2018 In Review with MIMETAS' CEOs
2018 was a year in which we saw explosive growth at Mimetas. After such a hectic and promising year, it is important to take a moment to sit down and recap some of the highlights. Today, we sit down with our CEOs, Jos and Paul. In this conversation, you will read their thoughts about the Mimetas culture, corporate dynamics, amazing new products, and the strengths they perceive in each other.
What are the biggest accomplishments from this past year? Which one are you the proudest of and why?
Jos: I think by far the biggest accomplishment is the Series B investment, which was closed in March of this year. That was 16.5 million euros, which is unprecedented in the organ-on-a-chip world.
Paul: Absolutely! A second great accomplishment is the fact that we hired about 30 new employees, including 6 director positions. That is a huge amount of people that we managed to include into the Mimetas structure quite smoothly. We did not run into complete organizational chaos, we still run as we have always run. We selected the right people that are compatible with our corporate culture, which is a huge accomplishment and something I am proud of.
How did you manage to retain the Mimetas culture?
Paul: We trusted our instincts and we stayed close to ourselves. Another important aspect is that we hired the right people. We selected them for compatibility. Interestingly, our directors do a lot of the hiring as well, and they also select people who are compatible with the company. It comes down to us choosing people that recognize good people as well.
Jos: Yes, that is a good point. Some people have stayed with us for about 5 years or something, and they took the company values to heart and translated and propagated it in the company. We are less involved than we used to be and it’s so nice to see that everything keeps moving in the right direction. It’s like picking a flowerbed and making a new one. We set the pace by selecting the rights ones at the start. You can only be as good as the people who you select and who they select in turn. That’s very important.
What goals are we aiming to hit in the upcoming year?
Jos: We have a lot of goals. I think you can say we have been preparing for growth and we are not finished. Because of financing we can bring in new people and put them in the right place. We are still working on giving these people the right information so they can keep delivering good work. The first item on the list for next year is a tremendous growth in plate revenue. Right now, all the systems are in place to start funding that. We will be training more people and we will be producing more plates. Everything will scale with that activity.
Paul: I think our challenge is to get the OrganoPlate in each and every cell culture lab in the world. In a year we should make it so that the OrganoPlate is an essential part of every cell culture lab. Another important goal is to follow up with some fantastic new products, that are in the pipeline and close to launch. We have huge expectations for the products, but we are sadly not allowed to disclose any information. Our new marketing department would beat me up.
Jos: On top of that, what I find really exciting is that we have been developing biology for 4 years, not only the hardware. We have seen many good models and results and happy customers. Now, we are on the verge of finding the pinnacle of biological content. We don’t work only on having the best plate, but also the best in everything involved with cell culture. We deliver the combination of our existing plates, new plates, and new biology.
How is Mimetas going to change as a company in the upcoming year and what will that accomplish?
Paul: We are currently transitioning from a start-up to a scale-up company. That is at times quite difficult. The most important change we will be making is the way people perceive Mimetas. We are not just a cool start-up with great technology. We are the company that sells amazing hardware that people use in the lab every day. It is a daily thing in the lab-life to work with Mimetas products. That’s the change we are aiming for. That is an important change for the outside. Of course, Mimetas will change on the inside as well, but I hope we can maintain the culture and the people and how they function. Otherwise, if this company becomes boring, I would really dislike it.
Jos: To be fair, The Boring company is really successful. However, we are not like a huge company with thousands of people working for us. From our perspective, we are big, we are scaling up. We aim to make the company seem small from the inside out. The immediate environment we work in is in fairly small teams. We do not want to create kingdoms, but just people that lead departments that are made up by multiple teams that work together well. We want to keep a very small feel to the company.
What will stay largely the same and why?
Jos: I’m afraid we are going to be in the same building.
Paul: I hope not, though…
Jos: I think that’s a difficult question. Some very fundamental things have been changing all the time. However, some things do not change at all, such as the people, who carry our culture. You can only deal with difficult circumstances, which are always there, when you have a firm fundament that does not change. For the most part, that firm fundament consists of our employees, which are truly the greatest support of the company.
Paul: I would summarize it as, great people, fun and cutting-edge science and technology.
What would you recommend to a new scientist starting out with 3D cell culture?
Jos: First things first: buy an OrganoPlate.
Paul: That is exactly my thought.
Jos: We are hardly unbiased there. I think the people that start to do 3D cell culture should be willing to reboot their systems. As a developmental biologist, I am always amazed by how things just work in an embryo. Cells always end up in the right place, it is 99.9% foolproof. In traditional 2D cell culture, it is much more difficult. Moving from 2D to 3D, you have to wipe your expectations. You need to completely start from scratch and rethink how you do biology. I am totally convinced that the world is on the edge of making a huge leap in biology. One of the crucial aspects of that step is that we are going to 3D cell culture.
Paul: Just jump on it full-blown. So many technologies are better now than they were a few years ago. You are wasting your time by going back too far. If you want to make a difference, go to the best of the best right now.
Jos: That’s right. When you want to sequence, you buy a recent sequencing machine. That is also true in this case. An OrganoPlate might look less impressive than a sequencer, but it is still the same principle.
What new products will Mimetas have to offer our clients in the upcoming year?
Paul: The OrganoTEER, which enables electric measurements in tubules in all 40 wells in parallel. That product will get a full-blown launch soon. It will definitely be the best instrument available. The OrganoTEER is quite disruptive for the field because you get rid of all the artificial membranes.
Jos: We will also launch a new type of OrganoPlate, that enables vascularization of tissues. I can’t say too much, but it will support standard 3D cell culture, stem cell technologies, patient materials and a wealth of new applications that we have not even thought of. We have great expectations of the field that this product is going to create. Also, the world is going to see the first OrganoPlate that is assay-ready, which means that the tissues are already growing in there. From our perspective, that is less spectacular, but for the outside world, you will be able to buy a plate with fully developed human tissues – that’s almost unimaginable. Everything is already there! It is a unique step forward.
What is the future of tissue culture and how are we going to get there?
Paul: I think there are two sides to this. Firstly, get rid of the old quickly. So many habits got into cell culture that were very rational in the time they were introduced. With the tremendous increase in knowledge that cell culture has seen, these habits have become redundant, but seem to be very stubborn. We need to be fast since we are in a revolution in cell culture. So many things are changing in the whole world. All protocols that are created now will be redundant in three years.
Jos: 2D culture will still be here, but more for a plasmid prep and other specific purposes. From my perspective, 3D should get more like biology; self-driven and self-organizing. We need to be able to ask the right questions to these self-organizing tissues. And, of course, on the OrganoPlate.
Could you tell me what you have learned from each other these past years?
Jos: I can start. I think I have learned a lot from the way that Paul keeps pursuing anything he deems important right now with unwavering energy. We are quite different and we have very different styles. I am sometimes focused on too many things and it makes me a bit envious that he is able to focus hard on one thing. I have picked it up a little bit, although I’ll never be the same.
Paul: There are definitely things we learned from each other. There are also things that I do not want to learn from Jos and I’m happy I don’t have the quality, but I am thankful that Jos has those qualities. Jos is world-champion in overcoming and mastering difficult situations involving emotions and egos. He is able to smooth things out and proceed towards something final. We are big trees that catch a lot of wind. Jos’ communication skills are great in overcoming that. Jos can be much harder and tougher in some situations and he takes bolder measures than I tend to take, though it might seem different on the outside. That is something I try to copy, although I am still a beginner.
Things I don’t necessarily need to copy, but happy with Jos having them. I focus hard on one thing, but you need to water all the plants in your garden. It is important that we balance each other out. If you focus so hard, you tend to forget all the other plants. Jos never loses sight of the garden. We have a pretty good complementarity.
Jos: I think that the complementarity makes us better than each person individually.
Written by Indi Joore