Tag Archives: Futurism

Big Investors Are on Zoom and They’re Not Going Back

I’ve been listening to an interesting podcast this morning with two major investors in early stage start-ups: Jason Calacanis and Paul Judge of Panoramic VC. They discussed meeting founders purely through Zoom, rather than in person, and how that’s changed the way they invest.

Both said they found it far more efficient to meet people remotely. Each remote meeting might take only half an hour, while an in person meeting might take several hours of commute time, chit-chat, etc.

The bottom line is they can meet way more founders and expand their “deal funnel,” or the number of companies they can pick from to invest in. Neither plans to return to in person meetings when this ends, given the huge efficiency jump they’ve experienced.

As a much smaller investor, I can relate. I’m meeting with an advisor in a couple of weeks, and it’s going to be remote. Even if COVID didn’t exist, I’d keep it remote, since he’s near Philadelphia and I’m in the NYC area. An in person meeting is a day trip, whereas a phone meeting is an hour tops. In terms of productivity per hour, the choice is clear.

Expect to see a continuation of virtual meetings after COVID. Many are finding the efficiency gains over in-person can’t be beat. People may still wish to get together from time to time and socialize, but I think much more business will be conducted remotely in the future, and we’ll be better off for it.

For more on start-ups and business, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Jason Calacanis” by Joi is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What I Learned From an Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000

Above: Angel investor Jason Calacanis

The angel investor Jason Calacanis got in on the ground floor of Uber, Thumbtack, and other highly successful software companies, multiplying his $100,000 investment into $100,000,000 in just 6 years. With results like that, you know I had to read his book!

The idea of helping, even in a very small way, to build the future appeals to me a great deal. And if my investment multiplied many times over, well, I wouldn’t mind! 🙂 In this superb and brief book, Calacanis lays out a detailed game plan on how to achieve results like his.

He suggests beginning with syndicate deals, in which an angel investor invests alongside more experienced angels. You can begin with as little as $1,000 per investment, and such syndicates can be found at AngelList, SeedVest, and elsewhere. In fact, the author has his own syndicate, here. Unlike most investment managers, the syndicate lead only gets paid if he scores for you. There is no management fee at all, but the lead does keep 20% of any profits for his/her trouble.

You can build your skills, experience and connections in those syndicate deals, and then move on to deals on your own. Calacanis explains that you have to evaluate the founder himself/herself more than the product. It’s the person behind the company that will make or break it. Products can change a lot more easily than people can. What are is the founder’s chances of suceeding in this business, and in life?

I was struck by how similar the approach to finding investments is to podcasting, journalism, or for that matter, blogging. Calacanis advises asking short questions and writing down the founder’s answers at length. Then, you write deal memos when you invest, to lay out the thinking behind the investment. These could help remind you of your reasoning if times get tough for the company, and also guide future investments.

There’s a ton of actionable details in this book, and I won’t get into all of them here. But if you’re even remotely considering investing in early stage companies, I strongly suggest giving this entertaining and highly readable book a look!

I Just Went to a Meeting With Two Experts on Gene Editing. Here’s What I Learned

Photo: Shengfang Jin, PhD, Vice President and Head of Discovery Biology, Editas Medicine

This morning, I attended an online presentation by two experts on gene editing and CRISPR. Shengfang Jin, VP of Editas Medicine, and Andrew Lin, who heads the Rare Disease Center at WuXi AppTec, presented a lot of great info, but what stuck out to me most was the trial Editas is doing to cure a rare eye disorder.

Leber congenital amaurosis type 10 generally causes people to be born blind or lose their sight by age 10. I can only imagine how difficult it must be. A new therapy from Editas targets this disease with a one-and-done treatment. This therapy is the first use of CRISPR in a human being, as opposed to a cell culture, and is currently in Phase 1/2 clinical trials.

Listening to Dr. Jin speak, I was put in mind of this passage from the Bible:

“the blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor. “

Matthew 11:5

I increasingly suspect we are at the dawn of a golden age in medicine. The rapid pace of COVID vaccine development or this first in vivo use of CRISPR may be the first signs of things to come.

P.S. The presentation should be up on the website of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News here soon.