On October 1, 2019, Bobby Soni joined BioInnovation Institute as Chief Business Officer. He is born and raised in New York City but has spent most of his career in Denmark after finishing his Ph.d. studies in Biology from the University of Virginia.
Back in 1998, his wife – who at the time was his girlfriend – convinced him to move to Denmark, and here he joined the biotech start-up Maxygen. After a period in business development at LEO Pharma, he spent seven years in Novo Holdings where he held the role of Investment Director at Novo Seeds before he pursued career opportunities in venture capital in the UK. Latest, he has been Partner in the London-based IC Group plc.
Bobby Soni’s wife and three children will join him in Denmark in a year when his daughter graduates. Bobby enjoys sports such as cycling, skiing and golf, and he describes himself as ’passionately below average’ at all of them.
We asked him about his new role as CBO at BioInnovation Institute.
What was your way into a career in life science investments?
When I finished my Ph.d. in 1998, I had a very good post-doc position lined up in the US, but I was unsure what to do. It was my wife that helped me realize that I didn’t really want to pursue a career in academia. I love science but not the labwork. My skill is to understand science broadly and put it in a larger context, so back then she saved me from making a great mistake.
What experiences do you bring to BII from your time in London?
The UK is obviously a much larger market than Denmark and there are more venture capital companies to work with. Going to the UK was an opportunity to see much bigger deals, to see more science and to work with more people. I bring home a large network in this relatively small venture world and I hope to bring in some of the people I have worked with before to help accelerate the BII start-ups. For the past years, I have been looking at start-ups from a commercial perspective to understand if we could invest in them and then sell to make money. At BII, my focus will be to get the start-ups to a point where investors want to invest and further product development.
Why did you decide to join BII?
When you do venture it is a lot about saying ‘no’ most of the time. I wanted to be more involved and more helpful in forming the companies prior to the investment stage because it often felt like the CEO’s in my former portfolio were having all the fun. Science is excellent in Denmark, but there is a lack of funding and that is a universal problem. It is unique to have a resource as the Novo Nordisk Foundation, but also necessary to take on the challenge and create something like the BII. So, when this opportunity came on this ambitious project, I decided to join.
What is it like to work in Denmark?
Although I am American, I have never worked in the US. My first professional experience was in Denmark so moving to England where I have worked for the past four years was more of a shock. In the UK it was sometimes challenging to express something negative – and when you are working in investments it is very important to address problems transparently. Danes do not shy away from that – they are very direct.