Written by Caro - 7 Minutes reading time

Passion, innovation and life-saving technology: the CEO of Surfix reflects on the first hundred days

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In the dynamic world of biotechnology and medical innovation, Surfix occupies a remarkable position under the leadership of its CEO, Jos Lunenberg, whose first hundred days have marked the organisation's course. In an exclusive interview, we share his insights and experiences.

“Let's start with a look back at your first hundred days as CEO of Surfix. Can you share a personal moment or anecdote that highlights the impact you have had on the company's priorities?”

“Certainly, my start at Surfix was quite decisive. We immediately looked at all strategic levels to see where we needed to steer. One of the crucial moments was related to our product development strategy, specifically the introduction of a prototype IVD instrument in the research market. Initially, the idea was to bring this product to this market, but it was not sufficiently substantiated. My marketing background came in handy here; I decided to properly identify the needs of the market and gain a clearer view of the opportunities and threats. Our Business Development team subsequently proved to be perfectly able to retrieve this information from the market through their network. This market research showed that there was no connection for this specific market, so we shifted the focus to the main goal and tightened the product development strategy.”

“That sounds like an important course correction. In what ways have your personal values and leadership style influenced your decisions and actions during your first months as CEO?”

“My personal values are decisive for my leadership. Authenticity is essential to me; I don't want to do tricks. In my corporate years, where hierarchy and political games were sometimes the order of the day, I learned that this did not suit me. I strongly believe in transparency and creating a culture where everyone is heard and seen. My leadership style is democratic; I do expect proactivity and creativity from my team. In a startup environment, it is essential that people are flexible and can operate outside their job description. I also ensure that decisions are not postponed. Better to make an occasional wrong decision, which you later adjust, than no decision at all.”

"Interesting. Can you share anything about the personal experiences or influences that have shaped your vision for the future of Surfix since you became CEO?”

“My broad experience certainly helped me in the first hundred days. I've gone through similar phases before in start-up environments, albeit in a slightly different context. This quickly gave me a good overview of the situation at Surfix and this contributes to making quick and effective decisions. My vision of the future of Surfix is further shaped by discussions with stakeholders, participation in events and thorough research in the diagnostic market.”

“Are there any specific conversations with stakeholders that shaped your perspective in the first hundred days?”

“Certainly, I already had extensive discussions with Luc, the founder of Surfix, early in my term. Our complementary knowledge and similar wiring helped us quickly identify the main points. Although there were no significant surprises, things were more clearly articulated. This has helped us better understand the complexity of what we are doing at Surfix.”

“When selecting new employees, which personal qualities or principles are crucial to you and how do they fit in with your own leadership trajectory?”

“It depends on the position, but in addition to the right knowledge and experience, I always look at soft skills and character. The type of person must fit the phase the organisation is in, be willing to commit himself/herself beyond his/her direct responsibilities and believe in the higher goal. Personal passion and energy for the work are essential; I try to convey this to the team. We are working on potentially life-saving technology, and this must be the driving force behind all our efforts.”

“About sustainability and social responsibility, how does a personal belief support these aspects within Surfix?”

“Our efforts at Surfix are aimed at actually contributing to people and society. A funny anecdote is that as a young startup CEO, I personally separated plastic in Den Bosch because it did not happen in the office. At Surfix I was pleased to see that there were already sustainability initiatives, such as automatic lights and good waste separation. The fact that we make an effort regardless of the size of the organisation is significant.”

“How is your personal approach to communication and transparency reflected in interactions with employees and stakeholders?”

“My approach is that communication should be clear and transparent for everyone. We regularly hold all-hands meetings to keep the team informed. The introduction of the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology helps everyone provide clarity about the short- and long-term goals of the company. It is essential that people understand where we are going and how they can contribute as a team and individually. This approach also helps maintain focus and alignment, especially as the company grows.”

“Let's delve deeper into what attracts you personally to Surfix's products or services. Cancer appears to be a common thread in your career. Could you share how Surfix's focus appeals to you personally? “

"Absolute. The photonic diagnostic platform being developed by Surfix can play an important role in the fight against cancer. What appeals to me personally is the innovative approach to using biosensors. The application of a photonic chip, which works based on light and has the ability to detect solid tumours in urine and blood, among other things, without the need for invasive, expensive procedures, is groundbreaking. The fact that we combine six innovative technologies in our platform, including selective nanocoatings with which Surfix has made its name and fame, makes us unique. The Netherlands has embraced photonics and Surfix is leading the way in developing applications for biosensors. My personal involvement in the disease of cancer, coupled with these great innovations, and the great team drives me to give full throttle every day at Surfix.”

“Let's look to the future. How do your personal long-term goals align with Surfix's long-term goals? And how do you plan to combine these two aspects of your life?”

“Surfix is in a phase where large investors are involved, and the professional funds have a specific scope of five to ten years on average. This corresponds to the type of organisation that Surfix is. If the product becomes successful, there comes a point when it becomes too big to properly support it in the market with the organic growth of the company. At that point, a major player will likely take over. My personal long-term goals are in line with this. I see myself remaining actively involved with Surfix in my current role as CEO for the next three to eight years. If I fulfil this role well and stay until Exit, it will be my last major executive role. In addition, I currently fulfil two supervisory roles and I want to remain involved in young ventures. Combining these different activities is a challenge that I take on with enthusiasm and that gives me energy.”

“An interesting personal aspect of your leadership is your willingness to self-reflect and adapt your approach. Can you share a specific time when personal feedback led to significant self-improvement? And how does this relate to your approach as CEO?”

“Certainly, self-reflection is crucial. An employee once pointed out that my intense communication style, in combination with my height and energy, could sometimes come across as arrogant. This feedback opened my eyes at the time and since then I have become much more aware of how I come across to others, especially in difficult conversations. Even as a CEO, I always try to put myself in the shoes of my interlocutor and show understanding, and this experience has helped me strengthen these qualities. It is important to remember that authenticity and humanity in leadership are invaluable.”

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