Why I wake up everyday - Biotech Startup serial entrepreneur, advisor and investor Ron Shigeta



hi ron thank you very much for coming today

so today i wanted to start this interview by asking you uh what your current uh job is and then what have you done in your life and everything just to give people context of who you are because i know you're like amazing super smart brilliant person i uh um i'm an advisor for startups and i'm a serial entrepreneur and i have also been an investor all this has happened to me in the last six years it's been a really exciting time of life for me um and uh it's been it's been an amazing experience because i've had the good fortune to work with a hundred startup teams uh the market cap the value of the companies i've worked with total all bundled together is over three billion dollars and um we helped start the team that i was working with we co-founded an accelerator called indie bio in san francisco which takes biotech companies and makes startups really small companies and that helps get them started and now it's kind of a global phenomenon there's hundreds of companies like that and in particular when it comes to food that's like one of the hottest places for biotech right now there's well over 100 biotech food companies um and they're terribly exciting and uh it's it's it's one of the things that really keeps me going in my life i'm really enjoyable very nice um i just this is just out of my curiosity like what kind of um is it a program like it's an accessibility program right like what kind of support do you provide for startups well i i don't work in any buyer anymore but indie bioscience going it is an accelerator there are thousands of accelerators i think there's about a thousand accelerated programs on the planet but but indie buys a special one where an accelerator is where you come into the program and you have a limited amount of time and so over the few months that needy bio program runs you learn really fast and you try to get your company up to the point where it can be investment it's investment worthy and so over four months it's very intense you change a lot and then you have a demo day at the end which you can actually find on youtube there's demo days where the entrepreneurs stand up and they talk about the company for five or six minutes uh and about 70 of them have had funding uh at least when we were there so it was a it's an amazing scene um and it's just getting started and mckenzie just published a report that basically said biotech is basically going to be the 21st century economically um because it has a chance to make almost any product that we use sustainable and we don't have to give it up we don't have to live in the stone age just to be sustainable on the planet so it's a very exciting time for biotech um and it's you know it's really made my life exciting so because a lot of people who watch this is also entrepreneur i'm curious like is there um like when you're accepting startups like what kind of i guess qualifications do you look for in terms of characteristics yeah then or like team members like what kind of things do you look for well there's a couple different answers that question one of them is as an as an advisor and someone who just works with startups sometime i'll take one a team that's very early on they're not really ready for investment and i'll work with them until they are ready for investment and indie bio and y combinator and beyond expenses and other kinds of accelerators like that they will do very similar things uh when you're not ready for an excel like any buyer or or y combinator one of those uh you probably need to find an individual to help you with your team um and uh when you are an investor looking for a team what you're looking for actually i save you you want three things you want a good pitch you want a good team and you want a good plan um so the the the most important is the plan uh the company what the company's about what does it do uh how does it create value and how does it help people how does it make impact all of those things are very uh are what the investor is really looking for but when you present yourself like in the pitch and when you talk about the people you've worked for you you also say whether you're the right person to do that mission and that's really important because the the people who actually perform the task of turning this company into a real endeavor those have to be perfect they have to be strong enough to actually get it done if they're not involved if they're interested if they're not skilled if they're not determined if they're hard-working then no matter how brilliant the plan is uh nothing will come of it so we need all of these things uh but we it's important to start with a good plan and find a good plan and then try to make your team strong enough to actually get the plan done interesting so i'm gonna move on to our next question which is um which is actually once again it's related to entrepreneurship and also um the fact that you work in an environment where you meet a lot of creative ideas and innovation like it's happening in daily basis right like what about working in that environment excites you there is nothing that makes me feel more alive than working with small teams uh and just when you have your own startup if you've got the right people running at the right startup there's a feeling that almost anything can happen that the world can really change and that's a tremendous amount of feeling uh that that just really gets you going gives you tremendous amount of energy and it really it's it lets you believe in what you're doing i i think um i have i've had several jobs in my career and i always i did well and i earned good money and all this but you know whenever i wouldn't really believe in what i was doing i just had to get out of there right and so it's especially important to me i think the bay area is still one of those places where it's easy to meet people who love that feeling but i think that anywhere you know if you're in tokyo if you're shanghai you're singapore you're in israel you're in europe some european city like london if you are surrounded by the right people if you've got that environment that makes you feel alive and they feel that there's full you're full of potential you know i think that that's a good place to be that's the right place to be but it's it's kind of hard to keep that mindset up right like um there will be especially when you're in a startup environment like your business is not established yet so there must be many of struggles many triggers that could turn someone into negative state right like do you still see that still happening or if that's not it's incredibly difficult i mean to i mean you you can't just sort of like wave your hands in the air and make a hundred million dollar or a billion dollar company it's still a tremendous amount of work and there's a tremendous number of things that can and will go wrong um i think it's really about getting in the right mind frame that this is making you feel alive you know if it makes you feel alive to handle difficult problems and to learn and to change how to solve those problems that's what that's what that's what makes it a thrilling place to be you know uh i i think the feeling that you're scaring your own ship is one of the most exciting things that you can do in your life and it may not be something you want to experience at any given moment in your life but sometimes in your life i think it's worth having it you know um it's a good experience i've had at some point but was this something you developed over time by you know being able to work in this environment or like how when did you acquire this thinking that's a good question i think i've always always loved adventure and i've always loved the idea of being creative uh for a long time i i gotta say i didn't really have any tools to be creative i didn't really have the ability to actually put things together to make them work and uh there was a there was a point where i really wanted to break out of my own but i really just didn't know what to do i've always had that desire but it was after my after i got my phd and after i started doing uh working in industry for a while i finally felt like i just had to do it and i finally had the ability to sort of have the tools to make it work and so you don't know what it's hard to say when this is going to happen to anybody but if you feel like you have that if you have that in your heart that you know you want to get out there and you want to see how you can do on your own then you should always be learning something new and getting ready for it so i was always packing my bag and putting my tools together and uh and uh i'm so happy it happened you know who was like the most i guess trained like mentally trained entrepreneur you've ever met like someone you you thought wow like this person is very strong you know i i can't really name a single one there are i mean i've been lucky enough to surround myself with so many just amazing people that's that i can learn from and i'm constantly learning something new every day and there are if you put yourself in the right place to meet these people uh like for instance like like i was just speaking with paul shapiro who was an entrepreneur in sacramento not far from here we were talking about how he built his company um and what's going on in the world and i just like he was he was very highly placed in the humane society he's learned how to run large organizations he's met hundreds he's got hundreds of friendly contacts in his network to help them build his business and create something really unique um you know i think that you know that was a recent encounter i had i you know i just you know paul is the kind of guy who he puts his hands on something and he starts putting it together and it starts to work you know as an organization as a culture as a community you know um i'm working with three or four entrepreneurs right now who i really think they're they're building factories and plants and labs and they've all they've all got tremendous amount of skill in what they do um they always need help with something and they know how to reach out for it but i i i you know uh and i saw mark andreessen talk recently uh you know there's a guy who's seen hundreds of companies come together and so all these people let you get to know them they have hundreds of stories and there's almost a story for every occasion and it's really inspiring because you just feel like oh there's a tremendous amount of power in and sort of like drawing your experience and saying this is the problem let's solve the problem it's uh it's it's a great place to be but i mean they're out there they're out there almost everybody in every city you can reach out to people like that and you can learn from them i think i i think i flamed my question slightly wrong way i guess my my question was what is that that makes someone great at entrepreneurship let's say i'm trying russia you know i'll tell you one thing like let me sort of like tilt that off because i don't think there's anything there are not too many things in common except for some love for what you do i think what's really interesting about doing business is that it's like throwing yourself in the jungle yeah all these different animals and they all do and just sort of seeing all these things work you realize that there is no mind single mindset that works there are people who are there are people who appear utterly flaky i'm serious like you're just like these people have cannot remember to show up on time right there are other people who are just so so introverted that they cannot give a talk but they just love to work they just love to work on what they work on all of these people i have seen so many different kinds of people succeed there you don't have to become one particular kind of mega entrepreneur we don't have to become you know elon musk to succeed we can all learn to succeed from where we are i think that's what's really amazing i've actually i have stopped judging people so much more like when i was sitting at my desk and i got my paycheck and i nothing really mattered to me i could judge people and i said like oh that person's flaky or that person's incompetent or that person's not very bright i could say that but now i really i've seen all these kind of people succeed and manage things in our own way and uh and yeah i think anybody could theoretically do it i would certainly myself never say no that this person's not going to make it if they really want to you know they can find a way so when you said that you still kind of value a team right like when you're accepting new startups like that was the second priority uh you mentioned earlier when you say you are uh or judging the business by the team does that mean that if they love the mission like is that what your indication indication that's true you know if you have a group of people and they're all like they're all ready to go and they're super excited that's very useful but there's another thing too you know most of these ideas start with one person um but what we find what what's really well known in startups is that if you are if you're a sole founder there's a much higher chance you're going to fail it's like 30 percent higher chance that you'll fail if you don't have a co-founder and so another thing a team tells you is that this person managed to talk somebody else into going into this with them dropping everything in their life and joining them that is means that they can sell their idea if you sell it to some random person to become your co-founder that's fantastic if that person is amazing and that they have a lot going on and and they still joined that's even better so it's a sign that that you have some of the skills necessary to make the startup into a company to me yeah i see your first how you say the co-founder is your first sale you can't sell to somebody to join you who's gonna buy


well that's interesting i never looked at it like that like that's very insightful so i'm gonna move on to my next question which is this is gonna be juicy question right um so i i wrote down what does it mean to be an authentically confident person in the environment of capitalism and i want to give you a little bit more of a context of where i come from with this question in business there's a fear of being wrong or there's a fear of being incorrect person because the more you know the more authoritative you look to customer or forever like the more resource you can uh attract to the more right and this is why sometimes i think people could find it a little bit difficult to present themselves authentically uh but then still balance that with the fact that they they're confident person there because sometimes you know you could feel this pressure of like you having to be the one who knows everything and you know you are the expert right like what's your opinion on this yeah well i think you know a friend of mine say that business entrepreneurialism is a spiritual quest and i think that there's a great element to that is that you're gonna if you're gonna start with no experience and build a business that's going to impact people's lives and change things you're gonna not be the same person as when you started right and part of that journey is to overcome your own apprehensions about yourself so you're always you want to be people struggle with being authentic because they think if i talk and i sound like i think i'm smart then i'm not being authentic and so a lot of people especially when we get started but we all struggle with every level you do go you still struggle how do i do this and still hold on to my soul right how do i be myself but yet be this person who stands up speaks with the authority maybe makes people feel not as smart as they they feel normally or maybe just it seems proud or how do i become that kind of person but still be the humble self i started with and i i i spend a lot of time when i coach i spend a lot of time talking about that adjustment with people because some people think like they can avoid it for instance the first thing to do is to sort of say well this idea is so brilliant if i just say this idea happened then people will just come to me and they'll do everything i want but that actually isn't true people will follow an idea if somebody is presenting it like for instance life up is your idea and you're making this happen you can't just put up a sign saying life up is about inspiring people to follow their dreams you kind of have to be that person you kind of have to be following your dreams and you have to sort of be exam be an example of what my life's about right so you have to have a person one of the founders at least one of the founders is going to have to be the personification of the idea and so it's not a humble moment to stand up in front of 500 people and say this company is going to change the world and life is never going to be the same because we are doing this and you if you if you don't say it it's really never going to happen and so we have to spend time thinking about what does person how can you be the authentic person up there saying that and so what i have figured out is that a lot of it is about creating a new understanding of your motives you purify your motives and then you turn around and then you give the talk so some a lot of people rush in and say like okay i have to do this i'm the boss i'm super smart here i am i'm giving the talk and it never it doesn't quite turn out right or maybe you kind of get a little more awful when you do that so a better way to do it is say look if you don't do life up who's going to do life up right who's going to do it the way you think it should be done and you think it should be done because it is better this way people need to be treated a certain way they need to be talked to a certain way and if you don't do it natsune doesn't do it the no one will do it so that's why you're going to do it and see and so then you have to say it because the idea will never go anywhere without it and so we do this for the idea we do this for the the people that we are serving we don't do it for ourselves and so we do i go through a series of exercises like this and then people start talking louder and louder and louder but they they do it with confidence and they come across as being real interesting people not you know not uh not just like uh you know not yeah not awful people


i was trying to send a stamp yes no yeah and there's another thing too is that people will still say awful things about you when you when you have a lot of attention and followers people will say awful things about you and you need to be able to say you know what even if someone says this about me it doesn't matter because i'm doing something important and i have to do it and so these are the kind of things that help people keep moving and growing while they while they get into these very very strange places right i think a lot of times when we can switch that our i guess we if we can't switch our perception about uh being challenged is something positive then it could come out as a lot of self-doubt like it could come out as a trigger for a lot of self-doubts so i i very much like what you said about um you know how you needed to change your perception as it either so they've got the challenges that you're gonna be tested right like you would become stronger um right in a way you wanna be stronger i like what you said there because if you do say something and you have a self-doubt and it shows what's gonna happen


it's gonna all fall apart it's gonna be it's gonna be a disaster so you have to be put yourself in a mindset where what you're doing is right um and it's something you believe in when you really believe in it then there is never self-doubt doesn't show anymore because you don't have it but other people they just try to do it they suppress a self-doubt and it just spurts out it just like comes out sometimes it's really bad


okay so the final question uh is so i know that um you had established a very successful career both in uh corporate you know corporate uh field and also startup environment like i think this is possibly um the most courageous thing someone can do is that when you're established like when you hold a position that you were established and then you decide to do something else just completely like you know go into a different direction and like be willing to start over again from nothing like that's super courageous right like there must be fear like no matter how successful you are there must be fear how how did that happen and how did you gain the courage to make that decision you know that's a really you know it's interesting because this is kind of like an example the last question like i was i have to say built up slowly you know i was um i had a good job like you say and i was making really good money i thought and i was very stable and actually i have to say i was so good at my job it took very little work to do it so but you know when i wasn't as full fully focused on my work and believing in my work because i didn't have to to do my job i became sadder and sadder i was more and more feeling that i had to do something else and that's a very important sign you know if you i know that i'm always reading the news i'm reading about startups i'm reading about biotech and how synthetic biology is this new idea this is a few years ago and that it really has this amazing potential and i really felt it and uh you know and i i kind of went home and told my wife like i have to try something she said okay go ahead and so i um i uh i started building a company in the evenings and the weekends uh and i did two start three startups i think for over three years wow and it was great i learned a lot and i just said this is something i have to do i for me my i was really lined up i i you know i i just couldn't see myself staying in that job almost no matter how much it paid and i just when you know it then you just it was very authentic it was very easy for me to do it i uh sometimes you make more money than that sometimes i make less money than the job i left but i i i never think about it i never think about oh i wish i had what i had you know i i'm i'm totally interested in what i'm doing i completely think it's worthwhile and i never even think about what it'd be like if i didn't do it so i think if you're you know if you if you're ready and you tell yourself you're ready and you work hard to get ready um if it's something you have to do then it's not a problem you know uh at some point and then what's happened now is i'm i'm much quicker to jump to change you know i i you know i left my job as investor i left my startup to start something else like i just when it's time i just go and so i think that was my growth lesson it's really what i learned to do is sort of say you know what it's time for me to do this and i just go do it and i don't worry about what happened if i didn't do it and i think that makes me very strange and unusual you know i don't know how i really can't explain it but uh you know i don't try to make people into that i think if you are the kind of person who feels you have to do this then i love to work with you you know uh but i don't try to convince people that it's time you know there's a lot of people on tik tok and instagram give all kinds of advice about like get up and build something today you know find out something you want to be passionate about like why maybe you don't have anything right oh that's okay you know but i can't give you any good advice because you're going to hate it


yeah i live in a different place than garyvee i don't have to tell i'm not trying to get anybody to get out of bed and do anything if you're out of bed and you want to do something you know call me uh but i i don't believe everybody i don't even know if everybody should do it um and that's okay yeah i totally understand like there's something did i tell you that i wrote the book i forgot if i told you i saw that you wrote a book oh okay yeah i have a book and one part i talk about this concept from adam smith the father of economics and then he talked about invisible hand but he talks about it from the context of economy and where he says when economy is at optimal when there is no invisible hand i'm sorry or there's no government invention yeah you know right like i'm sure you know but i and then i kind of see it is in life implication too like i think that i don't necessarily tell people like it's time for like you said i'm not i don't necessarily recommend that idea like a romance of like you know being an entrepreneur itself is not like something i want to you know push as a message but basically i don't want to protect people from being hurt like i that's going to make them stronger as we talked earlier so if they if they want to jump in and try being an entrepreneur and like if they want to work on it i think they should by all means should do it even if it's a little chance and then if they fail that's okay like you should have failed and you should get hurt and you shouldn't protect yourself from being hurt um that's what i think that's what i feel like um and with this like ease of mindset like you said like i'm i feel like right now i'm a lot more easier like to jump around and being able to pivot my directions and yeah um and also it creates me patient like i agree yeah did you see this


when people work for a selfish motive social good happens and that's another i that was uh that's also an economic sort of like philosophy of the invisible hand i think and i want to tell you like what another thing that happens after that you know when you like there's another thing that happens to me sort of spiritually or whatever whenever uh at some point as i start to lose my faith in things like i used to have this big faith in psychology or in ethics or you know not that you don't want to be an unethical person but i i've never met a theory about people behaviors or business that is right 100 of the time at certain points you're in a strange place sometimes you have to drop whatever you actually believe and then you find out that there's other ways to work it's the most bizarre thing that ever happened but if you step outside your door you find the world is a much bigger place than you think i love that i love that you know sometimes people are really organized they're much more efficient but sometimes being organized just creates this huge burden and the best thing to do is just drop your calendar i i can't explain it but there is no single way to live and that's like what i i said it before but it's like the most amazing thing about business being on your own uh that you just sort of find that that you can listen to you can listen to a motivational speaker an economist or a behavioral economist or whatever you want but at some point it's not going to be helpful yeah it's not dimension yeah i used to love philosophy but i discovered that the philosophers they discovered that the same thing they're just like there's no philosophy there's no single philosophy that works just like it's everything and uh i'm you know that's like a paraphrasing 20th century philosophy but it's uh it's true in the most bizarre way you have to experience it you can't theorize it you just have to sort of realize everything falls apart you know um and i i just i love it it's one of the things that i i like to help people through actually because they all find it within months they find it's true so i think uh that was my last question but before i let you go i guess i'm gonna have two more questions oh sure first one is what's your advice for people who who can't um last their motivation long enough like uh what what do you think creates resilience in you personally yes you can talk about your personal experience yeah i'm gonna start sounding like a really old man i'm gonna say hard work you know i mean like it's like the kind of thing your parents told you like hard work hard work you know like yeah but if you if you really if you if you work on something for just a little while and you give up you really don't learn something and so you have to find something that you're willing to work on for a long time like for a lot of kids it's banned you're like you learn to play a musical instrument and your parents make you practice for three four five in japan maybe ten years and you know i mean at first but you do learn something just by repeating that effort painting fences building furniture whatever it is i think those experi programming computers all these things writing a book right all these things if you only have very shallow experiences you'll never know the lesson of persistence you know and so but i think it can be very very small amount of effort every day but if you do that every day for even two or three months you just be amazed at how much better you are and i think it's important i don't care what it is but learn to do something well and work on it for years and then you will you'll have something that that you're connected to that you can that you can use you know it's a tool i i don't know i think that's the best i think it's my favorite thing um i i gotta say i did not understand what i was doing in biology i was phd i was a little robot you know and i i it was my idea that my parents didn't make me do it but i kind of just like i want to go learn biology and i would learn chemistry and all these things and i kind of i would put these together and say what does this all mean i had no freaking idea and but i just kept going so like there's got to be something in here somewhere that's literally how i got started and it only took me 10 years no i definitely see that i guess we need to be able to see more macro like purpose i don't know maybe that's just being stubborn you know i mean you know i didn't know what i was going to get out there wasn't anything i really wanted to do with it i thought i'll just find something other people are much better at that but i you know i some sometimes if you don't have an idea of like being stubborn you know that works too interesting so ron uh before i let you go i definitely want to know where people can find you what's your social media like everything can use right so my name is on linkedin and you can contact me there and i love to hear from entrepreneurs and i'll give you a few minutes to talk about your idea unless uh if you have a reasonable intro and then uh i'm i'm on tick tock uh my my handle startup minute there and i'm giving out my tips there um and those are the two best places i'll have a website and it's i have an instagram here and um i have a website someday is it coming out soon i'm gonna get a tick tock going i've only got like two or three videos now i'm gonna i'm going on a campaign now so there'll be like 10 lessons or so up there uh real estate real soon

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