In February 2019, Biotech Campus Delft, its main stakeholder Royal DSM, and YES!Delft started a partnership culminating in a dedicated Biotech Validation Lab starting in May. As all the startup programs from YES!Delft, this one attracted many exceptional mentors that will guide the entrepreneurs in the program.
Specifically for the Biotech Validation Lab, the biotech mentors from DSM went down memory lane and looked back at their own early career experiences. Moreover, they took a moment to reflect on the impact of meeting the person whose mentoring influenced the trajectory of their careers.
Biotech and entrepreneurial mentors
Starting a biotech startup is exciting! You get to shape your idea into a business that solves a real problem in the industry and market. However, operating a startup in this field can represent a challenge due to the capital investments, scale-up hurdles and long development times related to it.
In the Biotech Validation Lab, the mentors have many years of experience in the biotech industry. Some of them have over 20 years of experience at DSM – the largest Dutch multinational in the fields of health, nutrition and materials – such as Herman Wories, Will van den Tweel or Henk Noorman. Some others have started their own biotech companies, such as Arthur Oudshoorn, Christian Koolloos or Theo Verleun.
A good mentor can impact your whole career: “I started my career as a chemist in the R&D labs of DSM,” Gerard Hardeman (BU Director at DSM) remembers. “And as a student from the “roaring ’70s” anarchy and total freedom were very important to me. With this attitude, I entered in the corporate environment. One of my first bosses was a former refugee who fled with his family from the Balkans because of the war. He showed me how to deal with a different culture and requirements that go against various beliefs. The most important thing he taught me was how to see the other side of the truth. I still value this highly.”
The mentors in the Biotech Validation Lab are all people who experienced the power of having a mentor early in their careers themselves, “each of them valuable in their own way,” acknowledges Ruth Donners (Venture Development Manager at DSM Innovation Center).
“I started my career as a patent attorney, which is a rather specialized job. My mentor helped me understand that I am a generalist and I can use my skills in a multitude of different jobs. This experience has been an inspiration not only to start innovating products but also to keep innovating myself. Possibilities are endless; just put your mind to it,” says Ruth Donners, looking over 18 years of career in DSM.
Henk Noorman (Corporate Science Fellow Engineering Sciences at DSM): “Early in my career at DSM I had a mentor who played a crucial role in advancing my career. For several years, I doubted whether I should pursue my work in science or try to become an artist instead, as I have several skills and interests. One day we discussed this, and he stated: you will have to investigate these alternatives thoroughly. This simple remark gave me the feeling that my doubts were taken seriously, and I made some explorative steps. However, it became quickly evident that a career in science would be best, and I could still very well perform on stage outside my work. A simple question from a good and respectful mentor can help to make key decisions in life.”
Mentors are timeless
The role of a mentor in someone’s career has grown in popularity over the last few years. But the term is deeply anchored in its purpose, recalls Herman Wories (VP Global Business Incubator at DSM). “When I was younger, we didn’t have coaches or mentors like they are called nowadays, but I did have support from senior managers. Those managers with more seniority, with more experience, enable you to look at things from a broader perspective. When you are early in your career, you tend to look at things from your perspective only. Having this kind of support helps you to not miss out on opportunities.”
No matter how to call a mentor, the role and impact that a person can have on your career is crucial. Biotech Campus Delft, together with its main stakeholder Royal DSM, and YES!Delft, one of the leading tech incubators in the world, have joined forces to create the first Biotech Validation Lab.
Theo Verleun, Jan Hunik, Frans Koster, Henk Noorman, Theo Stikkers, Pim van Hee, Ruth Donners, Rob Beudeker, Christian Koolloos, Oscar Goddijn, Gerard Hardeman, Marianne Kentie, Herman Wories, Will van den Tweel, and Arthur Oudshoorn are all mentors in the Biotech Validation Lab. The ten biotech startups that are going to be selected in the validation program will benefit not only from the commercial validation expertise from the leading tech incubator in Europe but also from the professional guidance of the DSM mentors.
Share this article with people involved in promising biotech startups, tell them to apply to the program by the 5th of April!