With Pellini on Board, Maris Sets Course at Section 32

Xconomy San Diego — 

It’s not easy to catch up with Bill Maris at Section 32, the venture firm he founded last year near San Diego. It took a while to arrange a call to discuss how Foundation Medicine’s Michael Pellini had joined Section 32 as Maris’s first investing partner, and what they plan to do together.

Maris acknowledged last year that he was laying plans to raise a new fund, after investing nearly all of the first $160 million he had raised for Section 32. Since then, Maris said he’s been busy assembling a new team in the coastal community of Cardiff by the Sea, CA. In addition to Pellini, Maris said Jenn Kercher joined Section 32 last fall from Google Ventures, where she had worked as chief operating officer and general counsel. She will play a similar role at Section 32, and Maris allowed he’s looking to make more additions. Then he turned cagey.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next several months we add another investing partner,” Maris said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t either. That’s a tough one to predict.”

If he speaks with an abundance of caution, it may be at least partly due to the attention Maris has drawn for his accomplishments  as the founder and CEO of what’s now known as GV—arguably the most successful corporate venture fund at the second-largest company in the world. In the nine or 10 years Maris spent at Google, GV grew to more than 70 employees and invested about $2.5 billion in roughly 400 companies, including Uber, Nest, Flatiron Health, and 23andme.

Amid the equivocations, though, Maris occasionally allows glimpses of his passion to flash through. One topic that elicits his intensity lies in the convergence of the life sciences and information technology, where Maris and Pellini plan to focus much of their attention at Section 32.

“There’s going to be a big focus on where these two worlds come together, because, one, it’s incredibly important to the future of humanity—period—and, two, it’s where huge businesses are going to get created,” Maris said. In terms of his investment strategy for Section 32, Maris said he sees “unprecedented” opportunities for creating transformative companies in the business side of healthcare, as well as in intervention, diagnostics, therapeutics—what he calls “the stack that actually helps patients.”

It’s also clear that Maris is thinking beyond the economic impacts of transformative innovations.

“If the world is working the right way, and moving the way I hope it does, we won’t have a discussion around the cost of healthcare. Things cost money. They need to be paid for. I get it.”

Bill Maris

Bill Maris in 2016 (David Paul Morris photo used with permission)

But in technology, Maris contends that “the inexorable force” of the most important innovations start as very expensive and available to only a few—and eventually become basically free and available to everyone. Think of the Internet. Maris anticipates that will happen in healthcare as well.

“A much larger question is ‘What do … Next Page »

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