Last July, Membio pitched and won $5,000 at the 22nd Velocity Fund Finals (VFF). In September of 2018, they joined the Velocity Garage, and shortly after, went on to win $25,000 at the 23rd Velocity Fund Finals in November.
Membio is developing the first truly scalable biological manufacturing platform.
We caught up with Shane Kilpatrick, founder of Membio, for a post-VFF update.
Q: How has your company developed since winning VFF?
Shane Kilpatrick: Since winning VFF, a lot of things have been happening at Membio. The highlight reel: adding a brilliant hardware engineer and a cell culture scientist to the team, adding expert advisors to key technical areas, and closing our pre-seed investment round. On the technical side, and thanks to the hard work of the team, we completed our first full-system prototype and completed the development of a proprietary way to attach our specialized polymers to surfaces.
Q: What is your company currently working on?
The funding from VFF was essential for laying the foundation of our technology, which we used to attract investment for building and validating our prototype. Our main focus now is to improve our prototype before we put it into the hands of our beta testers next month. We are working on completing our evidence package by demonstrating our system’s performance using a variety of clinically important mammalian cell lines.
Q. Since your win at VFF, what has been your team’s most exciting moment?
That’s a tough one. We’ve accomplished a lot of very exciting things! If I had to choose, I would pick either the first time we grew cells using our bioreactor, or when we received the results that confirmed our proprietary method of surface coating works better than we ever expected!
Q. What has been your team’s most frustrating moment?
Trying to find funding to validate our technology has been frustrating. We found ourselves in a chicken and egg situation where no funding was available for us until we had validated our technology, but yet we did not have the money to do so. Without the support of Velocity and the University of Waterloo, we would never have been able to overcome this barrier.
Q. Do you have any major accomplishments that you want to share? What’s next for your team?
Apart from the two mentioned above, we have attracted angel investment, filed provisional patents, and added subject matter experts as advisors. Our next step is to refine our prototype into an Minimum Viable Product, which we hope to have on the market by Fall of 2019.
Q. What do you enjoy most about building a startup?
I get to wake up every day and work on what I’m passionate about with a group of brilliant people. The technology we are developing has the potential to impact lives at a time when they need it most, which is a huge motivator for me. Granted, building a start-up certainly has its challenges – but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Q. What did you like most about competing at VFF?
What I liked most about VFF was being pushed to condense such a complicated concept into layman’s terms. I spent over a month preparing and refining our pitch for VFF. The effort that went into communicating a highly technical problem and solution in a way that was not only digestible but also compelling, was incredibly difficult. However, it was rewarding to accomplish.
Q. Are there any tips you can give to startups that are pitching?
Make sure you are telling the right story. Also, get feedback from different people until you find a narrative that resonates with your audience. You have to earn people’s attention by giving them a reason to listen. The other big tips I would give to other startups are to write a full script before making your slides and to find people who will be honest with you. Pitch preparation is a process, and no one starts out as the best.
Learn more about the Winter 2019 Velocity Fund Finals today!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.