Q&A with CEO of Novus BiologicalsBy: Mainsail Partners | November 1, 2012
Karen Padgett is the CEO of Novus Biologicals, a company she founded in 1996 to help scientists find and purchase the right biological materials for their research. Since then Novus has evolved into a global e-commerce company with over 180,000 products serving scientists and researchers worldwide.
Can you explain exactly what your company does? And what role does e-commerce play?
We produce, test and distribute proprietary antibodies, as well as licensed antibodies from universities and research institutions to aid researchers in the study of diverse disease processes. We stay on top of research trends through reading scientific journals and collaborating with leading-edge researchers around the world.
The importance of our web site and making our products discoverable online is threefold: First, just as in most industries today the scientific community starts its research process online to find companies like us which sell products of interest—in our case, antibodies for scientists. Second, our Web site is a destination for our customers to find relevant information on our products, as well as the pathways and diseases they are related to. And of course our Web site is ultimately designed to facilitate purchase once a scientist or researcher finds what they are looking for.
How did you get started?
For years you were a bootstrapped company, building Novus only with your credit cards and savings account. Tell us about your decision to bring in an equity partner.
What are some of the specific challenges you’ve faced as the company has grown, how have you successfully addressed them?
One of our biggest challenges related to technology. We felt we had great products, and there was a robust market for them, but for a long time we weren’t using best practices in digital marketing or really robust, back-end IT platforms to support them. We had a lot of silos of data and processes that didn’t talk to each other.
We now have an internally developed product called “Product Central” that serves as a sophisticated data warehouse for all of our business data. This has boosted efficiency and sales and also helped us do better budgeting and financial planning. We’ve also adopted new products like Salesforce.com and revamped our external-facing Web site. One of our other challenges is related to how to address the market need overseas. We now have an office in Canada and one in Cambridge in the U.K.—expansion that we were able to do partly because of all the internal IT improvements we made to tie our systems together and improve the integrity of our data.
What’s next for Novus?
We are continuing to focus on improving our Web site and adding high-quality products with extensive data. More broadly, we look forward to further global expansion in 2013.