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The Big 3: James Mellad

Posted on Jul 27, 2020 by Cambridge Catalyst

Jason Mellad, founder of Start Codon, tells Catalyst about the three professionals who were integral to his business success

I completed my PhD in Medicine at the University of Cambridge, but quickly realised that I was an entrepreneur at heart. During my postdoc at King’s College London, together with friends, I started a company called B-stable, which developed a novel, hands-free balance and mobility aid aimed at reducing falls in the elderly.

With our business idea, we won the Lion’s Den business plan competition, which offers start-up capital to entrepreneurs. It was here I learned the fundamentals of starting up a company. In 2011, I joined Cambridge Enterprise and worked in tech transfer, helping patent and foster new university innovations and spin-out companies. I then transitioned to Cambridge Epigenetix, where I spent six years, two as CEO, re-focusing the company from selling research reagents into a leading liquid biopsy diagnostic test developer. I led two successful funding rounds, raising a total of $49m investment.

When Cambridge Innovation Capital, the Milner Therapeutics Institute and Genentech approached me regarding a new strategic initiative to establish a leading healthcare accelerator in Cambridge, I leapt at the opportunity. Start Codon now gives me the opportunity to pay forward everything I’ve learned over the years to help the next generation of life science entrepreneurs succeed.

With our business idea, we won the Lion’s Den business plan competition, which offers start-up capital to entrepreneurs

Throughout my career, I’ve learned that to succeed, it’s important to build a strong network of local partners to support you early on. On 13 May, I invited three colleagues, George Neville-Jones, Lorna Cuddon and Roop Chandwani, to join me as guest speakers at ideaSpace’s event, Basics of Building a Business. George, Lorna and Roop represent three important aspects in an entrepreneur’s journey, from concept to commercialisation – finance, PR and marketing, and team.

From working with them at various companies, I’ve witnessed the importance of the strategy behind raising investment, clearly communicating with different audiences, and building a team.

1. George Neville-Jones, Metrobank

George Neville-Jones is the local director of Metrobank in Cambridge, and support for local start-ups is a key part of his strategic mission. Raising start-up capital is an important part of developing your own business as an entrepreneur, and we are working together to support the Cambridge ecosystem in doing so. At the B3 event, he focused on access to funding for early stage companies and strategies for growth, as well as Metrobank’s unique business model and solutions for start-ups.

2. Lorna Cuddon, Zyme Communications

Lorna Cuddon founded Zyme Communications in 2010, when she saw a gap in the market for a Cambridge-based communications agency focused on supporting early stage life science companies.

Almost a decade later, with offices now in Cambridge and Manchester, Zyme provides strategic and specialist PR and marketing advice to more than 50 life science organisations across Europe and the US, ranging from start-ups though to industry-leading global businesses. Lorna and her team have been my marketing partners for years and were instrumental in the pivot of Cambridge Epigenetix. Zyme’s help with developing new company messaging to support the transition into a clinically-focussed company was invaluable, and I am grateful that the team is now supporting us to build the Start Codon brand. Lorna’s approach emphasises the importance in aligning your communications plan with your corporate objectives. Whether your focus is raising investment or generating commercial leads and revenues, establishing partnerships or raising the company profile to support a recruitment drive, communications should link directly to your corporate strategy and target audiences. Branding, website, social media, press releases, articles and interviews are key to helping you engage with your audience, but it’s important to know who that audience is, the challenges they face, where they are based and where they source their information.

3. Roop Chadwani, Aggiosergeant

As managing director at AggioSergeant, Roop Chandwani’s focus is building high-performing life science and healthcare teams globally that continually deliver superior return on investment. Roop helped me recruit senior experts to my management team at Cambridge Epigenetix and has taught me that strong teams are essential for the success of high potential companies. Roop understands that as a company grows, the culture and people will change, and many companies simply do not invest sufficient time in planning how they will build a great team around this transition. A core component is understanding your company culture from the beginning, and how it will change, then aligning that with the vision and strategy for the business.

This article first featured in Issue 02 of Cambridge Catalyst.

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