Welcome to our founder lessons series.

This week, Antibodies.com co-founder, Dr Stewart Newlove reveals how he and his partner launched a business that supplies cost-effective antibodies, proteins, and assays for life science research.

Tell us about Antibodies.com

Antibodies.com is headquartered in Cambridge (UK), which is a hub for life science research, and an inspiring place with all the discoveries being made right on our doorstep. We provide research and diagnostic reagents to life scientists around the world, and in this way are helping to accelerate societies’ understanding of biology and the causes of disease. Specifically, we supply primary and secondary antibodies, proteins and peptides, immunoassays and kits, as well as other companion products.

Why and how did you start your company

The reason my business partner and I started Antibodies.com was because we noticed issues with the scientific research products market, particularly with antibodies. Fundamentally, products are sourced from a primary manufacturer, rebranded and sold to researchers at an unreasonably high price, due to the marketing and operational costs involved. This meant that end-users were not getting the cost-effective products they needed to ensure that their lab budgets were used in the most efficient way. In light of this, we decided to set up our own company.

Our products are sourced from the same primary manufacturers, but by operating a lean business model and not altering the branding on the products, we can deliver them at a lower price to our customers. Ultimately, we are trying to change the market to make it more transparent and beneficial to scientists who depend upon these products to carry out ground-breaking research.

What has been your biggest success factors

Persistence has been the key to success so far for Antibodies.com. There are two main scenarios in which persistence is needed. The first being that on some occasions, ideas or approaches prove not to be successful, which can be difficult to accept, particularly if they have required a lot of time and money.

However, these sorts of failures are inevitable, and the key to success is being able to demonstrate resilience through challenging times. The second scenario being that on other occasions, an initiative may not appear to be fruitful at first, but might end up being a rewarding venture later down the line. The only way to determine whether it is or not is to be persistent. 

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company

We did not realise how resistant parts of our target market would be to the alternative we were presenting, even though it would be beneficial to them. Over the years we have encountered some very sceptical individuals, who are loyal to other companies which they have been using for a long time. Fortunately, we have been able to communicate the concept of our business to a lot of people, who are largely willing to work with us once they understand how they would benefit from our products. It pays to understand how people will view what you are offering from an outside perspective.

Despite these challenges, it is always rewarding when a customer is pleased with our services, and have saved money, meaning their lab budget will go further. 

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

All, of course, are vital to a successful business. If I had to choose, I would say the right product. The reasons being that firstly, if you do not offer exactly what your market requires, you will find it difficult to capture the attention of potential clients. Secondly, if your product does not work well then it will be difficult to retain clients, meaning the business will be unsustainable. Finally, if your product does not stand out as being the best, it will be difficult to build a solid reputation, and longevity will prove to be difficult.

Final words for those chasing the start-up dream

If you have a promising business idea and a positive attitude, do not be afraid to pursue your start-up dream. Often the main limiting factor will be your own self-doubt. A true belief in your product or service will be the driving force towards building a successful business. That having been said, do not expect everything to fall into place immediately. At times it will seem like there are endless obstacles to overcome, but in the end, it is those that persist who will prosper.