There’s an old adage that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That perfectly describes Michael Johnson’s entrepreneurial journey.
Johnson is the CEO and cofounder of Visikol, a biotech company that “allows scientists to view tissues in a 3-D space as opposed to the traditional 2-D slices,” according to Forbes. This makes it easier to identify diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer in body tissue samples.
The 27-year-old Johnson, who was recently named to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list for science, started working on Visikol while he was working on a doctorate in applied microbiology at Rutgers University.
He also had a couple of failures under his belt.
“I had my fair share of flops before Visikol,” Johnson told Business Insider.
His first was an energy company that made a biofuel out of algae. It didn’t work because the technology was too expensive to compete with declining oil prices.
Johnson’s next venture brought him to Argentina, where he used duckweed to decontaminate waste water, but various regulations in the country put an end to the project. After his Latin American voyage, he thought he struck gold when he came up with a way to simplify booking vet appointments. But that didn’t work out either.
His big break came when he locked down $500,000 in venture capital that was used to jump-start Visikol.
“There was a person willing to give us $25,000, but that wasn’t enough, but he liked the idea so much he connected us with people at Ben Franklin Technology Partners who offered us $100,000,” Johnson said. We leveraged that offer to receive a $500,000 investment from the New Jersey Foundation Venture Capital Group.”
Johnson learned a lot after starting four companies. He shared with Business Insider two pieces of advice to pass on to young aspiring entrepreneurs:
- “Choose something that you’re passionate about. I often see people getting involved in startups just for the sake of doing it and making money. That can’t be your motivation.”
- “Read everything and anything you can about your industry so you’re informed when you go to conferences and events. Make sure you’re always looking for people who can help you reach your company goals.”