Learn more about JLABS @ Toronto Resident Naheed Kurji, CEO, Cyclica in this Q&A:

With a full plate as CEO, what DON’T you do, so that you can prioritize the important stuff?

I don’t let “NOs” or DON’Ts bring me down Resiliency, tenacity, and an obstinacy to failure with a healthy dose of self-reflection and awareness is the key to making it as an entrepreneur.

I also don’t paralyze myself by over- analyzing an issue or a topic. All else equal, I’d rather be good at 10 things, than be great at 1 thing over the same time period. I believe in the compounding effect of repeatedly being good as efficiently as possible across many different tasks, so long as these tasks advance a bigger picture or achieve a strategic priority. This isn’t natural for me as I tend to be the type of person who will fixate on two different font colours in a PowerPoint presentation. But, I learned that to be great, I had to not let perfection be the enemy of good, and that speed of execution was critical. With that, I’ve also learned to let go of things and to trust others. What I don’t do, or actively try not to do, is micromanage. I like being aware of what’s going on, but on execution, I trust my team.

As a CEO, what’s your advice for a researcher who wants to launch a startup?

Sound science is not enough. I feel it is critically important to recognize that sound science, while important, is only one of the 4 key pillars of the foundation of a company. It is equally important to deeply respect marketplace signals and to understand the competitive landscape, product market fit, and pricing. It is also very important to have a solid financing plan and understanding of the metrics to track growth and milestones, and a well-rounded and diverse team who complement you. Once these elements are in place, you have the key pillars and a foundation on which you can build.

How do you feel being a resident of JLABS @ Toronto has helped you advance your company?

The Johnson & Johnson Innovation- JLABS network has been instrumental to our success. It all begins with relationships, and when you join the JLABS family, and contribute to the culture and ecosystem, you get 5x back. The JLABS team have been staunch advocates and supporters of Cyclica, have provided strategic advice on our business model and growth plan, and have contributed meaningfully to our R&D efforts. Importantly, the relationship I was able to forge with like-minded entrepreneurs in healthcare across verticals within JLABS @Toronto and other sites has enabled multiple collaborations with other JLABS companies including with NeuroTheyrx, Mannin Research, TMi, and Rosetta Therapeutics.

What are you reading, listening, or watching that you would recommend?

I shift between fiction and nonfiction. The last nonfiction book I read was one of my all-time favorites: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. It’s about Aminata Diallo, who was abducted as a child from her village in West Africa and traded as a slave in South Carolina. It’s her story of surviving slavery and fighting for her freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War, and eventually travelling back to Africa. This book, which I finished 2 months ago, has been heavily on my mind given the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial and social injustices that we continue to face. The current nonfiction book that I am reading is Commander in Cheat Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump. It’s…. hilariously accurate and makes you sit back and say “yeah, that sounds about right”. And I generally only listen to jazz music, unless I’m on the Peloton then it’s club banger music.