Together with her co-founders, Violette participated in a leading bio-tech competition organized by MIT as a representative of her university. They won several awards and realized the potential of their idea and technology. Not much later Rapidemic was a fact. In the past few months they have worked hard on the road, made great strides and achieved their second win, this time at the Philips Innovation Award. We spoke with Violette about Rapidemic and their fast-growing success.
When did you start? And how did you come up with this idea?
We started Rapidemic early last year as part of an international student competition in synthetic biology/biotech, called iGEM, which is organized every year by MIT. We had split up in small groups to brainstorm and came up with the craziest project ideas. Eventually, we had to choose the one that we felt could be the starting point of a realistic project with a great societal impact. Half-coincidentally, we chose a project that the public could very closely relate to. The science team had planned out every single detail which allowed us to get fast results in very limited time in the laboratory. After winning the competition, we decided to turn the project into a startup.
Where do you see Rapidemic in 5 years? What would be Rapidemic’s role in the coming epidemics?
Rapidemic is a platform technology. This entails that it could be applied to detect anything that contains DNA or RNA. We spend (and are still spending) a lot of time exploring different product opportunities for Rapidemic. Based on investor's returns, we understood that creating a kit to tackle the next pandemic could not be a long-term viable ambition. As a consequence, we decided to first develop Rapidemic into a product that is tangible, where the current diagnostic techniques are clearly not sufficient and where our technology would have a large impact. Using Rapidemic to detect respiratory viral infections (RVIs) can provide us with crucial market, customer and user insights as well as market approval to speed up the subsequent regulatory processes. In the next pandemic, our novel products will not only be able to reach the market sooner than other techniques thanks to the way our technology works but also with regards to faster regulatory approval.
We therefore first want to develop Rapidemic for detecting RVIs and hopefully, we will be prepared to react much faster when the next pandemic breaks out and help keep society open.
How have you experienced the PHIA? How has it contributed to the growth of Rapidemic?
We are very happy with the entire experience. The(semi) finals are the tip of the iceberg. We are very grateful of all the input we received from the reviewers of our business plan. We were also able to tweak our go-to-market strategy by talking to the partners (Wavin & Philips) aswell as the VC's we met during the investor day and prepare our winning pitch with the help of Debatrix 😉 . We are now hoping that winning this award can serve as a validation to get access to further funding opportunities!
How is it to meet other student entrepreneurs at an event like PHIA?
We really had a blast meeting all the other participants. We are also very glad that the participants from the RoughDiamond League were treated just as the Innovator League, as that forced us to mature our idea quicker and grow even faster as entrepreneurs.
Learning from experienced entrepreneurs is great but learning from people who are sharing your experience is just as valuable. I am very impressed with all the passion and work that the other entrepreneurs are putting into their dreams and it's very inspiring to see!
The final event was extra special for Lucy and I(Violette) as we were the only female finalists present. It also sparked some interesting discussions about women in entrepreneurship among the participants.I look forward to more gender and racial diversity in entrepreneurship. If we are to shape society, it should be reflected rightfully.
Do you have a number 1 tip for students that want to start a business?
I'll stick to boring but essential ones, and that would be to 1) ALWAYS plan before you start, and 2) ALWAYS bring a note pad.
And then, of course, you can never be truly entirely sure of anything while you are trying to develop it, so trying/learning to be comfortable with the unknown and learning to deal with risk would be a tip for my fellow ‘stressers’ out there.
We would like to say a big thank you to Violette for taking the time to answer our questions. It is clear that she and her team have an inspiring road ahead of them. Her drive and enthusiasm to make this a success is definitely contagious, pun intended ;)!