Lessons from the Yale Biotech and Tech Bootcamps

The Yale Office of Cooperative Research hosted the day-long Yale Biotech and Yale Tech Bootcamps on May 12 at Evans Hall. The Biotech Bootcamp convened Yale faculty and researchers interested in commercializing ideas for drug discovery and biological therapeutics, and the Tech Bootcamp focused on physical and computer sciences, engineering, software, and services. The day included workshops, investor panels, a poster session for early-stage entrepreneurs, and a pitch contest. Keynote inspeakers included Crystal McKellar YC ’99, managing director and general counsel at Mithril Capital, and George Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer at Regeneron Research Laboratories.

It’s important to have a well-defined market, but it’s also extraordinarily important to choose an attractive market. There are really two critical questions: The first is, is there a lot of competition in this market, and can I win it? If not, you’re going to go out of business and your investors will lose all their money. The second is, if I win, is this a market worth winning? In a market where [profit] margins are low, you might decide that it’s not. So you have to have your eyes wide open.

The question of whether a company wins or loses is their choice of market and then of course how well suited a technology is to that market… If you can’t carve out your niche, it’s going to be hard. If you have your market identified, and ideally it’s something that’s largely misunderstood, then it becomes pretty interesting.

—Crystal McKellar YC ’99

It’s really important that the data you have is far enough along that it’s been reproduced by someone other than just you and your lab. It’s not just a graduate student who did it five times; it’s having someone who reproduced your data—that’s key. We see a lot of times where circumstances are different—water is different, the temperature is different; who knows?—and we take it into a lab and can’t get the same result on the initial times and lots of things fail. That’s a key piece of information—the data needs to replicated outside of one person’s lab.

—Christine Brennan, principal at Novartis Venture Fund

Engagement with investors at an early point is really important, even if you think you’re not ready. It’s a journey. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You get to know investors along the journey, and they get to know you and your company. You’re always fundraising. You never stop fundraising. Getting to know people is important. You’re going to spend a lot of time with these people, and you want to get the right people on board… There’s never a good time and there’s never a bad time to talk to investors. Don’t be shy.

—Dhiraj Malkani ’06, investment director for Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, on the “Engaging Tech Investors at the Earliest Stage” panel

Is it a wave or a tidal wave and how will it end?… There’s been a huge rush into this field. I don’t think you can see an oncology program today that doesn’t get spun into an immuno-oncology program.”

—Tim Shannon, general partner at Canaan Partners, on the “Riding the Immuno-Oncology Wave” panel

About the Event

The Yale Biotech Bootcamp is a day-long workshop at Zhang Auditorium in Evans Hall tailored to Yale faculty and researchers interested in commercializing ideas for drug discovery and biological therapeutics. Emphasis will be on developing “fundable ideas” and taking an entrepreneurial approach to getting pharma and VCs to engage.

The Tech Entrepreneur Bootcamp is happening same day, same time, for Yale faculty and researchers interested in commercializing ideas from the physical and computer sciences, engineering, software, and services.

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