Week 8 – Happy 18th Anniversary BioSurfaces!
Hope everyone is doing well and is safe and healthy. It’s hard to believe that this coming Monday April 26th will be the company’s 18 year anniversary. To celebrate this outstanding achievement, we will be releasing a new webcast on April 26th. This webcast is focused on the most important asset we have: our team. I have heard that many people in the business world do not consider people as a company’s best asset. I beg to differ. An outstanding team like we have will continue to drive a company forward, working through any and all obstacles to bring success. For this webcast, you will get an up close and personal overview of the team responsible for the success of the company. In this webcast, you will learn about their background, what their responsibilities are and what they hope to accomplish in the next 5 years at BioSurfaces. We hope you enjoy this special webcast.
Let me give you some insight that is not in the upcoming webcast. Truth be told when we started the company, I was hoping to get a short break from my commute that I had been doing for over 12 years. I assumed that the company may not make it past 5 years based on statistics that show this is the average time most biotech companies last before failing. We were not starting the company with outside financial backing (i.e. private equity, investors) as many companies do so we were going to have to be solely reliant on grant and contract funding. Having outside investors would have provided some degree of a safety net in the event of funding lapses. We did not have a lot of personal finances either so that also made it even more challenging. Our deficiencies in these areas put us at an even higher risk to fail. Based on all of these unknowns, I would never have dreamed that we would be here so many years later.
Prior to forming the company, I was typically spending 2 to 3 hours each day commuting on top of being at work for 10+ hours a day. During this time period, I also helped a friend start a medical device company called BioMod Surfaces (not to be confused with BioSurfaces). This was a 60 mile drive each way twice a week to help that get underway. While the various commutes started to take their toll on me, the bigger issue I had was that I could not really help out Tina with our very young children or even spend enough time with my crew. We were fortunate to have Tina be a part time stay-at-home mom, which put all of the weight on her shoulders of doing everything. Those of you who are/were in Tina’s position know that is the hardest job that anyone can have and the pay is horrible (although my pay working at an academic institution was nothing to write home about either). Our priority was, and still is, all about our family. We knew we weren’t going to be as financially secure as many friends and folks around us were, but that was not our goal. I did not want to be a father that his kids saw once in a while if I had a choice. I wanted to be a dad that did not miss the important times in their lives. One day, I came up with the “brilliant” idea that starting a company would be a way for me to control my destiny. Like with every decision that we make, Tina and I made it together. This was a huge risk, but we thought if we were going to take it, this would be the time. We have a favorite phrase from a movie called “Valentine’s Day” that we like to use a lot. It describes making decisions when you are young. The phrase goes, “Full of hope. Full of promise. Ignorant of reality.” I would like to say this rang true in this case.
Grant and contract writing came easy since I was used to doing that (getting them funded was a different story). Being a scientist, the business aspect to the company did not come easy. That being said, we were willing to learn and always sought out advice along the way from friends to business advisors. Anyone that was willing to teach us. There are too many people to mention by name, but know that this success is in part due to your willingness to answer dumb questions from the scientists. This is why I advise all science and engineering students in college to take some general business classes. We have learned a lot along the way and always try to pay it forward when we can. The “brilliant” idea of starting the business to control my destiny was good in certain aspects in that I did not have the long commute and I could see my family at any time I wanted. Tina and I were able to get over to the kid’s events, which was truly the best perk of the company. The amount of time spent/day at the business, however, really didn’t change. Things need to get done. It is like a third child. It’s just that I could shift my time around to not affect seeing the kids. I remember one person that we were working with saying to Tina that he thought I worked banker’s hours (9am – 5pm) and I needed to put more time into the business (he was not saying it as a joke). I thought Tina was going to slug him since she of all people knows my schedule and knew that wasn’t even remotely true. If I had those hours, maybe I would have a lot less gray hairs on my head.
We have continued to make progress over the past 18 years, not always in a linear fashion. The company continues to slowly grow. We started with just me in 2003 and over this time period we have grown to 12 people. We have now incorporated manufacturing and business teams into the company to work hand in hand with the R&D team. We have begun to develop a new 3D scaffold business which is now just starting to ramp up. We continue to work with both large and small medical device companies as well as are expanding to working with consumer companies. In terms of interest in the technology, this by far has been the most active time for us. We will see what comes out of all of this activity but it is exciting nevertheless. I look forward to seeing what the next 5- 10 years (God willing) has in store for us.
By the time of the next blog, most of our crew will be fully vaccinated. This is truly unbelievable! I would also be remiss if I did not mention our continuing need to wear masks, social distance and wash hands to keep driving the number of cases down until a majority of people get vaccinated. This means even if you are vaccinated right now, you still need to wear a mask until more than 80% of people get vaccinated. The reason for this is that you may be able to spread virus to non-vaccinate people even if you don’t get sick from it. Hopefully, the data will eventually show that you can’t transmit the virus when vaccinated. If we all do our part, this should significantly diminish the virus and allow us to return to some sense of normalcy by summertime. Masks, if used correctly by everyone, do make a difference. They are still the best option we have until everyone is vaccinated. Please keep supporting your local businesses as they continue to work through these challenging times. Many businesses are still working their way through this pandemic. Businesses continue to rely on curbside take-out and outdoor seating is becoming more available. If you can, grab some take-out. Don’t forget to take care of the employees too. Please also consider donating to your local food pantry or to other nonprofit groups that are helping people who need it. Even something small does make a difference!
Please make sure to check out our new webcast on Monday April 26th. We’ll see you back here for a new blog on May 7th as we head toward our 19th year.