Trevor Martin is one of those founders whose startup just happened to launch in time to meet the needs catapulted to the forefront by the COVID outbreak.
During our interview on the DealMakers podcast, Trevor shared insights from his journey. Including finding cofounders by cold email, how things are changing for biotech startups, fundraising, startup accelerators and incubators, what’s next in tackling pandemic virus and the most important things to spend your time on as a founder.
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Trevor Martin was born in Atlanta, Georgia. How parents were both hi-tech workers, with careers in software and chemistry.
He says he always loved chemistry and physics. It was when he went off to Princeton for college that he discovered his passion for biology too.
Princeton had just begun offering a new program on integrated science. A program that brought together the fields of chemistry, physics, math, and computer science, and demonstrating their application for making advances in biology.
Through his undergrad research, he found a new fascination with computational and quantitative biology.
While others went into consulting or dove into different sciences, most of Trevor’s cohort from this program went on to grad school. He chose to pursue his Ph.D. at the Hunter Fraser Lab at Stanford.
It was during this time that the idea for Mammoth Biosciences emerged.
The Search Engine For Biology
Between watching new synthetic biology tools being developed, publishing his research and exploring fields where these sciences came together Martin says he came across some papers published by a notable professor on genomes and diagnostic testing that changed everything.
He reached out to those involved by cold email, and Lucas and Jancie ultimately joined Mammoth as CTO and CSS on graduating from Berkley.
It all started with leveraging CRISPR for diagnostic tools. What this founder calls a “kind of a search engine for biology.” A tool that can be used to find any type of DNA and RNA and then engage with it through diagnostics or editing, and even turning genes on or off, including building the next generation of CRISPR proteins.
Biotech Startups & Startup Accelerators
Biotech startups have traditionally been even more notoriously capital intensive than other categories. However, in the past few years the ecosystem for entrepreneurs in this space has been evolving and there is a lot more support than there used to be.
You might not need an office for a biotech startup, but you do need a lab to start experimenting. Trevor told the audience that cities which have become famous startup hubs like Boston and San Fran have also seen new types of labs popping up. Think coworking for biotech entrepreneurs. A space where founders and even high schoolers and others passionate about science can go play and experiment without having to spend millions on building their own labs yet.
Trevor says that and couchsurfing let him put all his time, effort and finances into the work to gain those critical proof points.
He then took Mammoth through an accelerator at Stanford. He said he found it incredibly valuable for handling the steep learning curve that comes with entrepreneurship. Something that academics and Ph.D.s can especially struggle with. It was through this program and the resulting demo day that led to a connection that turned into a meeting with an NFX investor in his backyard garage. That parlayed into a stint with the NFX Accelerator to move things even further along, and the start of raising $75M across several funding rounds.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Trevor was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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Mammoth & COVID-19
Mammoth Biosciences is one of the few great success stories we’ve recently seen that were exceptionally well-positioned to thrive in the world of COVID.
They’ve benefited from the incredible acceleration of trends the pandemic has brought, from testing to an individual focus on healthcare.
In fact, Mammoth was awarded a contract to scale high-throughput testing with their technology by the NIH.
They are tackling the virus in two ways. One is by increasing the capacity of existing labs across the country so that they can process a lot more volume. The other is developing decentralized diagnostics and disposable molecular tests. A solution they hope will one day mean that you can visit your local drugstore and get over the counter tests as simple as an electronic pregnancy test, and get quality results.
What To Focus On
Priorities and what will demand your attention will change over time as a founder and CEO. Especially as an entrepreneur with a startup going into hyper-growth mode.
Trevor Martin says one of the best things you can do to handle this is to focus on hiring the best people in the world. It’s something echoed by the most successful founders who have appeared on the Dealmakers Podcast. Something they often say consumes 50% of their time.
He points out that no matter how fast you get at reading, there is still no way you can master all the parts of the business your company needs to excel in. The hack is to recruit those who are already at the top of their game in their departments. In turn, these hires should be doing the same in filling out their departments with hires.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- How hiring has changed due to COVID-19
- Culture add versus culture fit hiring
- Who to hire
- Trevor’s top advice for other founders
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