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Lead Dog Development - A Venture Studio

Whether on the first fund or the sixteenth, defining a compelling investment thesis can be one of the hardest tasks that VCs will have to face. The thesis is the north star for a venture fund and ensuring that it is well crafted and thoughtfully formed can be vital to a fund’s success.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for creating or sharpening your venture fund thesis.


A strong thesis should be shaped by either expertise or passion.

· Expertise
You know more than anyone else in this field. You understand the nuances inside…

As an investor and business owner, I have spent my fair share of time negotiating and have come across all sorts of negotiation styles. The fact is, negotiations are part of everyday life, whether it is working through the nuances of a term sheet, untangling the details of a partnership agreement, or convincing my kids to hit the books.

Based on my life experiences and the books I’ve read, I have formed strong opinions on the best approach to negotiating. There is no “right” way to negotiate and not all negotiations are created equal. …

Finding compensation benchmarks for startup CEOs is a tricky business. When we were conducting research into standards and trends regarding cash and equity compensation for early-stage life science and biotech CEOs, we discovered that most of the data is buried in gated — and very expensive — reports. That leaves startups flying blind or making apples-to-oranges comparisons with public company compensation salaries.

Figuring out how to compensate first-time founders and CEOs is a balancing act. You want to hire and retain the best talent, and reward them for performance. At the same time, you need to keep a close eye…

Earlier this month we sat down with Evan Kelso, CEO of Xenocor, to learn more about how he leads and operates this medical device startup. Here are some of Evan’s thoughts on laparoscopy, Salt Lake City, staying lean, and spreading aloha.

1. What drove you to join Xenocor?

Xenocor’s board was looking for someone who had commercial experience in healthcare and a colleague here in Michigan introduced us. Since I have a strong background in clinical training and the introduction of new surgical technologies and specifically laparoscopy, I was able to quickly and clearly see the potential of this…

This month, we celebrate both Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, so it’s a natural time to be thinking about gender equality and diversity. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionately negative impact on women in the workforce, it’s also the perfect moment to remind ourselves that gender diversity is not just a box to check. It’s a strategic priority.

The idea that gender diversity in the workplace is good makes sense at a visceral level. Most of us would agree that having different points of view that are rooted in different life experiences…

Having appropriate legal guidance is critical for helping entrepreneurs navigate the many relationships and strategies involved in running a successful business. Knowing when to engage an attorney and how to find a lawyer who fits your needs, wants, and budget can be challenging. There are a lot of great attorneys who want to do good by helping entrepreneurs and startups succeed. But, caveat emptor, there are also plenty of lawyers who are driven more by their billing than your success. In this blog post, we offer a few tips we wish we knew in our early years of building startups.

VCs will include intellectual property questions in their due diligence when considering investments and you want to be sure that you are ready.

Why does protecting IP matter in seed stage or early-stage companies?

IP protection shows your investors that you not only focus on the product that you’re building but that you are serious and committed to it’s future. VCs also want to know that the company can continue to operate even if there is a change in leadership. This is why it is important to assign the intellectual property to the company rather than to founders or CEOs.

In the daily grind of captaining an early-stage company, it’s easy for CEOs and founders to get lost in the numbers. After all, they’ve been told they can’t manage what they can’t measure. So, budgets, projections, sales, key performance indicators, and burn rate swirl around in their brains as they scramble to hit the next value inflection point. As active managers of our portfolio companies, we encourage our teams to measure what matters, espousing legendary investor John Doerr’s Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) as the path to operational and organizational excellence.

But, focusing only on what you can objectively measure…

An investor in search of the right venture capital firm is the Goldilocks of the 21st century. As they sit in on pitch meetings and dive into the fund documents, everything seems to fall into place. The investment thesis resonates, the fund size makes sense, and the industry focus is exactly what the investor cares about, but there is one more pivotal factor that must be just right — the management team.

When deciding to enter into an oftentimes 7–10 year long relationship with a venture capital firm’s management team — the people who ultimately determine the investment’s success or…

So, what is a venture studio anyway?

Broadly, venture studios are groups that have the in-house expertise and resources to jumpstart and de-risk company building. Some provide funding or services to outside companies in exchange for equity. Others only source, vet and accelerate their own ideas, staffing them up to grow and possibly spin out. The common thread across all groups with a venture studio model is an intense focus on collaboration and high-touch, hands-on management.

How We See It

The road from concept to commercialization is paved with execution. …

Lead Dog Development - A Venture Studio

We are a cross-functional collective of industry veterans, united to deliver expertise to life sciences companies at every stage.

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