Since it began raising its second venture fund several years ago, New York-based Lux Capital has only invested in one startup in the San Diego region—Carlsbad’s Luxtera, which specializes in developing technologies to eliminate the bottlenecks in fiber optic networks for computers. (Luxtera got $26.7 million in a later-stage venture round at the end of last year from Advanced Equities Financial, August Capital, New Enterprise Associates, and Sevin Rosen Funds.) In comparison, Lux Capital counts four portfolio companies in the Boston area: Magen Biosciences, Genocea Biosciences, Cerulean Pharma, and Lux Research.
Perhaps compensating for such imbalance is the fact that Larry Bock, a respected biotech entrepreneur and venture investor (and Xconomist), represents Lux Capital in San Diego as a special limited partner. As a serial entrepreneur who has specialized mostly in the life sciences, Bock has founded 17 companies, including San Diego’s Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), Sequana Therapeutics, River Medical, Idun Pharmaceuticals, and Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ: NBIX).
Bock also has become increasingly active as a philanthropist, and was both a principal organizer and sponsor of the San Diego Science Festival, a celebration of science held throughout March. The festival’s events included a session on nanotechnology, which pulled Lux co-founder Josh Wolfe out of his New York orbit. After giving Bock a few weeks to recuperate from the science festival, I recently caught up with both of them by phone to get their thoughts on investment strategy in the current climate.
When I asked Bock if there would be another science festival next year, he said, “I was a little ambivalent whether I would do another one until the next-to-last day. But then, on the last day of the Science Festival, 100,000 people showed up at Balboa Park and the traffic was backed up for about 8 miles. The police had to close down [access to] the park at 2 pm.”
Bock also noted that having spent 15 months organizing the festival, “I’ve gotten to know every science community in San Diego. Being involved was one of the best sources of venture deals I’ve ever experienced.”
Bock said he met Wolfe more than six years ago, after he developed an interest in nanotechnology. “When I was traveling around to universities and scientific conferences, learning about nanotechnology, the only other VC I’d see was Josh,” Bock said. But Wolfe said Lux’s investment focus extends … Next Page »