Welcome back to Team Insights, where we offer you a chance to get to know a Microbiome Insights team member on a deeper level. We hope to show you the faces of the people you will be working with and the human element behind the now virtual interaction. For our sixth Team Insights, we'd like to finally take the time to showcase our dependable leader, Malcolm Kendall.
Hello Malcolm! Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. If I must say, it's been a long time coming.
First off, when did you start Microbiome Insights?
A: This is a chicken and egg questions, right. Ha! I co-founded the company with Brett and Bill, which started with a conversation back in June 2014. We legally founded the company in February of 2015.
What interests you most about the area of the microbiome?
A: For me it is the early life microbiome and the potential impact it has on priming the immune system and lifelong health.
What do you do at Microbiome Insights? Could you describe your role?
A: I am the CEO. I serve our employees, clients and investors.
How would you describe your job to a bunch of five-year-olds?
A: Ha, good question. I am like the company's mommy and daddy... that even made me laugh!
What do you enjoy most about Microbiome Insights?
A: The people and the science. And, helping advance microbiome research.
Where do you hope for Microbiome Insights to be in five years?
A: The microbiome industry is in its infancy and there is so much we don’t know yet, but what we do know is that microbiome science is so important to all life and environments and has the potential to fundamentally shift entire sectors and industries. This is a very exciting place to be. With regard to Microbiome Insight, I would like us to continue to be at the forefront of microbiome testing as the industry matures where will we see new technologies, higher quality data, more comprehensive data analysis and interpretation, and more clinical and regulated applications.
Switching gears a bit, is it true that you were a Green Beret?
A: Ha! Yes, kind of. A green beret is the head gear the U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers wear. I look back with fondness to the eight years I served in the U.S. Army after college, first as an Infantry officer in Europe and then as a Special Forces detachment commander in Asia. These were truly my formative years.
But how were you able to transition from the being a soldier to a career as a life science venture capitalist?
A: Timing, luck, drive, persistence, being able to tell a good story, not knowing any better… how does that sound? So, here is the short version. I left the military in 1992 and moved to Hong Kong where I ended up as a senior executive, shareholder and board member for a number of start-ups, basically working as an EIR for a venture capital firm. I returned to the U.S. for business school, graduating in 1999 (remember the frothiness of internet and genomic bubble) with 9 job offers, which I turned down because I was interviewing with three VC firms. A few weeks after graduation, the better of the three VC firms, the one that focused on both life science and technology, offered me a position. Pretty sure I was the last true generalist to get into the venture capital industry. So, from 1999 forward I have focused on life sciences across the spectrum from therapeutics to diagnostics to medical devices, etc.
What was a significant hurdle caused by the pandemic that you and the company managed to navigate successfully?
A: In many ways it seemed like a series of hurdles. The one that had the potential to impact us the most was when the owner of the building where we lease our facility was considering shutting down the building during the height of the pandemic. Luckily, we were able to stay in the building and continue to support out clients throughout the pandemic. It is worth commenting how well our team stuck together and supported each other and our clients and, in spite of the pandemic were able to get our lab CAP accredited after the pandemic delayed our initial inspection by a year. It all worked out in the end.
What’s the best advice you can give to someone who just started their career?
A: Life is not a straight path but set near terms goals and work towards things you like to do that you feel good about and your career will take you where you want to go.
Wow this has been very insightful so far. Switching to a lighter tone, what are your passions outside of work?
A: My kids, nature, fitness and Tarheel basketball (especially March Madness)!
What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?
A: I can clog and square dance...
If you could get a new skill in 10 minutes, what would it be?
A: Speak Italian...
How have you made the most of your time working from home?
A: Well... since I mostly work from home there has not been much change. The one benefit is my kids spend more time at home and I get to see them more.
What’s your favorite music genre?
A: I love such a range of music I would have trouble narrowing it down. Right now, I am listening to a lot of jazz, I also can't stop listening to Roberta Flack's album First Take, and when I drink bourbon, I listen to southern rock...
If you could make any fictional creature real, which would you choose?
A: Gumby... cause I think that would be hilarious!
Thanks again Malcolm! Malcolm has built up an invaluable amount of experience and insight in his professional years, and always starts the company week off with a smile and a cheer. It's a great experience hearing more about what his perspective and what makes him tick.