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Founder of the Month September: The Nanoscribe GmbH Founding Team

Logo_NanoscribeThe Nanoscribe GmbH was founded in 2007 as a spin-off of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). It produces and sells compact, user-friendly laser lithography systems for the manufacture of three-dimensional nano and micro structures with commercially available photoresists. The portfolio is rounded off by consultation on the casting of complex polymeric three-dimensional structures in, for instance, metals or semi-conductors. Martin Hermatschweiler is the founder and managing director of nanoscribe. In an interview, we asked him about his idea, startup phase, and future prospects.

Martin Hermatschweiler

Martin
Hermatschweiler

What does your business stand for?

The term Nanoscribe is a combination of the syllable “nános” (dwarf) and “scribere” (write). As a high-tech company, we produce 3D printers with the worldwide highest resolution and precision. The underlying process of the printing is referred to as Direct Laser Writing and enables lithographic fabrication of three-dimensional micro and nano structures. Nomen est omen.

The fields of application of our 3D printers, which are suitable for design heights of 150 nm into the millimeter range, reach from photonics, micro-optics, microfluidics, micro-rapid-prototyping to biosciences. Our systems are used worldwide by renowned scientists at research institutes and universities in order to solve the complex questions of the 21st century and thus the societal challenges of the future.

3D-Polymer-Struktur in Form von

3D polymer structure in “nanoscribe” form of a human hair

How did you come up with the idea for your startup?

We already had the enthusiasm for the technology and the thought of working on something scientifically unique that could serve as beneficial for a number of other researchers. Creativity and commitment were present as well as the spirit of independence. What lacked was the deciding impulse that then came from Carl Zeiss as well as the wide support from KIT in our case. Our support and backing from the professor were essential prerequisites to found a business parallel to our research. At the same time, the work was conducive to research at the institute. Thus, we had a win-win situation.

The startup came about only after careful evaluation of the market, risks, technical realization, and clarification of numerous questions about (patent) law. The gut feeling was thus supported by a quantified underpinning of the enterprise.

Are there any founders or entrepreneurs who you particularly admire?

There are mission statements that I orient myself to at all times. Admiration is an intricate word. It suggests that these idols are unreachable, that they are characterized by an inimitable charisma, etc. But are these really suitable role models? Good management has to be practicable according to learnable “recipes” for a broad mass of businesses and characters. In our business, we try to realize these and add a personal touch.

Thus, at all times there are tasks that others have mastered especially well and we try to learn from them. They serve as an orientation guide in order to master each level of growth successfully step by step.

Where do you see challenges on your way to becoming a successful company?

There are external factors that one cannot influence and to which one is unprotected. These are definitely the most inestimable and risky challenges for a high-tech business that one has to recognize early. Internally, one of the most important tasks on the way to a successful company is creating the necessary structures that enable a stable long-term growth. For this, responsibility must be shouldered together with the colleagues who all have a joint goal in view and strive to attain it. A positive working atmosphere and the appreciation of colleagues who are all important controlling elements for success are basic prerequisites for sustainable growth.

Could you imagine working for a different business in the future or would you rather be your own boss?

For me, independent work and employment are not contradictory to each other, but they must be desired and promoted by a business. As an entrepreneur in a business with several partners, one has many freedoms, but movement is still within regulated limits. This is good, reasonable, and necessary for the company. Therefore, employment in a business where open communication and flat hierarchical structures enable the realization of one’s own ideas is not a horror scene for me at all. On the contrary: We demand and promote the entrepreneurial thinking of each of our employees.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?

So far, the core points of the 5-year plan designed from the startup phase went almost exactly as planned and was even exceeded in the fifth year. Nanoscribe actively leveled and prepared the market for this disruptive technology. Thematically related companies and their development as well as rational market sizes and market development calculation serve as an orientation for growth in the scientific market. Now, we are on the verge of grasping the industry-related research and first applications that could be included in consumer goods. The risk is much more inestimable and the success is harder to assess than before.

I assume that the possibility of increased establishment of three-dimensional structuring will set revolutionary processes in industrial applications and production methods into motion. The range of potential applications is increasingly growing. Let us be surprised where the next 10 years take us!

Do you have any tips for other young business founders?

I can only reinforce that external, experienced investors bring know-how and experience and the need for reporting structures are definitely very advisable. This isn’t necessarily a formula for business startups, but in our case it was very helpful. It is also valuable to have a heterogeneous mix of characters, viewpoints, experiences, and competences. An open atmosphere for conductive debate is also a prerequisite in order to grow out of oneself as a business.

Brief overview:

  • Founders: Martin Hermatschweiler, Dr. Michael Thiel, Prof. Dr. Georg von Freymann, Prof. Dr. Martin Wegener
  • Startup: 2007
  • Homepage: www.nanoscribe.de
  • Contact: info@nanoscribe.de
  • Field: Nanophotonics
3D-Drucker in Betrieb

3D printer in action

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