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Event offers insights on the value of start-up advisors

Vera Rocha, CBS, speaking at Copenhagen Science City-Brew Your Own-event about mentors for start-ups

Start-ups do grow faster if they join accelerator programmes. Research-based businesses need extra support to reach commercial goals. Incubators and mentor programmes are perfect places to fill your advisory board. Sometimes the best advice is to reject an investor. Those were some of the key findings, when some 30 guests joined a researcher, a business developer and two start-up CEO’s at a Brew Your Own-webinar about mentors and other advisors on October 27th.

What the research shows

Even experienced founders find value in accelerator programmes, and underrepresented groups such as minority- and female founders benefit even more from having mentors. Especially if they can find a counsellor who is similar to themselves in attributes that improve social identification and role modelling effects. The first speaker at the Brew Your own, Vera Rocha, is an Assistant Professor at Copenhagen Business School. She presented her own research into the role of role models in entrepreneurship along with a digest of the strongest findings on incubators and other start-up acceleration programmes.

Mentors reduce barriers to such things as access to resources, access to markets and access to investors. They also fill knowledge gaps. Not just about what to do in their ventures, but also about how to do it”, Vera Rocha, Assistant Professor, CBS.

Building a bridge across the valley of death

In 2017, there were more than 250 different actors in the Danish start-up eco-system. Unfortunately, none of them aided the transition from research to business. Especially in life science and pharmaceuticals, where the demands on capital are high and the returns are long in coming. BioInnovation Institute was founded to help these companies cross the so-called “Valley of Death”. Recently they expanded their scope to include ideas in health-tech and bioindustrials, but their focus remains the same, says one of their Senior Business Developers, Christian Brix Tillegreen.

We want to help founders with great ideas keep their focus on making a difference to society. We want to help the companies overcome the most difficult issues, such as protection of intellectual property, validation of ideas or finding collaborators. And we try to help early stage companies find soft funding so they can keep control of their own development”. Christian Brix Tillegreen, Senior Business Developer, BioInnovation Institute.

Listen to others. Decide for yourself

Starting a business is a long journey, and different stages may require different advice. Isa Bjørnø Ipsen is CEO and Co-Founder of ObTek ApS. Well before the COVID 19 pandemic made hand-hygiene a global concern, they started developing a technology to promote handwashing. During their journey, they have been through programmes at Akademikernes Arbejdsløshedskasse, Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship, DTU Skylab, Venture Cup Mentor Programme, SUND Hub, Sparringpartnerne and Accelerace. These programmes are very different, but they all gave something valuable to the process, says Isa.

The programmes have given us a very strong network, and we have been able to pick our current advisory board from it. The important thing I have realised about using mentors and advisors is that you should always listen to their advice, but you do not have to take it. Only you can decide what to do”, Isa Bjørnø Ipsen, CEO and Co-Founder, ObTek ApS

When advice is worth more than money

The best business advice Mohammad Filfil ever got was to reject an offer of investment. With his company Paragit Solutions, he is developing a device to asses, diagnose and treat Parkinson disease from home. Their solution is so revolutionising, that they have been invited to prestigious international accellerator programmes such as the Silicon Valley Innovation Centre. None the less, one investor saw a different use for the Paragit-technology.

One investor wanted us to pivot and go into rehabilitation of wounded soldiers instead. We might have taken the investment, because the money was good. Fortunately, we have advisors from BioInnovation Institute, Innofounder and others. They have known us for a long time, and could remind us of our own ideals. We had gone into business to help people suffering from the forgotten disease Parkinson. That was important to us, and still is, so we rejected the investment offer and held our focus on neurodegenerative disease”. Mohammad Filfil – Founder & CEO Paragit Solutions.

What are Brew Your Own and who plans them?

Copenhagen Science City planned and executed this “Brew Your Own” event in collaboration with BioInnovation Institute and Biopeople, Denmarks Life Science Cluster, which is a network organization bridging bioscience business and academic research. Brew Your Own events are aimed at entrepreneurs interested in co-creating with academics and at researchers and students interested in starting their own business or working for a start-up. The events provide inspiration, information and motivation.