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Product | People | Potential – our chat with Colorifix

We caught up with Orr Yarkoni, CEO of Colorifix, as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. Colorifix uses synthetic biology to remove the need for harsh chemistry in the creation or deposition of dyes.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Zoe @ADLIB: Hi Orr, great to meet you! Please can you kick us off with an introduction to yourself and Colorifix.

Orr: I am the CEO of Colorifix and have a background in molecular biology, synthetic biology and nanomaterials. Colorifix’s has developed a new way to dye fabric using synthetic biology and microbiology where microbes produce the pigment and dyes directly into the textiles, thereby combining environmental savings to brands and customers. We are now scaling the technology from large scale commercial pilots to large scale production.

Over the course of the last two years, we have grown our team from the initial founders to over 20 people and have developed 30 new colours, which can be combined to make even more. We have several ongoing projects around the world which are at different stages of operation.

Zoe @ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of Colorifix?

Orr: I was hired by Jim Ajioka (current CSO) in 2012 to be part of his research team, working on a biosensor for water quality detection, particularly for heavy metals like arsenic. Over the course of the project, we went to Nepal and Bangladesh, to better understand the biosensor technology and industry. Whilst there, we asked locals and government officials what was wrong with their water and it was clear that over 60% of the problems came from dying within the textiles industry and this is where the idea was born.

Zoe @ADLIB: Can you share some challenges you have faced when looking for people to join?

Orr: The biggest challenge for a fast-growing company is getting people on board quickly, over the course of a year and a half we went from 4 to 22 people. Hiring should not be rushed as the people you bring on board in the early stage are critical to shaping your company.

Zoe @ADLIB: What has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit?

Orr: One of the things that many start-up companies struggle with is the switch from being involved in research and development to a customer facing position. It is important to create an implementation team that will go to a customer, walk them through everything as they are buying not only a product but a service and process.

Zoe @ADLIB: What challenges have you had to overcome to create Colorifix?

Orr: In our case, it was understanding the market, as fashion, textiles and manufacturing are all part of the chemical industry, but are very different. We have to source raw materials from different geographies, get all the right partners in place before anything happens and interact with regulators. There are a lot of connecting dots and even identifying where those dots are can be a challenge when you are doing something new. The key thing to do is talk and listen to a lot of people, even if it is not what you want to hear.

We had to consider all stages of the life cycle, to ensure there was a need and fit for our product.

Zoe @ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?

Orr: Firstly, without passion for what you’re doing it is hard to convince others that it is worth doing. The first person that must invest in your idea is you and if you are not fully invested, then no one will believe it.

Secondly, finding the right investors is very important. There is a lot of sources of funding, but if you are in the position where you will take anything, you will end up making wrong choices because your choices are made for you. My advice is to talk to a lot of people and find people who share your vision, otherwise you will end up going in directions that you don’t want to or don’t think your company should go.

Lastly, make sure you shape your company based on the customer. Talk to them and understand exactly where your product fits within their needs and how to best work with them to solve their problem.

Thank you so much for your time.