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Developing an antimicrobial technology for a safer world

Anna Ogar founded Insignes Labs a startup company specializing in antimicrobial additive which will change the landscape of materials as we know them. What started out as a small idea borne from a desire to help people and the environment grew into reality as she accomplished a dream of starting and managing her own company from the ground up.

How did you come up with the idea of your business?

From an early age I have always been drawn to biology. My desire to understand how the world around me works, especially on the level invisible to the naked eye, drove my curiosity and passion towards microbiology. I have always known that I wanted to make a difference in this world, and that this would only be possible if I continue pursuing my passion and gain as much knowledge as possible. After getting my PhD in advanced application of microorganisms for nanotechnology solutions, I decided to pursue my dream of developing antimicrobial technology that would help make the world a better and safer place for everyone – in their everyday lives as well as the workplace. With this goal in mind, I came up with the concept of a new antimicrobial additive that is safe and can be easily added to industrial and household products. Now, I realize that I have the power to make my dream into a reality that can truly benefit people in a practical way.

What were the biggest challenges you had to face and how did you manage to overcome them? 

In my previous startup, one of the co-founders suddenly wanted to change the entire structure of our investment deal, which was negotiated for over a year. He wanted to sell his shares, so we were tasked with re-structuring the entire business plan. I tried to overcome this challenge by involving a mediator who helped us find a way out of that difficult situation. It was an incredibly tough decision, since we spent over three years total on this project. We put endless effort and energy into the company and finding a solution, but after half a year of negotiations, we still couldn’t find a common ground. We ultimately decided to split up with our third co-founder. I learned that success is often born from failure. I took a second chance and decided to start everything from scratch together with the other co-founder. Together, we worked diligently over the past year to make our new company, Insignes Labs, a successful startup. I have learned that business means people, and that every individual brings something unique to the table. People present ideas, solutions, and are the driving force that turns an idea into reality. A reliable team is without a doubt the most vital element of a successful enterprise.

Is the techmed market competitive in Poland, how would you describe it?

All markets nowadays are very competitive and Poland is no exception. However, Poland does not have too many homegrown and well-known big chemical companies that compete in the Polish market itself. With only a handful of chemical companies, R&D investment is low. In order to develop better products, it crucial to raise R&D spending, which currently accounts for less than 2% of the industry’s expenditures. The local chemical industry should develop production of more high-value added products or specialties. It is essential to foster collaboration between industry and startups/ research/universities, in order to remain competitive in both the local and global markets.

Where do you sell your products and what are your plans for the further growth of Insignes? 

We are designing an effective, smart antimold, antibacterial additive for plastics, paints, coatings, resins, latex and nitrile films and plant protection products in order to make a safer and cleaner environment. Our additive, when applied to plant protection products, reduces crop losses associated with harmful germs. We established our company in November 2017. Within last year we were able to scale up the process from grams to kilograms. We have been working on prototypes of antimicrobial paints, latex/nitrile for gloves production and epoxy resins for drainage systems. Immediately, we gathered excitement and interest for our additives from companies producing plant protection products. As for the future, we will proceed with protecting our intellectual property both in the EU and USA. We will conduct further developmental research of our products for other applications including plastics and sealants. Another important part will be going through registration procedures. And by end of 2019, we plan to introduce our additive to the market. We are already working with well-known producers and manufacturers who are waiting to apply our additive into their products. We already executed 4 letters of intent with these leading companies. In addition, we are working together on other projects that we’re looking forward to bring into the market as well.

Why do you think Polish women are such great leaders and entrepreneurs? 

Leaders are made, and I believe that sex does not matter. In Poland, we have many women who are leaders not only in politics but in the business community as well. I think many Polish women already developed a mindset for success. Starting a business is tough. But starting a business as woman in Poland is even tougher. We have to overcome biases and cultural norms to just step onto a level playing field. But even with these challenges, we are not afraid of dreaming big! What I believe characterizes Polish women is our toughness, determination, and compassion. A great leader starts with patience, open mindedness, the willingness to listen and then take action. We unafraid of questioning and challenging the status quo. I believe that through the uniquely toughening experience of women in business, we have the uncanny ability to feel, sense and perceive things differently than our male counterparts. And that, for us, can be a great advantage

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