From Academia to Entrepreneurship

Are you interested in business exploring entrepreneurship after academics or commercializing research? Beyond the PhD hosted Vincent Troung who is the chief operating officer (COO) and co-founder of Anatomic Incorporated. Vincent shared his journey into entrepreneurship and relevant details about founding a scientific company.

            Vincent grew up in Minneapolis, MN and got his first experience in business working at his family’s restaurant. This taught him the value of working hard and that if you make a good product people will line up for it. He then went to the University of Minnesota (UMN) where he earned a BS in biochemistry. Although he was originally following a pre-med track, Vincent had interests outside of biology such as investing and research. After undergrad, he took a position in the lab of Dr. Ann Parr and James Dutton where his passion for stem cell biology flourished. The research in this lab focused on finding an autologous cell therapy for spinal cord injury using human induced pluripotent stem cells. Through this research experience, he also met Patrick Walsh, who would eventually become his co-founder.

            Using their foundational knowledge in stem cell biology, Vincent and Patrick worked collaboratively to shorten and automate the protocol for this regenerative medicine therapy. They wanted to commercialize this product so they could market the process and help patients. The first thing they did was develop a business plan. Additionally, one of the first decisions Vincent and Patrick had to make was if they were going to market their product as a cell therapy or research tool. To gain more business experience, Vincent signed up for the part-time MBA program at the Carlson School of Management. Here he partook in the UMN discovery launchpad program to solidify his business plan. He also enrolled in programs to help with customer discovery and was able to license the technology through the UMN Office for Technology Commercialization. 

The next thing Vincent had to do was prospecting. This included networking through conferences as well as using LinkedIn and cold emailing, or emailing people who you have not had prior contact with. From all these interactions, Vincent learned that it’s best to let the prospects do the talking and that sometimes tangents or serendipitous interactions can lead to “aha moments”. Vincent also stressed that it’s important to participate in every conversation possible because you never know where they might lead. Vincent and Patrick were able to take all the feedback from these conversations and improve their product, get grants and investments, and move the commercialization process forward. 

Vincent then proceeded to talk about “a day in the life” in his current entrepreneurial role. He emphasized that the focus is still on the customers and figuring out what assays or data would be most helpful for their research and company. Additionally, everything is very data driven and that you need to keep producing data to make the customers happy. Vincent also stressed the importance of finding inspiration and discovering industry trends. This can come from sources such as conference presentations, LinkedIn, Twitter, new publications, or even news headlines. He is also involved in assay development in the lab. This includes improving protocols and making sure experiments fall within budget.

Another responsibility Vincent has is to set up collaborations with synergistic companies or academic institutions. Collaboration is an important aspect of both academic and industry science. He is also involved in the marketing of the company. He does this through channels such as Twitter and LinkedIn where he disseminates data and information about the company through social media. Vincent’s company promotes and markets themselves is through conference attendance. Anatomic Incorporated was able to attend Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and set up a booth. Vincent had to coordinate logistics and marketing leading up to the conference. During the conference he partook in networking, disseminating information about the company, and metric tracking. Anatomic Incorporated had three posters that were well attended as well as a good amount of traffic to the company’s booth. Post-conference, Vincent must follow up with the new connections he met at SfN to maintain working relationships.

Vincent concluded his talk emphasizing the importance of building a good company culture. As his team continues to grow, he is focused on good communication and management of his employees. He wants to keep the company data driven, adhere to the company mission, stay humble, and continue to learn as Anatomic Incorporated grows.

 If you are interested in learning more and viewing Vincent’s talk follow this link to the full seminar:

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