Joining science and entrepreneurship for successful startups
Linking science and entrepreneurship is vital for the success of tech-driven startups, an award winning scientist has said.
Zhu Xiangying president of startup Hengyu Biotech, is both a scientist and an entrepreneur herself, having a PhD of life sciences from Fudan University, and an MBA from Fudan's School of Management.
She has just won first prize in the "JOIN" Entrepreneurship Competition, an event hosted by the school to bolster innovative tech-driven startups.
"Top scientists will definitely not be satisfied if an invention is confined in laboratories," Zhu said in an exclusive interview with Shanghai Daily. "They are as eager as entrepreneurs, if not more, to put inventions into real practice."
The common trouble seen in tech-intensive startups is that scientists don't strike mutual understandings with investors or the management team. Commercialization and market response is often not in the realm of research.
"It sometimes depends on the nature of the business," Zhu said. "If the product or the service is close to the market, it is usually more important for scientists and executives to communicate."
Hengyu Biotech, with a core business of guaranteeing security of biomedicines, is close enough to the market. And Zhu is confident of the company's future. Despite being established in June 2020, it has already filed for a listing on the STAR Market.
Starting a firm is a first for Zhu who worked for GeneChem over the past decade. She was the leader in developing several key business units including virus vectors and CDMO (contract development manufacture organization) in GeneChem, which paved the way for her to launch her own business.
"The timing for me becoming an entrepreneur was tricky," Zhu said, unable not to chuckle. "I made the decision at the start of 2020 after years of consideration, but it was in the nick of time as COVID-19 broke out."
The pandemic was unexpected, but what was even more unexpected was the sudden boom of biotech.
"The industry was moving fast before the COVID, but amid it, the biotech sector is flying," Zhu said.
Proud to be a scientist and confident of technological strength, Zhu gave excellent performance at the JOIN competition.
When asked how to deal with a contradictory judgement by investors and the firm, Zhu's answer was clean and clear.
"I will allow investors the deserved return and a decent exit, while finding another investor of mutual understanding for the good of the longer-term development of the company," Zhu said.
The thundering applause by the judges and audience was the best feedback for her answer.
With Shanghai positioned as a global center for innovative science and technology, talent like Zhu is in high demand.
"They have the knowledge and they know the market," said Lu Xiongwen, dean of the School of Management at Fudan. "They are the future of China."
To facilitate the progress, the school has been pioneering to train scientist-type entrepreneurs via various courses, and organizing competitions like JOIN to pinpoint the talented.
"To win the first prize is very encouraging," Zhu said. "More important than the 300,000 yuan (US$47,337) reward is that I get to know so many entrepreneurs who share the same genes as me."
The gene of an entrepreneur is easy to recognize.
"I will definitely regret it if I give up the chance of starting up the business that I am so confident of its future," Zhu said. "I don't want to rest on laurels and regret it later."