“Get Out of Your Office and Labs to Speak to Your Customers as Much as Possible”

Written by Julia John-Scheder

Meet Dr. Edgar-John Vogt, Company Scout and Sparring Partner for Life Sciences Startups Interested in International Expansion

Being a former cell biologist, Dr. Edgar-John Vogt found his way to German Accelerator and is now one of our company scouts searching for high-potential life science startups in Germany. As an advisor and sparring partner, he supports them in finding the right way to their internationalization journey. Find out more about his insights into the German life science scene, his background, and motivation.

Please tell us about your role at German Accelerator

I am a company scout at German Accelerator. In this role, I’m responsible for the identification of innovative German startups from the health tech and life sciences sector that want to access the U.S. or Asian markets. I’m also an early advisor and sparring partner for startups thinking about internationalization.

How does your educational background play a role in your current position?

I’m a PhD trained scientist with a background in cell biology. I also spent six years as a project scientist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC, where I led innovative femtech projects. So, apart from knowing the U.S. innovation ecosystem very well, I also have a very deep understanding of how science is translated into innovative business ideas. This background and experience help me a lot as a scout because many of the founders I speak to are scientists themselves. Health tech and life sciences startups are very often spun-off at universities and research institutions such as Max Planck or Fraunhofer. Therefore, a significant portion of the conversation with founders is about the science or technology they’re working on. Having a scientific background helps to engage with them and understand their pain points. Of course, I’m not always an expert on their technologies so-to-speak, but a lot is based on certain scientific approaches. This then really allows me to engage in a discussion where the founders recognize there’s someone who is not only interested in but also knowledgeable about science. When I interact with founders from these types of startups I can be authentic and can play an active role in a deeper conversation.

What do you enjoy most about your role at German Accelerator?

I love to connect and network. As a company scout, I have a very visible role, I participate in and speak at many different events. Naturally, I meet and interact with many different people from diverse backgrounds. Founders, investors, and other stakeholders in the ecosystem and I think this is one of the aspects of my job that I really enjoy the most. This has been a great addition to my existing network and also helps to continuously expand it.

How did the pandemic change the way you scout with in-person events and networking gatherings having been canceled?

Of course, scouting and networking from my home office have been a little challenging at the beginning of the pandemic. However, in the meantime, many events have successfully moved to a virtual setting with ample opportunities to meet new startups. What I have started doing is to increase my activity on platforms such as LinkedIn. Not only in order to leverage my network but to actively contribute to the ecosystem, share insights and knowledge and act as a connector, advisor, and point of contact for startup internationalization. That has certainly helped to be more visible on these platforms and I have found that as a good source for my scouting activities. It would be nice to meet onsite and interact with people on a personal level again. Nevertheless, in the future, I will think more carefully about which events I will attend in person because traveling can be cumbersome and time-consuming. If some of these initial meetings can be done virtually, I think that will suffice. For follow-up meetings or getting to know founders and their teams better, then of course it would be nice to have the opportunity again to meet in person.

What do you think could fill some of the gaps in the German startup ecosystem?

I’m amazed by the many startup programs offered here in Germany, whether it’s incubators or accelerators for early startups and also some for more mature startups. All of them do a great job in providing support for startups whether it’s by opening their networks or being a sparring partner or coach. However, I think sometimes these different ecosystem players and stakeholders don’t interact as much as they could. I would love to see them cooperate more to create more synergies. At German Accelerator, we have focused on forming different kinds of valuable partnerships, for example with RWTH Aachen, where we bring a lot of knowledge around internationalization as well as a global network to the table. The more we work together, the more value we can create for the ecosystem.

What is a common theme or trend you’ve noticed when talking to German startups and what trends do you see in 2021 for German life sciences startups?

Well, of course, Corona showed that there is the need to do more in terms of digitalization here in Germany. Whether it’s in healthcare or other industries, there will certainly be an even stronger push to digitalization. Many of the newer startups have a business model based on digital transformation aspects. Of course, there’s also a lot happening in the artificial intelligence space, either as part of startup business models or in the technology they work with. So certainly these are drivers for the future.

What advice did you receive from a personal mentor that you would share with founders?

One of my favorite pieces of advice comes from Marc Filerman, Managing Partner of our German Accelerator Life Sciences Program. He regularly says to founders: “Validate, validate, validate!” Science and engineering Made in Germany’ is really well recognized abroad. But whereas German founders tend to be very much product and technology-focused, startups from the U.S., for example, are much more customer-oriented. Therefore, I pass on Marc’s advice and tell founders to “get out of your office and labs to speak to your customers as much as possible.”

How do you like to spend your free time?

We have three horses, so that takes up a lot of our free time, and we enjoy that very much.

What book are you reading currently?

I’ve been reading “Permanent Record” by Edward Snowden. I was interested in data privacy and how these platforms have been transformative in the way we interact but also looking at certain developments of the political scale or global scale. It has been very interesting so far.

What’s your favorite app for productivity?

Well, I’m kind of old school (laughs). I like to write down my tasks in the morning – in a physical notebook – by hand.

What motivates you?

I aim to find the most innovative and interesting startups here in Germany. It motivates me to find them, speak to the founders but also to see how to help them. Maybe they are not at a stage where they are ready for internationalization, so it’s important to support them in other ways. I do this, for example, by connecting them with someone in my network and making a warm introduction. And then, after a couple of months, I see that they have reached new milestones or a new goal, and just to be part of this journey is really a big part of my motivation. Not only as a scout but as an advisor to get them on the right track.