Recently, we proudly announced a $63 million (US $50 million) Series C funding round led by Inovia Capital and TCV. This is very exciting, as we believe it demonstrates trust in our ability to help scientists develop novel medicines faster.
Transparency is one of our company’s core values, and we believe it’s important to ensure every BenchSci team member understands how a major development like this will affect them and has an opportunity to ask any questions about the year ahead. As part of our 2022 company kickoff, I invited Dennis Kavelman (DK), Partner at Inovia, and Matt Brennan (MB), General Partner at TCV to join us for a company-wide discussion.
Our guests candidly shared with the entire team why they chose to invest in BenchSci, answered our questions, offered advice, and gave their unique insight into what we should watch for this year and what makes the hypergrowth journey we’re on—challenging though it may be—so worthwhile.
You see hundreds of companies every year and only do a few deals. Why did you decide to invest $63 million with BenchSci?
MB: This is a unique opportunity—few industries face the kind of challenge that pharmaceutical companies have been facing, where billions in spend is wasted, and technologies that exist to address the issue are limited. It’s an exceptional market, making it fertile for investing.
When we discover a market like this, we look for the leader or emerging leader, whether that company is taking over market share from incumbents or building the market themselves. In this market, BenchSci is the horse to back.
DK: It’s definitely an exciting market—I love finding these kinds of inefficiencies where it’s sort of unbelievable just how ineffective the standard method is, and then discovering a company that can provide a better way.
Another important factor in decisions like this is a company’s management team—are they people who we want to work with over the next decade? Is this a team that wants to take on the world and make a real impact? In BenchSci’s case, the answer to both these questions is a resounding "yes."
What are the biggest challenges companies like us face at this stage of their growth? What tips can you offer for addressing those challenges?
MB: The biggest issue we see with large organizations is not knowing when to say no. You need to have a broader vision for your entire customer base, and sometimes turning down one opportunity to focus more on another is the better path.
DK: Prioritization becomes critical. Instead of trying to do everything all at once, determine the top five things you need to focus on for development. As a company gets bigger, leaders need to take a step back and understand they won’t be able to manage every aspect of the business on their own. A good leader trusts their leadership team to keep day-to-day operations on track so they can focus on growth. I see all the right moves being made here at BenchSci.
What are some of the hurdles we should be aware of when it comes to scaling teams?
DK: From my experience at BlackBerry, one thing we had to figure out was how to maintain the culture, teamwork, and intensity we had when we were small. It’s important to hang onto that, regardless of size. When we were scaling, we were constantly dealing with one thing after another, but we always had each other for support. The recent shift to remote work introduces additional challenges—it’s crucial we find new ways to build trust since we can’t be in a boardroom overnight bonding over pizza and problem-solving.
What kinds of things are you seeing work in other companies?
DK: I never like to compare companies because every story is different. I suggest you don’t scale prematurely—pull levers at the right time. Focus on running lean, even when you’ve got lots of money in the bank.
What have you seen go wrong? What are some of the risks?
MB: Be careful not to get stuck on the whims of the individual. Within the next year, lots of new ideas and opportunities for your customers will arise, but don’t be a victim to your own success. Stick to your mission and strive to achieve it—and push back when this isn’t the case.
You see a lot of companies in the tech landscape. What do you think makes the successful ones successful?
MB: Successful companies are the ones that move fast but think smart. Speed needs to be balanced with constant check-ins to make sure everyone stays on the right track. It’s also important to consider fun—people are more successful in this environment when they derive some enjoyment from finding solutions to these massive problems.
DK: To be successful, a company needs to have patient strategies but act with urgency. Team members should come to work with a sense of urgency and a view of the long game. BenchSci has a very clear North Star—you know what needs to be done, so take the time to plan far into the future. As your company gets really big and starts shaking up entire industries, there will be those that will take shots at you, so you need to start building that toughness and resilience now.
With the many challenges of working at a hypergrowth company, what makes it all worth it?
DK: Working a regular nine to five job won’t change the world—you don't change the world by checking off a to-do list. If you want to be involved in something great, then you should pursue it with passion and excitement. The path is never easy, and you need to believe in the mission to truly be successful, but it’s a rush. The rush of those early days building a company is a very unique feeling.
MB: It’s an incredible experience working with a team where everyone operates a few levels higher than their basic job description. It’s a bit like playing football—everyone on the team works together on every play, contributing to something more than just their everyday tasks. We engage with hypergrowth companies that end up doing much bigger things than when they started. The sheer magnitude of how large these companies can get—being able to play a game this big is only possible in tech.
As you can see, we're fortunate to have the guidance of experienced investors as we embark on the next stage of our journey. You can read more about our Series C, including additional interviews with Kavelman and Brennan, in publications including Bloomberg, Endpoints, The Globe and Mail, and BetaKit. You can also subscribe to our blog for all the latest BenchSci news and events.