Hesaam Esfandyarpour is the founder and CEO of GenapSys which has developed a novel DNA sequencing technology and detection system for applied genomic testing and medical sequencing. The company has raised $250 million from top tier investors such as Oxford Finance, Foresite Capital, Decheng Capital, and IPV Capital to name a few.
In this episode you will learn:
- Expectations investors have at each stage for a startup like this
- What’s more important than the amount of money when out there raising a round
- How Genapsys’ tools could help combat viruses like COVID-19
- Haseem’s top three pieces of advice for new founders
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
ACCESS THE PITCH DECK TEMPLATE
About Hesaam Esfandyarpour:
Hesaam Esfandyarpour is the Founder and CEO of GenapSys Inc.
He is an inventor of electronic DNA sequencing, a technology he developed during his PhD work at Stanford.
Hesaam Esfandyarpour has dedicated the past decade of his life to the development of this novel DNA sequencing technology, which has at its core the convergence of multiple fields of science, engineering, chemistry, biology, and computing.
Hesaam Esfandyarpour started to work on developing this electronic DNA sequencing at the Stanford Genome Technology Center for a period of nearly six years before securing licenses to the IP and incorporating GenapSys in January of 2010.
Hesaam Esfandyarpour has grown GenapSys from just a handful of employees working out of Menlo Labs incubator space to a dynamic team of employees across eight functional teams currently headquartered in Redwood City.
In 2012, Hesaam Esfandyarpour partnered GenapSys with StartX, an accelerator for the development of Stanford’s top entrepreneurs. He has raised approximately $110M for GenapSys in multiple rounds of financing.
Hesaam Esfandyarpour holds a PhD and MS in Electrical Engineering, and MSc Management degree, all from Stanford University.
He earned his BS in Electrical Engineering with Honors from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran.
Connect with Hesaam Esfandyarpour:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we are going to have a very interesting founder, originally from Iran. I think that we’re going to learn a lot, and especially a lot when it comes to combining biotechnology with technology. Definitely, complex stuff, but we’re going to make it simple for you guys. We’ll also discuss the process of raising money and going through the different rounds. Without further ado, I’d like to welcome our guest today. Hesaam Esfandyarpour, welcome to the show today.
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: Thank you for having me.
Alejandro: So originally born and raised in Iran in a town that had 150,000 people and where there were a lot of pistachio farms. How was life growing up there?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: It was quite fun, Alejandro. I was born in a family of two teachers. Both of my parents were teachers, and I have three brothers. It was quite fun to grow up in Iran and in a small town.
Alejandro: That’s amazing, and quite different from your environment now. Did you know early on that you wanted to eventually come to the U.S., did that ambition develop overtime?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: Definitely, it developed over time. I didn’t think, “I’m going to come to the U.S.” until I was like 20 or 21 the junior year of college. I was born in south Iran in a city called Sirjan. I got my high school diploma there, and I went to Ming Chi University of Technology, in Taiwan, and studied electrical engineering. The later part of that — I think the last two years, I saw a lot of other colleagues who were thinking and applying for graduate schools and studies abroad, including the U.S. Then effectively, that got me to thinking, and that actually got me to apply, and then I came here.
Alejandro: What got you into math, physics, and things like that?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: My dad is retired now, but he was teaching science, biology, physics, and chemistry for middle school students. Probably that had played a role. Also, when I was in high school, I loved math and physics. These two were my first two subject areas that I had the most interest in. I didn’t know a lot about biology and chemistry. I was doing okay, but not at the top. That got me to the math and physics. Math is one of the areas that gives you a different perspective around the way that the world works. Physics is a mathematical model of the world that we live in.
Alejandro: After you did your university work in Iran, you started your first business. What happened with this first business? How did you come up with the idea and told yourself, “Let’s do something about this”?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: I was in my freshman year in college when I was looking around. This was the year 2000, and I was thinking about, “What is the quality of the internet that has been provided in my hometown?” when I was in Taiwan. I called a friend of mine who was in Sirjan, and I was providing him some questions to do some market research and asked him, “Can you figure out if the quality of the internet provider that exists there is good enough? Are people happy, and is there an opportunity to do something there?” After a while of doing some study, it turned out that while there are some providers who are offering internet, the quality and service is not the best, and there is an opportunity to provide something better to improve on that. That’s how we put a plan together. I did some study of figuring out what needs to be bought from a hardware perspective. The internet quite then was quite the low internet. I think it was 164 megabytes per second of internet that we bought. Then we were putting a bunch of routers, the computer, and dividing this into pieces, then printing cards and selling those. We did some math about how much it costs to build that, and I needed some money for setting up that business. So far, I just had a sense of how much it could cost. I called my dad, and I told him that I wanted to start this business. In Iran’s currency, back then, it was basically four million tomans. It’s a different currency if you compare it. I was asking him, “Do you have money to give me to set up that business?” He laughed and said, “I don’t have the money, but if I had the money, I would give it to you.” I said, “Well, thanks for the support.” He said, “No, I’m kidding, but if you need to get it as a loan from somewhere, I can co-sign for you and get it from the bank. But my suggestion is that you go and find an investor for your business first. If you cannot find one, then you can go and get the money from the bank.” I called the same friend, and I told him that there are some people that I knew in that network and had some credibility with them. I asked, “Can you check with those people to see if they’re willing to partner with me and support this endeavor?” He said, “Sure.” The next day, he called, and he said, “My dad had a house that he recently sold, and he has some money, and he wants to partner with you if you’re up to that. So, we are interested ourselves.” I said, “That would be perfect. You’re my friend, and if we can do it together, that’s even better.” He put the money, and I was doing most of the work to set it up. Then we co-founded the company, and I was the CEO Chairman, who was President. Then we started running it. We hired some people and setting up. The first part of that was in his grandfather’s house, where we put the modems and everything related to that. We got a store to start selling internet. A long story short, it was not a big business, but it was a good experience for me, and it very quickly turned out to be cashflow positive. That helped me for most of my college and graduate school admissions when I was applying for U.S. and Canada schools to come here. That was paid from there, and some other travels, the money that I needed. That was a fun project, and I learned a lot from that.
Alejandro: It seems like exciting times. Why did you start thinking about, “Maybe I should go to grad school and go to the U.S.”?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: Great question. Actually, I probably was very interested to go to grad school and get my Ph.D. from early on. The question of coming to the U.S. or doing it over there was probably always on my mind. When it comes to the graduate school quality and the research, Iran is good for undergrad and up to high school or the Bachelor’s Degree, but beyond that, it is not as advanced as the U.S., specifically in some other areas of the world. So the amount of opportunities in Iran existing on the research side is not comparable even to that. That was one of the main reasons to continue learning, and I needed to do it in the best places. I was fortunate to come to Stanford. That was a fantastic experience. That was the reason.
Alejandro: Talking about Stanford — you got on a plane with $8,000. You barely spoke English. You were on your way to Stanford. The idea was there. You got the promise of a professor to give you a scholarship. It seems quite an adventure. So, Hesaam, tell us about this experience.
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: Absolutely, it was definitely a very adventurous time. I was having the belief that in the long run, things are going to work out in the right way and in the best way, but definitely, there were a lot of unknowns. I was probably both young and adventurous and took the risk of giving it a shot. Then things worked out. We don’t have a lot of control over what is happening to us. We have control in some of the areas of what we’re doing, and that’s where and what we can make our decisions based on. Some of them are not in our control, so we can’t do much about them. Then, I asked Montera about how I had been taking actions on making decisions when it comes to business or personal life. One of the areas here was that I knew that I wanted to go to Stanford. I knew that I wanted to get my Ph.D. at one of the finest schools, and I was very lucky to be at. Did I know 10 or 15 years later, I would be running a DNA sequencing company? Absolutely, not. I could not even guess that. But, as I mentioned, you do your part, and the rest takes care of itself.
Alejandro: Absolutely. Are all your brothers and sisters still in Iran?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: I don’t have sisters. I have three brothers. Actually, all three brothers of mine followed my path. They all came to Stanford.
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: They got Master’s and Ph.D.s from Stanford as well. The one right after me, after his Master’s and Ph.D. and postdoc, he was at Stanford as a Research Scientist for a few years. No, he’s a professor at the [12:48]. The last two, one of them did a postdoc at Stanford, but both of them are in the CTO Office of Teletank here in Silicon Valley as well. From this standpoint, we all ended up being here.
Alejandro: When you go back to your town of 150,000 people, you must be like the Enrique Iglesias or the Jennifer Lopez. Everyone must be like, “Wow! The celebrity team coming from Silicon Valley.”
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: Definitely, there are not that many families who have been lucky enough that all four of them ended up coming to the U.S. and studying at Stanford. So, from that standpoint, we’ve been very fortunate.
Alejandro: Out of curiosity, if I were to ask your parents — I’m a father now of three daughters. If I were to ask your parents how they were able to raise you guys to end up being so successful and coming from a place of 150,000 people with pistachio farms around, how were they able to raise you guys to really bring you all up to make it to Stanford, one of the most difficult universities to get into? How did they do that?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: That’s a great question for them, for sure. I can tell you that one thing they will tell you is that if it was not for the — we were all lucky to get scholarships and then be able to come here because, in no circumstance, my parents’ salaries could ever support that. It’s a very different country, and they’re living a happy middle-class life. But if you translate it to the dollar, I guess the average salary monthly would be around $500, something very small. They taught us two things. They have very high work ethics. When they were both teachers and working, we always learned from them that no matter what, you want to do the best on whatever you do. We were seeing them as the live role models for that example. They were so dedicated to their work, and they cared about being great teachers and helping the students that they were teaching. Second is the focus on science and education. They never told us to go and study or not study. I don’t remember there ever being any pressure on that. I was joking that if you were asking my dad, when I was in my third year of high school, if he knew what year I was, he probably would say, “Hum. Maybe you’re third or fourth year in high school.” They were training in a way that they were completely hands-off. I’m sure, in the back, they knew what was going on. They were very much not pushing us or pressuring us, but they were always defining a high bar that we could be good and successful. I remember from the early days our role models were always Edison, Einstein, Marie Curie, the people who were very much in science and dedicated their lives to that area than anything else. Frankly, those are some of the areas that I’m sure we were lucky. There are a lot of great people and a lot of smart people who are working very hard. One or another incident happened, and they didn’t get the same opportunity that we got. I think it was a combination of many things and their focus on science and having high ambitions. My dad was always saying that “You should plan to reach the moon, then maybe you would get to the clouds. But if you’re planning for the clouds, you’re not going to get much higher than where you are.”
Alejandro: Absolutely. Let’s go back to the story of Stanford. You did electrical engineering. You also did your management, science, and engineering. Then one thing that is interesting here is that in addition to doing your Ph.D. in electrical engineering, you also decided to do a little bit of med school. Tell us, what is the combination of all of this? It seems that you literally touched on almost every single faculty of Stanford? What happened there?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: For sure. I remember, at some point, I had more than three offices in three different departments. Then people were asking me, “Why do you need multiple offices?” I said, “That’s the way you’ll never be found in which office you’re at.” My story of getting into healthcare was actually a personal one. A family member of mine was misdiagnosed at the age of 15. Then several other incidences happened that got me to thinking about medicine and healthcare and genomics, particularly. As you know, genomics is high-resolution biology. It’s looking at the information about our body and the world around us in a very high-resolution way on a molecular level. That’s the highest level of information that you can look at. Cancer is a DNA disease. This recent coronavirus, the outbreak that we hear about, is a little virus that is creating all of the mess that the world is dealing with. The best and only way to understand and be able to respond to all of these situations is through genomics, through understanding and reading the DNA. I’m looking at a semiconductor, and I see all of the advancements that exist there. You have the capabilities of some conductor technology that can build transistors and sensors. There are only a few 100 nanometers. There were tens of nanometers in size, effectively at the molecular sizes. In 2001 or 2002, IBM published a paper and wrote IBM. I believe it was 18 atoms. It was quite impressive how much we can do in nanotechnology and semiconductors. Then, look at the iPhone and internet, and all of the capabilities there. I usually make a joke, “If Steve Jobs claimed to be a prophet, I wasn’t his religion because of such a magical device.” An electrical engineer working on wireless communication and designs, I can’t tell you how much technology went to his gadget called the iPhone that changed our lives since 2007 and onward. Now, you’re looking at the medicine genomics. You feel that we’re still in the very primitive ages. We barely have the technologies which can be low-cost, deployable in a very decentralized fashion. Historically, biologists have been looking at things through microscopes. Then where you want to read those, you can attach fullerenes tag and take images with the various [20:56] and then colorful images with the fluorescent version — so moving from microscopes to cameras. Even if you were to read the DNA, that’s the way that you do it. You use a high-power laser. You have these fullerenes tags, and then you are using a camera and a scanner and robot. That causes a big, bulky, expensive machine, mostly in a range of a million dollars or half a million dollars machines. These instruments, every time you want to run it, you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars, at least multi-thousands of dollars to spend every time you turn it on. It’s like a printer that every time you want to print something, you have to use a very expensive cartridge, but also, the printer itself is a million dollars and is a size of a refrigerator or room size. Coming from an electronic background, the first idea and simple idea comes in mind is, why not measure the electrical signature of the reaction, and using the technologies that have been developed for the past 40 years. Marry that part. Marry the technology and the biology together. I can tell you that this is quite a bit of fun. It’s not necessarily easy. It took us almost 16 years since we started, but it has been very rewarding. So I brought that idea to the head of the Stanford Geotechnology Center, Professor Ron Davis. Ron is a very well-accomplished scientist, which I have a lot of respect for and has been my Ph.D. mentor. Ron looked at the idea that I was sharing with him, and he quickly grasped it. He said, “If you can build these, and if you can really use some conductor technology to read DNA, that would be PC in the world of mainframes when it comes to genomics. That can have tremendous applications for healthcare, for effective diagnostic and monitoring it, for personalized medicine, and then looking at various drugs. And also, in very non-healthcare applications for food testing, for agricultural biology, for forensics, for environmental. So you should work on that Ph.D. project.” That’s how the journey started. I made the change from radar to DNA, effectively while I was working in wireless communication in radars when I started at Stanford. Then it has been an amazing ride for the past 16 years, for about six years at Stanford and the past ten years at GenapSys.
Alejandro: In that case, Hesaam, how does it go from Stanford to all of a sudden, you find yourself running a business?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: It’s been a lot of great learning. It’s been a very humbling experience, for sure. Again, working with a great number of scientists and engineers in literally 12 different disciplines from hardware chip design, we are developing chips in our product. It is a little box about the size of a footprint of an iPad, which costs less than $10,000. And the consumables of this box, when you’re trying to run it, is a semiconductor chip, which is effectively similar to the technologies that you can find in your laptop or your iPhone, and also a chemical cartridge that is coming with it. These two are effectively the consumables of running on this machine. That machine, reading the DNA of the sample, that is put on this chip, then analyze that one, and provide the data. So you have hardware chip signers, folks who are normally working in Apple, Intel, and such. You have people working on hardware, software, chemistry, entomology, and also data science, machine learning, mathematics, and so on. It has been very fun to be both at the forefront of the advancement in science and the interdisciplinary nature of this. And also, located around a very specific product to put in the hands of people. That product needs to be high-quality and very robust, and low cost, and easy to use, and all of the different aspects and requirements for a product for the customers. I can tell you that it has been a great learning experience on a daily basis.
Alejandro: Everything started with quite a rollercoaster with a product launch. What happened there?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: As I described, the type of product that we’re developing is very disruptive and very revolutionary from the standpoint of building something, which is going to be 100 times cheaper than the million-dollar device, while still providing a very high-quality DNA sequencing and capabilities of reading that, and many other aspects to get these in the hands of every researcher, every doctor, and at some point, every person wherever they need to read the information, which we needed for 10,000 different reasons, and being on top of that and building something very comparative has been a very interesting and a great vision, and also quite a bit of challenge associated with it. Given this is interdisciplinary, when you’re doing the product development planning and when things are going in parallel, then you have a timeline associated to it. You can write down, “These are the pieces I need to do on the software side, and this is what I need to finish in the instrument UI, and the Cloud, and whatever you should be learning in mathematics. You have another one like, “This is how I design my chip and take out the chip, activating the chip, and do this and that. This is the part related to the biology of sequencing, chemistry, amplification, and whatnot. Then each of them is a different group. Some of them are interdisciplinary groups. Sometimes, there are a lot of interfaces with them, but they are clear who is supposed to do what. Now, suddenly, if one of these happens to have a glitch for one reason or the other that you may or may not be able to predict or control, then a lot of this parallel [27:24] ended up to be in serial mode, and that completely takes your timeline out the window, because it’s much more difficult now. You need to somehow catch up and that ripple effect of the glitch on other areas, which are now the core, for example, the [27:41] is going to be a big mess. We have had several of those experiences over the course of nine years that we developed our product. This is one. Second, we’re in the forefront of the science part of these. Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. For example, we develop something with a particular milestone, and until we got to that milestone, we didn’t even know if the second part was going to be as we expected or not. It’s not equal, but think about if you’re developing a drug, you don’t know if you have a pharmaceutical company developing a drug if it’s going to work on an animal trial, as well. If it worked with an animal trial, you don’t know if it’s going to work on a human trial, as well. You only know it when you are at the human trial state. There’s a similar aspect that exists when it’s the nature of things, and you’re pushing the boundaries at the technology level. When these things are happening, then it can cause a lot of destruction in your operation. 1) In this situation, you need more people, not less people, but for you to actually get there, you need to have resources, including capital. But if you are somehow hitting these types of roadblocks, that means that your timeline and milestones are down to the water, so raising capital is going to be much more difficult because again, you were thinking that you would be able to do x, y, z in that timeframe, and somehow, those timeframes are off. There is a chicken and egg, and there are a lot of challenges, and it requires almost a constant dynamic perfection of choosing your priorities and be ready to make decisions as needed and potentially change the plan dynamically to make sure that you are really taking the shortest path, or at least the level that you can achieve, the short path to achieve the milestones. Then get some additional resources. Then go one step further, and then do them one more time, and go one step further. That’s a rollercoaster. It requires a lot of persistence. At the same time, you need to check all the time to make sure that you’re not repeating a mistake, and you’re not aware of it. That has been definitely great, fun, stressful, and rewarding when you get where you need to get. The moment that the door opens up, and you see the progress in the areas that you’ve been working on for maybe six months or 18 months, then that’s the best gift that you can get.
Alejandro: Absolutely. In this case, Hesaam, how are you guys making money?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: In our business, we are selling the sequencer. We have two devices that we are selling: the sequencer and a sequencing prep machine. That’s the upfront portion before the sequencer is doing the preparation of some of the stuff. Also, we’re selling the consumables: some conductor chips and the cartridge that I mentioned earlier, and associated as basically consumable. If you’re a customer, you’re buying the machine. Each of these is less than $10,000. Then you’re coming and connecting them through the wall. This is a little box, which is very cute. We don’t need another server or another computer for it. We are able to operate it. Also, for ease of use and all the additional aspects, it enables Cloud connection as an option, which you can have access to your data anywhere you want. Then the consumables, you put the sample in that chip. You put the chip in the machine, and the cartridge, and you’re running it. The customers, when they want to run additional samples, they just buy the consumables. It’s a razor/razor/blade model.
Alejandro: Got it. When you are combining biology and technology, that equates to a lot of money that is required to build things up. How much capital have you guys raised to date for this?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: We, to date, raised quite a bit of capital, 240 million, I think. If I did all the math correctly, about 135 million was equity, and the rest is diluted money, including some of the government grants. We’ve been very lucky to actually be in an age who supported us at Stanford in the early years of business. They continue to support us because I think they believe we’re doing good things for the healthcare system and for society. This is a very exciting endeavor. We’ve been one of the lucky ones to be able to get this to this stage. It is a very exciting time for the business.
Alejandro: For a company like this, as opposed to, let’s say the traditional ones that you see in California like the SaaS or the marketplaces, when we’re thinking about biotechnology or health diagnostics, a company like GynapSys, in this case, what are the typical expectations that investors are going to have?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: You mean in the exit strategy?
Alejandro: No. You guys have done multiple rounds. Right?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: Yes.
Alejandro: Since you started raising money early on, then you went through the Series A, Series B, and Series C. What were some of those things that investors were looking for? Raising money is all about addressing the concerns that you have in-between. What were typically those concerns that you needed to fulfill in order to really get the investor aligned, and draw the money?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: Absolutely. I think there are a couple of areas there. Mostly, investors are looking at — one is the market opportunity. The reality is that when it comes to DNA sequencing, there are not that many DNA sequencing companies in the world who can read DNA, especially they can’t read the DNA accurately. In the whole planet, as we speak, the companies who can read DNA accurately, we’re talking about four, and we are one of the four companies who can read DNA accurately. We’re actually at the top of the list with the market leader right now. Having the capability to read DNA accurately is a very [34:43] DNA. Sometimes, you can read the single base. That’s a technology like PCR or microarray, but the next-generation sequencing is the best way to collect information and read the sequence or read the whole information from the DNA. The investors are looking for, a) making sure that your science and technology are sound. No money is a pretty high bar and not necessarily easy things to show, especially in the early days because it’s a lot of the chicken and the egg. So you have to be able to work in specific areas and show them that because of this data, we know that we’re going to get to the next point. Right now, it’s much easier because now we have finished the R&D. We have the high accuracy technology in the hands of customers that the investors can easily call the customers, and ask them, “What is the quality of the genesis data versus the legacy technologies out there. Historically and no money, developing the DNA sequencing platform or companies in these types of instrumentation in high-procedure molecular devices, they take eight to ten years before they get in the hands of customers because a lot of work needs to be done before that. That’s probably the highest bar to really show the difference. I call it math and science and pseudoscience — to really show that this is solid and real. Second, is that now if it’s solid and real, how is the market for this type of product? Where exactly does this fit compared to other offerings that exist in the market, and especially if there’s a monopoly situation sometimes, there’s going to be a lot more resistance from investors and showing them that you have a way to succeed in that market and convincing them. I think that has been very much every stage of the business. It depends on how the global environment around this type of offering has been. Third, showing that actually genomics is one of the areas that is expanding in a consistent way, and actually, we’re at the tip of the iceberg. Just imagine that if we had DNA sequencers like GenapSys sequencer in every hospital around the globe as we speak, or even in every airport and everywhere else, probably we would be dealing with this pandemic in a much faster and much more appropriate way because we could sequence a sample of the people from the check swab or nasal, and then be able to get information and do a quarantine of anybody who has it in a very precise way rather than trying to look at the thermometer and not being able to find the sources. Those are the areas that are important. I have to tell you that it also depends on the stage of the business. The type of investors will have the stomach or interest in these types of businesses. I call it a high-risk, high-reward type of solution because it’s a high capital gain requirement. It’s a long journey. This is not necessarily the same investors as the SaaS investors or the people who want to get a quick turnaround or flip in a business.
Alejandro: One thing that comes to mind here is, let’s say you go to bed tonight, and you wake up five years from now. So, it’s a super-long snooze that you take, and you wake up in a world where the vision of GenapSys is completely realized. What does that look like?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: It means that you have a little box in your pocket, similar to an iPhone, maybe a little bit bigger or smaller. You can spit into a part of a little card, put it in the little device, and then it can read your DNA and RNA and obtain the information that you’re looking for effectively in a couple of hours. It can tell you if there are any weird germs around your kitchen or bathroom or not. That means that if you’re going to a subway, you can do the same thing. You can use it for various types of applications that the world needs. We believe that reading the biological information — they call it molecular information; we live in the whim of the molecular world. We have more biological molecules and cells and live materials around us than the cell in our bodies. We have 38 trillion cells in our body. We have more microbes in our cup sitting by the table that I have this laptop on is made of. Food has DNA. The cuff on my shirt has DNA. The cup you’re drinking out of has DNA. We’re quite blind to this information. If you have a gadget that can read this information at low cost, easy to use, and high-quality, there’s a tremendously different world that you can envision. That’s what GenapSys is trying to enable and offer. Let’s call it the iPhone of genomics or the PC of genomics. Along the same line, we have been working very hard to enable this cloud database that is going to be a central repository of the data that this information for the customers who are sharing that information can tell us a lot more about which mutations are exactly representative of breast cancer, prostate cancer, or not. As an example of an outbreak of this coronavirus, how this coronavirus is mutating over time or over geographies? This information is missed, and in a world where the GenapSys vision will be realized, that would be a world similar to the digital information that the PC and iPhone enable would be molecular information that GenapSys product has enabled. We’re entering the multi-decade era of genomics, which revolutionize many industries, healthcare, food testing, agriculture, biology, forensics, you name it. For enabling that revolution, you need an enabling tool. You need that high-quality, easy to use, low-cost gadget. What we have developed at GenapSys and we’re delivering to the pipeline of products on the app, enabling that revolution for those applications.
Alejandro: Very cool. Hesaam, knowing what you know now because this is your second rodeo. You’ve been at it since 2010. If you had the opportunity to go back in time and have a chat with your younger self, with that younger Hesaam, what would be that one piece of business advice that you would give to yourself before launching a business and why?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: That’s a great question. The advice that I would say to a younger Hesaam would be, first of all, focus on the important areas. There are a lot of questions, especially if you’re a founder that you feel obligated on every line of question that you have an answer for. Sometimes, you’re trying to overoptimize on some stuff that is not as important. That’s one thing that I would say that you wanted to be much crisper and much more focused on focusing on the 20% that would give you 80% rather than the other way around. Second, when opportunities come around, grab them. Don’t wait too long because you never know when it’s coming back, or you may lose the opportunity. Without specifically naming particular individuals, but I can tell you, for example, in the very early days of GenapSys, I had one of the great people who was an advisor to me at GenapSys and then helped me on the strategy side was a gentleman by the name of Omid Kordestani. I don’t know if you of him or not. He was an early employee at Google and was CTO of marketing. A lot of times, Google founders called Omid a business founder because he was the first business person from Stanford MBA to join them with a lot of experience, and he was with Google for a long time. He is now the Chairman of Twitter. In the early days, Omid was helping me in some of the strategies and advisors. One of the times, there were some particular, very high-quality, high-profile individuals that were interested potentially in the seed investing at GenapSys. Rather than trying to focus on getting those high-profile people associated with the business, I was focusing on a particular threshold of investment that needs to come from them. Otherwise, it wouldn’t work for us. That was a mistake, in my opinion, when I’m looking back. I’m trying to be objective on a specific example. The realities that what I needed to focus on, for example, was trying to think about what would be the big picture value that such a relationship can bring for GenapSys, rather than trying to stick to a very near-term objective that I was focusing on. Anytime that you sit down and pause and look at the long road that you have ahead, and trying to think about how it’s impacting you is giving you perspective. Definitely, that would be my advice to younger Hesaam and saying that trying to have more milestones and get away from daily chaos and trying to put in some perspective you’re going to make a better decision.
Alejandro: Super profound, Hesaam. For the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: They can always email me. I think that would be the best way for any question they have or for further discussion. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to answer any questions.
Alejandro: Amazing. Well, Hesaam, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Hesaam Esfandyarpour: Of course. Thank you, Alejandro, and I hope you have a wonderful day.
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