Rowan Gardner is the CEO of Ozo Innovations, a company which is developing and engineering cost effective and safe oxidative solutions that deliver infection control, improved hygiene and better productivity in food production and processing. She has been involved in a number of companies over the years, including Oxford Molecular, RowAnalytics, Biolauncher and Synomics.
What is your background? Why are you doing this?
I have always been interested in maths and science, and I studied Biochemistry here at the University of Oxford. I then worked with Oxford Molecular, a university spinout, and got a real taste for high growth entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship, for me, is the process of applying capital to a problem that matters, where the value created is proportional to quality of the solution that is built.
I didn’t decide to become an entrepreneur, it happened. I did not want to do a Ph.D. and I did not want to become an accountant which was the choice of many Oxford graduates.
So what would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Time management, because you need to get things done, properly, in as short a timeframe as possible. The ability to work with others is also key, not only in your own team, but also outside your business with consultants and stakeholders. The individual doesn’t scale, the team and business do.
Being able to work with people who believe so passionately in what they are doing.
CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) is a great example.They are changing the world by making their outputs available in an open context.
I was fortunate enough to be able to meet the Director of CERN, and the question I asked was how they developed and executed the funding strategy for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). There are many parallels to raising funding for your own startup.
There are many aspects of business that give you satisfaction. For example with one company it was selling my options at a peak value, whereas in another it was building a high quality team that was world leading in their capabilities.
I have learnt that you need a network to raise funding and be successful. This has to be done continually and from an early stage and not just when you think you are ready to raise investment. So much is reliant on who you know, and this important aspect of being ready to raise money does not get the profile it deserves.
Oxfordshire is a great place to be! There are great links to the City of London, and access to a skilled workforce. We are conveniently located for London Heathrow. The University of Oxford does not have the impact it should beyond its own walls. And of course there are the usual problems with traffic and parking in Oxford, but what can you expect with a medieval city?
There are plenty of network groups and events around in Oxford which are worth looking into, as well as offerings from Said Business School and other businesses support organisations. But businesses need to look globally, not just locally, so I would suggest looking online and seeing what others in the industry are doing across the globe.
Entrepreneurship is a full contact sport; you need to get out there and start to play it. You learn by doing, and will find your own way. So get out there!