Biotech Startup School

Venture Exploration project 2020

Learn about biotech entrepreneurship through a hands-on project: creating and validating a biotech venture hypothesis

Apply for the Venture Exploration project here, or keep reading to learn more.

The project took place in 2020. We do not have plans to offer additional programs at this time.

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See if starting a company is right for you

It's hard to know whether starting a company is right for you until you try it. But jumping straight from academia or a day job into entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

This project is intended to replicate the first steps of starting a biotech company as closely as possible, but with lower stakes.

During the project, you will explore and validate a venture hypothesis through a structured process. We will provide feedback and guidance, and you will have the chance to get feedback from investors, mentors and other participants.

At the end of the project, if you've decided you'd like to start a company, we can help you with applications to incubators, writing SBIR grants and connecting you with investors.

Benefits of doing the project

The project is designed to:

  • Help you decide whether entrepreneurship is something you'd like to pursue further.
  • Help you find an idea for a startup, or develop a better process for finding ideas.
  • Expand your network. We will connect you with mentors, other founders, and investors for feedback on your idea.
  • Give you a chance to work with a potential cofounder on a low-stakes project, so you can see if it's a good fit before starting a company together.
  • Help you learn business skills. Most of these skills can only be learned with practice, and this project is a good excuse to practice and improve.
  • Provide structure and accountability.

Alums of previous programs have gone on to join top venture funds, venture-backed startups, and have started their own companies.

Because this project is about finding and validating startup ideas, if you already have a company, or if there's a specific technology you're committed to turning into a company, this project may not be as relevant for you.

Project format and timeline

The project will last 10 weeks. There will be four checkopints during the project, described below.

We've designed the program to accommodate all levels of interest in entrepreneurship. If you start the project and then decide it isn't for you, that's totally fine. But if you are serious about starting a company and invest time in your project, we will provide you with additional support. The more you put in, the more we will help out.

Here's how it works:

  • The Biotech Startup School team will provide feedback on all checkpoint submissions.
  • Teams that complete the first two checkpoints will be eligible for feedback sessions with investors, mentors and startup founders.
  • Teams that complete the full project will be eligible to participate in a pitch event at the end of the program.

Checkpoint 1: brainstorm 3-5 venture hypotheses

The first step is to come up with a few ideas you'd be interested in exploring. We strongly encourage you to come up with new ideas, rather than using your grad project or an idea you've been thinking about for a while. The approach we use in this project doesn't work if you're already committed to a specific technology.

A venture hypothesis could be based on an area of biology (autophagy-targeting drugs as potential treatments for lysosomal storage disorders), a new technology (using new computational tools to design therapeutic proteins, using a new vector for delivering gene therapies to specific cells), or a specific disease (finding new treatments for Parkinson's).

We may provide a list of ideas that investors are interested in to get you started, or you can come up with your own.

Checkpoint 2: select one venture hypothesis to focus on

The next step is to figure out which of the ideas seems most promising. The best way to do this is to seek feedback from physicians or patients (is there a real unmet need?), subject matter experts (is this technically feasible?) and investors (is this fundable?).

We will share some resources to help you find and interview these stakeholders. In general, a good approach is to read enough literature or do enough research to ask intelligent questions and have productive interviews with various stakeholders.

Talking to people is an essential part of this process. Just as you design experiments to test scientific hypotheses, you need to talk to people to test business hypotheses.

Checkpoint 3: identify the most promising technological solutions

At this point you should have talked to enough physicians and patients to understand that you are addressing a real problem.

The next step is to figure out which technologies could best solve this problem -- regardless of lab of origin. You may need a few different technologies to deliver a solution.

You should also identify key technical risks, and strengths and weaknesses of your approach vs. competing approaches.

Checkpoint 4: identify key risks

Figure out which key risks to address in the next 12-24 months. If they are commercial or operational risks, figure out who you will talk to assess the risks. If they are technical risks, figure out which experiments to perform to address them.

You should also think through the longer-term development plan, including the path to 1) demonstrate human proof of concept and 2) get FDA approval.

Apply by February 28, 2020

The application deadline is February 28, 2020. The application process has two simple steps:

  • Create a profile
  • Analyze a startup, or analyze the commercial potential of a technology from a scientific paper. You can choose an idea or company you think is interesting, or one you don't think is interesting, as long as you describe why. We're mostly interested in your thought process.

Why is this free?

Our mission is to support the next generation of biotech entrepreneurs. We think that young scientists have tremendous potential to start great companies that develop important medicines, and deliver them to patients in a responsible and sustainable manner.

We also realize that neither entrepreneurship nor academia pay particularly well. So we will never charge to participate in our programs.

Bay Bridge Bio makes money through consulting services and sales of market research reports. In the future, we may invest in some startups as well. We may generate sponsorship revenue for Biotech Startup School, but mostly, it is a fun way for us to meet interesting people and learn about new technologies.

We won't share any of your deliverables or ideas with others without your permission. We will only use the information you provide to 1) provide feedback on your ideas and 2) with your permission, share your updates with advisors or mentors for feedback. However, we don't sign NDAs with Biotech Startup School participants: advisors and investors typically don't sign NDAs for companies at this stage. That said, we understand if you aren't comfortable sharing information. If you have any questions regarding confidentiality, email [email protected].

About Biotech Startup School

This project is part of Biotech Startup School. Biotech Startup School is a free online course on how to start a biotech company.

Since 2017, Bay Bridge Bio has been organizing programs to connect grad students and postdocs with biotech VCs to learn about the industry and find jobs. We've also organized events and panel discussions on biotech VC and startups.

We often get asked whether we plan on offering programs to people outside of the Bay Area. And investors and entrepreneurs have expressed interest in sharing their stories with a broader audience. Biotech Startup School is a way for us to accomplish both of these things.

This course is not formally affiliated with any university or company. The program is organized by Bay Bridge Bio. Bay Bridge Bio was started in 2017 as a way for Berkeley students to connect with the Bay Area biotech community. Our mission is to help more young scientists and entrepreneurs find jobs and start biotech companies.