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Noubar Afeyan: Five Ideas For Startup Entrepreneurs To Think About has published an interview with the CEO of Flagship Ventures Noubar Afeyan, who has had 38 Biotech wins.

In his interview with Elizabeth MacBride , Noubar Afeyan suggested five ideas for the way to think about the process of a biotech startup.

Noubar Afeyan : ‘’I would say it this way – first envision several possible future states where in each case some combination of new science or technology can deliver value by addressing an unmet need. From among those, chose the one future state you want to pursue by trading off likelihood of reaching that state as well as the impact and value created by doing so. Then evaluate various paths to reach that future state. Keep in mind that the future states you envision will necessarily seem unreasonable at first (given that the technology/science and need are not yet clearly established). An entrepreneur’s goal is to define incremental steps from the present to that envisioned future each of which may seem reasonable but which in combination can take us to a place that initially seemed unreasonable to aspire to.’’

The five ideas from Noubar Afeyan:


Entrepreneurs should always be worried about what could go wrong, and yet believe that in the long run thing will go right. “You need a gas pedal and a brake pedal,” Afeyan said. I thought this was interesting because it adds a dose of realism to what sometimes seems like a false or overly exuberant sense of optimism out of Silicon Valley.


One of the key insights here is that it’s not just products. Silicon Valley is very focused on products, but in the biotech space, you can also use this process with hypotheses, jobs or marketing messages in your company, among many other things. “The pace of the variation is only limited by the resources you can deploy,” said Afeyan.


Your company is not necessarily a product-building engine; it is a value creation engine. Your ideas have value, too. “You sell the idea to gain credibility and trade in credibility to get money. The more you build stuff from your ideas, the more credibility you have,” Afeyan said.


Realism imbues this process, more than I find in the world of tech startups, where the abundance of cash leads entrepreneurs to take pie-in-the-sky risks. Realism doesn’t rear its uncomfortable head until the end of a startup’s life, when it becomes apparent that your startup isn’t one of the rare winners.


One of the other differences between the Silicon Valley model and the biotech model is that creating product-market fit often means picking a direction and then steadily narrowing it. Afeyan has a different idea: he asks his team of about 20 to hypothesize in as many different directions as possible, but always with the aim of creating a use for a new discovery. “There is nothing like a game about this,” he said. If the science isn’t there, why are you talking about products?

Noubar Afeyan

Afeyan is of Armenian heritage and was born in Beirut, Lebanon on 25. July 1962. His family moved to Montreal, Canada in 1976. Afeyan graduated from McGill University with a BS in Chemical Engineering in 1983He earned his PhD in Biochemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987. He is an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, inventor, technologist, and CEO. In 2000, Afeyan founded Flagship Ventures, to create and fund early-stage start-ups addressing unmet needs in healthcare and sustainability. He is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He lectures in the United States and internationally on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, innovation and venture capital to biological engineering, drug discovery, medical technologies and renewable energy.

Since 2000, Afeyan has been teaching courses on entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

From 2007 to 2010, he also served on Boston University’s Board of Overseers.. Afeyan has authored numerous scientific publications and patents. Afeyan is Chairman of the Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies of the World Economic Forum. He is also co-founder and board member of the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia, a private-public partnership to promote economic development in the former Soviet Republic of Armenia. He serves on the board of Ameriabank, a leading bank in Armenia. Afeyan serves on multiple charitable boards. Since 2008, he has served on the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Board of Overseers.

Read the full text of the Noubar Afeyan’s interview on Forbes .com
Armweeklynews [04.06.2016]
Noubar Afeyan: Five Ideas For Startup Entrepreneurs To Think About
Noubar Afeyan