Friday, 25th of June
Dr. Iona Weir, Chief Scientific Officer, Vital Foods.
The speaker: spent 25 years in research, worked in academia and multiple companies. Decided to try entrepreneurial path in high-throughput screening. Cutting edge bio-research, no money, 30 staff members, funders houses on the line, living on the edge, no money to pay salaries, etc. Garage days.
- take simple idea from NZ entrepreneur
- implement it and test it on NZ market
- go global (and sign big contract)
Small startup, south Auckland, launched 1991 with Kiwi Crush (laxative drink made out of kiwi fruit extract).
Fast forward, 2007 launch of Phloe, second product. Factory of 30 staff, very loyal and friendly people, 90% of staff stayed in the company since the beginning. Stress on loyalty and consistency of the staff: key to company success!
Clinical trials very expensive, and logistically difficult. Most work done in Japan, China and USA.
Dealing with VCs – tough. Extremely tight deadlines, to a point where 5minutes miss could cost the funders 50% of the shareholding. Everything commercially focused: tirals limited by funding, everything centred about VCs exit, inability to pursue ANY ‘nice to know’ projects. VCs often try to go behind the back of the funders. Support helped, team stayed together, in-fighting did not occur. Focus. Focus. Focus.
Competitors – very important to position product against competing products. Lots of comparative tests done. Show your strong points.
IMPORTANT: the moment the product hits the market, copycats will push their versions of the same product. Necessity to have IP protection sorted at this stage. VitalFoods does all the IP through USA companies. Got burned with local IP firm in the past.
Every little milestone, every success: big party and celebration. Enjoy the good moments with everyone in the company.
- always stay true to your vision
- focus is the key
- be passionate
- be very kind to each other (you are going to need it)
- have fun with what you do