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PhD student completes YES competition to become CEO of radical cataract treatment business

Joanna Gould and her team founded VisusNano while taking part in Biotechnology YES 2016. The company aims to revolutionise cataract surgery for both the human and veterinary markets and now that they are well into the start-up phase, Joanna reflects on her experience of Biotechnology YES. She and the team have benefitted from a wealth of new opportunities to participate in additional competitions as well as from the connection made with Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC) and their Chairman Dr Martino Picardo.

Eye
 

Biggest learning curve

"I had been recommended YES by a few people as I was doing a PhD and just didn't have a clue how people moved from an idea and turned it into a commercial offering. I'd been told that if you want an idea of how it works from early stage to selling - enter YES. So I did, along with three friends."

Keen to improve her knowledge Joanna says, “I maintain it was the biggest learning curve in just three days – it was a fantastic experience. I just don’t understand why more people don’t do it. We met a lot of people through YES and have then crossed paths again as we have moved forward. The number of mentors that YES gets is incredible.”

Even though Joanna and her team didn’t get selected to go forward to the Final, following their participation at the Biomedical workshop hosted at GSK and SBC, it gave them the confidence, experience and knowledge to enter more competitions and pursue the potential opportunities available to them. YES improved the skills we already had; plugged some knowledge gaps and spurred us on to do more.”

Twelve months after taking part in YES, Joanna and her team entered and won BioStars, followed by Giant Health.

Future looks bright

Looking back on the journey, Joanna talks about how it hasn’t all been smooth sailing and their naivety has caused them, on occasion, to misjudge how long steps can take and how external influences such as the economic climate can impact the speed in which projects move forward. “If it wasn’t for Biotechnology YES we wouldn’t have met our brilliant mentor or have the support of SBC. They have been fantastic and helped us every step of the way. Without them we would have definitely had more wobbles and hurdles to overcome.”

Prior to YES, Joanna was set on doing a post-doc and continuing the academic route, “I just always thought I would stay in academia, however, I love what I am doing now and I have gained so many skills. It was such a great experience. It is such a valuable way of determining the route you want to go down after your PhD.”

The future is looking bright. VisusNano successfully closed their investment seed round at the end of 2018 and has been named as a 2019 Hello Tomorrow Top 500 deeptech startup.

More info

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Young Entrepreneurs Scheme

  • Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Nottingham University Business School
  • Jubilee Campus
  • Nottingham, NG8 1BB