48 minutes | Feb 22, 2021

#276: Colleen Cutcliffe, Co-Founder and CEO of Pendulum Therapeutics, a Groundbreaking Biotech Company Empowering People to Achieve Long-Term Health, on Raising $57M in VC, Being a First Time Technical Founder Building a D2C, and How to Be a Great Leader

Colleen Cutcliffe, PhD, is co-founder and CEO of Pendulum Therapeutics, a biotech startup in San Francisco. Colleen stands alone among entrepreneurs: she is a scientist with a doctoral degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, a pioneer in the exploration of the human body’s microbiome, and a challenger of the probiotics industry and its 1970s-era formulas.

Prior to Pendulum, Colleen led a team of scientists at Pacific Biosciences, a company famous for its DNA sequencing. Armed with this technology, Pendulum is doing groundbreaking microbiome research by extracting new bacterial strains, studying their impact on chronic conditions, and combining them in never-before-seen formulations. The company’s mission is to create probiotics as effective as prescription drugs, without any side effects. The company’s first offering, Pendulum Glucose Control, is the only probiotic in existence that has lowered blood sugar spikes and A1C levels in a clinical trial – welcome news for the 122 million Americans living with diabetes and prediabetes.

Colleen completed her postdoctoral research at Northwestern Medicine’s Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. She received a doctoral degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Wellesley College. 

Some of the Topics Covered by Colleen Cutcliffe in this Episode

  • What Pendulum Therapeutics is doing today and how Colleen decided to start it
  • Why working in microbiome science is so personal for Colleen
  • The first steps that Colleen and her co-founders took to found Pendulum
  • The incredible journey from learning what VCs are to getting their first investment in the form of a convertible note, to finally becoming fully venture-backed
  • The catch-22 of VCs wanting to see the milestones that you're actually fundraising in order to reach
  • The unexpected challenges Colleen faced when asked for her bank account information
  • Pivoting from a service company to a product business
  • Deciding which application of their technology to focus on first
  • Creating the product over a decade
  • Deciding between the pharmaceutical path or going D2C
  • How they've begun to grow their customer base
  • The anti-drug movement and shift towards pro-natural
  • The ongoing question of pricing a very unique product
  • As a scientist, how Colleen approached the field of marketing
  • Colleen's leadership style and values
  • How Colleen recharges and creates boundaries around work
  • The importance of having investors that are fundamentally aligned with your values

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