Impact Human Healthcare at Scale


The entrepreneurial ecosystem around the world is sequestered.   In Madrid, an investor and entrepreneurship program director at the prestigious IE Business School has been locked in her apartment except for food acquisition trips, until now prohibited from walking around the block.  The rules loosened this week; she is now able to venture outside twice a day at assigned times with government permission.  In Rabat Morocco, the CEO of a renowned think tank must ask the government for a QR code to leave his house.  He is admitted to a store only when the code is verified.  In Paris, the startup manager for Institut Pasteur uses a computer-based permission system to go grocery shopping or ride the Metro. The same is true in Moscow for the dean of a major bank’s corporate university.    Conferences are postponed or canceled, trips to Silicon Valley to absorb the startup culture unimaginable, and in-person pitches to investors canceled. 

What’s happening to entrepreneurship in an environment where we are consumed with finding and acquiring food for 21 meals a week, worrying about the virus and adjusting to working at home with family distractions?

Entrepreneurship persists.  Conferences are still happening, online.  Entrepreneurs are pitching, online.  Venture capitalists are actively seeking new investments to put their existing funds to work.   Some investors are keeping “dry powder” for their existing portfolio companies that are more likely than ever to need it.   Entrepreneurs are working hard to get traction before their “cash-out” date, uncertain where the next funding infusion will come from.   For many, the cadence has picked up, not slowed.

While life is different, it hasn’t stopped.  As head of a life sciences/healthcare entrepreneurship program in Silicon Valley, I need to be connected to all things startup as well as to stay on top of the Covid situation; some of my startups are directly addressing the crisis.  So consider last Thursday’s schedule.    I watched the final competition from UC Berkeley’s engineering entrepreneurship program; viewed a talk by the CEO of a therapeutic antibody company; judged startups for an angel group; monitored Covid news through UCSF’s School of Medicine Grand Rounds and attended an internal meeting to assess projects for translational funding.  These four meetings would have normally required a trip to Berkeley followed by a trip to San Francisco, a total of three driving hours.  Instead, I sat in my home office avoiding traffic, parking, and bridge tolls.  I make more time for online meetings and webinars.  Research documents that we are spending extra hours working from home rather than in the office.

But here’s the downside.  We are missing the intangible benefits of face-to-face human interaction.  Would we have made better decisions judging scientific projects if we sat together in a room rather than connecting on video?  Would we have learned more by interacting in person with the therapeutics company CEO than by submitting a question through a webinar chatbox?  Would an entrepreneur be more effective pitching in a conference room at an investor’s office than online, better able to read body language and establish rapport? Yes to all of the above.  The richness of an in-person meeting cannot be completely replaced by technology.  Networking and relationships are the currency of business.

The urgency of Covid has changed the entrepreneurial imperative.  In the words of StartUp Health CEO, Managing Partner, and Co-founder Steven Krein, “Companies are made in this time.  There’s been a black and white shift in global entrepreneurship to operate in the Covid world.  Companies are reimaging solutions in days and weeks.”

Entrepreneurs are by nature flexible and imaginative.  We will survive global lockdown and continue to innovate.


Stephanie K. Marrus

Managing Director, Entrepreneurship

University of California San Francisco (UCSF)

May 14, 2020


My Startup 101 team committed to being ‘all in,’ and the results were outstanding.

Michelle Estrella MD, Co-Founder








The UCSF Entrepreneurship Center is a campus-wide resource that assists budding founders explore the commercial potential of their ideas. Through classes, workshops, mentorships, and networking events, we expose academics to the entrepreneurial experience, teaching researchers to vet their ideas for commercial potential and translate them into a business plan.

Beyond teaching, we help our students launch new ventures by connecting them with accelerators and funding sources as we continue to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem at UCSF. This includes over 200 mentors and advisors made up of founders, investors and experienced businesspeople, who counsel our startups and class teams.

As an inclusive, open program, we welcome participants from outside the UCSF community including UC Berkeley, Stanford and the business community. Bringing together a diverse group broadens our perspective and translates into a higher probability of success.

Whether you have decided to start a company or simply wish to explore the start-up culture, you will find the Entrepreneurship Center an invaluable resource.