could tech companies do to accommodate diversity once they hire them?
- Success is never final
- Need for role models
- Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett- COVID vaccine
- Hypothetical tool box for the tech industry
- Dr. Hrabowski Bio, selected talks, publications and selected speeches: https://president.umbc.edu/freeman-hrabowski/
- TED talks: https://www.ted.com/talks/freeman_hrabowski_4_pillars_of_college_success_in_science?language=en
- Articles and case studies on Meyerhoff scholars program:
[REPLAY] Building the startup muscle for academic founders.
Martin Casado is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), a pioneer of software-defined networking, and a co-founder of Nicira Networks. We cover the lessons learnt from Martin's journey as an academic entrepreneur founding Nicira and factors that aspiring entrepreneurs planning to translate their research to products should consider.
- Story of an accidental Ph.D., turned into an accidental but very successful entrepreneur
- Shares how working with others during grad school helped his entrepreneurial efforts later
- Titles don't mean anything- Forget titles and make sure decision makers are responsible for their decisions long term.
- Enterprise version of Product market fit means you have to be piped into the product, the market and the tech trends
- Discount the advice given by technology advisors who don't understand product market fit.
- Academics need to understand how people (customers) do their day to day processes and their current technology before proposing their new technology.
- Thoughts about timing and persistence.
- Advice on how to hire executives at startups.
- Picking board members.
- Thoughts on exits and how founders should think about exits
- Ph.D.'s can make great CEOs but remember that business problems are harder than technology problems
Nucleate Bio- A collaborative student-led organization that facilitates the formation of pioneering life sciences companies
Anjali Ramaswami, Tobias Schmid and Miroslov Gasparek, are leaders at Nucleate Bio, a nonprofit educational organization that empowers the next generation of bio-entrepreneurs to launch successful life sciences ventures. Their program connects early-career scientists with business students and provides a structured educational framework with one-on-one mentorship that leverages their world-class network & resources.
In this episode of lab to startup, we talk about the pain points this group is addressing; understand how they match co-founders, their application process; guidelines and challenges for others considering launching a chapter of this organization at their universities; and subjects like diversity, cross pollination between campuses and many others.
- Problems that Nucleate is addressing and back story to build this organization
- Matching co-founders
- Lessons learnt from team formations
- Genesis: Developing a venture thesis based on an idea
- Application process
- Clinical track program
- Speech language program to teach scientists how to talk about their research without revealing any key technology
- Challenges initiating local chapters
- Pairing MBAs with PhDs- what works? Cross pollination between campus
- Addressing diversity
- Mentorship: From faculty, VCs, operators
- Nucleate 2023 Activator application: https://nucleate.typeform.com/activator2023?typeform-source=nucleate.xyz
- General Inquiry: email@example.com
Activate- Empowering scientists to bring their research to market
Matt Price is the co-founder and President of Activate, a program teaching scientists how to bring their research to market. He was previously the Managing Director of Cyclotron Road, and comes with experiences in the Renewable Energy space , Materials Science, and Venture Capital industry.
In this episode of lab to startup, we talk about the Activate fellowship program, its origins, especially how they navigated carving out a niche but much needed space for supporting scientists to build startups. We will discuss details about the application process, challenges that the fellows generally face in this space, the support they provide, and what they actually look for in an idea or a founder trying to commercialize research. We will then find out more about the recently announced NSF fellowships for scientists and engineers in collaboration with the Activate fellowship program.
- What is Activate?
- Origin story and Cyclotron Road
- Business model of Activate vs incubators/accelerators
- How VC funding model might not be appropriate for scientific entrepreneurs exploring technology translation
- Activate fellows receive money, time and space t find out what kind of capital will help them build a company
- Solving the brain drain problem
- Types of industries covered
- Activate fellowship: application process and selection criteria, timelines, fellowship amounts, and other benefits the program offers.
- What success looks like: Economic value created; understanding market dynamics-capture value; identify the right source of capital
- What they look for in an idea/founder
- Scratching the intellectual itch
- Activator readiness level
- NSF Fellowships: https://beta.nsf.gov/tip/updates/nsf-launches-entrepreneurial-fellowship-engineers
- Hit milestones and receive funding from partner VCs
- Delivering intimacy at scale
- Apply to the program: https://www.activate.org/apply
National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC)- Funding dual-use hardware startups
Salvador Badillo-Rios, an Associate at the National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC). We talk about the origins of the National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC); funding priorities; criteria for funding; application process; and insights into best practices for applicants.
- Website: National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC)
- Building hardware is hard
- A new DoD initiative that enables dual-use hardware startups
- Help product development by addressing the shortfall of private investment from trusted sources.
- Some of the founders were looking to China for funding innovations
- Areas of interest: Autonomy, Space, Sensors, Power, Communications
- Selection criteria
- Rolling applications
- Application and Review process
- Support post funding
- Intellectual Property
- Tips to Apply- Focus on the why; include risk and mitigation plan
- Commercial Acceleration Opportunity (CAO)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/salvador-badillo-rios/
Sub-contracting: Companies are allowed to subcontract some work since this is often needed for hardware startups (specialized manufacturing, etc). NSIC had several portfolio companies do this. However, subcontracting should not be the majority of the product development we are funding (the majority should be performed by in-house talent). NSIC looks at companies on a case-by-case basis.
Market intelligence reports for startups - Arkady Hagopian
Arkady Hagopian is an experienced professional in the market intelligence reports space both in industry and academic startup sectors. In this episode of lab to startup, we will talk about what market intelligence reports are; the building blocks of these reports; how startups could build one; mistakes to avoid; how to decide on hiring a firm if you are looking to do so. This is going to be a master class for startups on this subject
- What are market intelligence reports?
- Breakdown of a typical market report
- Good reports and not so good reports
- TAM, SOM, SAM
- How to size markets?
- Rubric for market analysis- Bottom up approach, top down approach, competitor approach
- Which method to choose?
- Deep dive into competitive analysis
- How investors view market reports by entrepreneurs- what to do and not to do?
- How founders can avoid developing tunnel vision
- KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid)
- Who should indulge in market research and build market reports at startups
- Market research is not exactly science!
- How do truly innovative startups present future markets?
- How do you pick boutique market research firms to build a report for you?
- Qualifying questions for market research firms
- Arkady's LNKD: https://www.linkedin.com/in/arkadyh/
Excellent podcast on deep tech
Highly recommended podcast for anyone with (or without!) a phd who would like to understand how to turn their research into companies