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Founder of the month July: GoSilico GmbH

gosilico_Logo_229x71The KIT spin-off GoSilico develops software for computer-assisted process development in the biopharmaceutical industry. Its simulation technology helps companies display experiments on their computers within seconds. We have interviewed the GoSilico GmbH team on their idea, the foundation of their company and their future perspective.

The founding team of GoSilico: Prof Dr Jürgen Hubbuch, Dr Teresa Beck, Dr Tobias Hahn und Dr Thiemo Huuk (left to right)

What does your company stand for?

Stop experimenting. Computer-assisted methods for the biopharmaceutical industry. GoSilico aims to support the biopharmaceutical industry through the upcoming paradigm shift from experimental to computer-assisted process developing methods.

Our simulation technology allows biopharmaceutical companies to display experiments on the computer within seconds; the same process can take days or even weeks in the lab. This entails many advantages for our customers: shorter development periods, a more thorough understanding of their processes, and compliance with continuously increasing regulatory requirements.

In addition to our core product, the ChromX simulation software, GoSilico offers training programmes to help our customers switch to our technology with ease. We provide targeted consultancy and create process models that pave the way into the future for the pharmaceutical industry.

Where and how did you get this brilliant idea?

The development of the GoSilico technology began as early as 2012, while Tobias and Thiemo were working on their doctoral theses in Professor Hubbuch’s working group at KIT. We had already established close cooperation with renowned pharmaceutical companies at the time. As the technology matured and the industry requested more and more products, we started thinking about the question of the future of our technology in 2015. In retrospect, there was no “spark of inspiration”: it was a continuous coming-of-age process.

How did your founding team come together?

We are an interdisciplinary team of biotechnologists and mathematicians. Thiemo and Tobias have completed their doctoral studies in bioengineering; Teresa has a doctorate in mathematics from Heidelberg University. Before graduating from their doctoral degrees, Teresa and Tobias were in the same working group for applied mathematics. Thanks to their joint work on an open-source software, they stayed in touch throughout their studies. Teresa was intrigued by the ChromX software that Tobias and Thiemo had developed. When she was asked about her plans after graduating, she did not hesitate for long…

What would you say are the benefits of being your own boss?

Being able to put your own ideas into practice is a great feeling. Of course, it also requires a great deal of discipline: you are responsible for everything, from the development of ideas to their implementation and critical evaluation. This responsibility and autonomy is what defines “being the boss” for us.

The constant progress is also great: Every day, we are astonished at how quickly you can make progress in a start-up by working in a focussed and independent way.

What do you think are the properties that one should have to be a successful entrepreneur?

Individual characteristics of one founder are less important than the right mixture of skills in the team. Of course, every single one of us needs to inspire confidence and enthusiasm in our customers and partners, and entrepreneurship requires a sizeable portion of determination.

Besides, you need to be able to learn a lot of new professional qualities and skills within a short amount of time. A start-up requires so many different attributes that barely anyone embarks on the process equipped with all the right skills.

In the end, you need to master challenges as a team: establish a creative atmosphere that is conducive to ideas, but also work in a focussed, target-oriented way.

What would you term as the hurdles on the way to a successful business? Where did you get support?

All three of us come from an academic background, and we have spent the last years thinking in typically academic patterns. Mastering the transition from scientific perfectionism to a certain, problem-focussed pragmatism is a challenge that should not be underestimated.

A short while ago, we pitched our project to an expert jury. Our personal weak spot came up: marketing. Our highly academic plan had been to “develop a marketing strategy at first, try it out with test clients, possibly optimise it in the course of several iterations, and finally, establish it.” The jury looked at us in complete confusion: “There’s nothing to establish. Just sell your product!”

Our participation in the upCAT programme by CIE and the KIT Founders’ Forge (Gründerschmiede) – and especially Gerda Frank – have made this transition a great deal easier for us. Last, but not least, the CyberForum and our business mentor, Frank Roth, have been extremely supportive and helpful.

How did you deal with the large workloads during start-up?

Of course, there is an awful lot of work that needs to be done at first. But to be honest, you do not really notice it. Work in a start-up focusses heavily on results. It does not matter if you prefer to create your PowerPoint slides in the office, at home or in the park. This freedom helps us reconcile our gradually increasing workload with our private lives. And it is always pleasant to end a busy day in a casual “meeting” with a cold beer on the veranda.

If a team member buries themselves in too much work, the rest of us need to take care of them and perhaps rethink our priorities. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day and we will never be able to change that.

Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?

Get out and talk. And listen! Discuss your business model from as many perspectives as possible. It helps to speak to people from a wide range of different backgrounds: other entrepreneurs, business mentors, potential clients, etc. Each new point of view shines a new light on your idea!

And never forget: “Done is better than perfect.”

Quick overview:

  • Founders: Teresa Beck, Tobias Hahn, Jürgen Hubbuch, Thiemo Huuk
  • Founded in: 2016
  • Homepage: www.gosilico.com
  • Contact: info@gosilico.com
  • Field: Software & information technology


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