New article: My experience of the BIA Pulse accelerator

I wrote recently about my experiences of the Pulse leadership and entrepreneurship training program for the blog of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA). The Pulse course is organised jointly by the BIA and the Francis Crick Institute. I joined the three-day course, in its first year of operation, in 2018.

I felt that I benefited enormously from the course. I had left my postdoc position 3 months previously and I was researching ideas for setting-up a company. I subsequently took my learnings from Pulse and elsewhere, and established my first company Simmunology. So when I was contacted earlier this year I was particularly keen to write something and say thanks.

A copy of my article follows

I left academia after 7 years of country-switching, hopping from one top-flight academic institution to the next, always working on some form of mathematical biology. My final stop was Berlin, I was sick of moving and I was exceedingly tired of working on other people’s projects. I knew at that point that my general scientific abilities and instincts were good. I also knew that I was more interested in making projects work rather than publishing papers. Also, I wanted to choose my own projects again, rather than focusing on what might be the next big thing and would secure me tenure. Rather than applying for a relatively high-paying job in the pharma sector, I took the completely illogical step of setting up my own company.

Three months following my decision, the inaugural PULSE workshop was held at the Crick Institute in London. Through friends I heard about the workshop and since I was highly motivated to rebuild my network, and potentially move to London, I applied and was accepted.

Frankly, apart from the actual experience of founding my first company, the workshop was the best thing that I have done since leaving academia. In just three days we were exposed to an incredible network of supporters and successful founders from the UK biotech scene. The specific learnings were good, but the depth of support which was on display was worth far more in long-term value.

In my case, I bonded pretty well with Anthony Finbow – then chairman and now CEO of Eagle Genomics. He has been a fantastic mentor in the years since that first course. I also maintain contact with some of the ‘students’ who were in my cohort – such as Noor Shaker, founder and CEO of GTN. This is a community of peers whom I deeply value both for their insights and for their support.

I officially registered my first company just a couple of months following the workshop. We obtained VC investment, but unfortunately the team didn’t survive together much longer than that moment. Since then I have brought in considerable amounts of non-dilutive funding (a concept I learned at PULSE) for a second company, and I am an advisor to many other spin-outs; paying it forward, as it were.

The entrepreneurial path is far from smooth. The greater the support on which you can rely the better your chances for success. The PULSE workshop, in my book, is one of the best preparations that a budding life sciences entrepreneur can get.

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