Remembering Brian Dovey and his book “The Idea is the Easy Part”

Rita McGrath
6 min readOct 2, 2023

I was deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Brian Dovey, a partner at Domain Associates and a family friend on August 27. Imagine my surprise at receiving a signed copy of his new book, synthesizing so much of what he had learned in decades of investing in young entrepreneurs and nurturing companies that have made a material improvement in human health and flourishing.

Years-long opportunities to exchange ideas

I first met Brian Dovey, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur, through Eileen Galton, a dear friend of mine who worked with Brian and his partner, Jim Blair, at their investment firm Domain Associates. Unlike a lot of firms operating in this space, Domain partners always sought to form win-win relationships with their investors, entrepreneurs, and other business partners. As Jim puts it, “We started Domain to create new companies that could translate scientific and technological breakthroughs into new, innovative medicines and medical products that make a difference in people’s lives.”

The company has had an incredible track record, and some of Brian’s own investments have made a big difference in people’s lives. From brand-name breakthroughs like the Epi-pen to major players in the world of biotech today, such as Amgen, since 1985, Domain has raised nine funds and has been involved in the formation of more than 260 portfolio companies. Its companies have created numerous U.S.-approved products that have advanced human health. They have also developed innovative investment models, such as specialty pharma and global in-licensing, which have proven successful and have been widely emulated in the life sciences industry. Domain has raised more than $2.8 billion in capital to date.

The teaching side of things

I was introduced to Brian when he had the idea and the opportunity to teach young entrepreneurs and MBA students and wanted to know what teaching was like. We had a great — if somewhat grounding — conversation about the rigors of teaching and the time it takes for class preparation and grading and he decided to take the plunge, becoming one of the most popular instructors at San Diego State University leading a course called, “Managing the Growing

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Rita McGrath

Columbia Business School Professor. Thinkers50 top 10 & #1 in strategy. Bestselling author of The End of Competitive Advantage & Seeing Around Corners.