During the Tech Founders series, I’ve been fortunate to meet with the leaders of some truly exciting startups. These live events offer the audience and myself an opportunity to ask successful entrepreneurs about their experiences of creating concepts, securing investment and the other aspects of growing a business from the very start. The guests have very varied backgrounds, skillsets and motives, and it’s been fascinating to discover how these have helped (or hindered!) them during their journey and what they’ve needed to do to succeed.
My guest on Tuesday 26th April was George Frodsham, whose company, MediSieve, was the overall champion in the Super Connect for Good 2021 competition. Based in London, MediSieve is a biotech company working on a device that can remove harmful cells, toxins and bacteria from the bloodstream. I absolutely loved my conversation with George who, having started the company seven years ago, understands that patience is key; after all, he’s not only taking on responsibility for his team and the investors, but also the people he wants to help. It really is a case of life and death.
One of the topics George and I discussed in depth was the advice and help he’d been given over years. Starting a business is a daunting challenge for any founder and, given MediSieve was his first startup, the guidance was welcome.
However, he points out, “(there are) Lots of people are willing to give advice – not all of it good, by the way!”, so that means that he’s had to learn whom to listen to and when. This is part of his responsibility as a CEO; for all the tips and anecdotes that other people offer you, the business is still ultimately yours. Sometimes the advice he’ll receive will be conflicting: “You’ll speak to five experts and get five opinions and, at the end of the day, it’s your job to decide”.
It isn’t just external advice that matters, either. When the company is in its infancy, it’s vital that you bring on board the right people. George is quick to praise the team at MediSieve who, according to him, are all far smarter than he is (an important quality in any new recruit if you’re running a startup!). He says he doesn’t have many regrets but recognises that he should have brought in Cristina Blanco-Andujar, CTO, “on Day One!”
Seven years into his MediSieve journey, presumably George has some pearls of wisdom to share. If he could go back in time and speak to a younger George, what would he tell him?
“One of my biggest messages would be: don’t underestimate what you’re getting into, because it’s big. Being aware of it will influence your decisions”. Seven years later and you can tell George has a healthy attitude towards work and life and striking the right balance between the two. We discussed how, while he might have done things differently with the benefit of hindsight, he doesn’t regret any of those moments as, ultimately, they have led him to where he and MediSieve are today.
George also shared how important it is to make space for your non-work life because, as he says, “I need to have something that’s not this company that I can do to keep myself sane”. For him, that involves stepping away from technology altogether by hiking in the mountains, an experience that allows him to relax and reset.
With that in mind, does George have any advice for other founders out there? Don’t be afraid to fail. Although many startups do fail, all this means is that they didn’t reach the point that was originally envisioned. What is doesn’t mean is that the experience was a failure or that the people involved didn’t take valuable lessons that helped them later in their careers (this reminded me of my chat with Ivan Cabellero, whose previous projects put him in good stead when he founded Citibeats). That said, George does admit that he had to risk a lot less, both personally and financially, than many other entrepreneurs.
To hear all of George’s advice, stories and insights, watch the event back in full here.