Christina Lopes, Founder and CEO at FidoCure talks about how she came up with an idea, how she tested it out and raised her first rounds of funding. She also explained how she managed to get the attention of such notable investors as a16z, Tau ventures, YC and Lerer Hippeau.
Christina's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-lopes-8679455/
Find out about the $10 million raised to improve cancer treatments for dogs https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2020/10/29/meet-the-married-couple-who-just-raised-10-million-to-improve-cancer-treatments-for-dogs/?sh=1f5704e74abb
And let's get started, and today's a guest speaker we have Christina Lopez at Fido cure and based app is it will talk about how she managed to raise money from such.
Impressive investors as Y, Combinator and a 16 Z, and also we will talk about gain into new markets, and every way basically creating the new markets.
So, Christina, let's kick it off by you telling us about herself and on Fido cure.
Hi, yeah, thank you. Constantly for having me here. It's a huge pleasure a bit about myself. So, I'm originally from Brazil, and I grew up also in the United States.
I've always had that vantage point of 2 different angles and cultures and whatnot,
and partially really wanting to close gaps unmet needs,
whether they were in food or clean energy healthcare,
and working with actually dogs which fight over here.
We're doing now, we're helping their number 1 disease. Cancer get really crushed and turned around. I didn't really wake up thinking about that.
It really landed to me, but it was just such a fabulous opportunity and unpack market that I had to seize it.
And that was aligned with my trajectory in life, which was always to bring resources and capital people, technology to places.
That were perhaps very important, but not on the radar not a massive class not an obvious category. So that's kind of been long story short. A bit of my journey.
What else can I say? I worked in private equity actually, between New York City and Brazil and Latin America. I worked always an emerging markets, even beyond the Americas into all across the globe.
So, that also gave me vantage point to see different issues creative solutions. How how folks really advance and turn corners right? Even without the resources actually.
So, seeing that and learning, even from the experience of Southeast Asia just gave me that paradigm of you can turn things around that might look like hopeless and yeah.
That's that's definitely the positive attitude that is required for every single founder and speaking of the positive attitude before we start talking about fund raising, I would love to talk about disrupting the market that basically didn't exist before.
So, as you said, that market, that's a fighter is working on was basically on taps in the past and you've basically created is so, can we start our discussion there? How did you start testing out your idea? How did you understand that?
This is something that's actually going to work out.
Oh, great question. Yeah so, I mean, I guess this goes kind of thinking, founders across the board and creating a market. Right? Like, creating a category. We're in that world and in doing that.
You do disrupt some of the ecosystem right? It's just you kind of lending and perhaps you're giving a solution to a problem. That's not even that understood or felt like hopeless.
So, there's a lot of interesting observations there, but basically, in terms of signals. I mean, there's just some big brush strokes. That guided me. And maybe it's helpful for others. 1, our problem is pretty big.
So, let's start with that.
There's 6M dogs in the United States alone. That are diagnosed with cancer every year and for comparison. There's probably about 1.8M people.
That are diagnosed with cancer and you can see here that the incidents and prevalence is really high dogs, because there's a much smaller dog population than human population in the US. Right? So there's like, 90M dogs, something like that and 300M people.
So it's a pretty big problem more over in terms of size right? Moreover, it's also they, in terms of impact, because it's the number 1 disease killer of dogs. So that also gave an impression. Wow. Hold on.
This is pretty magnificent negative way. Actually, how has gone under the radar and with all the love for dogs and the movement of the dog going from being call it a worker, right?
Like, think of a farm all the way to being your best friend.
All the way to, especially a pulse world, the world where the dog is really a family member. So.
I think in that trajectory, you know, just, to me, it's just, didn't that up and then couple that with, um, you know, some scientific underpinnings of the similarities of dogs and humans when it comes to cancer.
So, dogs and humans Co evolved and shared the same environment, right? They 2nd hand smoke often. The dog eats the leftover food so is exposed to pesticide.
So there's lots in the environment that's shared. That is interesting.
And the dog, this is kind of part of our big a Ha, moment is actually used in human R and D to advance cancer cures. Really?
As a quote unquote model as a subject animal trials.
You know, think of the beagles and the cages like that's real and.
So, you know, part of me was thinking, wait, so we actually have data in the species right? There's, there's stuff done there. Why those kind of an ethical principle that under what we were doing, which is.
Why is this species? Not seeing the benefits of any of there are in the advancements. So that is kind of the plus of working in oncology versus other areas.
Like central nervous system is really not.
It's still pretty out there,
but there's been huge,
huge advancements in the last 20 years like, really,
really big advancements,
and kind of a generation ago big advancements in pediatric oncology.
Between these paradigms,
there was so much to lift from and figure out what has gone forward in humans that we could translate back to the dog and really take the dog from being a subject into a patient.
Right. Benefiting from all of that. Um, so.
Right. They're so close to us. They share so much. It's of course, a different species, but there's just insights that are potentially universal.
You know, like the, you know, just the love for the dog and the role of the dog in society, rather radically shifting and solutions in.
Another market that have a correlate that you could apply.
To to, to back to dogs so that's kind of how we thought about it and how the opportunity came together and it's it's unique. You know, I think we were 1 of the 1st Y, Combinator classes that.
Kind of came with the thesis and the space to to address and I believe I heard from my sea folks that, since there's been like, many companies. Right? So.
We're kind of trailblazer in that journey. Nice and I really hope that you will help.
Science move forward in terms of curing cancer for dogs. That's really great mission. Absolutely. Love it. And that's 1 of the reasons why you are on the podcast.
But the 2nd, 1 is the fact that you raise money from very prominent investors, such as Y, Combinator and Anderson Horowitz or as I call them for short. And many people do that.
So, question is, how do you manage to raise money from such great investors?
That's a great question. So I didn't start out like that. Um, you know, we kind of had the idea.
Really in Brazil was where it was in a living room, and somehow my Co founder went to that school and had been looking at accelerating R and D.
And we started talking about it and we knew in Brazil and some Bible like, there was just no way although like, dogs are huge there.
It's the 2nd, biggest market in the world but again, it's more, you know, grooming and like, basics, not really cancer care.
So we knew and there's not as as vibrant it's getting better, but there's not a media's vibrant VC community.
So very little options, so I had come from, you know, from kind of capital markets. So I knew a little bit how.
You know, just the basics if you fundraising somewhere that this does not have a vibrant VC community.
What that means is, as a founder, you are beholden to where, what the, what the rules are by the, by the investors right? I mean, that's obvious.
But now that I was the founder, I was basically, like, well, you know, I need to be somewhere where, when I have an ecosystem right? And 2, where there's been a culture of taking risk for early stage.
And a culture that, you know, hey, if it doesn't work out, try again, or, you know, do it a different way.
So I also felt like that was pretty critical that that was pretty clear to me, but it wasn't obvious to get from Brazil to Silicon Valley.
Right so the journey went from Brazil to Philly actually,
1st in the US and Philly actually has a robust kind of medical,
human medical community that pen med has really amazing advancements there.
And so actually,
it was kind of great because some of the folks doing pretty,
amazing things to turnaround cancer and bringing,
viruses and using the immune system to,
to combat cancer are all coming from Penn and many of them leverage.
Kind of. How can we use the pet dog learn from the pet dog and benefit the pet dog? So intellectually academically it was very interesting. But, and there was some support.
I think the city in the state is doing a pretty good job that trying to, at least have those almost like, you know, governmental, supportive.
Groups the science center specifically, there was super helpful for us to even get to know any of the vc's and whatnot. So that was great. And we were also part of the war Nicole system.
Michael founder was wrapping up at Wharton in the health care management. So, that gave us we won our 1st pitch.
And I just had a baby, so I actually pitched with the baby and we still 1 was our, the baby is going to cry and so, but no, she didn't.
So, yeah, so we won the war. The Wharton, it was just a pitching and you kind of got to then have office space and be part of a community.
So it kind of gave that 1st, let's say, base and landing and then the science center also on a few of the local investors. But.
Pretty quickly, frankly, I noticed, like, there's just not enough of the capital world there to.
Help us really go to where we're going, which is very ambitious, just very ambitious business model wise capital wise. So we're very global in thinking.
So I had been, you know, with my heart set. I'm going to move to California. Actually from Brazil. I already knew. That's where I wanted to get to, but as, you know, it's not easy. Right? You need.
To have, you know, you need basically capital, almost to come and live somewhere.
So, basically, my Co founder had had an exit, not a huge 1, because it was in Brazil currency was not very good, significant there, but not in dollars.
But that helped us actually kind of start putting things in motion and come to the Valley.
And, frankly, it was really a question of networking here and very naturally networking, because I'm genuinely curious, and I like folks that are moving the needle. So it's not hard to meet folks doing that.
Right? And so we just literally kind of are, in, into Y, Combinator came from, I got invited to a talk in San Francisco.
And the next day, there was kind of like an kind of a meet up.
And in that building was a bio company,
I had gotten to know,
and I walked into it and I talked to somebody in the bio company and they were like, oh,
you should talk,
my wife is helping to run the bio and I think she'd love what you're doing.
Can I introduce you?
And literally, it was like that, like, it was like a pivotal moment. Now, what I didn't mention is that I had been elected young, global leader Davos in Switzerland, in 2010, pretty early on and.
That is a pretty amazing powerful community.
And it was those folks here in in the Valley, and in the Bay area that had.
Then the landing, I had a really nice already network here when I did. So, it was a bit through that community that I then but but the actual fact of getting me getting introduced to somebody at Y. C.
was slightly random and.
It was not something that was I was looking for it. However, if I hadn't been out there and meeting people and I almost didn't go visit this biotech because I was like, oh, I'm just going to knock on the
door and say, hi, I knew the founder.
But I actually just did and the person I didn't do a lot of the medical officer came to talk to me and was like, oh, this is really cool what you're doing. And so it was slight. So it's really a mix, right?
Being in the ecosystem. But being also kind of a bit into it, intuitive and following, like, why did I think to even do that?
I don't know but I did and so you just really have no idea who you're talking to, but that's that can be anywhere. But here, there's a higher likelihood. So you almost don't have to set out to do it.
You just have to be out there and it kind of more like there's a higher chance that comes to. You does that does that make sense? It always works like that. I'm telling you 70, maybe even 90% of good stuff that happens to me and my work life.
It happens. Absolutely. Randomly by just because they're.
So that was just how stuff works in the startup world he can not do much stuff on purpose. A lot of it just comes to you when you're doing whatever you're doing. So makes total sense. And here, actually, I have a question about the immigration.
I myself moved from Russia to Los Angeles directly. So I personally love California but for, you know, moving from Brazil to California, specifically to San Francisco, what was the hardest part for you or what was your major takeaway?
You know, looking back at that experience when you're here for the 1st, 1 to 2 years, what would you do differently? Maybe you would network more. Maybe you would.
I don't know, maybe he sees some mistake that he made back then that you would love to fix. Let me think. So, I wasn't my 1st time in the US, because I've lived in Boston, and I've lived in New York City. So I was kind of in that sense.
But California, and especially the Bay area is very different. I don't live in San Francisco actually live in Palo Alto, so it's very different. Right? Turkeys and East Coast or police. So, Pablo so.
Um, that was pretty different, I think.
I think the key thing was in the beginning, I had just no idea. Like, I felt like, oh, I'm trying to do this. It's probably sounds pretty impossible.
I guess I was I was really.
Kind of felt like a bit, like everyone else is doing better than me a bit. See, that's 1 kind of underbelly here.
You know, like, I think it's really easy to feel that, like, all the time, just because folks are just so accomplished and just do really amazing, radical things that are, like, world changing.
So, I think in the beginning, though, I, because I wasn't coming from necessarily a culture or an ecosystem where that has this kind of vibrancy and way about it. Right?
I think I felt more alone than I was.
So, for me, Y, Combinator was very transformative, because I felt like, oh, my God that's like, every founder feels this way normal.
And when you really hear the stories, you realize, oh, what looked like a 5 minute success was actually
5 years and tons of ups and downs. So,
it just felt very supportive once I got to really see the world the space and kind of almost have the journey with the founders right the ups and downs
but I just had no idea.
I thought it was kind of like me or my company. So, that was something I wish again, hide, signed this 2020, but I wish I would've been just more aware.
I would've been it would've been more enjoyable in the beginning stress stress.
So, it's like the formal thing of everyone kind of going forward and you feel like I might kind of like, kind of, I guess, kind of competitive in a way, but not not really meaning to. But I guess that's what it is.
And then also, just feeling very alone, and that that's not good freely. And that's why I kind of back to some of the thinking to be here.
And even how these random quote, unquote things happen, they really happen in a way, because you are in the right place now with coven, you can't just knock on a door and walk in. Right so so it is a weird time. That's for sure.
So that I don't even know how to comment on. Really like, if you already don't have the network, like, how would you do it? But definitely for me yeah, that was that was hard. The, the part of just feeling.
You know, this, like a loan and, you know, we should be doing more. We should be better that that kind of thing like all the time.
A higher percent that's always happening. And.
I run the interviews with great founders, such as yourself and every time I hear 1 of their stories, I'm like, okay come on. There's so much better than me. 1st, the 1st, half a year. When I was seeing this podcast, I was getting really depressed because everyone was so great.
And that I just got used to it. Yeah, it's just it always feels like that. So, if that's your case, if you feel like, it definitely do not worry. It's completely normal.
And by the way, some advice on networking during the epidemic, my answer is always sled groups. There are hundreds and hundreds of great slide groups based on interest, based on locations and people. There are extremely, extremely supportive.
So, if you managed to get into 1, and then you just randomly DM a person you've never talked to before.
There is a high chance that they will respond right away. So, like, 95% chance of a response. So definitely try to get into different slide groups. Try to find friends there and then move on from there. On this moment. We are moving on to the next question.
And that question is actually about raising money with a kid. So you mentioned that you are doing your page, literally having your kid there how these investors react to that? How was that? The problem?
Was that an objection for them where they like okay, are you going to have enough time for the company or was it completely fine with them?
I think it distinguished us. I know that's like a weird thing, but I think it did because I was still there, you know what I mean? Like so so that's 1 thing.
I probably in their minds they were thinking about time, and I didn't really ever hear that,
except for 1 investor and I was like,
a little bit shocked that they would even say,
but basically, yeah,
so I didn't so, not very.
I think there's the thinking there, the biases are there. Right? The biases are very strong, but I think it's become really like, not acceptable to say things like that. Right?
So I think there's probably, they're thinking, but they're not saying it except for that 1, and it was in East Coast.
So I think there is a way in which you can kind of turn that into a distinguishing factor. So, I'm sure that very 1st speech. Nobody forgot, right?
Like, nobody forgot and the head of the science center and Philly at the time. Came to look for me after the pitch and gave me his card.
And they actually had an accelerator program and an incubator program and space, and just very, like like, really going for the community. And so, um, so basically.
It definitely stuck in his mind. Let me tell you that. So you also then attract people that are kind of thinking, how can the world be better and how can we make a different think about things differently?
So, I think it's self selected that way and actually, it was really great. You know, he would then invite me to meet the governor to give feedback on things about Philly.
So was was kind of positive in that sense, and it's been part of the journey and people in Palo Alto know like, I have my daughters and they probably, they listen to our calls.
Sometimes they could talk about cancer and they talk about and it's very funny. It's very funny, but 1 thing and again, the community is a really interesting aspect.
There are lots of founders here in Palo Alto that are that are here. Palo Alto Menlo Park. Los Altos is an area. That's good schools. So.
It's interesting because the parents I met in preschool were very much 1 of the most helpful people for us to go forward.
They themselves of founders or working at a VC or working for a startup. So it actually made life kind of interesting because I could go to a kid birthday party.
And solve very pressing business questions I had this hire this is their profile. What do you think the comp should be? And it's things that there's no MBA book or anything for, you know, you really need to know people to solve it very fast. You know.
So, yeah, and that's 1 of the benefits of leaving in San Francisco or Palo Alto. This is just how how stuff works there and this is the best part of being in the world. I personally absolutely love it.
So, on this very optimistic note, we're moving on to the last question after today's episode. So Christina, what is the 1 thing that you want to have to do? Right? As the episode is over.
What is sorry to say that 1 more time so, once the episode is over, once they finish listening to this episode, what is the 1 thing that they want them to do?
Oh, yeah, well 1st of all spread the word that if you or a friend of yours, you hear the dog has a diagnosis of cancer. I mean, you constantly are in L. A. that has people love their dogs there. Look really.
There's hope number 1 and number 2 going our website com book a time with us and we have experts. That can really help support you in the journey. Of course, you know, not medical advice or anything like that.
But then can be kind of like a Sherpa and really be sympathetic and work with 168 of the best clinics in the United States, the best hospitals, and that's across 34 States.
So most likely, we have someone, we can guide you near, you will be practicing the best, possible medicine, 21st century, bringing all the tools from the human world to canine cancer care.
So, yeah, there's, there's hope absolutely.
That's awesome. And yes, I know a ton of people have dogs, especially in Los Angeles. They're just like.
Number 1, that that's just how it works and yes I'll make sure to leave a link to find a cure in the description of this episode. I'll also leave a link to Christina LinkedIn and Twitter. If Christina have 1 to you.
I think I do let me based on that answer. It seems like Christina is not very active on Twitter. So I'll just leave her LinkedIn in description if this episode.
So, if you want to chat a little bit more, if you want to see some posts that she made, or just ask additional questions, it will be there. And.
I'll also leave another link to an episode that was about.
Another founder who had, like, 2 or 3 exits in the pad care field. So if anyone is interested in hearing more about this particular topic, definitely make sure to check out the description of this episode. And as you usually.
Have a good day.