What a Venture Capitalist Looks for in Entrepreneurs

Jamie Kasuboski talks about life as a venture capitalist in biotechnology and how entrepreneurs can stand out in the crowd.

Jamie Kasuboski

Jamie Kasuboski is a venture capitalist, and he has three things he looks for when talking to someone wanting him to invest in their idea. 

Kasuboski calls them the three T’s. 

“Team, technology, and tenacity,” said Kasuboski, vice president of OMX Ventures and a panelist at this year's Biotech Nexus, an annual event organized by Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP). “Very rarely do you see all three.” 

Kasuboski, who earned a doctorate in molecular and cellular biology, has been a venture capitalist (VC) the past four years and VP of OMX since February 2021. 

“I knew I always wanted to be at the forefront of innovation,” he said. “Through my studies and graduate work, I found out the people doing the most fun and exciting things in my field of science were the VC’s. It gives me a fun application to not only do this for one company but do this for half a dozen companies at once.” 

The majority of Kasuboski's time is spent doing due diligence on companies and academics looking for him to help turn their ideas into success stories. It’s a highly selective process by design and results in few winners. The idea, though, is that those winners win big. 

“Only about a half a percent of all the opportunities I see do I actually invest in,” Kasuboski said. “Then I get to hopefully be on the board and help them grow and be successful.” 

The job demands Kasuboski be, as he calls it, a “utility player.” Sometimes that means providing mentorship. Other times, it means rolling up his sleeves and getting involved with day-to-day tasks to help a company grow. The only constant is what Kasuboski calls the “chaos” of the VC world. 

“Today I was on a call working out a negotiation deal on financing to sell a company," he said. "Next week, I’m working on a deal to start buying equity in a company. It’s a very multifaceted job, and you have to like doing everything.”

Passion, commitment, and confidence make up the “tenacity" Kasuboski looks for in investments. Those same traits can also be differentiators for graduating MBP students, he said.

After tenacity, Kasuboski looks at the technology. Specifically, he wants to make sure the person he's interacting with knows and understands every aspect of the technology they plan on leveraging. 

Lastly, he wants to see a team that is supportive and open to advice, as well as constructive criticism.

If those traits are there, it’s a sign to Kasuboski that his investment can make a difference for the company — and his fund. 

“We’re really enablers," he said. "Our capital buys you time to figure things out, but we’ll help you fill out the rest. We want to make sure you know your technology and why you’re different. That’s what makes someone special, and that’s who we tend to bet on – the special ones.”

McCormick News Article