Ep 01: The ‘trials and errors’ gene of a biotech entrepreneur – with Eli Lyons

eli lyonsIn this first episode, I’m interviewing Eli Lyons, CEO and Co-founder of Molcure a biotech company established in Tokyo. Eli is a young American who originally came to Japan to conduct his PhD in Medical Genome Science at Tokyo University. On the side, Eli joined a team of Japanese starting Molcure. Together, they have made the company grow and successfully raised Angel investments and more recently $2 million in a Series A. Today, their clients include leading pharmaceutical companies and so Eli decided to put his PhD on hold to focus fully on Molcure.During the interview, I’m exploring Eli’s story: how a foreigner coming to Japan with little Japanese knowledge can, in less than three years, be at the head of a promising venture. We’re also digging into Molcure’s specific technology (antibody drug discovery) so the conversation becomes a bit technical at some point (don’t give up, or just skip this part; but if this is of interest to you, you’ll find some more information about what Molcure is doing in the footnotes.)

There is one interesting analogy between biologists and entrepreneurs, and that’s the importance given to trials and errors. In both disciplines, there is a strong bias towards trying things out to figure out what’s working (theory is not enough.) Also, in both cases, the biologist and the entrepreneur should be failure-resilient as success can only results from a long (and painful) process of refinements over mistakes.

Later in the conversation, we’re discussing about opportunities and barriers of building a business in Japan. I was surprised at first that Eli, who’s originally from the start-up capital of the world, San Francisco, decided to start his first business in Tokyo, a place that is not particularly renown for being start-up friendly. But Eli proves me wrong and highlights some good points about areas where Japan has a true comparative advantages. We’re covering many other entrepreneurship-related topics such as dealing with a team, raising funds, or simply life values etc. so I really hope you’ll enjoy it!

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Show notes

  • (1:01) Beginning of the interview
  • (2:07) Introduction of Eli Lyons and first steps in Japan
  • (8:30) The role failure
  • (10:36) How did Molcure start?
  • (13:42) What’s Molcure’s business?
  • (16:32) Is biotechnology a promising sector? Innovation and the role of trials and errors
  • (27:14) Fundraising in Japan
  • (32:07) Working with your team
  • (34:30) Finding and dealing with your first clients
  • (39:27) The skills in the team
  • (41:41) The power of client’s feedback
  • (43:56) Japan’s business environment for startups
  • (45:54) Productivity tools & teamwork
  • (48:32) Japan vs. Silicon Valley
  • (50:37) What Japan’s business environment needs to improve?
  • (55:54) Quick fire questions

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