Founding my first company was a difficult journey - BioInnovation Institute

Founding my first company was a difficult journey

Founding my first company was a difficult journey

Newsletter Editorial, June, 2021

One of the many things the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated to us is the need to translate research to bring solutions to the market.

The path, however, is rarely straightforward and as a young entrepreneur, I would have liked to join an accelerator program to find a smoother road to the market. I believe it could have saved me a few hard learnings.

It is challenging for scientists to cross the bridge from a purely academic environment to the business side of a scientific discovery. For most, market analysis, regulatory constraints, product approval processes and return on invested capital is an entirely new vocabulary.

Personally, I was fortunate to work closely with the industry from early on in my academic career. It gave me some insight into key drivers for developing novel bioprocesses. However, founding my first company was still a very difficult journey. There were so many things to learn, and one of the most important ones was to understand that there is a big difference between having a value proposition and having a product you can sell. Even defining what the actual product should be was something we struggled with in my first spin-out company – a yeast synthetic biology company.

Initially, we were looking to establish production processes of chemicals, but it is challenging to replace chemical processes that have operated for several decades. This is also reflected by the fact that even 25 years later only a few biotechnological processes have been launched for sustainable production of chemicals! Through interactions with various businesspeople we did, however, eventually manage to establish a business plan, raise money and launch a product.

Even though it was a long and winding road, my learnings became extremely valuable later on in both my entrepreneurial and academic careers. They enabled me to focus on research problems that were of high relevance to society yet challenging in terms of research. In my teaching, I could bring out examples that resulted in stronger engagement from my students.

Nevertheless, entrepreneurial support would have been a helping hand. A program such as the BII Venture Lab program would have brought me together with other entrepreneurs and an experienced team of business developers. It would have opened doors to an unknown world and allowed me to expand my network in the industry and with investors. I am glad that BII can offer this to the life science entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

If you have an idea, do not hesitate to apply for our newly opened call for Venture Lab.

Best Regards
Jens Nielsen
CEO, BioInnovation Institute

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