Lab To Market Podcast: Seth Bannon from Fifty Years on How Science Startups Build the Future

Hi! Ben, Partner @ SOSV here- the early stage deep tech fund focused on hardware and biology, via our programs HAX and IndieBio.

This quick note to share a new episode is up on our podcast Deep Tech: From Lab to Market (@LabToMarket). It features Seth Bannon from Fifty Years, a $50m SF-based deep tech fund investing in synthetic biology, food, health, space and more.

Note: this is as last minute as it gets, but if you happen to be in a compatible time zone, SOSV is hosting a free online event today at 6pm ET (= now) on ‘Startups Against Covid-19’ featuring one that just got featured in the NYT. You can RSVP here. If you can’t make it, we should have a recording of it later too. Note that the Zoom page only shows the first three of five speakers; one of the speakers is a CRISPR-based Covid-19 low-cost test that was just featured yesterday on the New York Times.

About Seth and Fifty Years

  • Seth Bannon is a long-time advocate and campaigner, who turned to technology and investment to solve the world’s biggest problems around sustainability, food, and the digital divide.

  • A graduate of Y Combinator, Seth was named twice to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Social Entrepreneurship.

  • Seth believes business will be about more than just profit (more here), and Fifty Years has supported a range of startups shaping the world for the better — from microbe engineering for sustainable chemistry, to small satellites for low-cost global internet coverage, to clean meat.

Episode Overview

In this episode, Seth talks about:

  • What prompted him to create a fund focused on the world’s biggest problems, and how its name relates to Winston Churchill’s prophetic 1931 essay titled Fifty Years Hence.

  • How Silicon Valley needs to go back to its roots: focusing on technology to lift all sectors — including food, industry and healthcare — to the digital age.

  • Why biology is having its ‘Internet time’.

  • The challenges PhDs face when they become founders to translate their research.

  • How magnetic, resourceful, resilient doers are founders with high potential.

  • His approach to opportunistic investments in deep tech.

  • Using publication research for initial technical due diligence in new domains.

  • The benefits of portfolio network effects.

  • Finally, we discuss the affects of the Covid-19 pandemic on venture, and the silver lining of how such an intense global events might give rise to major scientific advances in a compressed timeframe.


Kelly Chen, Partner at DCVC

  • DCVC is $725m deep tech fund active in agtech, space, industry and biology.

  • Kelly shares her views on investing in Old School Industries.

Manish Singhal, Managing Partner of pi Ventures

  • pi Ventures is a $30m deep tech fund focused on India.

  • Manish talks about India’s deep tech landscape.

John Ho, Partner at Anzu Partners

  • Anzu Partners is a US-based $190m fund investing nationwide.

  • John talks about investing in Breakthrough Industrial Technologies

Matt Clifford, Cofounder of Entrepreneur First (EF)

  • EF is a $115m fund investing in deep tech pre-team and pre-product.

  • Matt explains how they apply the lean startup to team formation.

Share it if you like it, and let me know if you have suggestions!

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Until next time!

Benjamin Joffe
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