Christin Günther

Christin Günther, 35, is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at BIOMES.

In 2012, she successfully completed her studies in Media & Communication Sciences and Psychology at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. She lived in London for more than six months and has worked in various major German cities for well-known companies during her professional career. This includes several years of agency and management experience at executive level, including as Head of Media with a budget responsibility of over 13,000,000€. In 2017, she co-founded BIOMES NGS GmbH, a biotechnology company which now has over 60 employees. BIOMES uses the Next Generation Sequencing method to analyse the DNA of microbes that live in and on the human body. The results are personal microbiota profiles, on the basis of which clients receive individual recommendations for improving their quality of life. Outside of work, Christin has a passion for travelling to foreign countries, as she has an affinity for languages and other cultures.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My background is pretty far away from what I am currently doing. I have gone from working in marketing to co-founding BIOMES, a DNA biotech start-up. This is actually a good thing, because I have a good understanding of consumers and markets from my background in communications, psychology and advertising and therefore was able to help our scientists to make a simple product out of very complex high-tech laboratory processes.

I am a co-founder of BIOMES and started off as CPO, Chief Product Officer. I was responsible for our product and communication of this product. One of the most important tasks in my field was to create a brand that feels good and is associated with health, but at the same time conveys 100% science. Or in other words – building a ‘sexy’ brand around a scientific stool test (the uses revolutionary DNA sequencing to analyse your gut intestinal flora to provide personalised diet and lifestyle changes for improved quality of life, all from a pin-sized stool sample). Currently, the is our only test, alongside our priobiotic range and product bundles. However, our DNA technology can do much more and our goal is ambitious. We want to become the go-to provider for genomics and are already setting the gold standard in DNA-based microbiome analysis.

I am currently switching roles from CPO to CMO – Chief Marketing Officer. With this, I am letting go of product, but I am integrating the sales team into my responsibility.

As a founder in tech, it is super important to not only focus on your own responsibilities, but to check what’s going on in the rest of the company. So, I make sure to do a lot more than product, marketing or customer satisfaction.  I “watch” that everything we do is in line with our values and that we maintain our amazing company culture that is authentic from when we were just 7 founders to now, a growing company that wants to become one of the very rare German ‘tech unicorns.’

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To be honest – no. I was always very ambitious in what I did, but I did not have a specific plan. I wanted to do well at uni which I did, and I wanted my first job to be in a renowned advertising agency which it was. I got to the point where I did not want to do advertising anymore, but something with more “sense”, something that does good for people. Then I met our now-CEO Dr. Paul Hammer and took a chance co-founding BIOMES, which was the best decision ever because it’s way more than a career-step, it’s a nonstop roller coaster ride.

Coming from a social and behavioural sciences background and working in marketing for many years before founding our biotech start-up meant that I was from a completely different field and it was a wonderful experience for me to immerse myself in our technology, to understand what it can do and to turn it into a product that customers can easily use at home.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Before co-founding BIOMES, just like everyone, I experienced good and “bad” bosses, but even from the “bad” ones I learnt a lot. There is so much to learn in terms of how NOT to do something when you become boss.

The biggest challenge within BIOMES was and is the constant confrontation with German scepticism. In our experience, it is much more common in Germany to demonise new technologies and to immediately label new things as ‘useless’, for fear of having to deal with them. We experience this again and again in our discussions with doctors, experts or the media. In the US and UK, there is a culture of supporting new start-ups and technologies. The has helped more than 20,000 customers feel better – yet there are still self-proclaimed experts whose knowledge is not ours who continue to call it useless.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement so far has been to take a leap and co-found a company whose valuation we have now increased more than tenfold, which has already made over 20,000 customers happy and employs over 60 people who really enjoy working for us. Our 60 employees are of eleven different nationalities, and we have a female quota of 45%, which is really great for a company with a focus on IT, laboratory and bioinformatics. I have always been committed to gender balance, but I am also very proud of my male co-founders who have never questioned it.

Furthermore, the possibilities for BIOMES are almost endless. With our core technology, we can theoretically analyse any DNA that exists on the planet. For example, our bacteria also influence soil fertility, the health of livestock and the purity of our waters. So, in the future, our analysis could help make soil more fertile and livestock healthier. I am proud to be part of something with so much potential.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

From my first and best (female) boss I observed that she was asking more questions than anyone else – and her outcomes were way better than those of anyone else. From this, I learned to really OWN what I was doing and to ask even the silliest of questions to make sure I really understand everything.
Furthermore, I am a true optimist and can get enthused about not just my area of the company, but BIOMES as a whole. This is extremely important if you want to convince people to work for your start-up.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Don’t be shy and don’t be put off by the fear of not being able to do something because you think tech always equals rocket science. And: In salary negotiations, know your worth and put forward your thoughts with confidence.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Fortunately, I do not see any barriers for women in our company specifically; we do have women in operational positions, but the quota gets lower and lower the higher up the position. So, it seems in tech, just like in most other industries, women still have a harder time working in leadership positions. However, there are sufficient studies that show that women at the top make companies more successful in the long term.

What do you think companies can do to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I think a good start would be to treat women and men completely equally, to give them the same opportunities, to pay them the same salary and to give their opinions equal weight. I still find that women, especially at a certain age, are perceived more as soon-to-be-bearers of children rather than as employees to be taken seriously, or that women are given less responsibilities at work after parental leave. This makes me very angry, and I am passionate about working to change this.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I were to spend a day at the helm, I would collect the surplus profits of tech giants and donate them to projects dedicated to female empowerment. There is still a lot to do in this area, especially to get more women into positions of responsibility, as women still make up a lower proportion of start-ups, especially in tech. I was also the only woman in our founding team.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

My key advice would be to go to networking events and approach people with confidence and enthusiasm. Don’t be shy, and talk to interesting people to cultivate your contacts. In terms of podcasts, I love ‘Women Tech Charge’ hosted by Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of ‘STEMettes’, an initiative aimed at encouraging the next generation of girls into STEM careers. In each episode, a female inventor, entrepreneur or senior leader have candid conversations with the hosts to reveal the funny and inspiring side of tech. I find it really engaging and aspirational to listen to.

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