Theresa Schachner and Vidhi Mehta – Founders of Post/Biotics

Having fixed meet ups with our mentors and board of advisors at least once a week forces us to focus on the really important milestones and funnels our thinking on being more efficient and productive.

Vidhi Mehtais a product and interaction designer based in London. She has recently graduated from Innovation Design Engineering from Imperial College London and Royal College of Art(UK) in 2015. She studied Product Design from National Institute of Design(India) in 2012. A curious thinker, fascinated by how people interact and use emerging technologies, she derives inspiration by observing and engaging with them. She has enjoyed working on concepts and services that include ethnographic research, strategy design, and human centred design.

Theresa Schachner has graduated in natural and cognitive sciences in Vienna and London. She has experience in consulting and the pharmaceutical environment. Prior to Post/Biotics, she also taught children from the age of 5-18 years and recognizes the challenges and the benefits of educating non-scientists from an early age onwards. She enjoys translating scientific knowledge into commercial applications and thus bridging science and industry. Theresa and Vidhi jointly work on turning this exciting, formerly academic, project into a sustainable business where they can not only contribute to finding new antibiotics, but also to educating children and interested adults in responsibly handling the antibiotics that we still have.

Where did the idea for Post/Biotics come from?

Post/Biotics is a platform for creating world’s first microbial fingerprint of our environment. Post/Biotics was first set up to reduce sole reliance on research institutions and pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics by crowdsourcing citizen scientists to test specimens for antibiotic properties. This results in mapping the microbial environment across the world as well as raising awareness on scarcity of antibiotics, thus promoting better stewardship practices of existing antibiotics.

In support from Josiah Zayner, a biotechnology fellow at NASA, Vidhi Mehta developed the first prototype of the pop-up lab as her graduation program at the Imperial College London. Together with her co-founder Theresa Schachner, they are now turning Post/Biotics from a formerly academic project to an enterprise.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Post/Biotics is an early stage start-up with 2 founding members and a support team. A typical day for the founder’s team of Post/Biotics involves tasks that are traditionally spread out over a whole organization.

In order to keep having an overview and to being as productive as possible, we keep an eye on staying on top of the ongoing tasks without getting lost in detail.

How do you bring ideas to life?

One of the most inspiring ways of bringing new ideas to life is talking to various stakeholders within the system. Their ideas, aspirations and understanding of workflow are the best creative pot for bringing ideas to life. Their feedback allows quick cycles of iterations and allows making mistakes quickly and learning from them.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The trend to make science as accessible as possible and to start bringing technology to everyone’s homes is truly exciting! Science should not be silo-ed in a closed space with high barriers to entry, but should encourage everybody who is interested. Science, and especially the growing field of bioscience, will shape our future and thus should be a shared and inclusive vision.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Having fixed meet ups with our mentors and board of advisors at least once a week forces us to focus on the really important milestones and funnels our thinking on being more efficient and productive.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

A job can be only as bad as you make it – if you look at it from the right angle, there’s always something to learn, which makes it a valuable experience!

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Start speaking to customers and stakeholders even sooner (even though we started really soon) – there is nothing more crucial than getting your idea out of the drawing board and desk and into the hands of users to get as much feedback on it as possible.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Speaking to customers, stakeholders, industry experts, mentors, and researchers. The input and help you get from personal conversations are invaluable.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Being able to pay attention to details of your product in order to make it as good as possible, but going out with it as soon as possible in order to get early feedback and being able to prototype fast.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

This is a very common mistake most builders make: we underestimated the time it takes for turning a prototype into a product that can be shipped to customers. A general rule of thumb for any hardware startup is that if it takes you x amount of time to build a prototype, it will take you 5x time to make it into a product. The lesson: Plan tightly, but factor in planning fallacy – everything will take longer than you initially think.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The pharmaceutical industry and especially the long production cycles of drugs are an immense barrier for innovation. There is a crucial need to disrupt this industry, this is not only a financially interesting opportunity but also vitally important for our society.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We recently bought some quick prototyping material and even though we might never use the material for the final product, it’s a good investment as it helps to be hands-on and try various iterations. We cannot plan everything on paper and having access to tangible models helps crease out knots in the business.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Growth Mindset” by Carol Dweck. No matter in which industry you work / have your own start-up or you’re into hardware or software – you need to have the right mindset and be ready to constantly learn and adapt while being confident in your abilities.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Jessica Richman (Founder of uBiome) @jessicarichman
Prof. Robert Winston ( @ProfRWinston
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