Thinking and acting as an entrepreneur
A good idea is one thing, but marketing that idea is quite a different matter. Lieuwke de Jong realized that one-handed suturing had great possibilities, but did not know exactly how to achieve them. The MBI Life Sciences & Health program helped De Jong and his business partner on their way.
“This program has given me access to an excellent international network,” says Lieuwke de Jong, 40. He was not what you might call a novice when in 2013 he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Mellon Medical, a company based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, focusing on medical innovations in the field of surgical wound stitching. De Jong had recently resigned as CFO of a listed North American company. “I wanted to concentrate completely on marketing these innovations,” explains De Jong. The device that enables the one-handed suture technique was invented by vascular surgeon Mark Vrancken Peeters. It enables surgeons to make faster and more accurate sutures. Bringing one-handed suturing with them as a case, they both entered the MBI Life Sciences & Health program in February 2014.
“It was great fun and very enlightening,” says De Jong. “The highlight for me was our study trip to the United States, where we met investors, marketing experts and distribution partners. We made progress on all fronts.” He continues, “We already have an initial investment, allowing us to start. But that is a commercial loan which has to be paid back. So we also need exit partners to help us with new financial injections to pay back the initial investment.”
De Jong and Vrancken Peeters also met a marketing guru in the States, with whom they kept in touch. De Jong says, “He even visited us in the Netherlands on two occasions and gave us advice. That was incredibly valuable, as this man had already built up two successful companies from scratch and sold them on. The MBI Life Sciences & Health program has really put us in contact with people who know the ropes.”
If you decide to participate in the MBI Life Sciences & Health program, you have to immerse yourself in it, says De Jong. “Don’t do it as a hobby, but submit a real case you want to market. The knowledge and contacts of the coaches can help you take a big step forward.” One of the coaches has even become a commissioner of Mellon Medical, says De Jong with befitting pride. De Jong might even want to be a coach himself one day to do something for the program in return. “Others can undoubtedly learn from Mellon Medical’s successes and setbacks.”
The program that started in February 2014 has twenty participants in total. They have grown towards one another, although in some instances their cases differ tremendously. The students also advise each other to an increasingly frequent extent. Many participants in the MBI Life Sciences & Health program are in their forties, with extensive work experience. “Still, age is not really a criterion,” says De Jong. “What’s important is being willing and able to think and act as an entrepreneur.”