Funding Science Fiction That Works From The MIT Media Lab, With Habib Haddad and Calvin Chin From The E14 Fund

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This is the 12th episode of the podcast Deep Tech: From Lab to Market’ where Founders and Investors share how ‘deep tech’ innovation can go from lab to market. It is available on Apple Podcast and other platforms and hosted by Benjamin Joffe, Partner at SOSV, a global early stage fund focused on deep tech. SOSV runs multiple accelerator programs including HAX (intelligent hardware) and IndieBio (life sciences). To hear about new episodes, sign up to the newsletter or follow us on twitter at @LabToMarket.

Ask them questions on LinkedIn here!

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There is a bit of mystery shrouding the MIT Media Lab. If you’ve watched the movies Minority Report or Disney’s Big Hero 6, if you’ve used a touch screen, an e-reader, AR/VR devices, or played the game Guitar Hero, you’ve been touched by innovations from the Media Lab and its alumni.

Habib Haddad and Calvin Chin are the Managing Partners of the E14 Fund, an early stage deep tech fund that invests exclusively in startups from the MIT Media Lab community.

The Media Lab is a futuristic place renowned for its interdisciplinary research. Its departments have names such as Molecular MachinesSynthetic Neurobiology or Tangible Media.

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Photo: Wearable computing pioneers in 1996 (source: wearcam.org, h/t @Hydraulist)

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In this episode, Habib and Calvin describe:

  • The journey that brought them to create the E14 Fund in 2013 (and why it’s named this way).

The media lab is a special place that actively promotes a unique and anti-disciplinary culture. There’s about 90 of the largest corporates in the world that have a membership with the Media Lab. They work with collaborators and get a glimpse of the future. — Habib Haddad

  • The importance of the community built around the Media Lab and the fund.

  • How they work with founders, supporting them sometimes years before it’s a startup ready for investment,

Whether we’ve known them while they finished their last couple of years of their PhD, or whether we’ve been tracking and talking with them as they’ve been workshopping a new idea, whether they’re thinking of spinning off or leaving Google or Facebook or whatever, we spend a lot of time with founders and help them. — Calvin Chin

  • What differentiates the best founders from others,

There is reputation that, you know, these deep scientists, founders shouldn’t be the CEO. We found that when they can start thinking about building their company as an engineering problem, then it’s a great way to build a company. — Calvin Chin

  • How to manage “scientist brain” and “founder brain”,

  • What simple question you can ask founders to determine their ability to navigate both the short and long term,

  • How deep tech startups can be both less capital intensive, and more capital efficient than many think,

The companies that we mentioned are extremely capital efficient. They’ve actually pushed their way through with non-dilutive funding. Sometimes they become even more capital efficient for equity investors than SaaS or consumer startups. — Habib Haddad

  • Why attracting, training and keeping foreign scientific talent in the US matters,

It’s mind boggling to see that we’re actually putting these top scientists that are in this country at risk of leaving the country. I really hope that gets reverted. — Habib Haddad

  • We end with some ideas on how to grow the investment in deep tech, and why this sector inevitably matter a great deal.

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