Yesterday, over 130 people, largely drawn from Cambridge, London and Oxford, attended the first ever ‘Playground’ event, aimed squarely at young academics thinking about biotech start-ups. We figured the best way to shine a spotlight on this world was to have five experienced entrepreneurs talk about how they got into the business and how they’ve dealt with the ups and downs along the way. This turned out to be a good call! The ever insightful and charismatic Stelios Papadopoulos spoke about how he brazened his way from bench science to banking. Christian Itin and Peter Hecht did a double act chatting to one another and taking questions from the audience, highlighting how success has come from not fearing failure and working with other smart people, two very strong themes during the day. Hiring people smarter than you are yourself is advice we’ve taken to heart ourselves with David Grainger joining our firm as a Venture Partner. Prolific entrepreneur that he is, he illustrated how it’s still possible to combine incredible productivity with a busy social calendar by being ruthless about how he spends (invests) his time. Joanna Horobin talked about her journey from General Practice to President of Syndax, and demonstrated for all to see the passion, energy and commitment that carried her there. We finished off with a fun session where we got the participants to play VC, which proved if nothing else that they’d read up on Index Ventures, and full marks for that!
Even for the experienced entrepreneurs, this was an illuminating and fun day. We’re fortunate indeed in this industry to have busy people giving so generously of their time, and their willingness to mingle and answer questions went down incredibly well with the attendees. We were also fortunate to attract attendees with such energy, intensity and a willingness to learn; the entrepreneurial gene pool in this country is in way better shape than the headlines would have you believe
The feedback we’ve had so far has been far more positive than we hoped, overwhelming in fact, as this was very much an experiment for us. The chord we’ve struck, we think, is one of concentrating the ingredients; experienced entrepreneurs, people who have the entrepreneurial bug and people whose job it is to find and finance startup ventures, all in one place with no distractions. We’ve got our work cut out raising the game for the next one.