Last month at the 5th annual Global Genes Patient Summit, we announced our rebrand from Perlstein Lab PBC to Perlara PBC.
Together with our partners at Valley Design Group, we created a new logo/mark that embodies the excitement and hope of scientific discovery. To go with the fresh look, we overhauled our website with a focus on outreach and engagement. And, most importantly, we introduced the concept of PerlQuest, our collaborative model of bottom-up, patient-driven drug discovery partnership. (A dedicated post and FAQ about PerlQuest are forthcoming).
For those just tuning in on us now, as well as those who’ve been following our journey for some time, I’d like to take this opportunity to go back to the very beginning and chronicle briefly how Perlara came to be, focusing on the part of the startup process not often told. Although the company was incorporated in February 2014 as Perlstein Lab and was officially launched with seed funding at the end of April 2014, the story of our company formation actually began a year earlier.
I moved to California in April 2013 with the intent of starting a science startup. Problem was, as a cloistered academic trainee without personal experience in startups, I had no idea how to do that. My brother Henry played a key role in cofounding Perlara in two ways.
First, he and I shared an Airbnb during my first month in the Bay Area. It was our very own two-person Y Combinator, in which we served as each other’s sounding boards and sparring partners. In that creative crucible, I learned from Henry’s entrepreneurial experiences and acquired confidence and knowhow to make the leap from academia to startups.
Second, Henry gets all the credit for the PBC (Public Benefit Corporation) in Perlara. Today, you can’t walk five feet in Kendall Square or South San Francisco without bumping into someone expounding the virtues of patient-centeredness. A pledge or full page spread in the NYT can’t ensure patient-centeredness; it has to be encoded in the DNA of a company, as happens when a NewCo is formed as a PBC from Day One. That commitment to public benefit has informed our decisions, and remains as firm today as it was then.
By the Summer of 2013, I was expanding my professional Bay Area network and testing out the first versions of my pitch. Linda Avey, who sits on Perlara’s Board of Directors, was instrumental in getting me in front my first angel investor audiences, where I received feedback and more contacts. I still didn’t have a formal business plan on paper yet, but that was about to come.
Fast-forward two years to this past Summer. In preparation for YC W16 Demo Day, I worked with the aforementioned Valley Design Group (VDG) to hone my pitch. VDG is the husband-wife team of Karen Herzog and Richard Sachs. Richard Ellson, a founder of Labcyte, introduced us when he came up to me after a Stanford entrepreneurship event about a year ago. I spoke about Perlara’s lead program for Niemann-Pick Type C, and Richard asked if I knew Karen’s and Richard’s story. Their daughter Sophia passed away in 2005 from Niemann-Pick Type A Disease.
We all met for coffee in Palo Alto a month or so later, and after a great conversation I knew that I wanted to work with Karen and Richard somehow. After they helped me craft my Demo Day pitch, we decided to embark on a rebrand, with the intent of a soft launch at Global Genes. With that successful premiere behind us, we’re now working to launch our first PerlQuests with rare disease patient groups.
On behalf of the Perlara team, we couldn’t be more excited about this next phase of the company!