What does it mean to be a Founder at DSV?

A community of leaders

The Founders leading DSV portfolio companies are among the core drivers of our mission to creating a future in which the planet and humanity thrives. 

DSV evolved out of a stark recognition that in order to solve the urgent, existential problems facing humanity, we must see dramatic but well-coordinated change across a range of sectors including agriculture, climate, computation and pharmaceuticals. Holding these sectors (and humanity) back is not a lack of scientific knowledge but essentially a failure at the systems level: an inability of the scientific economy to combine that knowledge into coherent sets of viable, scalable and sustainable solutions such that it keeps pace with the ever-evolving threats that face us. 

At the heart of DSV’s mission is to create ventures to do just that. To do so, DSV starts with a focus on desired shared Outcomes: what are the big changes that we urgently want to see and what are the potential paths to get there? The process is underpinned by the Outcomes Graph, a DSV tool that enables us to work backwards from the desired outcome in order to identify the technical or economic constraints that must be overcome to deliver the optimal approach. Once that is distilled into a macro vision, we recruit Founders with specific skill sets in order to fulfil that vision. 

But by no means does DSV take itself out of the equation once a venture has been formed. The contrary, in fact. Founders are guided and supported every step of the way, along the entire journey of a venture from pre- to post-incorporation. 

This is a relationship that goes beyond funding: founders benefit from a range of services, support structures and networks that DSV has developed and honed since its launch five years ago - the result of accumulated learnings and several iterations. 

Some of our Founders at the Climate x Agriculture sector social in 2022.

How DSV supports our Founders

A Founder first joins DSV as a Founding Analyst, long before they incorporate and spin-out as Founder of a venture. Once a Founding Analyst has been brought on board, they have the opportunity to fully and systematically explore their ideas and intuitions via a process that we call Scoping. This typically builds upon DSV’s pre-recruitment efforts which aimed to get the team just far enough to gauge the broad area of the most likely solution and optimum skill sets required to develop it. 

Essentially, a Founding Analyst picks up from this point and takes it forward, ultimately aiming to land on the optimum approach to the solution. The scoping process is underpinned by DSV’s first principles approach and its outcome-first methodology. This is instrumental in assisting Founders to clarify their thinking and inform the direction in which they wish to take the venture. 

Kate, who is building a company using abandoned pit mines to sequester carbon dioxide, said that the Outcomes Graph not only “structured my thinking” but also “revealed things that I definitely would not have come up with without it”.

It ultimately made her feel confident in the direction she ended up taking. “I had the feeling that I had been much more thorough, and that I wasn't missing anything.” 

This can also aid conversations with potential investors, who often naturally have questions about the choices a venture has made, and why a certain approach was preferred over another. Kate says, owing to the diligent scoping process, she was in a position to anticipate such questions or objections, prepare well thought-through responses, and reassure any investors or stakeholders about her approach. 

This is echoed by Pedro, who alongside his co-Founder Annelise, is building a venture in the cancer therapeutics space. The scoping process “enabled me to take a step back and think about my ideas again” and “made me challenge all of my assumptions”. This led to several constructive iterations and ultimately to the central idea that ended up turning into Neobe. 

The scoping process is therefore a time when assumptions and intuitions are questioned, ideas are iterated and abandoned, and new ones emerge. As mentioned, this doesn’t take place in the abstract but in a structured environment and with the aid of tools that DSV provides. Kate adds that during the scoping process “you have the space to think and that's not something you typically will find outside of a purely academic environment.”

This is aided by the fact that Founding Analysts are paid a salary which, for Kate,  “takes away some of the time pressure and means[...] I don't need to rush things. I don't need to jump on the first idea”.

Pedro reinforced this sentiment, adding that the salary was “the biggest value add” and meant “that I was basically paid to build this for six to nine months without having to try to do this at the same time that I'm doing a postdoc.”

Ryan, a former carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)  specialist at Bloomberg NEF who is building a direct air capture (DAC) DSV portfolio company, Parallel Carbon, remotely with his Co-Founder Aranza, also described the salary model as “one of the things that's attracted me to DSV, de-risking the venture creation process.” 

The next steps in the journey of a Founding Analyst is to build the business case, assemble a founding team as well as a network of advisors, secure funding, and eventually spin out the venture. 

DSV supports Founding Analysts through all of these milestones. This begins with helping them source the right co-Founder. In Ryan’s case, he actually met Aranza within DSV, while she was working on another project. But more broadly, Founding Analysts avail of DSV’s own proprietary recruiting and assessment tools and methodologies, which Kate described as “great” and “really helpful in terms of recruiting.” 

Beside tools, DSV’s brand tends to aid and power conversations in all sorts of contexts, from recruiting to fundraising to building a team of trusted advisors, according to Kate. “Working with DSV puts a big gold star on your company.” 

Founding Analysts also often tap into DSV’s extensive network for similar purposes. Pedro describes DSV’s network and brand recognition it comes with as “a huge asset”. Aranza adds that this also applies to forming relationships with other DSV portfolio companies, exploring synergies and exchanging ideas and insights. “That's one of the things I really like about DSV: even though eventually ventures become competitors, on a certain level, the founders really understand each other and the community is still there. So, you reach out and everybody's always super open to lend a hand.”

Meanwhile, Founding Analysts are supported throughout the process, especially when it comes to navigating investor relations and the legal or contractual side of things. DSV will not only make the right introductions as and when needed but Founding Analysts like Annelise receive advice and mentorship regarding how to approach investors. Similarly, Aranza said she learned how to approach investors “depending on what we want from them, not what they want from us.”

For Pedro, DSV’s general support from the outset was “essential for us getting started like in finding investors and helping us write the grants [...] and going to talk to investors”. 

This dynamic of course extends well into the stage after a venture is incorporated. DSV takes a close supporting role, assisting portfolio companies through a range of milestones from coming up with a fundraising strategy, executing it, continuing to build and grow teams as well as providing bespoke marketing support. 

Tim from Reflection Therapeutics said that post-incorporation DSV has been “a great source of strategic advice, helping us with company building, market identification and investment strategy.” He added that this was in line with DSV’s ongoing support which included “energetic and active networking on our behalf” in service of finding the right people to move the company forward, be they investors, advisors or new hires. Meanwhile, Remi Gratacap, who leads Aquanzo, a marine protein farming company, also highlighted DSV’s support with company strategy including by providing valuable steer at the board level. 

Overall, while Founding Analysts are first and foremost tasked with building scalable and sustainable ventures, at no point are they left to their own devices: instead they join a warm, energetic and knowledgeable ecosystem coordinated by DSV which not only backs their vision but also guides them and supports their growth with practical advice, tools and resources at every stage. 

If you're interested in creating high-impact science ventures, please check out our current list of opportunities.