The new interim CEO of troubled microbiome startup uBiome, Curtis Solsvig, is a longtime turnaround and restructuring expert at financial advisory firm Goldin Associates and the former chief restructuring officer of failed drone startup Lily Robotics.
Earlier this week, San Francisco-based uBiome said that Solsvig would replace interim CEO John Rakow, previously the company’s general counsel. Cofounders and former co-CEOs, Jessica Richman and John Apte, who were placed on administrative leave in May, also left the board of directors this week. Reached by email, Solsvig declined to comment.
The executive shakeup follows regulatory and law enforcement investigations of the company. In late-April, the FBI raided the company’s offices, a move reportedly related to an investigation of the company’s billing practices. The California Department of Insurance is also looking into uBiome’s billing practices, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The appointment of Solsvig suggests that uBiome is ready to deal with its problems head-on, either by restructuring its operations or by finding a way to wind down. Given the investigations, however, this won’t be a quick fix.
New York-based Goldin, a leading restructuring and financial advisory firm, began working with uBiome in May in the immediate aftermath of the FBI raid at the behest of a special committee headed by Kimmy Scotti, a founding partner of venture firm 8VC and now the only remaining independent member of uBiome’s board. (Scotti did not respond to a request for comment.) The firm was founded by Harrison “Jay” Goldin, the former Comptroller of New York City, who played a major role in the city’s financial restructuring in the 1970s.
Solsvig, who is 64 and has an MBA from Harvard Business School, previously worked at distressed-debt hedge fund Strategic Value Associates and at consultancy AlixPartners, a well-known turnaround shop. He also ran his own restructuring firm, Everett & Solsvig. Among the top companies he worked with during his long career are video-game pioneer Atari, now-defunct bookstore Borders Group and home-furnishings retailer Restoration Hardware.
He joined Goldin Associates three years ago. “Curt [brings] a wealth of experience, particularly in the context of complex debtor-side distress, to the firm’s formidable restructuring team,” Goldin said in a statement at the time.
In a recent high-profile assignment while at Goldin, Solsvig was chief restructuring officer for Lily Robotics, a one-time highflier that filed for bankruptcy and announced it was shutting down in January 2017. As the firm’s CRO, Solsvig ran that company’s sale of assets in a three-day auction, according to Forbes reporting at the time.
UBiome, an alumnus of Forbes’ 2018 Next Billion-Dollar Startups list, had received substantial press and acclaim until recently. Richman and Apte launched the company in 2012 on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, raising $350,000 for an at-home fecal test that enabled customers to receive a genomic sequence of the bacteria that live in their intestines.
It subsequently raised more than $100 million in venture funding from investors that include 8VC, OS Fund and Andreessen Horowitz, at a valuation of $600 million, according to venture-capital database PitchBook. With that cash, it expanded from gut tests to vaginal ones. The value of some of those tests to customers, however, was never clear.
In addition to Solsvig, two others from Goldin have joined uBiome’s executive team in an interim capacity. Robin Chiu, a Goldin managing director who previously led its work advising the Big Apple Circus on a restructuring, will work as the company’s chief financial officer, while Karthik Bhavaraju, a Goldin senior director whose previous experience includes work with healthcare companies, will serve as its chief operating officer.