Michelle Dipp

Life Sciences Investor

Michelle Dipp is a life sciences investor based in New York City. She grew up in El Paso, Texas, where she spent many years pursuing her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. She later decided to pursue medicine and attended University of Oxford Medical School, where she studied general surgery, and went on to earn her Ph.D. in human physiology.

After her medical training, Michelle spent the next decade gaining private equity and venture capital experience in life sciences. She began her investment career at the Wellcome Trust and later became Senior Vice President at GlaxoSmithKline’s global business development group. She was Managing Director at General Atlantic, a New York-based global growth equity firm, and founder and partner of Longwood Fund, a Boston-based healthcare investment firm.

Today Michelle serves on numerous nonprofit boards, including Harvard Medical School and Life Science Cares.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

I am a longtime life sciences investor and care deeply about this area, because I know that the technologies we invest in today will shape what healthcare looks like tomorrow. There are so many exciting opportunities here that will have a major impact on the field of medicine, from programming cells in new ways to harnessing data in new ways with artificial intelligence.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My day starts a good two and a half hours before I begin work and I use those early morning hours to exercise, meditate, and focus on the tasks ahead. My workdays are filled with meetings and check-ins with CEOs and investors. I live in New York and try to walk everywhere I go, which gives me a chance to recharge. Sticking to a routine and focusing fully on what is in front of me helps me stay productive each day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring together the right people. Ideas only come to life with a strong team. I am a big believer that the sooner you identify your own strengths and weaknesses, the sooner you can be successful. I know what my strengths are, and that allows me to focus my time on what I excel at. For everything else, I bring in great people.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Synthetic biology is on the top of my list right now. This technology allows us to manufacture in an entirely new way using biological building blocks. Creating products and ingredients in this way has so many benefits for the world, including sustainability. For example, synthetic biology is helping us grow crops that can produce their own natural fertilizer. I am so excited about the vast possibilities.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I evangelize the benefits of limiting email. I get over 2,000 emails a day, and if my inbox was open all the time, I would accomplish nothing! I don’t take my phone into meetings, I turn off all notifications, and I do not multitask when I finally do read my email. I designate set times to respond to email and that’s it. It has been a game changer for my productivity.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t stay in the office till 1 a.m. – it will still be there for you in the morning.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Handwritten thank you notes are important! I still write old-fashioned cards and I love receiving them on the rare occasion someone sends one to me. People tell me an email thank you is just as good. I completely disagree.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Seek out mentors. And not just one – diversity is key. I recommend that people find a mentor inside their industry and a mentor who works outside of it. They should ideally find a co worker, a manager and someone they have managed. Also, I find that having someone from a completely different sector is very helpful for learning new ways to solve problems.The different perspectives of my mentors helped my professional growth.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Give people a sense of ownership. When people believe in and understand your mission, they are much more likely to make introductions or flag great opportunities.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Earlier in my career, I did not use data for hiring. As a result, hires were not consistently great fits and this was frustrating and costly. I now utilize data to make all hiring decisions. Doing so ensures candidates map with the company and the role in concrete ways. It has made an enormous difference in terms of diversity and long term success.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I hope someone creates a tech company that can efficiently aggregate, organize and provide supply chain data. There is a huge opportunity right now to track and find information like ingredients and manufacturing capacity along supply chains. A company like this could be so valuable to governments and pharmaceuticals. I hope someone makes it happen.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently spent $100 on fitness boot camp sessions. Having a community helps me stay engaged and excited about working out, so it was money well spent.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

My partner, Jennifer, taught me how to use Slack. I do disable the notifications so I am not distracted by it constantly. But it’s great for keeping conversations with our team organized, and for keeping things short and sweet.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I can’t stop thinking about Safi Bahcall’s new book, Loonshots. It blends all these examples from philosophy, science and history, and looks at the friction and connections between different subject areas and the innovation that ensues. It reminded me that something as seemingly disconnected as looking at art can actually help you think about science in new ways. I loved it.

What is your favorite quote?

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” This one gets attributed to Winston Churchill, though some historians claim he never actually said it. Either way, they are wise words to live by.

Key Learnings:

● Life sciences and technology are converging, and innovation in this space will transform healthcare and medicine
● When people understand and believe in your mission, they are much more likely to help you out
● Turn off your email and focus on one thing at a time – it will make you more productive
● Seek out a diverse group of mentors, be polite, and don’t forget that handwritten thank you note