“We are at the beginning of the journey and hope to contribute to the world’s drug treasury.”
Where did the idea of starting a company come from? What is Mcule?
There are basically four founders from four scientific fields and one investor, so we founded Mcule in 2011. The name is based on the name of ‘molecule’ and the word ‘cool’ is built in. But it also played a role in choosing the name, which free domains remained. We have many times received feedback, that we should forget this name, because it is difficult, and hard to remember. But we loved it, it has grown to us.
The main target was the international market?
At the beginning, there were multiple pharmaceutical research companies in Hungary, and today it has dropped significantly. In the early years we thought of them. However, 99% of our income comes from abroad, we have one or two Hungarian partners. However, recently a few promising Hungarian startups have begun to deal with pharmaceutical research. We are very glad to see them coming.
What was your vision at the foundation? What was Mcule born for?
This has changed a lot in our operations, which is the best direction, what we see in the company. It didn’t turn as a ready idea and we weren’t on a defined path. We were confident that there was an untapped potential in drug research, and more specifically in molecular modeling and the marketplace for chemical compounds. This frame still stands, but we have changed a lot within the frame. Of course, from the very beginning we followed the idea of the dream, going after our own head – while we had money. Then we tailored the service to the needs. Instead of focusing on molecular modeling, we turned to the marketplace for chemical compounds to supply pharmaceutical research with compounds.
Companies with such profiles are not crowded around the world…
There is a company in San Diego, there are two Latvian and one international mammoth company, the latter of which has many other legs. We are watching them what they come up with. But we’re going a little different, hopefully this is the right direction at least for Mcule.
What does a typical Mcule customer look like?
There are two major groups of drug substances: one containing so-called small molecules, the other containing antibodies, biologics. The latter are more complex active ingredients due to their size and are developed mainly by biotech companies. Our client is a company specializing in small molecule drug research. They are researching the active agent contained in our medicines.
You are the molecule-wholesaler.
We support the earliest phase of drug research by offering research firms a marketplace to choose from among small molecule agents.
There are about ten million different so-called “off-the-shelf compounds” at pharmaceutical suppliers, and we also provide access to the (virtual) compounds, which can be manufactured.
This is a trend, we are moving in this direction, and Mcule is also making more and more of these “drug candidates” available on their marketplace. In addition, this direction has been invented for us, because our molecular modeling and chemical IT background is coming up here.n.
You have to meet serious expectations. What is your strength?
Research and development. Competitors gather catalogs of chemical supplier companies – there are 200 such companies – and they recommend mainly those that are readily available. It is very difficult to compete with the big ones in this area. We try to rise above the others in the price-quality-delivery time triangle, but this is not the USP (unique selling proposition. Ed.). We expand our range of compounds that are not yet on the shelf, but can be synthesized and prepared. Thus, this market space can be expanded by orders of magnitude. Pharmaceutical research companies are thinking that they can find, reach the yet unexplored compounds in our space, and these are completely new compounds that were previously not available on the market.
It’s a tight market. How do you find a new partner?
Our situation is special because we can’t place ads locally. Our client portfolio is completely international: we ship compounds everywhere from South Africa to America, Europe to New Zealand.
It would be obvious to use online tools. However, the community we are targeting is so small that direct relationships lead to purpose. Our main area of focus is professional conferences and our existing relationships. We focus on outings and personal negotiations.
As I understand it, the main channel is direct sales. Are you personally helping out?
Previously, we worked with a sales team of 4-5 people and currently have two sales staff. We want to scale up sales again next year. They go on business trips, and I accompany them every third or fourth time. What matters is the level of engagement with the partner. I mainly go for leadership decisions or representation. This is true for lectures, some are thematic, like they invite CEOs. For example, in many cases, startup and success story are at the center, as you realized with ReputaCEO. The story is much more credible if one of the founders tells it.
Do you have a personal relationship with partners?
I feel a strong change here. I would have said three or four years ago that my close relationship was frequent, and this has reduced. To tell the truth, at that time, the company had 6-7 people, which has now swelled to 25-30. I move back, away from my clients.
How many users do you have?
Are you appearing on social media as Robert Kiss, CEO of Mcule?
I rarely deal with social media. There was a time when I put more energy into it. I shared and posted news. We feel that personal contact matters much more. However, if the company and the CEO communicate consistently, it will pass and sooner or later it will achieve its purpose. It can help 7-8% if I need to guess. If someone is not involved with a social media presence, it’s weird, they might think something is wrong. The indirect effect is certain: if you see an ad and then meet us in some form, there will be a business sooner. However, we do not expect huge deals from it.
The chances of someone coming up through an online campaign saying “hello, I have one million dollars to spend with you” are pretty small.
How is success in the pharma industry measured?
Our biggest revenue comes from places where there are very special needs. There are a few hundred large pharma companies in the industry that have sophisticated internal systems and that we need to adapt to because of their size and relationships. It has to be carefully assessed whether the opportunity is proportionate to the changes and improvements that are expected. We receive a lot of feedback, and despite the high expectations, we are able to correspond.
It is an interesting area where the latest technologies are already available. Would you name a great partner?
The vast majority of our clients are non-public, and among those with whom we do business, there is Atomwise, one of the most promising California drug research companies with an AI-based drug research platform, very exciting. We also help them with the compounds market. We support them in a project where they serve many of their academic partners by providing the compounds. Research in many diseases has shown encouraging results.
Are you participated in branding?
In my communication, I try to support employer branding, although there is still room for improvement. It is important for me to reach out to my colleagues if the company appears among the fastest growing companies or if we achieve other successes. We work for good goals, and Mcule shares more and more success in drug research.
You were not in the front line. Get some glory?
We deliver our messages to users, pharma partners, and not to the general public. It would be an exaggeration to say that it is up to us where pharmaceutical research goes in the next 20-30 years. However, it certainly does matter what molecules the research is based on and whether researchers always have access to the best materials in the shortest possible time. The laurels are harvested in the end by companies who file patents that develop the active ingredients. Mcule is always in the background, but we have an important role to play, and it feels good. We are at the beginning of this journey and hope to contribute to the world’s drug treasury.