Six tales from the trenches of running a startup

Six tales from the trenches of running a startup

MIT Technology Review·2020-08-14 13:12

SIMON SIMARD

Learn other people’s languages

NABIHA SAKLAYENClass of 2018

Cofounded Cellino Biotech, which uses lasers to “program” stem cells.

I became an entrepreneur without knowing what it meant. My collaborators at Harvard Medical School saw how my physics perspective could solve challenges in biology and pushed me into entrepreneurship. However grueling my PhD years in a dark laser lab were, though, they didn’t prepare me for startup life. I had to learn to convince potential customers, investors, and industry veterans to join my pursuit. I had to learn to run a company, hire great people, and sometimes let them go. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that innovation relies heavily on the ability to communicate with people and encourage them to communicate with people with different perspectives from theirs.

This story was part of our July 2020 issue

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Our company has built a platform to produce high-quality cells and tissues for regenerative medicine. That pursuit involves multiple disciplines, which means everyone here is an expert in a different language. Some of us are fluent in stem-cell biology, others in optical engineering, others in machine learning. When we started the company it wasn’t possible to do biology and engineering under the same roof. When we finally moved into a shared space we were able to learn each other’s lexicons, and we became more strongly aligned. And now that we’re all working separately, the bonds created in that process have helped us deal with things. We can’t discuss technical details at our desks anymore, but we’ve learned new ways of working together. It’s important to stay in sync as a team, and in a covid-19 world that’s never felt more true.

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