This week, experts from across the genomics ecosystem gathered at the Festival of Genomics to discuss the challenges facing start-up companies and how to overcome them. I was invited to take part in a panel discussion alongside individuals from some of the biggest names in genomics, including Amadeus Capital Partners, Cambridge Epigenetix, Congenica and Oxford Nanopore, to name just a few.
The session, moderated by James Peach, Precision Medicine Lead at Medicines Discovery Catapult, discussed what start-ups need to do to get things off the ground; what entrepreneurs need to show to get investors to buy into their business; and how to grow a genetics company once it is established. Panellists shared their best piece of advice for individuals looking to start up a genetics company in the UK - here are my takeaways from the panel:
Pierre Socha, Principal, Amadeus Capital Partners - Advice: Stay as much out of your comfort zone as possible, and surround yourself with people who disagree with you, there are solutions out there that you are not thinking of because you are so focussed on genomics.
Nick Lench, COO, Congenica - Advice: Understand the customer and how you can adapt to fit their needs. As you grow the culture will change and you have to be willing to adapt with the market - the customer will dictate where your company goes.
Robert Tansley, Investment Director, Cambridge Innovation Capital - Advice: Companies that have the ambition to become global leaders and have the technology to match will succeed. Being good is not enough; you must be outstanding and be able to demonstrate your sustainable differentiation from the competition.
Jo Mason, Vice President Biomarker Discovery, Cambridge Epigenetix - Advice: Build yourself a network of key opinion leaders, as these will be the individuals who will test your products, help validate your technologies and get them out there.
Kath Mackay, Interim Deputy Director of Health & Care, Innovate UK- Advice: Go for it, we like risk, well it needs to be well managed!
Tamsin Berry, Deputy Director, Industrial Strategy & Sector Support, Office for Life Sciences - Advice: take a look at the Life sciences: industrial strategy document and the Life sciences: Sector Deal.
Zoe McDougall, VP, Corporate and Communications, Oxford Nanopore - Advice: think of yourselves as a big company that is temporarily small and you will get there.
Similarly, my contribution to the discussion and my advice to anyone looking to start up a genetics company would be that you need to understand why you are doing what you are doing. We chose to incorporate Repositive as a social enterprise to emphasise our mission and vision to all stakeholders from team to investors; it is the motivation that drives the team forward, the mission that helps rally those around us. If you are able to articulate how you plan to change the world it will help you build a strong network and get the right people on board. Secondly, collaborate! Innovations don't happen in a vacuum, so work with people from all walks of life, from all over the world and you will stand yourself in good stead to succeed.