LOW: Why did you set up your company?
A: We set up Antleron to create teams that can bring medical innovation in a sustainable way to the patient by being a hub in the network. A lot of the ‘ingredients’ to create novel therapies already exist, but require innovative approaches to integrate them and bring them to life. Especially if you want to manufacture living implants, you need to merge engineering with biology to make it a success.
LOW: When did you set up your business, and how long did it take?
A: We started in the end of 2014. The actual setting up of the company did not take long, that was mainly paperwork. Turning the idea of an ‘ecosystem SME’ into a plan and an inspiring story took more time, because you’re a disruptive player and you need to make multiple stakeholders believe in your idea.
LOW: Did you have a ‘lightbulb moment’ (ie. which led to you starting your business, or which triggered a change in the way you did things)?
A: Having an entrepreneurial spirit and being in the field for more than 20 years from the academic and translational side, I felt it was my responsibility to give something back to society. The only way forward was to start from scratch and not turn back.
LOW: Where did you source funding to set up your business?
A: My own money.
LOW: Were there any EU, national, regional or local business support services, programmes or funding initiatives that helped you set up or grow?
A: Yes. As we are an R&D start-up, funding initiatives are key for us to bring our innovative ideas closer an application. We successfully finished one Flemish (VLAIO) R&D feasibility project and are currently engaged in two multi-stakeholder interregional Interreg projects to co-develop next generation implants.
LOW: With hindsight, which would have been the single most valuable skill to have before setting up your business?
A: I think it’s important to believe 200% in the adventure upon which you are about to embark and go for it.
LOW: What is the single best piece of advice you have received along the way?
A: Believe in yourself.
LOW: Who or what are you inspired by?
A: You only live once so you better enjoy the adventure and do something you love.
LOW: What is the USP that distinguishes your product or service from its competitors?
A: We live and breathe collaboration. We are the missing link that brings biology and engineering together to kick-start the regenerative era.
LOW: How would you describe your progress so far? Are there any significant challenges you have had to overcome?
A: We have progressed substantially and are happy with that. Since, however, collaborations are key for us, there is sometimes a lengthy period between ‘yes’ and the actual implementation. As we are a start-up, our horizon is must shorter than that of some of our partners. Furthermore, being a start-up, the administrative hassle and the constant battle with cash flow takes away a lot of time and energy that could be better spent in efforts to make the company grow and create real value.
LOW: How are you planning to grow your business?
A: We aim to grow over the coming years by expanding our collaborators into a team of 15-20 pioneers, and have our R&D pilot for personalised ‘living implant’ manufacturing 4.0 up and running.
LOW: If you were in charge of the government ministry for SMEs and start-ups, what would be the three most important changes you would make to help them grow?
A: Ideally, to engage in a lean way stakeholders that have a practical and hands-on experience on how to build an SME from scratch. More realistically, to develop support/funding programmes that are really tailored for start-ups and that are reviewed by SME-peers. Certainly, the main idea would be to really listen to entrepreneurs and leave start-ups alone during the first years so they can focus on growing.
LOW The best thing about being an entrepreneur is…?
A: Inspiring people and bringing ideas to life.
LOW: What do you see as the key trends/disruptors for 2017 relevant to entrepreneurs?
A: The unlimited power of SMEs with a strong network.
LOW: If you could go back to when you were about to start your company and give yourself a single message or piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Be prepared.