• Jessie Xiaoya Ma

BCLA Seminar: Transitioning from PhD to Venture Capital


On September 10th, 2020, BCLA hosted one of our most successful virtual panel discussions, with over 250 attendees from all over the world! The topic of this event was “PhD to VC”, providing an opportunity to listen in on what a career from academia to venture capital is like. We are very honored to have a strong panel of six tech and life science VCs: Dr. Alice Cheng from Upfront Ventures, Dr. Chris Bostick from OCV Ventures, Dr. Michelle Kim-Danely from Autobahn Labs, Dr. Josh Palmer from Kairos Ventures and Dr. Pascal Krotee from Kairos Ventures, along with our amazing moderator Seth Bannon from Fifty Years.


The panel discussion started with each of the panelists sharing their various career choices leading up to their current VC position. It was amazing to see how the opportunities, passions, dedications and dreams led these scientists to a successful career in venture capital. Seth Bannon is a Founding Partner at Fifty Years, a San Francisco-based seed fund that backs entrepreneurs solving the world’s biggest problems with technology. Dr. Alice Cheng received her PhD in biomedical engineering and joined Upfront in 2018, with a focus on biology and deep tech. Dr. Chris Bostick serves as Vice President at OCV, a $260M LA fund, heading up healthcare and life science investments. He is passionate about companies developing novel technologies enabling precision medicine-based solutions. Dr. Michelle Kim-Danely is Senior Vice President of Operations at Autobahn Labs. Over the past 15 years, she has held business and scientific roles that span the life sciences early value creation chain within both academic and industrial settings. Dr. Josh Palmer began his career in the startup world as Head of R&D at a JPL biotech company called Verrix. At Kairos Ventures, Dr. Palmer is responsible for sourcing and due diligence for opportunities across the physical sciences. Dr. Pascal Krotee is an Investment Associate on the due diligence team at Kairos Ventures. She spends most of her time evaluating startups with innovations in the life sciences.


Venture capital is a newly emerged career path for many PhD holders. This is because in the ever-evolving high tech world, to accelerate entrepreneurship and technology commercialization, we need science experts in venture capital to delegate technical ideas. The panel from different angles described the career choice, the job roles and the importance of science background for a successful VC career. Our moderator Seth was outstanding, sparking ideas and inspiring our panelists to share their stories and our audience to think more about their own career development. We received more than 200 questions from the audience, all of which were very thought-provoking and engaging. We encourage you to connect with our panelists for further questions and tune in to future BCLA events to learn more about biotech and career development.


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