A call with Asia in the morning, negotiations with Europe at noon and acting as managing director of Longevity Labs+ Inc. in the USA in the evening – this is what work looks like for Vedran Bijelac. He’s been with the company from the beginning, has worked hard to get where he is today and can share a few interesting stories from an international corporation.
Who are you and what is your responsibility at Longevity Labs+?
My name is Vedran Bijelac. I am the Director of International Sales and Authorized Signatory for Longevity Labs+ GmbH and, at the same time, the Managing Director of Longevity Labs+ Inc., our subsidiary based in Denver, Colorado, USA.
What did you do before Longevity Labs+?
I studied business administration in Graz. After that, I worked in consulting focusing on strategic consulting, process optimization and corporate finance. This is how I got to know Herbert Pock, one of our managing directors. He recruited me for his consulting firm. After roughly five years I had achieved everything I could achieve within this short period of time: I had become the youngest manager in the company’s history, had managed one of the largest projects, was involved in international business activities and my learning curve was getting less and less steep. I had the feeling that I needed a break and decided on my 30th birthday to travel around the world.
How did you end up at Longevity Labs+ then?
Herbert and Gerald had called me towards the end of my sabbatical to ask me whether I wanted to join Longevity Labs+ to help setting up the company. Traveling around the world has sparked the desire in me to give back even more. And this was a great opportunity to do so. In the first year, apart from contributing to the strategic development of the company, my main role was marketing and sales with a special focus on the Austrian market. We first had to find out what the initial steps for communication should look like and how we wanted to introduce spermidineLIFE® on the market.
How did your career develop after that first year?
We knew from the start that we wanted to internationalize our business as soon as possible. You could say that the international trade activities somewhat dropped into my lap – that is to say that no one else in the team was particularly keen on venturing into this field. Since my work as a consultant involved a lot of international activities and contacts and since I was always obsessed with the idea of making our product and our company known around the world, I then decided to “give up” operational activities in Austria and to switch to International Sales.
What exactly are your key tasks at Longevity Labs+?
Essentially, my key tasks involve shaping Longevity Labs+‘s strategic alignment as well as the strategic and operational management of International Sales which includes tapping new markets, planning new market launch strategies and winning new partners. I am also responsible for the operational and strategic development of Longevity Labs+ Inc. in the USA.
Could you tell us a little more about the international and strategic alignment of the company?
Sure. We were incorporated as an Austrian company which today has branches in South America, North America, Europe and Asia. We are growing strongly. In a recent interview I compared our company with Red Bull. We are both Austrian companies opening up a new market. When you think of energy drinks what comes to your mind is the name Red Bull. And when you think of spermidine, the first think that should come to your mind is spermidineLIFE® and Longevity Labs+. This is the strategy which we try to spread around the whole world, on the one hand by being consistent in our communication and on the other hand by our business partners who share our common values.
What makes working for Longevity Labs+ unique, in your opinion – apart from giving back?
My thinking is marked by a strong vision. It may sound stupid, but some day when I have my own children and they go to school, apart from proteins, carbohydrates and fats I want them to learn something about spermidine. We have the opportunity to let the world know about something new and scientifically so important. In an organizational sense this means that we are no longer a small startup but have managed to maintain small, non-hierarchical structures and work together almost like one big family. Each and every employee has the opportunity to get involved and to be a part of the whole show. Even if we will not be able to implement every suggestion, each contribution is highly appreciated.
Would you say that Longevity Labs+ generally provides opportunities for young folks like you or would you say you’re an exception?
Not at all, I am definitely not the only one! We have colleagues who have joined us pretty soon after completing college – i.e. who had fairly little real-world work experience – and they are now leading whole teams. We reward performance just as much as courage, since much of what we do requires courage. In Austria, we were initially told that what we do is never going to work. But it has, simply because we dare thinking out of the box and not to follow trodden paths.
What are the major challenges on an international scale as compared to the Austrian market?
Besides time – I communicate with Asia in the morning, call business partners and colleagues in Europe around midday and take care of our US business in the evening – the greatest challenge is to understand the various different cultural differences and barriers. While European customers want a mix of science and lifestyle, Southeast Asian customers want their physician to recommend our product. Communication in these markets is much more scientific and based on healthcare professionals. Furthermore, spermidine had gained some reputation in Austria because of the University of Graz and professor Frank Madeo. Longevity Labs+ had a certain degree of credibility right from the start, also because of our investor Dr Hannes Androsch. For us, Austria is like a safe haven – a small, easily manageable market in which we know which lever to turn, while we have to find these levers first in other countries.
How do you proceed in such cases? Also as the managing director of Longevity Labs+ Inc.?
I am a very data-driven person, always trying to do things and to get feedback as quickly as possible. My whole approach to work is virtually marked by a trial-and-error culture – I test one marketing campaign and if it does not work, I try the next one. Especially the United States were like a blank sheet for us. Nobody knew spermidine. While we can address a fairly large target group in Austria, the market in the US is much more reduced. On the one hand, there is the biohacking community which is firmly rooted in a scientific setting. On the other hand, we have to reach the other target groups with very simple short messages.
Why should customers take a look at the website www.spermdinelife.us?
Even if we try to send out the same core message around the world, the way we communicate on this market is somewhat different. Especially on the US website, we try to bring across our message in a more playful multimedia way with interesting blogs, podcasts and video material. Maybe Austrian customers will find this more appealing, they might also discover certain aspects they didn’t know yet.
How do you manage your stressful daily routine and the balancing act on an international scale?
The most important thing is the support and understanding of your partner and to have a stable setting at home in your private life. Apart from that, I follow a very strict morning routine which includes meditation, Wim Hof breathing techniques and ice-cold showers. This gives me the right kick to start my day. And whenever I find the time, I spend half an hour to do some exercise. If I feel like my energy is waning in the afternoon or evening, I do another round of meditation to get focused again.
Trial and error, also means errors and frustration – How do you deal with that?
My frustration level is fairly low, if something goes wrong. I look at it like this: we had a hypothesis which we have tested and discarded. In this respect my approach is very scientific. Whenever I feel frustration or stress building up inside, my morning routine and my meditation are a very potent antidote. I do not do the classic mindfulness meditation. My type of meditation allows me to be creative while meditating. A lot of times I spent two hours at night trying to figure out how to solve a problem without finding a solution, and then, the next day, it just pops up during my morning meditation. (laughs)
What else do you do to enhance your performance?
Sleep! Sleep is a critical factor. I wear a ring which fully tracks the different stages of my sleep. You could somehow call me a biohacker myself. And I do generally take care of my body and try to be mindful of my health. It is the basis for everything else. Also for self-satisfaction. If I’m not mentally and physically in good health, this has an effect on how I see the world, while the world is in fact a great place full of opportunities and hope.
Is this a message you want to pass on to others, especially young people?
Yes, of course. We should all start much earlier to take care of ourselves. The point is, that we generally only start doing something when we can’t go on like before. This, however, is wrong. Many people say: Where should I get the discipline to meditate, do sports and to eat properly? However, I do not consider this self-discipline but self-respect and loving myself because I am doing something for myself.
Particularly young people see a career role model in you. What message would you like to share with them?
Don’t be afraid! Have the courage to make mistakes, ask the awkward questions and do your own thinking. But first and foremost, learn from mistakes and questions. Try to capture abstract patterns. I, for myself, write my diary every evening, for example. Even if I just put down that this was a good or a bad day. If I look at my diary at the end of the month to find out that too many of my days were bad ones, I know that I need to change something. Even during the most difficult phases in our lives, we can learn something. And that’s the most important thing for me: to learn and to retain what I learned.
What is your biohack to be successful?
That is a difficult questions. I would say it’s meditation. But: Not every type of meditation is the right thing for everyone! It’s good to test different types of meditation techniques and to see which one suits you. It took me two years before I found the right one for me. This may require some perseverance.
What are the issues you are dealing with in science and research as a biohacker?
There are so many of them. Of course, my main focus is on spermidine and the nice thing is that a new study on this gets published almost every week. The people in the world try to break new grounds, no longer following the idea of single symptoms but rather taking a holistic approach to health and life. At the same time I am quite interested in knowing more about artificial intelligence, quantum physics and astrophysics and the study of human consciousness.
So you are more interested in the trivia of life?
(laughs) That’s it. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but quantum physics is the study of the smallest unit while astrophysics is virtually the exact opposite. And the deeper you get into these topics the more you realize that everything is connected with each other. The small, the great and our consciousness. I am convinced that we will learn a lot more about the universe, about us and our consciousness in the years ahead of us.
Vedran Bijelac shares even more exciting things about Longevity Labs+ in this video: