CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Anthony Liveris, CEO of Proto Axiom

Anthony Liveris is the CEO of Proto Axiom, Australia’s pre-eminent biotech incubator on a mission to bring world class pre-clinical and discovery expertise on shore.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of public policy, health and technology. While completing studies at the University of Pennsylvania, I co-found Applecart, which is now one of the leading data analytics companies in U.S. politics. From our dorm rooms pulling all-nighters and eating countless Dominoes, we built an amazing firm doing really powerful work all across the U.S.

I stepped back from management in my mid-20’s. Shortly after, I was lucky enough to work for a variety of impact-driven, civically-oriented game changers, such as Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative, then Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, as well as briefly for Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Future Initiative.

After completing my masters at the University of Oxford, I returned home to Australia. As COVID was upending the world as we knew it, I was surprised to learn about the discrepancy between our incredible productivity in creating world-class biotech IP and our relatively poor performance in commercialising research. We started to build Proto Axiom.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Proto Axiom (Proto) a genuine biotech incubator. We acquire biotechnology IP out of Australian universities, working with the country’s best scientists, develop the program internally, and ultimately, bridge the financing gap to institutional capital. This is much more hands-on than traditional venture capital (the word “incubation” is used quite liberally these days).

We’ve recently raised $15M from a rockstar investor base. This scale-up phase of business is incredibly demanding, and predictably, requires all of us to fill roles beyond the job description.

Given our investor base, I’m up early with calls starting at 7am (I’m actually writing this semi-deliriously after a 3 day trip to NYC and Arizona). Assuming I’m in Sydney – I sneak onto the train at 8:30, sip my coffee and jam the latest episode of The Intelligence from The Economist, getting into the office by 9. I try to reserve team check-ins to Tuesday mornings, encouraging incidental check-ins to flow upward. This usually frees up my mornings for catching up on desk work and client meetings.

If I’m lucky, I break up the day with some form of exercise, and then I’m normally out of the office in the afternoon for meetings or industry conferences. Most evenings have some sort of event on.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Work/life integration is forever a pursuit, made easier for me by business partner selection. I do my best to work with friends and like-minded colleagues, and it’s been a privilege to grow together.

I’ve also started taking up sports that have a lower-skill barrier to entry so that more friends can join, helping check-off both a healthy activity and social time. Pickleball is awesome 🙂 

It really helps that my fiance is a high-achiever. We end a lot of days reflecting on our highs and lows over a few games of backgammon. 

Elon Musk, Kobe Bryant, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, receive a new daily routine each week about some of the most successful people in the world.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I’ve lived an incredibly transient life, fortunate through travel and work to explore different cultures and settings. For me, the largest optimisation has been through consciously investing in a community to make it home.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Out of the mainstream, I recently finished Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages by Dan Jones. Dan is a brilliant historian who captures narratives on personal and political progress into succinct and applicable lessons. For me, reminders about the brutality of our past help frame how lucky we are today!

More traditionally, the FT, Economist, The Journal, BBC are mainstays for current affairs. Masters of Scale, How I Built This, and This Week in Startups for the VC world. How to Take Over the World by Benjamin Wilson if I am looking for a compelling historical biography. 

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Progress is seldom linear! We only connect the dots looking backwards.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.