Our Connection: This year I took part in the Get Started Programme offered by the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE), where I met Berry. During social drinks at the ECE campus a few months back, we chatted further about his business Omnigen and connected on LinkedIn.
Last week his business partner Nick, sent me an e-mail asking to be part of the 30-Day Job Hunt, after having seen my post on LinkedIn. I happily agreed to meet the pair on the 11th floor of the Science Towers in Rotterdam, were the ECE is housed. We sat in the large boardroom, overlooking the port of Rotterdam.
Nick and Berry, run the young and dynamic company Omnigen together. They want to revolutionize the sports and personal healthcare industries, bringing new products and services to the market. Omnigen specializes in state-of-the-art bioinformatic research. They have developed DNA-tests that can identify which foods you are intolerant to, your genetic sensitivity for specific sorts of injuries, and the dietary supplements that do and do not work for you. Furthermore, they can personally design training and diet plans for athletes to help optimize their performances.
What is an important commercial lesson that you’ve learnt as an entrepreneur?
Berry: Through lack of research I didn’t realize there was a special loan available for early-stage innovative start-ups in The Netherlands. Because of this, I missed out on a lot of money. In saying that, it is important to make mistakes and to accept that they do happen.
Nick: It’s a cliché answer, but I’ve learnt how important it is to “just do it”. Being somewhat of a perfectionist I was always fine-tuning things to get the perfect result, whereas improvements can always be made along the way. I also learnt how valuable it is to get in contact with potential users to gain feedback. This feedback really helps improve future products and services.
“I want to challenge the current status quo! Instead of allowing just a select few to access this life-changing technology, I want to make it readily available internationally.” –Nick
“If it doesn’t exist yet, we’ll create it.” -Berry
What drives you as a duo?
Berry: I know my limits. I knew I wasn’t going to be a prize-winning researcher, but I did want to make an impact. Starting a company seemed like a great way to go! There are three social drivers for Omnigen, I can create jobs, produce products, and services that I’m proud of, as well as reaching out to a greater group of people. As a company I want to be accessible and transparent. I am strong promoter of academic research and commerce working together. Ultimately, I’d love to be big enough as a company to support four PhD students doing research for us.
Nick: I never saw myself in a lab coat, winning Nobel prizes, but I also wanted to make a difference. Normally, high-tech innovations like ours stay within (academic) medical circles, unknown to the rest of the world. Like Berry, I want to spread the knowledge we have.
Can you tell me about a “bluff moment” you’ve had; a time that you jumped into the deep end, and took a leap of faith?
Berry: During the past 6 or so years at Omnigen I’ve had several different business partners. For example, one was hesitant to take risks, and the other was very pre-occupied with other commitments. In short, those partnerships didn’t work out. I came to a point late last year where I had to find someone great, fast, or I’d have to throw in the towel. Luckily I found Nick; because I really believed I had a great concept to work with and wasn’t ready to give it up. He had also worked for my previous employer and we ended up being a good match to take Omnigen to the next level. We compliment each other very well, I’m more of a dreamer and a tech-guy, while Nick is more of a businessman and a project manager.
Nick: For me one of the biggest leap of faith moments was hitting the send button (with eyes closed) on an email invite to our potential trial participants. When you start to have clients, that is when the real work starts, up until then it’s really just a hobby. When we went public with that trial, it was a real turning point.
What piece of practical advice would you give young people starting out on the job market?
Series: 30 Cups of Tea – The Job Hunt Project
I want to see if I can get a bill paying, degree related (B. Media, Information and Communication) job in the Rotterdam area, The Netherlands within the following 30 days. Just in time, before I’m no longer officially a student and the government cuts financial ties. I will drink tea with 30 different Marketing/Communications professionals to bring me one step closer to a paid contract. Each professional will bring me in contact with someone outside of my own network. Let the challenge begin!