How to Use the RESI Innovation Challenge to Build Success for Your Company: An Interview with RESI Winner Steven ten Holder (Acorn Biolabs)

3 May

Steven ten Holder

An interview with Steven ten Holder, COO, Acorn Biolabs

– By Greg Mannix, VP of International Business Development, LSN

Greg Mannix

This year’s 2nd place finisher at the Innovation Challenge at RESI on MaRS was Acorn Biolabs. LSN interviewed COO, Steven ten Holder and got some key takeaways on how Acorn used the RESI Innovation Challenge effectively:

  • The Acorn team used their design and marketing skills to attract attention, rather than focusing purely on presenting scientific data
  • The team used the Innovation Challenge to create ad hoc meetings with 40 investors
  • Acorn is working to build on their success with press releases and investor follow-up after the event.

Acorn Biolabs is a Toronto-based company working out of the actual MaRS facility that has developed a novel non-invasive at-home kit to collect and viably transport cells and cryopreserve these cells as a way to ensure people will always have access to their own young therapeutically-capable cells.

Steven and Acorn’s CEO, Drew Taylor, registered quite late for RESI and didn’t have much time to set up meetings in advance. So they took more of an Ad-Hoc approach to the conference and looked to network with investors and strategics around their participation in the Innovation Challenge. It looks like it worked pretty well for them, as they placed second in the IC!

Greg Mannix: Congratulations Steven on placing second in the IC! How did you manage to get so many attendees to invest their RESI cash in Acorn Biolabs?

Steven ten Holder:  There were a couple of things that seemed to work pretty well. We put a lot of thought into our poster, keeping in mind that most of the investors passing by are probably not experts in our particular field, so we tried to keep it not too scientific, having a good balance of text and images with a nice graphic design. The goal was to be able to explain the poster to anybody who stopped by in about 2 minutes, and I think it worked.  It also helped that we had a good location, catching people as they came in.

GM: So it sounds like you spent much of the day at the actual poster. Did you get a lot of Ad-Hoc meetings there?

STH: Absolutely! I think I must have spoken to at least 30 or 40 investors at the poster. By engaging them in conversation and understanding what their interest was, I could explain our technology in more or less detail. Many of them ended up investing their RESI cash in us, so that was great!

GM:  Do you think any of those meetings will turn into a future opportunity for Acorn?

STH: Yes, I can think of 3 investors in particular who are very interested in our company and we are already following up with them.

GM: What else did you find useful about RESI?

STH:  The information on the investors in the Partnering Platform was really useful. I didn’t really have time to attend the panels, but both Drew and I did some great networking at the cocktail reception, especially after having won second prize!

GM: So what’s next?

STH: We’re definitely going to do a press release on our success at RESI.


Steven ten Holder, COO, Acorn Biolabs

– Lead Team of Bioengineers to International iGEM Competition

– Publisher Author in Novel Uses of Synthetic Biology

– Designed and Created CRISPR Viral Immunity System in Plants

Greg Mannix, VP of International Business Development, LSN

Greg Mannix is Vice President of International Business Development at Life Science Nation. After graduating from the University of California, he moved to Europe where he began a career in the life sciences and obtained a Master’s degree from IE Business School in Madrid. He has extensive experience in sales and marketing management in the medical devices field. He has worked extensively in Europe, North America and Latin America and he speaks English, Spanish and French. Greg’s role at LSN is to provide international early-stage companies with the tools and strategies to succesfully fundraise and to facilitate cross-boarder investments, licensing and M&A transactions.

About Acorn Biolabs

People’s own cells have and will continue to become the foundation of the most important future biomedical therapeutics and regenerative medicine strategies. Aged cells, however, are highly mutated and deteriorated versions of our current cells. Precisely when people will need high-quality cells the most, their cells at that time will be at their worst. Acorn Biolabs has developed a novel non-invasive at-home kit to collect and viably transport cells. Acorn cryopreserves these cells as a way to ensure people will always have access to their own young therapeutically-capable cells. The value potential is immense; customer’s preserved cells are a life-long living resource, retrievable for direct use with advanced cell-based therapeutics, and analyzable for personal genomics, epigenomics, proteomics and beyond.

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