Yesterday, venture fund SOSV announced a partnership with Mayfield to create the Genesis Consortium, which will invest alongside SOSV into pre-seed-state companies participating in SOSV’s IndieBio accelerator.
IndieBio is perhaps best known for helping startups with extremely disruptive concepts and technologies across multiple industries, including food. Memphis Meats, for example, was one of the earliest movers in the cell-based meat space. Geltor is developing non-animal-based protein for to create gelatin for foods, medicines, and cosmetics.
That level of scientific and technological disruption, however, requires more time, funds, and faith to bring to fruition than would be the case with other kinds of tech companies. That’s one reason many bioengineering-focused startups get stuck, IndieBio’s Po Bronson told me this week. “To really translate the work of scientists often takes years, and we are often speeding that up at the pre-seed stage in our accelerators,” he said. “What we’ve found is that if we could deploy a little more money there at that pre-stage it can help the startups have the runway, time and get more data to prove that they’re really worth the seed funding.”
In other words, the conundrum is that firms typically want companies to show them results before they invest, but companies need the cash in order to get those results.
That’s where the Genesis Consortium comes in. To be clear, this is not a new fund, but rather a “small pool of money,” in Bronson’s words, to help pre-seed-stage companies at IndieBio develop their ideas and technologies. Currently, IndieBio funds about 50 startups with $250,000 each annually. Beginning in 2021, the Genesis Consortium plans to increase that number to $500,000 for each pre-seed startup, according to SOSV’s press release.
As far as the kinds of companies it will invest in, Bronson told me they will continue to work with startups trying to advance entire industries, including food, through science and technology that address both human and planetary health, and the connection between those two areas. These are not incremental technologies that iterate on existing concepts. Instead, these startups are typically rethinking entire industries.
And while extra funds are an important part of the package these pre-seed startups will get, they’re not the only tool necessary for turning an idea into a business. Especially when it comes to areas like engineering biology, translating an idea into an actual business is where a lot of companies get hung up. A group of scientists must learn how to communicate their ideas and business in a way that can resonate with not just potential investors but also future markets.
“You cannot just be a scientist. You have to be leading a movement in your space and that means communicating and learning to translate,” Bronson explained. He adds that the IndieBio program is “really good” at getting companies through this particular hurdle through its training.
Getting companies over that hurdle is something IndieBio is known for and will continue with the Genesis Consortium. The hope is that through the initiative, a greater number of visionary VCs and corporates will be able to invest in the kinds of ideas that might not otherwise receive the attention (and money) needed to translate them into businesses that can fundamentally change markets.