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Meet the Resident: Sam Cooper, PhD; CEO & Cofounder, Phenomic AI


Earlier this summer Sam Cooper of Phenomic AI,a current resident of JLABS @ Toronto, answered some fun questions on work life balance, what he’s been watching during quarantine, life as a JLABS resident, and advice for other biotech CEO’s.

Q: With a full plate as CEO, what DON'T you do, so that you can prioritize the important stuff?

I have a perennial hatred of buying clothes and shopping; as a result, my wardrobe primarily comprises [of] free t-shirts from conferences and the same clothes that I rebuy from the same shop, year in year out. This principle also applies to food and/or cooking; my typical dinner, if it's not take out, is usually a frozen pizza stuck in the oven for 15 or noodles by Mr. Noodle. One day perhaps I'll be less of a student…

Q: As a CEO, what's your advice for a researcher who wants to launch a startup?

Take a ton of advice (from someone more experienced than myself) and learn from it. Pure researches/academics when they start (including myself), have 0% of a clue of how to build a startup. By talking to as many people about your idea / company as humanly possible, you might be able to assemble around 5% of a clue. If the idea, by some stroke of luck, is reasonable you might just about get funded. At which point you then want to hire allot of people who know more than you, and maybe start paying your advisors, though some will keep giving you amazing advice just because they're great people.

Q: How has being a resident of JLABS @ Toronto helped you advance your company?

We almost couldn't have started a wet lab in Toronto without JLABS. There are basically no other options here for small companies like us with loose university affiliations. Everyone at JLABS was super helpful in getting us off the ground. And both JLABS staff and other residents continue to provide invaluable advice (key to starting a company!). What's also amazing is the range of different ideas and business models being pursued, from the lone drug hunter hyper-asset centric route, through platform plays, to life-sciences tools and software plays. It's been great learning about other residents' endeavors while providing support from the side-lines; there's a great sense of community amongst everyone in Toronto.

Q: What are you reading, listening, or watching that you would recommend?

I've been getting half nostalgic in lock-down and going back through a bunch of comedies from the UK (where I’m from). Currently on one of my all-time favorites, Phoenix nights with Peter Kay [my nan taught him at primary school]. Not sure if I'd recommend it. But, it's a whole bunch better than what I'm reading at the moment, the CPA study guide to financial accounting and reporting - what a pager turner.