Jill Fujisaki served as the industry mentor for Waypoint Biosciences during last summer’s National NSF I-Corps Southwest Node cohort in Austin, TX.. Jill (center) is pictured above with Susan Chen, John Haliburton and Graham Heimberg. Susan was selected as the top Entrepreneurial Lead for the entire cohort. Congrats to Waypoint.
Tell us a little about Waypoint Biosciences and their journey before getting into I-Corps.
The team is comprised of three 5th year UCSF PhD candidates. Two are in Biophysics and Bioinformatics. Susan (the lead) is a “Tetrad”—her PhD program is comprised of four disciplines (Biochem/Developmental Biology/Cell Biology/Genetics).
How did you get connected with them?
Through the regional program. That was the team’s first time out of the lab and they excelled at getting interviews, so I knew they were committed entrepreneurs who would make an excellent National team.
What are some of the secrets to their success?
Fearlessness! They blocked/tackled and did whatever it took to get 106 interviews. They would even sit in waiting rooms in order to get the numbers. The team took the helpful advice of both Kevin Rodondi (Instructor) and Todd Morrill (Node Faculty Director) to frontload the interviews and really overdo it in the beginning. This allowed them to take a breather in the middle after fine-tuning their strategy.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely! I enjoyed this experience so much. It’s important to embrace the philosophy that mentorship is coaching vs. consulting–not telling others what to do, but continually asking questions and helping to keep things moving forward with whatever it takes.
What are the top three most important qualities teams need to be successful in I-Corps @ the National level?
Open mindedness, resilience, persistence
What’s the best thing you ate in Austin?
TexMex dinners @ Guerro’s Tacos, a famous dive restaurant!
What’s next for Waypoint?
Getting deeper into customer discovery—they actually found their product-market fit late in the process. Also, work on reconfirming the value of unit economics.