Playground 1.0

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.