Let’s take a trip to the VC World…
Today on Techs and the City I bring you something a bit different – after 10 articles on NYC start-ups, I decided it would be fun to mix things up and write about Venture Capital. Because Venture Capitalists (VCs) are the ones typically investing in these start-ups, this seemed appropriate. However, this is not your typical VC firm. You could say I was truly psyched to write this piece on Tabula Rasa Ventures and Marik Hazan.
Tabula Rasa Ventures (TRV) is a venture capital firm that invests in start-ups in the psychedelics industry. They hope to build a stronger foundation in the psychedelics industry and help related start-ups be scalable and financially sustainable by taking a community, ecosystem-led approach, with impact and patient outcomes in mind.
Unconventional is surely one way to describe the different industries Marik, co-Founder of TRV has found himself in. Unlike most people in the psychedelic space, who have a high dose, perspective-changing experience-led calling, this was not the case for Marik. Marik has spent the last ten years of his life focused on counterculture and controversial advocacy – he worked with stigmatized communities, helping them with civil rights and access to resources when large organizations don’t provide them. Marik built tech for the sex worker rights movement and also contributed to the decentralized governance space. The past two years, however, have been dedicated to the psychedelic industry – specifically trying to shift it from an “ecosystem focused on a particular kind of lifestyle and research, to one where there are entrepreneurs and investors involved in the most conscious way possible.” This is where Tabula Rasa Ventures comes in.
You might be thinking, so wait, they invest in drugs? Not exactly. Aside from the psychedelic compounds themselves and drug development, there are also cultivation facilities, media companies, and various technologies like SAAS for psychedelic assisted therapies. When it comes to psychedelic assisted therapy, it’s not just going to a therapist for a talk session, Marik described it as “a long process that can last anywhere from eight to twenty hours depending on the specific compound, with so many aspects to it – who’s there, what music is played, how data is captured and assessed.” This leaves room for lots of new technology and innovation in the psychedelics space.
Marik also talked about how there’s actually a lot going on in the space in terms of research on particular compounds being used for treatment. He dubbed it as a “matchmaking industry” with each specific compound being used for a specific ailment – psilocybin for resistant depression, MDMA for PTSD, ibogaine for alcohol abuse. With ongoing clinical trials, Marik predicts that by around 2022 or 2023 psilocybin and MDMA will achieve federal recognition as treatment for specific ailments – a slightly different approach than that of the cannabis industry, where states get to make decisions about legality.
Tabula Rasa is not only a venture fund, but also an incubator. When talking about the psychedelics space, Marik mentioned that TRV really cares about creating an even playing field and bringing in more underrepresented groups such as female or BIPOC founders. In his words, it would be “comical to try and build anything in the space that is not so deeply focused on leveling the playing field and bringing more equity to society and just being more compassionate individuals.”
As someone who was not really aware of the psychedelic industry before, and surrounded by the traditional “drugs are bad” camp, it was interesting to hear about the large positives that may arise from the space. I’m curious to see how things develop within the next few years, and excited to see the amazing things Marik and the Tabula Ventures companies come up with.
TLDR: Tabula Rasa Ventures (TRV) is a venture fund and incubator focused on equitable development in the psychedelic industry. Co-founded by Marik Hazan who has had experience in a lot of “unconventional” areas, TRV hopes to pave the way for a more community based, innovative psychedelic space.
My biggest takeaways from speaking with Marik, including tips for aspiring VCs and start-up founders:
|1. Work on what you want to be working on. |
Marik strongly believes that people in college or grad school should work exactly what they want to be working on. Every moment you spend on that will come back to you, as people will “see you worked on your passion and give you a road in.”
|2. Venture Capital is all about building relationships.|
Aside from term sheets and all of the technicalities, Marik said that “a lot of VC is just meeting entrepreneurs and getting to know who’s working on anything in the space, getting connected to individuals who want to help entrepreneurs and can be mentors to those entrepreneurs, and meeting people who are willing to invest capital.” He also stressed the importance of thinking about company impact when looking at due diligence.