Jason Mellad: co-founder and CEO
I am the co-founder and CEO of Start Codon, an initiative that supports teams across the globe to translate their research ideas by offering seed funding and providing guidance and access to an extensive network of partners.
An entrepreneur has to embrace the unknown
I am from Louisiana in the US and I moved to the UK to do my PhD in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Cambridge. Before Start Codon, I was a scientist working in academia, but then I moved into the business world, eventually working my way up to become the CEO of Cambridge Epigenetix. Then I co-founded Start Codon and I have been working here for almost two years.
When I decided I wanted to create my own company, I took advantage of various societies available to me, and joined competitions and networking events as much as possible. I would approach speakers at conferences and other events to build up my network.
An entrepreneur has to embrace the unknown. I enjoy starting new projects and thrive off the thrill that a new opportunity can present. While embarking on this entrepreneurship journey was a natural step for me, developing my idea into a successful business was more of a challenge. So I decided to put together a team to help me drive it forward. A good team can lift you up through challenges, educate you and complement your skillset. I always tell people that you don’t have to do it all yourself, there are many people who are willing to help if you ask.
As a son of immigrants, being African Caribbean and openly gay, I have had my fair share of challenges. I was often reminded of the fact that I was Black, and it was instilled in me from a young age that I would have to work twice as hard to get half as far. Even now people think I’m serving canapés at events. Sometimes I’ve brought them food, but then I tell them that I’m actually the keynote speaker and it’s always fun to see the look on their faces.
The world is different from what it was yesterday, and diversity is improving in business. I am grateful for all my experiences and the opportunities I’ve had, which have built my character and resilience. I have been really lucky to have several mentors who have supported me on my journey, including my parents. That’s why my mission is to give people their chance through Start Codon and help them take the leap to becoming an entrepreneur.
Jason is the CEO and co-founder of Start Codon, a Cambridge-based start-up accelerator. Previously, he was CEO of Cambridge Epigenetix and business development manager for Horizon Discovery’s diagnostics division. He also served as a technology transfer associate at Cambridge Enterprise, the technology transfer office of the University of Cambridge.
This is an edited extract from Researcher voices: The thrills and skills of becoming an entrepreneur, written by Rupal Mistry and published by Cancer Research UK on 2 November 2020.