Masters program plus project equals structuring skills for Evelina.

It took Evelina Wängberg a few years of travelling and odd jobs to figure out what she wanted to become when she grew up. When she finally sat down with a catalogue of Chalmers programs, she went for biotechnology. Sure it was interesting enough, but Evelina realised she was a bit too impatient for the academic world. To do a traditional biotechnology masters program, with all its focus on research, seemed way too slow. So she found Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship and applied for the bioscience venture track. A choice she has never regretted even though she made it more or less without expectations.

– I had no previous experience of entrepreneurship and didn’t know of the term startup, says the redhead 26-year old.

But she had heard about the process of commercialising ideas out of research from Chalmers, and liked the idea of making use of research instead of just publishing a study. The part of building a company came as a surprise and she knew nothing about tech entrepreneurship.

Now she runs the project Cetect together with team-mate Joakim Olsson. Cetect enable the use of stronger yeast for bioethanol production, yeast that is more resistant to stress factors. The research is made by one of Evelinas professors at the biotechnology program.

–    I wasn’t impressed by the ideas that we’re presented to us initially, so I sent out an e-mail to about ten lecturers that I liked and got some replies. One of them contained the base for what is now our project.

And she admits that there are complications to the concept of running a project involving someone elses idea. The advanced level of technology makes it impossible for Evelina to do any development herself, she need to rely on the idea partner to do all the technical testing in her lab with other students.

When entering the masters program, the class is split in a bioscience track and a technology track. But Evelina see little difference in what the teams learn. The projects differ in their time to market but they still support each other a lot.

”The projects differ in their time to market but they still support each other a lot”

And I can tell that she may even have wished for a bit more specialisation in the tracks. Acquiring lots of users is for instance not applicable for them or the pharmaceutical team. But what lacks from the program is made up for by the business coach.

–    Erik Rådbo is great, he really helps us with structure, pushing us in the right direction and sharing his connections, says Evelina.

And structure can be tough when you are studying at a masters program and running a project as a company at the same time. The freedom of deciding when to study for an exam and when to do business development also makes it easy to postpone important tasks when others are more fun. But she still prefers it to the alternatives, as she gets a context for all the new knowledge and most school work is tied to the project in one way or another.

Evelina finds an upside to most of my questions and she does describe herself as an optimist and a doer. But being in a class of many driven extroverts, she has noticed that she takes on more of a reflecting role, rather than the the forward pushing person she has been before.

 –    People describe me as calm and very determined and I think that’s how you act when you feel that you have a sense of purpose to what you do. I believe that I make a difference when I help bring one of the many cool ideas from Chalmers to the market.

And she is happy that she chose this path, feeling the everyday inspiration from a startup community where everyone love what they do and really want to work as hard as she does.

”feeling the everyday inspiration from a startup community where everyone love what they do”

It has her convinced that she will stay within biotech and innovation, and small companies where she can see direct effects of her work. At the moment, the team is hoping to continue with Cetect after the school years end, but they will need financing.

–    There is a lot more to do before we can get a paying customer, so we are looking for soft money to cover expenses for testning in the near future, says Evelina.

Her situation is no different to any other startup struggling to survive, but I can see in her eyes that she has no intention on giving up on her plan for success.

 

Text: Szofia Jacobsson