Author: Miguel Ramirez Hernandez Edited by: Emil Fristed
In Part 1 of the recent SIUOxford event, we heard from Prof Sebire. His presentation describing how technology will shape the future of healthcare, was followed by a very insightful presentation by one of the individuals fuelling the rapid change in healthcare: Charlotte Casebourne. Charlotte is the CEO and co-founder of Theolytics, an Oxford University Oncology Department spinout with the mission to “Harness viruses to combat disease”.
Navigating through the start-up journey
Charlotte joined us to share with the audience some of her experiences and insights during her journey as the CEO of a start-up.
The Theolytics team has had early success in experimental and fundraising tasks, but the journey has been far from easy. A great technology and hard work are only the beginning, and much more is needed. Charlotte gave us a first-hand account of this.
Charlotte began her presentation by giving a brief description of Theolytics. The company is developing innovative technologies for the treatment of different cancers with safer and more effective treatments using modified viruses. The excellence in their technology led to an initial £2.5M in seed funding in January 2018. Since then, they have set up labs and gathered a team of 10 people. The work has also expanded to include IP protection tasks and proof-of-concept development, all needed for the next round of funding.
Charlotte talked about four major misconceptions she endured during the last few months. A degree of self-awareness and experience allowed her to identify and learn from these misconceptions:
1. “I should know everything” = Wrong
Many of us are overachievers. This leads us to believe that we can and should know everything. As a CEO, however, knowing all the scientific, commercial and legal aspects is impossible. We must realise that we will not know everything. Then, we must become comfortable with this, and surround ourselves with people that can complement us. This task involves building a team of competent and trusted people whilst eliminating our own ego. We should know enough to ask the right questions and trust those around us.
2. “More hours equals more work, done better” = Wrong
In a start-up, there will be a lot of long days and very intense periods, but this is not always the case. Diminishing returns happen fast, and self-awareness is important to avoid “hitting the wall”. It is important to protect ourselves from over-working to maintain productivity. “Being in a start-up is like running a marathon with intermittent sprinting,” Charlotte noted. To complement this topic, Charlotte shared her personal tool-kit to ensure “you can present the best version of yourself”:
• Rest: Take time of yourself to gain physical and emotional recovery.
• Exercise: Physical health is essential for intellectual performance.
• Nutrition: Fuel your body with good food knowing that this will enable you to think clearly and navigate through intense situations effectively.
• Sleep: Sleeping is an absolute necessity for physical and mental recovery. Focus on improving the quality of sleep will result in higher productivity.
3. “There is a right answer” = Wrong
In many instances, there will not be a definite answer. For a perfectionist, that is really hard to accept. During those times, it is best to collect all available data and make a decision. Some of the times, hopefully not many, this decision will be wrong and we must be okay with that. When a decision is hard, do not become paralyzed, but keep moving.
4. I should be [insert x here] = Wrong
This misconception relates to the idea that we tend to compare ourselves with others. “I should have a PhD”, “I should work harder”, “I should come to the lab on Saturday”. Using the word “should” usually reflects someone else’s imposition on us. We must be happy with who we are, because that is what brought us here.
To end her presentation, Charlotte commented on one if the incentives that brought her to talk in our event. She came as a representative of a minority CEO in biotech. Very few female CEO’s exist in the biotech industries and this needs to change. She encouraged every person in the room to believe they can become the CEO of a company, regardless of their gender or background, and to ignore pre-conceptions of what a CEO should look like. “Just go for it,” she said.
“Be yourself, having the courage to turn up as yourself is important. If you are performing every day, this is very exhausting. So always be true to yourself”
After the event, we had a very nice and lively networking session with both of the speakers over wine and some great cheese.