Moien Giashi PhD

Moien Giashi PhD


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Investing in Deep Tech Startups

The determining factor – Moien Giashi PhD

“It’s the question of have you built or can you build a sustainable business moving forward”


Moien is a biomedical industry professional, and materials engineer turned Angel and Venture Capital investment professional. He is currently a Senior Investment Associate at GreenSky Capital, leading deep tech investments and is a board member or board observer with several early-stage startups. Moien has industry and research experience in Nanotechnology, Materials, 3D printing, Bioprinting, Microfluidics, Medical Devices and Oil & Gas. He was previously a Venture Manager with CDL Toronto where he supported a broad spectrum of companies.



Moien Giashi PhD

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the Supporters Fund. Ask an investor. I’m your host, Jeffery Potvin. Let’s please welcome Moien Giashi, Ph.D., senior investment associate at Green Sky Capital, as our investor for today. Welcome, all. It’s a real pleasure having you join us today.

Moien: Thanks for having me. Very, very happy to be part of the fun.

Jeffery: I love it. Well, we’re excited to talk to you because there’s a few cool things that you bring to this table outside of being a global traveler. But and, of course, including where you’ve had your schooling and all these great things, but you’re also in this chemical space, which I’ve always been highly fascinate with, because the whole world is in and out against this whole chemical side of things, especially when everybody is going green. And I think you obviously have done a lot in this space. So it really brings a lot of better understanding. I think we’ll get to the whole market side and then we’ll dive in, of course, what’s going on in the startup world. But the way we love to start our show is that we want to learn a bit more about yourself. So maybe you can talk about your schooling days from U of T to the startups and and the companies that you work with today. And then one thing about you that nobody would know.

Moien: Yeah, absolutely. So I guess going back in time, I did my undergrad in Iran and then in a polymer engineering. I think the idea that I had when I was 18 was that the world is made of materials and that could be material engineering could change the world. And that’s why I started actually studying. And it was it was obviously very fascinating to me. Immigrated to Canada in 2013, immigrated specifically her school, so came to University of Alberta at Edmonton, and all of a sudden there was a temperature change that was that was massive. And I did my master’s in chemical engineering, but my focus was obviously oil and gas is is what funds University of Alberta. And a lot of research. But my focus was on tailings ponds and environmental impact of oil extraction in Alberta. That was a very interesting topic for me. Just because there’s massive, massive amount of land in northern Alberta that is captured by these telling ponds is just sitting there and nobody knows what to do with it. I think hopefully now after like ten, 15 years of research, people have better ideas about these tailing ponds and they’re trying to come up with solutions. I’m seeing a lot of startups, secret technologies that are thinking of actually getting rid of it, extracting the water, extracting minerals, etc.. So that’s it’s becoming interesting. Move to Toronto in 2015 to do a deal was in love with what scientist wanted to become a professor all in. And so I was like, I should do a PhD. But then I wanted to go back to my metal roots. So I started working again on materials. My focus was 3D printing. Used to work with a lot of biomaterials, materials that are extracted from from plants or from nature. And my material of choice was cellulose. I was I was directly working with a lot of fellows trying to use them in 3D printing. And it’s it’s great that like we have in Canada, there is the forestry industry is actually massive. So there’s there’s a ton of wood waste that can be extracted and used to sell those and then also sell those can be uses as a material choice. So yeah, I did that as a PhD, but then I was fascinated with a lot of the research that I was doing. But kind of what was bothering me a lot was the fact that we do a lot of research. Government puts in a lot of money into our research, but then what happens after that? Like it, it just dies and it’s like I have publications, they’re scientific, but nobody sees it. Like Jeffrey is ever seen by my publication. He doesn’t know what I do, doesn’t know what is the application of what I do. It’s just because it is sitting there, Nobody’s seeing it other than other scientists who are just using it for the sake of science. And I that was kind of the driver for me to step outside academia. I was I was looking into a lot of the patterns that University Toronto is producing. My my supervisor specifically was producing. I was like, I should do something to help commercialize all of these. All of that research that is that is happening. And I was kind of that was kind of the starting point for me, like can I actually support commercialization of science? And then as I dig deeper, I learn more about an institute at the University of Chronicle Creative Destruction Lab, which is which is now actually more of a global institution. And right after my PhD, I started working there as a as a venture manager. So I was directly working with a lot of technology companies, helping them with commercialization, fundraising, growth, etc.. That was kind of my transition to more of a business side as as opposed to just being a scientist and a researcher. So I did that for a year. I worked at an a medical device and then and then joined Green Sky Capital, which now we call it Great Sky Ventures, joined us as an associate. We actually started to invest in B2B Canadian companies, but one of the great things about creating Sky is that we do also invest in a lot of deeper technology solutions and solutions that are IP backed. There is there’s a lot of research behind it. And that was that was kind of my niche and that was something that I love, like trying to help commercialize science, trying to help commercialize deeper technology solutions. And yeah, that’s, that’s what I’m doing right now, leading the tech investment that that’s creating Sky, trying to, whenever I have time, trying to mentor and help startup companies in a deeper tech or R&D for tech, just trying to help them commercialize their solutions. So that’s been, I guess, the journey. It’s I’ve been in Canada for ten years. Exactly. Came in 2013. And I guess one thing that nobody knows about me is that I like cooking. I don’t know if it’s boring or not if other people said the same thing, but cooking is definitely something that I like a lot. I don’t get a lot of time to cook. You now as as I used to, but I definitely love to find the time to to cook. I love to have a beautiful kitchen and with a lot of appliances, that’s that’s definitely a dream. And pizza oven specifically is what I love. But but that’s that’s what I do that others don’t know about me.

Jeffery: It’s just that’s awesome. And know cooking is is a great skill. It’s refined, detail oriented, all those good things. Right. So I love it. So awesome. Well, we’re going to kind of go back a few steps because when you were talking about and one thing that really kind of stands out along the things I’ve watched on the videos and different things that you’ve written, is that commercialization on the science side? Yeah, I like that you really define that. This is something that you were trying to work on. Now is there are some past experiences where you did try to take some of your own material and try and drive that into a business? And and what was the outcome from that?

Moien: I guess that is the other thing that people don’t know about me because it’s not on the left hand side. Yeah, I that that’s actually how it started. Like we, we had new material classes. The mature classes could be used for 3D printing, especially for 3D printing up by a logical element. So you could collect 3D print and something that looks like an organ, and then you could take this and try to like, like add drugs to it. Tried to test, put a lot of drugs and see what would happen. So it would call them organoids. And you can actually you can actually mimic how an organ would behave in response to a specific drug, for example. So that was kind of the idea that I wanted to commercialize with my supervisor. But but I guess I dropped the idea or like I dropped the the effort to commercialize it. And one of the reasons was that I realized that the market size is not very large. And the folks that are going to be the purchasers of this technology are going to be other researchers. And I, I thought that it’s not actually very large, but in in hindsight, I think five years later today, if seen a 3D printing company that is that does a lot of the bio printing, this stuff has has closed a massive deal and I’ve and I’m seeing a lot of like smaller shops that are producing these new materials for research purposes as well as other biological applications. So it could be a successful business. I still think it it wouldn’t have been a massively scalable startup and that’s why I did it. I just I decided not to pursue it because it’s I thought it’s not going to going to fly and become very big. But, but yeah, that’s, that’s the other challenge, probably off the science side like we did the science for the sake of science, but I didn’t do the science with the objective or idea of commercialization in mind to begin with. Like we didn’t do the science to solve a specific problem. We were just exploring and discovering.

Jeffery: Well, it’s interesting that that experience actually defined where you went next in your journey. And if you take that portion of what you did, how much it’s probably driven, how you can operate today and work with startups and how you can kind of lead them because you took the time to take a techn