1859 is creating a pico-scale HTS platform (pico-HTS) that enables us to test millions of potential medicines in a single day. Our technology also allows us to rapidly explore chemical space and construct novel chemical diversity “on-demand”. This allows us to discover more medicines and get them to the clinic faster. At scale our technology has the potential to usher in the promise of precision medicine and democratize the medicine discovery process.
Why is your company the best option to solve the problem you're solving?
"The world went from mainframes to iPhones, and the rapid democratization of information ensued. Creativity was unleashed, endless amounts of content generated, and trillions of dollars of wealth obtained. Today, any question can be answered by simply reaching into your back pocket and asking Google. Our technology parallels this trend. With a technology that can enable any scientist to discover how to treat a new disease in months rather than years, by rapidly and cheaply testing millions of novel potential medicines in a small bench top instrument. There are few technologies that elegantly industrialize the complex process of medicine discovery, but ours can."
What nuggets of info make you interesting? Why do people care about what you're doing?
We are upending the status quo of how things are done, and are unafraid of breaking the conventions that have prevented major progress in medicine discovery from taking place. Internally, we joke we are "Tesla-tizing" the field. As we talk to more and more customers, we are finding that once they have the "A-ha!" moment with regards to our technology, their entire foundation of what they thought was possible is broken. At that point we have a new convert, and while it's only been a year, we're very encouraged by the high demand and interest.
What else do you want us to know?
"We love those that are constantly trying to improve the status quo - that often find it hard to find value in larger organizations. We don't want cogs, we want engines! If you are fearless, creative, innovative, relentless, and wanting to make a dent in the world, let's talk!"
BEHIND THE COMPANY
CEO/Founder: Devon Cayer
What one book, podcast, newsletter, etc. do you recommend to other entrepreneurs? Why?
The a16z podcast is fantastic in that it highlights many growing areas and where the future is headed. The most important component of a young company is its agility and ability to innovate. The world changes fast and knowing how to do more with less is critical. In addition, knowing where to position and where to plan to block future competitors is critical. A broad knowledge and overview of the landscape, akin to a general scouting the battlefield, is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur should have.
What is your company's secret sauce?
Our company's secret sauce is that one of our co-founders and our CTO, Andrew MacConnell, developed the pioneering work in the lab of another co-founder and Scientific Advisor, Brian Paegel. We also have a stellar all-star team that hails from the advanced research team at Illumina (Ramesh Ramji, Director of Microfluidics), those have developed complex analytical methods for DNA sequencing (Sean Stromberg, Director of Software), and those that have decades of experience in drug discovery (Sara Cortese, Head of Partnerships). We have developed methods to enable the screening of many different target classes, and are developing instrumentation that can scale and easily be deployed to discover hundreds of novel medicines simultaneously.
What inspired you to start/run this company?
I knew the chance to build what we're building wasn't going to come along again, the window for the opportunity was going to close, and our ability to make a major difference for potentially all of society was a higher calling I had to take. I believed I could do it, in addition to all of our co-founders, and we believed we could do it better than anyone else. I had worked in other companies and had started to bump up against those that I felt could do better. Those experiences just reinforced my desire to get out and build something of my own. I had led teams and was able to bring people together to accomplish a difficult goal, while making sure everyone felt success. At a minimum, a CEO has to have a vision, bring on a stellar team, and then convince them the path that they are on is worth their time and that the mission of the company has purpose. The second layer is outlining the path, making sure execution of that mission is demonstrated, and that the end result leads to the company providing value to a customer. I strongly believed I could do all of those things, and while it can be terrifying embarking on a path into the unknown, there is one thing I knew deep down. I wasn't going to quit, I was going to be gritty, and I was going to do everything in my power to ensure the success of everyone involved with the company. For any entrepreneur, just remember one thing, believe in yourself and why you started, don't let anyone tell you you can't do it, because you can and you will.
What's the best entrepreneurial advice you've received?
The best advice I've received was when one of my mentors and early investors asked simply, "What are you selling, who is the customer, how much can you sell, when do I get my money back?" This is pretty obvious. However, a lot of the success I had seen up to that point had been based on entrepreneurs raising lots of money, with no clear product plan or roadmap, and no clear strategy on how to sell into the market. However, the market was large and impressive, and the assumption was that, "build it and they will come". The reality is that building a technology in a vacuum can lead you down many wrong paths. Without doing the hard work early of writing a business plan, analyzing your customer base, analyzing your market, and getting early feedback from your potential customers you will but guarantee your lower probability of success. Any entrepreneur should only remember this and how to answer it, "What are you selling, who is the customer, how much can you sell, when do I get my money back?" If you can't answer these questions with specifics and a logical plan to accomplish your entry into the market, then you don't have a business.
What's the worst entrepreneurial advice you've received?
There have been many instances where I have got bad advice. A few of the top are, "You just need to sell a story to an investor, and worry about the business model later", or, "This is business, this isn't science, just ship a product whether it's ready or not", or, "You can't do this, you should bring on another CEO who can", or, "Don't build the company here, build it where you can get cheap labor". Notably, all of these are bad, while the concept behind them might be wise. For example, the key with winning over an investor is so called "completing the arc" where you can convince them that you have a product, a customer, a market, a path, and a competitive advantage. The others similarly, were trying to allude to the concept that you need to be laser focused on pushing out a minimum viable product (or MVP), get some expertise to fill your areas of weakness, and that you should do it with as little capital as possible to preserve cash and extend company runway. However, the worst entrepreneurial advice given was when someone told me, "An employee is there to serve a company, collect a salary, and provide value. The company provides that environment and the company is required to do nothing more than that." This on the surface level is an innocent statement as it is meant to reflect the fact that an employee is meant to enable a company's success, but in fact the exact opposite is true. That is the key to our culture. The goal for a company should be to remove as many barriers as possible for an employee to exemplify the founding principles of the company, so each addition of a new employee exponentially increases the productivity of the company. The people are the most important part to the success of the company, and the focus of management should always be how can I enable my employees to be better, not, how can I enable employees to make me better. These simple concepts define company culture, and at 1859 we are committed to enabling everyone to rise to their full potential. We nurture all of our employees so that any barriers that prevent them from excelling are removed so that they can grow and improve every single day.
What sets your company culture apart?
The first thing we did when we started 1859 was we sat down, and like the Founding Fathers, we wrote our constitution. While much longer than these, our four most important tenets are (1) Honesty, (2) Creativity, (3) Industriousness, and (4) Good Natured. The goals of all our principles are singularly focused on enabling our team and investing every day in their success to create a winning culture and long lasting company.