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Illumina for Startups, an interview with Anya Roy & Bobby Kaura

Following the first “Start-up Zone” at The Festival of Genomics & BioData last week, we had the chance to catch up with Anya Roy, Head, Illumina Accelerator Cambridge, and Bobby Kaura, Global Entrepreneurial & Ecosystem Development, from the Illumina For Startups team to discuss the role Illumina plays in supporting SMEs to break through into the market and their upcoming application deadline.

Why is it important for Illumina For Startups to invest in entrepreneurs and early-stage startups?

BK: Illumina’s mission is to improve healthcare outcomes by unlocking the power of the genome.  We understand that we cannot do this alone. Thus, we support entrepreneurs in developing innovative solutions for the world’s most pressing problems. 

AR: Our belief is by dreaming, partnering with entrepreneurs, and providing them with the ingredients they need to be successful, through our Global Accelerator, in 2 locations, we can support them in building breakthrough Genomics companies.  We have shared some good experiences over the years with our companies, with over 600mn USD raised in aggregate and around 94% of our companies still active today.

What do you look for in start-ups and what does it take to develop them?

AR: We invest in people.  It is important to understand the ambition and motivation of entrepreneurs and their teams.  We look for startups that think big and have the ability to execute.  We want to see startups take disruptive technologies to address unmet needs, where the impact will be felt most. We encourage companies who have ambitions to scale globally.  We look at all startups that are upstream and downstream of genomics.

BK: To add to what Anya said, it takes 100% commitment from them and us to do company creation. We leverage our expertise across R&D, commercial, regulatory functions to name a few, to give the start-ups the best chance of success. Also, we plug them into our external networks to build a foundation in which our companies can prosper. Dare I say it, it can sometimes take a village to build successful disruptive companies.

How do you do this as part of the accelerator?

AR: There are 4 key aspects of our Accelerator offering.  We provide access to finance through our investment partners, in the form of up to 200k USD convertible note, access to sequencing and we encourage our startups to produce high-quality data from our platforms, mentoring and coaching from us and our network – across business and science topics, and through our VC office hours and state of the art lab facilities.  We do take 8% in common share.  There are 2 investment cycles per year and each cycle time is for 6 months, where we look to support 3-5 companies in each location, in each cycle.

BK: And a massive shout out to our next application deadline on 1st March, so if you are considering to enter the world of entrepreneurship, we would love to talk with you.