ExpressCells — cheap and custom cell delivery, was made possible in 2018 by Matt Handel ‘87 and Temple University researcher Oscar Perez Leal, who utilized popular gene editing technologies, like CRISPR, to speed up drug discovery and to provide better disease models for other researchers. This biotech startup was the winner of the 2018 Princeton- HBS Startup Showcase held in the Flatiron district in New York; this showcase indicated the rapidly growing Princeton entrepreneurial ecosystem as 5 of the six exciting startups pitched had ties to the university. Since 2018, startups like ExpressCells have greatly grown, so I interviewed Matt Handel to catch up on what he’s been up to.
While ExpressCells has been on the same business plan for the past 5 years, many changes have occurred since then.
“In 2018 we had no lab, no employees, no sales, and no customers. Now, we built up to a team of 12, we have our own lab, we have over 46 customers, over $1 million dollars in revenue, and we expanded the kind of work we do — geometrically,” Matt explained.
Much of this growth was attributed to the open-minded approach ExpressCells has adopted and implemented throughout its lifetime. This growth, Matt says, has necessitated balancing approachability while maintaining authority so that the company can continue to expand sustainably with a good team.
When asked why this mindset was adopted, Matt said, “the dangerous thing is assuming you have all the answers, because no one has all the answers.” Being approachable fosters a collaborative working environment while leaving the room for new ideas to blossom, enabling the trajectory of young startups, like ExpressCells, to continue to grow.
“Be open to any advice that comes and listen to people, it’s better to have more advice than too little,” Matt added.
With this approach, Matt talked about the advice he’s been able to receive from connecting with former Princeton Alumni; from the Princeton Alumni Angels to the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council’s very own staff, Anne Marie Maman’ 84 and Don Seitz’ 79, Matt attributes much of the progress made in ExpressCells to receiving valuable business advice from experts in the field.
“Good advice, smart people, suggestions, opportunities to present — all of those matter,” Matt concluded.
Connecting with the Princeton Entrepreneurial Network has helped facilitate and foster these connections, being one of many steps that the ExpressCells team has taken to continue growing.
Today, ExpressCells continues to rapidly grow, making significant advancements in the biotech field of entrepreneurship. ExpressCells is a testament to the innovation of former Princeton alumni and illustrates the power of the Princeton entrepreneurial community in helping to further launch the growth of early startups that seek to make the world a better place.