Participation in the mentor programme is typically of six months’ duration and consists of six sessions, each lasting an hour and a half. The programme is free of charge, but there is an expectation that the team behind the start-up is open to learning and developing their product along the way. A start-up has the opportunity to participate in the programme several times, it may have multiple mentors, or change mentor along the way if its needs change.
The scheme is an important part of DTU’s initiatives to promote entrepreneurship among students and researchers, so that they have the best basis for creating a viable business.
A small 3D printer with great potential
One of the start-ups participating in the mentor programme is called ATTO3D, which, among other products, is behind a small 3D printer that can print structures smaller than the thickness of a hair. It can do this both quickly and over large areas. The team behind the start-up is a group of researchers from DTU Health Tech who have named the 3D printer Bright3D. The technology behind Bright3D has never been seen before, and it allows the printer to achieve both a high resolution and fast production.
Bright3D is still under development, but when it is ready, it will be an inexpensive, easily accessible alternative to conventional microscale 3D printers, which are typically very expensive, have limited print volume, and require precise control of environmental parameters such as dust, temperature, and humidity. One of the team’s mentors, Amer Ramzan, has many years of experience with entrepreneurship and investment in companies and is Managing Partner at the Venture Fund Promentum Equity Partners.
CEO of ATTO3D Martin Voss is enthusiastic about having Amer Ramzan as mentor under the mentor programme:
“Amer is one of the cornerstones of the commercial development of Bright3D. At our mentoring sessions, he is sharp at both collecting the information the team provides and converting it into opportunities and pitfalls for the further development of the project. The communication is clear and always based on either previous experience or recent knowledge within the topic in question. In this way, he is good at challenging us, making us look inward, and teaching us to think about product development and start-up in a way that helps us move forward."
Amer Ramzan himself calls the mentor programme a unique and admirable scheme.
Good advice makes a difference
Amer Ramzan’s motivation is not profit, but rather to see his advice make a difference. For example, it may be in the form of a start-up expanding, being listed on the stock exchange or that a large company agrees to put the product into mass production. Most of all, he is concerned with doing away with the idea that a product must be fully developed before investors or possible sales can become a reality. According to Amer Ramzan, the opposite is true:
"As soon as a product is launched on the market, you get useful and specific feedback from customers, and—as a start-up—you can therefore never enter the market with your product too early.”
"In short, it is generally better for the business to get a prototype out on the market, because—in the tech industry—a product is never finished anyway.”
Honest talk and a fair price
Amer Ramzan sometimes finds that the team behind a start-up finds it difficult to price their product. They do not want to disappoint potential customers, and they therefore hesitate to take money for what they have created. The solution to this dilemma is simple, according to Amer Ramzan:
“As long as you talk openly and honestly about your product, your relations with customers will not be problematic. Companies that engage with a start-up know that it is a newly-developed product that is still under development. They expect potential, not perfection.”
Finally, the product price must be fair, when held up against the value which the product provides society with, while also ensuring that the start-up can create a durable business model and not go bust.