Genemod Raises $1.7M in Oversubscribed Seed Round to Drive the Next Generation of Medicine
Seed round led by Defy.vc; Genemod to expand product offering and scale team
In October of 2019, my co-founder Jin and I decided to take the plunge and make our startup, Genemod, our #1 priority. It was definitely time to take things up a notch.
In the corporate world, things move slowly and it’s hard to see whether you’re making a real difference in the world. I felt like I was just a small cog in the greater scheme of things. Even though I was doing cutting-edge experimental cancer research every day, there was still this inkling somewhere in my mind, telling me that there was more out there I could be doing.
Jin had similar feelings – enough that he was willing to leave behind a stable, well-paying job in San Diego and relocate to Seattle for a future of excitement but also uncertainty (which also meant more ramen and fewer steak dinners).
In his words: “I felt that the work I was doing with Genemod, even though it was part-time, was more rewarding than what I was doing in my corporate job. I wanted to drive Genemod’s progress faster, I wanted to be part of the exciting moments and memories that the team was experiencing on-site in Seattle.”
Taking the Leap
Genemod started off as an “after hours” endeavor, but I quickly realized it had far greater potential to make the kind of difference in the scientific and medical world that I was looking for. This realization is really what helped us make that leap to working full-time at Genemod. It also helped that we had a fantastic team of people who we could trust, who had similar risk-taking mindsets.
Jin and I were able to take the skills and abilities we’d developed in our corporate careers, and apply them to our work at Genemod. Jin has a background in programming and in-depth experience in writing different programming scripts, from low-level C to Python. Fortunately, a lot of the scripts he wrote were shared among his extensive network of customers and colleagues, so he learned to approach problems using multiple perspectives and adapt quickly.
In my case, I already had several years’ experience in cancer research, including academic and governmental, and had published quite a bit as well. As a result, I had a high-level understanding of how experiments were done and how data was managed, as well as real experience working at the bench level, doing genetic engineering, presenting data, and long nights in my basement working on live animal experiments.
In hindsight, I realize that my biggest takeaway from all this was the work ethic I developed: to always be learning, and execute and move swiftly. Up to this point, I had zero entrepreneurial experience but I was very much looking forward to tackling the challenge of funding Genemod.
Taking It to the Next Level with Venture Out
Jin and I were still in full-blown “learning mode” when we came across VO’s Launch Lab. At this point, we were working hard on our networking skills, listening to advice and stories from other entrepreneurs, and had already been accepted to multiple pitch events. Even so, something was still missing. We needed something more fundamental to help us learn and grow.
The Launch Lab seemed like a perfect fit: it was an accelerated program with a large community. Having just left the corporate world, we knew that time wasn’t on our side, and the VO Lab was an opportunity for us to fast-track our progress with Genemod and find the mentors we needed. I particularly liked how tactical the whole Lab was – it was a clear formula of “do this,” “now do that,” and “what are your weekly metrics.” We really needed that extra bit of handholding and we were confident that we’d be able to learn and assimilate quickly.
Still, it took a lot of hard work. At least once or twice a week we’d be up until 4 or 5 am in our small office in Pioneer Square (true story: we had become quite close with the janitor who made the 2 am rounds). The mentors we found at Launch Lab indeed proved to be an unparalleled help to us. The unique “speed dating” sessions at the beginning of the Launch Lab, where we were meeting 50+ people each day, is by far the best networking experience I’ve had to this date.
We gained so much out of the Launch Lab because we kept our vision for Genemod on our minds 7 days a week, even when we weren’t working on it. We’re also incredibly lucky to have a super motivated team – of our core team, I’m pretty sure that we all took only one day off from the moment we went full-time with the startup, to when we finished Launch Lab. We had the classic, hacker startup culture where we all put in a lot of work but also had a lot of fun.
Ultimately, the Launch Lab helped us prepare to qualify for funding by giving us much-needed experience, networking, and practice in the startup world. I was a classical pianist for 14 years, and so I’ve come to understand well the simple truth that practice makes perfect. The fact that I came to the Launch Lab with no business background and very little networking experience makes it all the more clear what an incredible education and opportunity the Lab provides.
Now with our latest venture financing, the possibilities are endless and we have a real opportunity to change life sciences and improve human health. As Genemod’s potential continues to grow, so does our team: we’re looking for full-stack engineers who enjoy solving difficult problems and are ready to become one of the few, earliest pioneers in this exciting endeavor.