Sponsored by MidWestOne Bank, this is the latest edition of the CBJ’s new podcast feature with Nate Kaeding and notable Iowa business and cultural leaders, available first to CBJ members. Listen to this episode below, and subscribe on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
By Nate Kaeding
Trey Martin is the president of Integrated DNA Technologies, Inc., a Coralville-based life sciences company. Think of IDT as a company of scientists working for scientists as it fuels the genomics revolution. They create genomics tools and solutions that pave the way for the big breakthroughs that improve the human condition and make CNBC headlines for parent company Danaher.
I talked to Trey about IDT’s fascinating origin story involving an innovative blood substitute, local rock bands and key people in the Corridor simply knowing each other. As a fast-growing startup, IDT was creative as it raised capital, relentless in delivering custom genomics products on time and quick to learn a new world of reporting and forecasting as it was acquired for approximately $2 billion by a Fortune 150 company.
I learned a lot and I think you will, too.
Take us back to that first day 27 years ago at IDT, how did you get there?
I’m a guitar player. At the time I was working with my band, Noise Ordinance. My fallback was to go to med school, maybe. We had played a bunch of shows with a band called These Days. They had a house in Iowa city and a couple of them were getting their master’s degrees. Our lead singer, Aaron Warner, was connected with the founder of IDT, Joe Walder. I was studying biochemistry and our drummer was studying to become an optometrist. Aaron, our lead singer, was a Novell networking expert as well as a database guy. Joe was looking for some database work for a brand-new business model that IDT was putting together which was to make custom synthetic DNA for genomic experiments. The bass player from the other band’s wife was the office manager at IDT. That was literally the connection to Aaron getting hired as an IT person at IDT and my introduction to Joe from Aaron. I started the first week of March in 1994.
That first week at IDT – what does that look like?
I was employee number 10. At that time you did anything and everything. I remember we would take these orders for oligonucleotides – every order is custom in this business – and my job was to make them in the lab. They shipped overnight by UPS and FedEx. We’d have one person distract the pickup driver and everybody else was feverously packing. When orders came in a big surge, we had to get them in the system so we would all run up front and do order entry. Interestingly enough several of those people are still on the leadership team.