Chemical & Engineering News – Starting a Science Business During a Pandemic

Chemical & Engineering News features Spencer Maughan and Ingrid Fung on Starting a Science Business During a Pandemic

Starting a company based on chemistry is a multiyear endeavor, and few such ventures have the luxury of waiting for the investment climate to thaw. For many firms, seed money is dwindling, but new investors want more data and progress than normal to feel secure putting up capital. It’s scary, with a silver lining. New firms that learn to run lean, develop discipline, and find the right partners can come out of the pandemic stronger than if they’d been born during more normal circumstances.

Ingrid Fung of the agriculture-focused venture capital firm Finistere Ventures says companies in Finistere’s portfolio that started during or just after the 2008 financial crisis are doing well today because they learned to be efficient with money, including by outsourcing some R&D. “They typically have lower burn; they can dial up or dial back,” she says.

“The ability to build a great company often comes because lean times mean you have to be very pragmatic and sensible about what you’re building,” Maughan says. “There’s always a positive to a downturn or difficult period. I think it’s a really great time, actually, for people to be thinking about starting businesses.” Spencer Maughan, Finistere Ventures

In June, right in the middle of the crisis, Enko Chem, which is adapting small-molecule discovery methods from the pharmaceutical world to pest control products, raised $45 million in a second round of funding that Finistere participated in. The venture capital firm likes to be the “first institutional investor in,” focusing on series A and B investment rounds, according to Finistere partner Spencer Maughan.

“Not too much has changed, in that we’re looking for stellar, credible teams with a big vision,” Maughan says. He adds that the firm looks for “a good body of work that has de-risked and gotten that science ready to be a true technology.” And right now, he wants to see pragmatism. “Are they sensible,” he asks, “with value inflection points that can be reached on the capital given?” For more, click here.

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