Sramana Mitra: What constitutes the profile of a founder that you would want to found a company with?
Navid Alipour: If it’s not a corporate founder, whether it’s a very large public insurance company or a private advertising company, it’s usually going to be a scientist, academician, or entrepreneur. They have a certain domain of expertise but they can’t take the risk of quitting their job. They have a husband or wife, a mortgage, two kids, or they’re an entrepreneur busy doing something, and they say, “When I’m done with this, I’m going to do this other idea.”
What we say is, “That window can close. Let’s not wait. Let’s do this together now. Let’s launch it together.” I have a really good example. We have two healthcare companies. One is CureMetrics. The other is CureMatch. The only thing that they have in common is that we started them, we named them, they’re both software AI companies, and both fight cancer in different ways.
CureMetrics is a diagnostic tool for the FDA because it detects breast cancer. CureMatch is the decision support tool providing action of law intelligence for Oncologists. Our third partner Andreas has a marketing background. He joined Blaise and me after we started Analytics Ventures. CureMatch already existed. He doesn’t like that the names are similar per se. I do because they’re sister companies both taking a fight to cancer.
With CureMatch, what happened is we met a lady at the Moores Cancer Center. Her name is Dr. Razelle Kurzrock. She’s famous in the Oncology and precision medicine world. She travels the world talking about precision medicine. Her title at the Moores Cancer Center in UC San Diego is Deputy Director of Oncology. She’s a practicing Oncologist and does research. When we met her, they’d developed a version one algorithm that the Supercomputer Center had been using for two and a half years already. They get the biopsies sequenced by companies like Foundation Medicine. They sequence the physical biopsy of the cancer and say, “This is the genetic makeup of this cancer. What are you going to do with that?”
They develop their own database that included FDA-approved drugs, open source research, and clinical trials. Other things are always updating. They would take that 31-page PDF that Foundation Medicine puts out for the Oncologist for the makeup of the cancer. To have a three-drug combo, that’s four and a half million combinations. I don’t care how smart an Oncologist is, no human brain can process four and a half million combinations. That’s what they would do.
They would take the PDF and their own database. The algorithm would match and recommend the top three. They were using this every Wednesday at the Tumor Board in large hospitals like MD Anderson, Morrison, and Johns Hopkins. They’re using this tool with over a thousand patients. We said “Have you thought of starting a company? This is amazing. You should have people outside Moores Cancer Center. The VIPs that have access should have access to this.”
She said “I’m a practicing Oncologist. I’m not going to quit what I’m doing to start a company. I haven’t done that before.” We say, “Don’t quit your job. We will start this company together. Help us find the right team to launch it.” We did that. She’s still at the Moores Cancer Center, but she’s the founder of the company. Igor, the Russian scientist that was where the Supercomputer Center is, ended up joining the company full-time.
That’s where we’re looking for the domain experts. They don’t have to be entrepreneurs per se. They certainly can be, but they have to have an expertise in a certain field whether it’s healthcare, agtech, skintech, cyber security, real estate, or any industry. They don’t need to be the AI experts. We have that team of PhD’s. They just need to be the domain experts.