There are many exciting things about building a company from scratch. What does the journey look like? And what are the key learning outcomes? In this interview, Stefan Johansson shares his devotion and experience from creating Neobiomics.
To begin with – who are you?
Good question! With age, I am thinking more about who I am/have become, and its how’s and why’s.
I grew up in Hedesunda, a small village in the middle of Sweden, moved to Uppsala for medical studies, and ended up in Stockholm for clinical training/ work at the Karolinska University Hospital and research at Karolinska Institutet. A journey longer than the 2-hour drive from my home village.
By profession, I am a consultant neonatologist and associate professor. But I also say that I work in the Department of Brilliant Ideas, as I like to turn good ideas into projects.
I live outside of Stockholm city with my family, prefer my bike over public transports, am an espresso aficionado and hope to visit Japan with my family one day!
What made you found Neobiomics? What is the history of Neobiomics?
During the 2000s, it became an established practise in many countries to supplement feeding of preterm infants with multi-strain Bifidobacterium product. Around 2014-2015, I wanted to introduce such supplementation in my hospital but failed to find a suitable food supplement. I shared my concerns with some of my friends within the neonatal community 99nicu.org (that I also founded 🙂 BTW).
It became evident that there was a lack of a high-quality food supplement, which in turn sparkled new discussions and eventually the foundation of Neobiomics. I am glad that my friend Philipp Novak, Austrian life-science entrepreneur, advised to bring this great idea into a more formal structure. So, we founded Neobiomics in 2016 and although we are now a more regular startup company, our roots keep us connected to the “community” we come from.
How were the first years? Compared to now?
The first years was a time of hard work. We approached a business context we knew little about, but with a simple, positive and open mind-set. We were just committed to solve this particular problem.
We experienced a lot of flow during the first years but did not fully understand that the way to bring a product to market includes… funding. We invested a (crazy) lot of work hours, but had very limited resources, practically only our first initial investment.
When I look back, I think this was *the* critical event for us.Stefan Johansson
In 2019, we were enrolled into the Incubator of the Karolinska Institutet Innovations AB. When I look back, I think this was *the* critical event for us. We gathered and learned the basics of business within a group of like-minded “startup academics”. We packaged and completed our first funding round, an essential step for the launch of our first product, ProPrems®.
Since the first small steps more than five years ago, we have travelled along a steep learning curve and much is very different now compared to the first years. But the initial dedicated spirits got incorporated into Neobiomics’ DNA, and that helps us when we are now building a firmer framework for Neobiomics.
What is the proudest moment during these years?
One great memory! – when I held a sachet of ProPrems® for the first time, in August 2019.
Another fine moment was when I received some very positive user feedback a few months ago.
What do you look forward to the most in the upcoming year?
During the coming year, I look forward to seeing more and more use of ProPrems®. We find innovative ways to reach out, even in today’s world afflicted by the COVID pandemic. But naturally, virtual meetings cannot completely replace face-to-face meetings. ProPrems® most important characteristic, besides the multi-strain composition, is the rigorous quality assurance and quality control. It is not always easy to communicate the look and feel of a high-end product over a web-based meeting. I am also excited to start our first development project, another innovative idea…
What has been the greatest challenge in leading the team during COVID-19?
Certainly, the lack of personal meetings in our team. We have followed the public health authority advice and practically only worked over web-based channels since March 2020. Digital meetings work surprisingly well but team building relies on other things, like the everyday chit-chat about life in general.
Do you have any special advice to other start-up entrepreneurs?
Read “Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World” by Rand Fishkin, it will give some essential insights about the startup universe.
What would you like to ask the co-founder Philipp Novak?
What came first to his mind when I told him that I had a “brilliant idea”?
Would you mind sharing three photos from your smartphone?
Not at all!
Please let us know what you think of this interview. What are you key learning outcomes? Connect with Stefan and the rest of the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.proprems.eu.