Why We Built Petri

When we first started Pillar we didn’t expect to do healthcare or life sciences investing. At the time, we felt like we were innovating the VC model on enough dimensions already and wanted to focus narrowly on “tech” investing. Given we were in Boston, the mecca of life sciences and healthcare, this may sound too narrow but tech is where we focused.

As we started making investments, we began to run into really interesting founders, often recent PhDs or postdocs pursuing big ideas at the frontier of biology and engineering.

Alec Nielsen & Raja Srinivas from Asimov and Andy Beck & Aditya Khosla from PathAI were two such teams.

We wondered why we were seeing these opportunities. Where were the early stage healthcare VCs? The early-stage life science VCs?

After exploring the landscape, we thought we saw a pattern:

Most health IT firms were focused on digital health companies and tech-enabled services companies, such as selling software to hospitals and insurers.

Most (not all) life science firms had evolved towards a biopharma “company formation” model — meaning they were funding ideas for new drugs generated by their own teams and finding industry veterans to lead them. (ps — this is a model that appears to be working extremely well for them).

As a result, it appeared that neither group was particularly interested in spending time on projects at the nexus of bio and engineering that were being led by these recent PhDs.

Then we met Tony Kulesa, a recent MIT PhD who was seeing the same challenge from the other side. He was the student looking for support, guidance, and capital to pursue his entrepreneurial dream.

We were lucky to meet Brian Baynes, a serial founder and investor from Flagship Pioneering who was looking for new ways to help mentor founders and build companies in Boston.

We decided to try to do something about it — and the result is Petri.

Petri is a first-of-its-kind accelerator that supports early-stage founders working on breakthroughs at the frontier of biology and engineering.

We saw how powerful our group of Founding CEOs had been at Pillar and assembled a comparable group for Petri — a team of been there, done that, researchers, founders and executives who could help advise young startups.

We are proud to announce Petri this week and have begun the process of building our first cohort.

As part of the 12-month program, each accepted team receives:

  • Support — Individually tailored coaching and resources
  • Capital — $250,000 equity investment (in some cases more)
  • Strategy — Insight from a world-class team of founders and researchers
  • Space — Shared office space and turnkey BSL2 lab space in Boston
  • Community — Bonding with peer founders working to change the world

If it’s your ambition to build an important company at the intersection of biology and engineering, Petri is for you. Whether you’re a graduate student, a postdoc or are working at a large company — if you have an insight you’d like to explore, we’re eager to connect.

Learn more at www.petri.bio.

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