Tips for Bioentreprenerds
From Academia to Biotech Startup
By Johanne Kloster Ellingsen, published 1 February, 2023
Are you interested in pursuing a career in bioentrepreneurship? We have talked to some of the established start-ups at ShareLab to ask what tips and advice they can give to prospective entrepreneurs.
Identify you mission
Firstly, when starting any business, you need a mission. “You have to have a passion for what you are doing” Jonas Hallén, Chief Medical & Development Officer at Arxx Therapeutics, states. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to solve? Identify your niche, and follow the industry you’re interested in.
Team up with the right people
Next, it is important to team up with people who share your passion and want to be a part of the journey. “I have spent a lot of time finding partners who I can discuss and talk things over with, and who are visionary”, Jan Terje Andersen, Professor in Biomedical Innovation, explains. Tor-Espen Stav-Noraas, co-founder of Node Pharma, also mentions the need for a diverse team with competence that supplement each other.
You know what you want to accomplish, and with whom, but how do you get there? In the biotechnology and life science sector, you often must make decisions early on that will affect your business years ahead. Because of this, Jonas Hallén’s advice is to do a thorough analysis before making any decisions, even in the very beginning. “Think ahead, and always have a plan A, B, and C”.
Moreover, the industrial life science sector is heavily regulated, and so it’s important to stay up to date on the latest and upcoming laws and regulations that may affect your business. This could include everything from clinical trial regulations to product labelling requirements. It is for instance easier to get a product to market as a cosmetic product rather than a medical one, as explained by Oscar Solér in 3Skin. “Try doing things right the first time” Tor-Espen advises, highlighting aspects as traceability, regulatory risk and minimising the risk of having to re-do trials.
Network, network, network
The importance of networking is repeatedly brought up when talking to entrepreneurs. Start-ups are by nature changing and developing rapidly, and having a strong network which can provide input, feedback and broad expertise is hugely valuable. “Contact people. Call people”, Tor Espen advices. “Most people you meet are nice, so don’t be afraid of reaching out”, Jonas states. One practical tip can be to relate reaching out to a question or transfer of information. Moreover, understand that people come from different backgrounds, Jan Terje emphasises. For instance, people with background in business have a very different prerequisite when entering a conversation than a scientist. This can be useful to keep in mind.
Be flexible and creative
“Having the ability to be flexible is crucial in a small team”, Jonas explains. Having to manage a range of different tasks is both what makes life in a start-up challenging and exciting. This is supported by the scientific team from Caedo Oncology, who encourages prospecting entrepreneurs to keep their mind flexible, trying to absorb as much knowledge as they can and don’t predefine what their role should be based on what they have done earlier.
This flexibility also creates room to be creative. “Creative solutions for getting started often exists” Tor Espen says, mentioning aspects of starting a business, like financing, your own salary and obtaining the initial proof-of-concept. The need for flexibility combined with the room for creativity is what makes working in a start-up such a valuable platform for learning and developing new skills.
Be prepared for setbacks and don’t give up
Finally, be prepared to face challenges and setbacks along the way. Starting a business in any industry can be difficult, and biotechnology is no exception. In life science and biotech, you must be especially prepared for long timelines and high costs. But with hard work, perseverance, and the right support, you can turn entrepreneurial dreams into a successful reality. “Don’t lose faith” Jonas emphasises, highlighting that you generally always get results if “you just keep pushing.”
By following these tips, you can lay the groundwork for a successful biotechnology business. Good luck!
ShareLab is a lab incubator with fully equipped and serviced wet labs for startups and industrial partners, as well as a community of industry experts and biotech entrepreneurs. The laboratory is located at Oslo Science Park amid Norwegian institutions like University of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital, SINTEF, and a range of life science companies. ShareLab is non-profit and will reinvest funds in cutting edge laboratories and industrial knowhow to fuel life science.
If you would like to know more, please contact the ShareLab Team via LinkedIn or other social media.