Serendipity’s Amin Omrani on the creative dance, serendipity, commercialization, and the hope to spot a unicorn.
Serendipity is an investment company with strong entrepreneurial culture. The large majority of our portfolio companies are companies that we once have founded, so we are quite hands on and we don’t do any passive investments. Our focus is on company development and therefore we do not focus on specific fields or industries. However, the majority of our companies stem from academic research. Today, we are active within medtech, biotech, clean tech, advanced materials and animal health.
An important feature in our commercialization model is the focus we have on people, rather than on ideas. We know from experience that the route to a successful product or service is very dynamic and the idea changes several times along the way. In our process, the changes are largely driven by early-stage interactions with potential customers. This is an iterative process that we call The Creative Dance. Having teams that can adapt to change and continuously innovate is therefore of great importance.
Our aim is to develop products and services that have significant impact on the lives of our fellow human beings and our planet. This makes a lot of sense also business wise.
We are interested in technologies that improve quality of life, have a positive environmental impact, and large addressable markets. Having said that, one of the first things we look at is the team behind the idea. The people are truly larger than the idea when it comes to early stage company development and we aim to create teams that constantly innovate and adapt to a ever changing world. This means that the original idea usually has to undergo many transformations before a final commercial product is at hand. And you need a team that can cope with this dynamic process.
In a way, Serendipity itself is also proof of how we work with companies that we invest in. To understand the logic of Serendipity we have to go back to the foundation of Diamorph, the first company we founded. Diamorph was founded back in 2003 by Saeid Esmaeilzadeh and Ashkan Pouya, the two co-founders of Serendipity. As a materials chemist, Saeid was at the time conducting an experiment in the lab. Due to a power outage the furnace he was using cooled down very rapidly and the material he was working on ended up with very interesting properties. It turned out to be the hardest glass material in the world and so Diamorph was founded. Diamorph is now the largest company in the group and has a turnover of 430 mkr. Serendipity was founded in 2004 after Saeid and Ashkan had been approached by other researchers that wanted help getting their research to market. The idea was to build a platform for systematically building new companies. By 2009, when I joined the team, we had 5 companies and a total of almost 50 people in the group. Today we are nearing 500 employees in the group.
Still, we have so much left to do and we have just started. But I am really proud of what we have done so far. If I were to single out two important things behind the success, I would first pick the fact that we have proven capable of taking ideas and successfully bring them all the way to the market. Secondly, our ability to attract talented and good people to our organization is fundamental to our company.
Looking forward and working for the future – we are yet to build a unicorn – if I could make one wish for Serendipity’s future years that would have to be it!
Guest post by Amin Omrani, CEO of Serendipity
*Meet innovative Swedish life science companies at BIO-Europe Spring® 2016 taking place in Stockholm, Sweden next week, April 4–6.