David Wurm from NovoArc was nominated for the Rudolf Sallinger Award!
Congratulations on your nomination for the Rudolf Sallinger Award dear David! The I.E.C.T. – Team keeps its fingers crossed for you.
David – could you give our readers an overview of your career? How did you go from scientist to young entrepreneur?
Well, as a matter of fact, I’m in an intermediate stage right now. At the moment we are able to develop our technology to market maturity at the TU Vienna thanks to a grant. Following this, the foundation of our NovoArc GmbH is planned for next year. Accordingly, it is only a question of time until I can really call myself a young entrepreneur.
From my original education I am a “classical” scientist. After my master’s degree in technical chemistry, I did a PhD in biotechnology and then worked as a postdoc. However, I never intended to pursue a university career, as I am mainly interested in applied research rather than basic research. During my PhD, I worked exclusively on industrial projects, which I also enjoyed very much. About two years ago, our research group developed a very exciting technology that enables the replacement of syringes with tablets. I found this technology very exciting and was therefore hooked when the idea of commercialising the technology came up. Entrepreneurship and the start-up world was completely new to me at that time, but I found it exciting and wanted to take on this challenge. What particularly appeals to me about founding my own company is the variety and the fact that you always have new challenges. It never gets boring. But you also have to put up with long and stressful working days.
Together with Julian and Oliver, my two future co-founders, we have managed to secure funding that will allow us to develop our technology to market maturity and build a team that makes this possible. The “i²c Diploma Supplement on Innovation”, a one-year course on entrepreneurship in which I participated and gained a first insight into the start-up world, was certainly important for this. At the final event of the course there was a pitch competition, where I won the participation for the I.E.C.T – Summer School and became aware of the LBG Innovator’s Road.
What roles did the programmes of I.E.C.T. – Hermann Hauser play in this process? You were a participant of the Summer School as well as the current LBG Innovator’s Road. To what extent did these programmes support you in taking the step into entrepreneurship?
Both programmes were extremely helpful for me and I am glad that I had the chance to participate. Coming from university, you see a lot of things from a scientific perspective. By leading some industrial projects in our working group and the numerous workshops I attended, I learned to always include the economic component. At the Summer School and the Innovator’s Road, I was able to learn a number of tools and techniques that help us to successfully bring our technology to market. In numerous 1:1 mentoring sessions, we sharpened the business plan, revised financial plans and pitch decks, and defined the roadmap for the coming months and years.
In my opinion, another important aspect of the programmes is peer-to-peer learning. Most start-up founders face similar challenges and problems. By talking to other founders, many mistakes can be avoided and experience reports about events, grants or investors can be exchanged.
The large network we have gained access to must not be ignored either, of course. Personal contact with experts was already very important in many situations and we were able to establish contact with future investors at an early stage.
Covid-19 affects almost all areas of life and work. Do you feel the effects in your everyday work? How do you and your team deal with the limitations and what are the next steps?
Yes, Covid-19 hit us very hard in the beginning, because within a few days our entire laboratory was closed down. We had to stop all experiments and shut down our bioreactors. But my team showed great flexibility: in the home office we were able to effectively evaluate data, plan experiments, do literature research, and sharpen our vision and goals in online meetings. In the meantime we have fully resumed laboratory operations and thanks to FFG we were allowed to extend our financial runway by 6 months. This allows us to complete our prototype in time for the fundraising, which is planned for early 2021.
Would you like to share with us a formative situation on your way to entrepreneurship?
There are a few situations that come to my mind. First of all, it was impressive for me how quickly the project took off and how positive the feedback on our business idea was from the very beginning. From a vague idea over a beer with my co-founders we developed a valid concept within a few weeks and were motivated to take this daring but exciting path towards entrepreneurship. At this point I would also like to thank all our companions who have supported us since then.
A key event was the hearing at the FFG for the Spinoff Fellowship. There I was supposed to pitch our business idea within 5 minutes and afterwards there was a Q&A session, similar to “2 Minuten 2 Millionen”. Of course I was tremendously nervous, because I knew that within a few minutes it would be decided whether we would get a half million Euro grant or not. I also knew that without the funding it would be extremely difficult to pursue our project and that our professional future would depend on it. But as a team we managed to do this well and in the end I really enjoyed pitching in front of the jury and answering their questions. When we received the positive decision several weeks later, we were very happy and had successfully made the first step towards the start up.
Thank you for the interview!
Many drugs must be administered to patients by injection. NovoArc’s technology makes it possible to administer some of these drugs orally via a pill. NovoArc has developed and patented a biotechnological manufacturing process for special lipids for encapsulating drugs. This lipid envelope protects the drugs in the stomach from acids and enzymes and enables efficient absorption in the intestine. NovoArc already has a potential customer and its prototype will be ready by the end of 2020. They are currently based at the Technical University of Vienna, have financing until 2021 and plan to spin off NovoArc GmbH next year.
Tanja Gesell and Marco Sealey are both SSE alumni and co-founders of Calyxha. I.E.C.T. – Hermann Hauser spoke with them about their participation at the Summer School on Entrepreneurship, the current, past and future challenges.
Furthermore, we may congratulate the team of Calyxha on their first patent and the secured seed funding!
Links and information
David was a participant of the I.E.C.T. – Summer School on Entrepreneurship and is currently part of the LBG Innovator’s Road. Both programmes encourage start-ups to turn their ideas into reality and start at different stages of development in order to be able to respond to the individual needs of young entrepreneurs.
You have an idea with market potential, but need support in its implementation and have become curious? Find out more about the I.E.C.T. – Summer School on Entrepreneurship here or send in your application now!
Your product or your technology is already in a higher stage of development and you want to be accompanied by experts on your further way? Then the LBG Innovator’s Road is the programme for your start-up. Find out more hereor send us your application!