Genomics as the Next “Information Technology” Investment Category

Many of you know that I read various venture capital blogs as my hobby. My favorite is Fred Wilson’s blog. I’ve gleaned so much from his blog that’s helped me personally and professionally. When I know I have some blogs from Fred in my feed reader (which I usually do since he blogs every day), it’s like anticipating a delicious dessert since I know reading his blogs will be a fun experience (yes, I’m a nerd like that).

My Fred Wilson fandom aside, I was fascinated by Fred’s 2017 predictions including this one about genomics:

Tech investors will start to adopt genomics as an additional “information technology” investment category, blurring the distinction between life science and tech investors that has existed in the VC sector for the past thirty years. This will lead to a funding frenzy and many investments will go badly. But there will be big winners to be had in this sector and it will be an important category for VCs for the foreseeable future.

The timing for this is interesting since this week is CES. Last year at CES I moderated a panel on genomics. I led off the panel by saying, “Thanks for coming in from looking at all the iPhone cases to talk about something a little more substantial.” Needless to say, I’m quite bullish on what’s going to be possible with genomics. Although, I think Fred might be a little ahead of the curve on when tech and genomics will merge.

What’s interesting is that there should be an overlap in tech and genomics. How is creating some sort of healthcare analytics any different than doing the same with genomic data? Certainly, you could argue that genomic data is much more challenging and complex, but at the end of the day it’s still about culling through and understanding the data. For some reason though when we say genomics we think that it’s a unique class of investment. In most cases, it’s shouldn’t be all that different.

I do think Fred is spot on when he talks about many genomic investments going badly and many of them being big winners. In that way, it kind of feels more like pharma investment than it does technology. Maybe that’s why people feel like genomic medicine investments aren’t technology investments.

It’s going to be fun to see the genomic market play out. I’m also interested in the companies that are going to make our efforts available to a much broader group of people. I imagine that’s the type of investments that Fred Wilson and USV would like to make. They aren’t likely as interested in investing in the genomic findings, but the genomic tools that will empower anyone to make a genomic discovery. Or possibly the platform that will share and commercialize genomic findings. Those are both really interesting areas that I bet hits Fred’s investment themes well.