One of the old saws in journalism is to “follow the money” when you’re looking for a story. But sometimes you learn even more by following the people.
The people, in this case, are biotech venture capitalists. Regular readers of this column know that biotech VC has been going through a historic shakeout the last few years. The institutional investors who back VCs have gotten fed up with the long investment timelines, high degree of risk, and limp returns from this group of well-compensated asset managers. Not surprisingly, many VC firms have been unable to continue to raise new funds, and have turned into zombies.
Back in October 2012, I wondered which of the partners were most likely to survive the downturn and continue backing smart biotech entrepreneurs with big ideas. I surmised that the “young and proven” were most likely to persevere, because they were young enough (54 and under) to realistically sign up for another 10-12 year lifespan for a new venture fund, and proven enough (with at least 3 portfolio winners) to inspire confidence among the limited partners who supply the necessary cash.
This past week, I decided to follow up and track down the 40 members of that original class of “young and proven” biotech VCs.
Turns out, this group wasn’t quite the rock of stability I thought it might be.
Of that original group of 40, at least eight of them (20 percent) have left their prior employers. Some have switched firms, others have switched careers. A few appear to have gotten new titles of what may be mostly cosmetic significance. Some of the VCs on the list below have remained active, and raised new funds (OrbiMed, Atlas, 5AM, Frazier Healthcare to name a few). But several of the firms have been awfully quiet the past couple years.
Some of the career moves “seem to suggest a shift among the younger, more talented investors to funds or organizations that have better long-term viability (and bigger, more stable pools of capital to invest,” says Thong Le, a member of the “young and proven” who was recently named CEO of Accelerator, a venture-backed biotech startup operation. “The other thing I am seeing is that some long-time partners are taking leadership roles at strategic investors where there appears to be more ’white space opportunity‘ to shape a new investment program.”
Robert Nelsen, the longtime managing director at Arch Venture Partners, said he thinks there has been greater than usual turnover in the biotech VC ranks the past couple years. Turnover is “probably close to 50 percent if you get out into the rest of healthcare,” Nelsen says.
With that, here’s the list of the “young and proven” from October 2012, and where they are now. I wasn’t able to find a couple people, so if you’re reading this, let me know and I’ll update the chart below.
|Name||Job in October 2012||Job in February 2014|
|Noubar Afeyan||Managing Partner, Flagship Ventures||Same|
|Gaurav Aggarwal||Partner, Panorama Capital||??|
|Brent Ahrens||Managing Director, Canaan Partners||Same|
|Srini Akkaraju||Managing Director, New Leaf Venture Partners||General Partner, Sofinnova Ventures|
|Joseph Anderson||Partner, Abingworth||Same|
|Bruce Booth||Partner, Atlas Venture||Same|
|Mike Carusi||General Partner, Lightstone Ventures||Same|
|Brian Chee||General Partner, Polaris Partners||Managing Partner, Polaris Partners|
|Doug Cole||General Partner, Flagship Ventures||Same|
|Alan Crane||General Partner, Polaris Partners||Partner, Polaris Partners|
|Anupam Dalal||Partner, Kearny Venture Partners||Managing Director, Kearny Venture Partners|
|Francesco De Rubertis||Partner, Index Ventures||Same|
|Ryan Drant||General Partner, NEA||Same|
|Bryant Fong||Managing Director, Burrill Venture Capital||Managing Director, Biomark Capital|
|Nick Galakatos||Managing Director, Clarus Ventures||Same|
|Carl Gordon||Partner, OrbiMed Advisors||Same|
|James Healy||General Partner, Sofinnova Ventures||Same|
|Patrick Heron||General Partner, Frazier Healthcare Ventures||Same|
|Wende Hutton||Managing Director, Canaan Partners||Same|
|Dan Janney||Managing Director, Alta Partners||Same|
|Alison Kiley||Director, Alta Partners||??|
|Nina Kjellson||Managing Director, InterWest Partners||Same|
|Garheng Kong||General Partner, Sofinnova Ventures||Managing Partner, Sofinnova HealthQuest|
|Thong Le||Managing Director, WRF Capital||CEO, Accelerator|
|Heath Lukatch||Partner, Novo Ventures||Same|
|Dayton Misfeldt||Investment partner, Bay City Capital||Managing Director, Bay City Capital|
|Bob More||General Partner, Frazier Healthcare Ventures||Senior Advisor, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation|
|Amir Nashat||General Partner, Polaris Partners||Managing Partner, Polaris Partners|
|Robert Nelsen||Managing Director, Arch Venture Partners||Same|
|Brendan O’Leary||General Partner, Prism VentureWorks||Same|
|Adele Oliva||Partner, Quaker Partners||Same|
|Deepa Pakianathan||General Partner, Delphi Ventures||Same|
|Bryan Roberts||Partner, Venrock||Same|
|Bijan Salehizadeh||Managing Director, Navimed Capital||Same|
|Camille Samuels||Managing Director, Versant Ventures||Board member of Achaogen, Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, Carmenta Bio|
|David Schnell||Managing Director, Prospect Venture Partners||Same|
|Andy Schwab||General Partner, 5AM Ventures||Same|
|Jonathan Silverstein||Partner, OrbiMed Advisors||Same|
|Risa Stack||Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers||General Manager, GE Emerging Health Innovations|
|Jamie Topper||General Partner, Frazier Healthcare Ventures||Same|