Finding the right mentors for your scale-up can be defining for your business. CEO and Founder of ATLANT 3D Nanosystems, Dr. Maksym Plakhotnyuk, found the perfect match the second time he entered DeepTech Mentoring by DTU Science Park.
With NASA as its first customer, investors like Sony, and being the winner of several distinguished awards the company ATLANT 3D Nanosystems has achieved much global awareness since it was founded in 2018.
In 2020, the team grew to around 10 people. They had a prototype, customer traction, and a lot of partners and were ready to scale up and attract new investors.
“But it was not easy. So I joined the DeepTech Mentoring programme by DTU Science Park,” Maksym Plakhotnyuk says and continues:
“I never ran a company before in Denmark. So, I basically needed help with financing, operations, paying salaries, developing the technology, building a company, making a business plan, chasing investors and applying for public funding.”
From lab failures to atomical precise advanced manufacturing
ATLANT 3D Nanosystems is developing a fundamentally different nanofabrication platform technology that enables atomical precise advanced manufacturing of advanced materials and electronics. Normally, this process needs a range of advanced machines and will take hours or days. The small components can be used in several products like mobile phones and other electronic devices.
“I was a Ph. D-student at DTU Nanotech, where I spent a lot of time in the lab making solar cells and wondering how these processes with a lot of failures could be done more simple,” CEO and Founder Dr. Maksym Plakhotnyuk says.
Here, he got the initial ideas for advanced atomic manufacturing. Later, he met his Co-founders Ivan Kundrata, now Head of R&D, and professor Julien Bachmann, now a Member of the board. Together they developed and built their first prototype.
Different mentor teams for different phases
Maksym Plakhotnyuk had two teams of three mentors each during his participation in DeepTech Mentoring by DTU Science Park. One team in 2020 and another one in 2021.
The mentors are chosen based on the challenges the company need help for in a specific phase, which of course changes over time.
“Sometimes it is very difficult to know exactly which type of mentors you need until you meet them and they start bringing value,” Maksym Plakhotnyuk says.
The first time he had mentors on IP, operations and on cooperate structuring, respectively.
“I still talk to Peter Halkjaer Jensen who advised me on IP,” Maksym Plakhotnyuk says.
Peter Halkjaer Jensen has been a part of the DeepTech Mentoring programme since 2017 and has a background as Head of Patent at Maersk Drilling.
The second time Maksym Plakhotnyuk participated in the mentor programme he found – in close collaboration with DTU Science Park – a new team of mentors, which turned out to be not only very helpful but also a perfect match.
“I got a new team of very strong mentors. I had one on structuring and building the company and board, one on business development, commercial activities and operations and one who was very technical,” Maksym Plakhotnyuk says.
Two of the mentors from the second team became part of the company after Maksym Plakhotnyuk finished the mentoring programme. One is now Vice-chairman of the board, Kathrine Stampe Andersen, and the other is Chief Operating and Financial Officer Erik Stangerup.
Kathrine Stampe Andersen has a background as Executive Advisor and Professional Board Member, while Erik Stangerup is a Senior Executive and Board Member in leading global technology companies.
Important to be open-minded as mentee
Also having more than one mentor has been very useful to Maksym Plakhotnyuk.
“If two mentors are given the same task and they both suggest almost the same solution it probably means it is the right decision. If you only have one mentor you must be sure that the person delivers exactly what you need and that is of course not always the case,” he says.
Maksym Plakhotnyuk would definitely recommend other scale-ups to enter the DeepTech Mentoring by DTU Science Park and to be open-minded, when they do:
“Many – especially technical founders like me – think that they know a lot and don’t need people with expertise in business, commercial and operations. But if you want to build a company with customer traction and scaling then you need different skillsets,” he concludes.