Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Steve Case, Martin Chapman, and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey
CIT: Tell us about yourself
Martin: I started out as a PhD immunologist and became a tenured Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia. My research focused on allergy and asthma and in the 1990’s there was an increasing demand our antibodies for allergen detection in homes, schools, workplaces etc. This opened up my eyes to forming a company to commercialize products from our research. In 2001, I left UVA to become President and CEO of Indoor Biotechnologies Inc (IBI), named for indoor allergens which are a common cause of asthma. IBI has a niche market in translational products for allergy research and diagnostics. I managed to grow the company from scratch to a thriving company with 20 employees and sales worldwide, without prior business experience or investor funding. Yes, academics, you can do this!
CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
Martin: IBI is a biotechnology manufacturing company which produces molecular products for allergy and asthma research. The company has manufacturing and R&D facilities in Charlottesville and provides sales, marketing and laboratory services in Europe through a separate, affiliated company, Indoor Biotechnologies Limited (IBL), based in Cardiff, Wales, UK, with distributors in Japan, Korea and China. The core of the company’s IP is a comprehensive panel of monoclonal antibodies to allergens and proprietary technology for allergen detection and production. IBI products are used by government agencies (CDC, NIH, FDA), academic researchers, pharma and biotech companies, allergen vaccine manufacturers and indoor air quality companies. We enjoy having our company scientists market our products and interacting with clients on a daily basis. We provide companies with essential information that they need in the allergy field for research and product development. So, whether its dust mites, animal allergens, roaches, mold, pollen or peanuts, we’re there with quality products and solutions.
CIT: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Martin: Just do it! Know the strengths and weaknesses of your product and yourself. Build a body of professionals whom you can trust to handle legal, financial and administrative issues. Trust is essential in building successful business relationships. Develop a coherent business strategy. Find the people who can implement it and then delegate, delegate, delegate. Have fun being creative and with marketing. Read Sara Sarasvathy’s article on entrepreneurial thinking and, as they say at Darden, focus on the 3-5 essential drivers of the business. Minimize the downside risk and, finally, keep the cash flowing!
CIT: What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
Martin: I don’t think any are essential, but hanging out with groups that you enjoy helps with meeting good people, builds a sense of community, helps you relax and realize that issues you may be dealing are the same as everyone else. You may even be doing better than you think!
CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
Martin: Many of our customers come to us because they want information. Having that knowledge and sharing it with them builds confidence, adds value, strengthens our reputation, and, ultimately, drives our business. We love collaborating with fellow scientists and helping companies out. Indeed, one of the strengths of having been in academia is that we have collaborators worldwide whom we work with and make referrals – an exclusive knowledge-based network.
CIT: What makes Charlottesville's tech scene unique?
Martin: The people – us! There’s lots of buzz and excitement about the tech scene in Charlottesville right now. For a small city, having over 40 biotech companies and some terrific tech and financial companies you have to have motivated, creative folks who want to make things happen and put ideas into practice. I serve on the boards of the Virginia Biotechnology Association and the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council. We grease the wheels by getting people together for beer and wine events and promoting entrepreneurial activities. There is also a lot of cohesion between the City, Albemarle County, UVA Innovation, Darden Business School and people with innovative ideas who want to develop businesses.
Martin D. Chapman, PhD
President of Indoor Biotechnologies Inc.