2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Glyphic Biotechnologies, Stanford GSB

Glyphic Biotechnologies

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Industry: Biotech / Deeptech

Founding Student Name(s): Joshua Yang

Brief Description of Solution: Glyphic Biotechnologies is a biotech startup developing a first-of-its-kind, next-generation single-molecule protein sequencer to fundamentally change the underlying engine of biomedical discovery. This platform will enable the development of novel therapeutics and diagnostics and, ultimately, a deeper understanding of human biology.

Funding Dollars: Seed: $6.025 Million

What led you to launch this venture? I wish I could claim some intentional, structured story about how, with my triple background in medicine, bioengineering, and business, I had always planned on launching a biotech venture where I could lead the business and vision while still having a deep understanding of the fundamental biology and engineering. But such a story would not be true.

Rather, the improbability of it all at every step makes it feel as if fate intervened. I had signed up for a program called Nucleate Bio, which starts with a mandatory speed-dating event between potential co-founders (because apparently those things work???). The only reason I was able to participate in the Nucleate program was because, as a result of COVID-19, they decided to open it for the first time to students outside of Harvard/MIT. But (un)fortunately, I was in Maui, Hawaii with my Stanford GSB classmates when the speed-dating event was scheduled. That day, we planned to go on the Road to Hana, a highway that I would learn has absolutely no cell signal, and so I completely bailed without telling the organizers or fellow participants. Yet, despite my having missed this event, one of the participants reached out to say he still wanted to meet with me. That meeting would be my first meeting with who would eventually be my co-founder, Daniel Estandian.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Since incorporating in March of 2021, we’ve achieved an incredible amount in just seven months. We closed our  seed round that was covered in TechCrunch, participated in numerous accelerator and incubator programs to advance our business plans and technical progress, and won multiple international startup awards. We’re just getting started!

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? I can objectively say that without the Stanford GSB MBA program, this startup wouldn’t even exist.

As I mentioned in my MBA Best & Brightest article, it felt like everyone wanted to do entrepreneurship at the GSB, with so many fellow classmates forming startups with each other. This collaborative culture and entrepreneurial environment made it so that there was no absence of resources and advice, from logistical questions about how to actually start a company to the more nuanced questions of term sheet negotiations. When I started my fundraising for our Seed round, I received so many warm connections from fellow Stanford GSB classmates, some of which resulted in term sheets from Stanford GSB alums. In this process, the Stanford GSB name and reputation helped open doors and provided a baseline level of credibility when speaking to investors. Further, I started my fundraising process while still in school, during my second-to-last quarter, which would have been difficult if not for the flexibility afforded to me by the Stanford GSB curriculum. This flexibility enabled me to simultaneously juggle school, startup life, and socializing.

Additionally, multiple professors, upon learning that I was pursuing a startup, generously advised or directly assisted me by reviewing term sheets, providing board composition advice, and serving as references. In no particular order and not necessarily exhaustive, some of these professors include Amit Seru, Rob Chess, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, Ilya Strebulaev, Rob Siegel, and Anne Beyer. Some of their contributions are described below.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? A former Stanford professor, Minnie Sarwal, MD PhD is a successful serial biotech entrepreneur, pediatric nephrologist, highly-cited biomedical researcher, and avid tennis player, among many other qualities. She also has been my mentor for the past six years and it was under her tutelage that I learned about entrepreneurship for the first time and the excitement that such a career path held.

I distinctly recall this one day when we were both at an organ transplant conference. I had shared with her that I had not been very successful pitching a startup we were planning to launch together. Upon learning that, she spent several hours with me in the middle of the conference to hear me pitch, tell me how to improve, and let me practice. At my next two pitch competitions, I won first place, and I’ve been winning over judges and investors ever since. There’s only so much about entrepreneurship you can learn on the internet, through books, and in classes. The truly important elements are learned through hands-on experience and passed down one-on-one. Thank you Minnie!

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? While Ilya Strebeulaev’s “Angel and Venture Capital Financing for Entrepreneurs and Investors” and Rob Siegel’s/Anne Beyer’s “Entrepreneurial Finance” courses provided me with a deeper knowledge of both the interpersonal and fundraising elements of entrepreneurship, I was surprised by how valuable one of my non-entrepreneurially-focused courses ended up being: Peter DeMarzo’s “Corporate Financial Modeling” class. Being able to understand cap table math and term sheet legalese is one thing. Being able to provide your investors with a sophisticated, easily updateable financial model of your forecasted month-to-month operations as the basis and concrete explanation of where your funds will go and why you’re fundraising the amount you’re raising is in a completely different league.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why?  Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen.

Laura generously fielded multiple investor reference calls for me while on her vacation. That alone is something for which I am so, so grateful.

But beyond that, she teaches “Power of You: Women in Leadership” and “Philanthropy, Inclusivity and Leadership” at the Stanford GSB. I took a one-day shortened version of the former and the full version of the latter. The lessons she imparted have informed the entire trajectory of my plans from start to finish. Learning to develop my voice and define my own narrative encompassing feelings and aspects of diversity, inclusivity, intersectionality, and belonging as a multi-minority founder was important in presenting as my authentic self to investor meetings. Her lessons about re-defining what it means to be a philanthropist have changed my perspectives and informed my intentions about the giving I plan to do in the future and, just as importantly, about the giving I currently do with the resources and privileges I currently have.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Become a decacorn ($10B valuation), because becoming a unicorn is too easy. In all seriousness, I have visions for this startup beyond just the immediate aim of commercializing a next-generation protein sequencing platform. This platform is just the beginning—with it, Glyphic can encompass the discovery of novel, more effective therapeutic drugs, the creation of personalized diagnostic tests, and the development of even better tools to help scientists and researchers worldwide understand at a deeper level what makes us human. When people hear “biotech”, I want them to think “Glyphic”.