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Entrepreneur Spotlight: Preston Keller of Adarza BioSystems

April 16, 2015 • Arch Grant News

This month we sat down with Preston Keller of Adarza BioSystems, Inc. about life as an entrepreneur in St. Louis. Adarza BioSystems is a 2013 Arch Grant Recipient.

What does Adarza BioSystems do?

We have an innovative technology that detects proteins and other analytes in various sample types including human blood or extracts from plants. Many processes today will allow someone to detect one protein in a single drop of blood, whereas our technology allows researchers to detect hundreds. This way, essentially an unlimited amount of tests can be done on a single drop of blood.

What are your specific tasks as Vice President?

Just like anyone else in a startup or small business, I wear many hats. My primary responsibilities are business development related, which includes fundraising. We just closed a Series A round in which we raised $6.8 Million in equity earlier this year. I also drive new industry partnerships. We just signed with our first customer, Horizon Discovery, a few months ago. I develop additional customers, collaborations – a lot of contract work, really. I also take care of the business marketing side of [the company]. Marketing. Sales. Branding. Web Development. All of the things that enable the sale of our product.

What do you enjoy about being an entrepreneur?

That’s a good question. I enjoy the excitement of working for a startup. Certainly, things happen at a much faster pace. Every decision that you make has magnified ramifications farther down stream versus a large company where you are just one little clog in a big machine. Here, there are a lot fewer cogs and everyone has more impact on the business. It’s rewarding to be able to make an impact and drive the direction of the company.

How would you describe your experience working in incubators and in the St. Louis entrepreneurship community?

I have really enjoyed working in incubators. I’ve been around to a few in multiple cities, but I really like the model set up here in Bio St. Louis and BioGenerator, especially for Life Sciences. I appreciate them making startup funds available for companies. It is really nice when you don’t have to worry about paying rent and you can use the precious capital that you do have on advancing the company.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

It may sound like a cliché, but you need to believe in yourself. There are going to be a lot of people who want a piece of you or a piece of your company in exchange for helping you. Other naysayers will tell you that your idea won’t work because it doesn’t fit their preconceived notion of the market of other naïve reasons. If you really think you have a good idea that you want to bring forward, you need to find folks who have experience that you might lack and can add meaningful contributions to your business and support your vision for your company. And you need to stick to your guns and keep pushing forward – you are going to be told, “No,” an awful lot. You need to have the fortitude to say, “I know I’m right and I know this is a good idea.” You need to have the perseverance to push forward.

What do you wish you would have known when you first started working on your startup?

I think every entrepreneur would like to have a time machine. There isn’t any one thing, but you learn a lot as you build your company.

Why should someone apply their startup for Arch Grants?

I think Arch Grants is a lot more than a $50,000 check – it is an entire community that has been built around Arch Grants that is the ecosystem of entrepreneurship in St. Louis. I think as a first time entrepreneur, somebody who is really just getting started, I think there is a lot of support that Arch Grants provides. They really accelerate their business and maybe they won’t make some of those rookie mistakes or at least they can rectify the mistakes and catch them quickly.

Why did you apply for an Arch Grant?

We were here in St. Louis and knew that they were around. To have $50,000 dollars of non-dilutive funds as you begin your business is a pretty good deal.

Lastly, What advice would you give to an entrepreneur applying for Arch Grants to give them a better chance of winning?

You need to very clearly articulate your business proposition. People talk about their elevator pitch, their 30-second value proposition. You need to be able to quickly and accurately describe your business to convince Arch Grants you deserve to win $50,000.

Anything you’d like to add?

We are very happy to be a part of the Arch Grants family and hopefully this interview, in a way, can help someone win an Arch Grant in the future and we can pay it forward.