Entrepreneurship in
The Case of Slovenia
Osijek, September, 19, 2009
Jaka Vadnjal
GEA College of Entrepreneurship
Jaka Vadnjal
• MSc and PhD in business, BSc in
• 19 years of managerial, board and
entrepreneurial experience in private
sector and public administration with 13
years parallel teaching and research
• Director of the Research institute and
assistant professor at GEA College of
entrepreneurship, president of the senate
• Research: Entrepreneurship and VC
• Biotech experience: From VC research,
targeted research in the bio-tech sctor and
some consulting experience
• Proud husband and father
• Drummer in an amateur rock band for
almost 30 years
Methodology for this Study
• A qualitative research among six existing companies in
– Limnos d.o.o.
– Bio-techna d.o.o.
– Celica d.o.o.
– Bia d.o.o.
– Educell d.o.o.
– Bia Separations d.o.o.
– Acies Bio d.o.o.
• Overview of other practises
• Consulting case from SLO
Biotech (entrepreneurship) features
• Academic research is driving the industry
In SLO: All entrepreneurs are PhDs
• Many techniques, skills, processes, etc. fit
under the umbrella
• A huge number of markets,
products and services is and
will be influenced by the
• In SLO: health, food, industrial…
Expectations from
Biotechnology are High
(Vanhemelrijck, 2006)
To be the basis for the knowledge based
To be competitive
To create jobs and wealth
To cure and prevent diseases.
To increase survival
To improve patients’ quality of life
To feed the world
To return to the plant based economy
To optimize renewable resources
To help the environment (KYOTO)
Biotech and Entrepreneurship
Have RISK in Common
(Rothaermel & Deeds, 2004)
• High degree of uncertainty:
What we’re going to do with it?
How it is going to work?
What can be achieved?
How will it be manufactured? (In SLO: completely confirmed)
• Long and expensive product development cycle
• Required investors and
partners (In SLO: VC gap)
• The potential for serious
challenges to the legitimacy
of the
industry (In SLO: Some failures with
negative publicity)
Profit & Wealth Will be Created When
Product Delivers Value to Consumers!
• Technologies do not create big wins unless they
become a breakthrough consumer technology.
(In SLO: People still do not understand what business is about,
inluding inteviewed companies)
• Selling stuff to each other moves the money but
doesn’t create a vibrant, growing and
sustainable industry.
(In SLO: Very relevant!!!)
• Only when the technology
creates real value for end
users so that sustainable
revenues are generated
and wealth is created.
The Times are turbulent
• The industry and segments will fall in and out of
interest of investors.
• Ability to raise capital depends on the successes
and failures of the other firms in your market.
• Bad actors and bad acts hurt everyone.
• In SLO: 2006-07 everybody spoke
about bio-tech. A failure of a company
happened. Evrebody knew it.
Everybody feels that this was a
downturn of the industry.
• Big partners are generally a necessary evil
• Research institutions often behave as they were
alone in the space, but those ventures that learn
to work with them benefit from the relationship (in
SLO: Completely confirmed):
Leading-edge knowledge
Skilled work force
Access to specific assets
• Partnering with other “ventures” can be
beneficial, but involves a risk of helping
competitors (In SLO: A fear of this is very present)
Academics and Science
• The Role of Public Science
• Primary goal is creation and dissemination of new
knowledge that expands our understanding of the
• Secondary goal is to improve the lives of the people
of the world
• Academics succeed by publishing interesting
findings in top academic journals that inspire
others to build on their work.
(in SLO: Completely confirmed)
• Status in “Public Science” is conferred by
sharing – you have to present and publish to be
a player and players get stature and access to
new knowledge and higher skilled researchers.
(it is true for SLO)
Place to be…
• Geographic clusters provide substantial benefits
– Access to specialized labour
– Specialized Suppliers
• Lawyers
• Investors
• Specialized assets, machinery and inputs
• Knowledge Spillovers
• Outcomes from being located in a geographic cluster
Higher Probability of IPO
Higher Value at IPO
More attractive to partners
Higher survival rate
• Clusters in science-driven industries have at least one
great research institution at their heart
• Idea: If we don’t have one, we may be able to establish
one by pulling together all the best we have! Idea from
the research: Slovenia is to small…
Risk Taken by
Research risks
IPR risks
Financial risks
Regulatory risks
Market risk
Unfortunately: political risks
(in SLO: Completely confirmed)
My Case: Consulting to
Bio-tech Company
• Academic research driven
• Core team:
– Senior: Professor (as “mentor”)
– Junior: his PhD project
• Project good enough for PhD and papers
but not “prototype mature”
• Raising VC to complete the project
One of the Projects…
• Fire-blight as global problem
• Bacteria
• Copper substances: traditional
way of preventive treatment
• Antibiotics
• Bio-tech invention
• Economically: Substitutes for the two
methods, more efficient, environment
friendly, more cost-effective
Lessons Learned From
Consulting Project
• Consultant: Difficult to competently
consult something that you don’t understand
• Company:
– Key people would prefer academic rather than
entrepreneurial life
– Bright minded PhD guy was able to write a reasonably
good business plan (technically) however,
– With lack of immagination of the appropriate business
– And probably also lack of commitment for
• VCs: Had many less risky and more “on-theplanet-Earth” projects to invest at that time (2005)
What can be done?
• Increase entrepreneurial culture among young people
from craft-men to junior academics – make them
participate in at least one business plan preparation.
• Stimulate clustering and partnership (both horizontally
and vertically).
• Support multidiscliplinarity, make science and business
students work together (Bologna should allow that).
• Attract bigger VC players to come to see what is going
on in SLO.
• Recognize winners (heroes) also by not expelling them
from their academic streamlines: PhD entrepreneurs
may have less time for publishing but may be add an
enormous value to students (see bullet one).
Thank you!
[email protected]

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