Ambitious Ideas: Open Sourced Drug Discovery

Paul Graham penned a wonderfully inspirational post recently in which he discussed a number of ‘frighteningly ambitious startup ideas’. Given his proclivity for software and the Internet it is not surprising that the ideas he raises were things like replacing Google’s search engine dominance and delivering us from inbox evil.

Quite separately, a colleague at The University of Sydney, Matthew Todd,  forwarded me an article overnight that he co-authored in Nature on “open science as a research accelerator’.

In the article Matthew and two others discuss how open source-inspired thinking led him on a journey to produce an off-patent drug that could help millions of people around the world deal with bilharzia, a silent pandemic.

From their perspective the key benefit of their open approach was the acceleration of the research:

Experts identified themselves, and spontaneously contributed based on what was being posted online. The research therefore inevitably proceeded faster than if we had attempted to contact people in our limited professional circle individually, in series.

While Matthew was working on open sourcing process chemistry, he posits the question whether a similar approach could be applied to drug discovery.

The pharmaceutical industry is currently undergoing somewhat of a pipeline-related crisis and so the timing could not be better for such an approach to work.

In line with Paul’s thinking this is one of those frighteningly ambitious ideas. As Matthew points out, “There has been discussion of open-source drug discovery, but no coordinated efforts at compound discovery.”

This seems to me to be an area ripe for investigation. One that could herald a new age of abundance (read Peter Diamindis’s new book on this) in health and wellness.

I hope this is a topic that will be covered at the upcoming Founders Fund future conference!

 

Y Combinator: Accelerating Start Ups, Recursively

Over a decade ago, back in the day of the initial tech bubble, I ran an early precursor to Y Combinator. In a similar vein we took on board nascent start ups in batches, with little more than an idea, and actively worked with the entrepreneurs to progress to the point where they were able to attract further investment from us and other investors.

And so I’ve been watching very closely over the years as Paul Graham has tweaked the Y Combinator model. There have been two excellent touch points recently for those of you interested in what YC does, how they choose which startups to work with and their model for success:

1. A comprehensive article in Wired – Y Combinator Is Boot Camp for Startups; and

2. Charlie Rose interviewing PG at TechCrunch Disrupt – see below.

One of the most amazing points PG makes in the interview is that the total value of YC companies is now around $3 billion. This is off the back of YC having invested a total of around $5 million. Now that is excellent validation for the model!

 

Paul Graham: Venture Capital – A Primitive, Multi-Celled Sea Creature

Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham has written an excellent Fundraising Survival Guide that I encourage all entrepreneurs, venture guys and anyone who has any form of interest in the art of the start (as Guy Kawasaki calls it) to read.

It is a long essay. Stick with it.

[Picture courtesy of CompoundEye]

Y Combinator-Backed Omnisio Is YouTube’s First Post-Google Acquisition

Omnisio has been acquired by Google as YouTube’s first acquisition since they were themselves acquired a few years back. You can listen to the recent Metarand Unplugged audio interview with the video annotation startup’s CEO, Ryan Junee, here – in it we talk about the company and their journey through Paul Graham’s Y Combinator program.

Besides Ryan and his two fellow Aussie co-founders, Paul must himself be over the moon — from woe to go this must’ve been one of the quickest exits for Y Combinator. Atherton-based Omnisio launched in March 2008.

The best part – Ryan is a committed serial entrepreneur and I fully expect we’ll be hearing more great things from him in the near future.

While Ryan did not disclose to us the quantum of the deal, Michael Arrington has surmised it as being in the $15 million range.

Paul Graham on Y Combinator

Following on from our Metarand Unplugged session with recent Y Combinator graduate, Omnisio, here is an interview of YC’s founder, Paul Graham.

The comment I love the most: in asking for a median 6% equity from participants in the YC program, founders should grok that this effectively means Paul and the team have given quid pro quo by achieving a 6.4% improvement in a participant venture.

I’d imagine that this point is reached by the end of the first day of the program!