ANDREAS BRUNSGAARD LAURSEN FROM DANISH GRAPHENE
May 26, 2021
BY Nina Lyhne
CEO and co-founder of Danish Graphene ApS, a spinout built on AU research that produces graphene materials for industrial composites
MSc in Nanoscience from Aarhus University
Founded Danish Graphene ApS in May 2020 with his co-founders: Professor Kim Daasbjerg and Associate Professor Steen Uttrup Pedersen, both from Department of Chemistry at Aarhus University
HOW DID THE IDEA OF BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR ARISE?
I have always liked the idea of having my own company and building something new from scratch, but I have never really known what it should be about. I followed my passion for science and luckily, an opportunity arose to combine my interest in entrepreneurship with my love for science with Danish Graphene.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY?
We initially contacted TTO and through there, we got to work with Open Entrepreneurship. I was invited to a pitch presentation for a team of investors where we were lucky enough to meet some investors, who were willing to join us on our journey.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN THE PROCESS?
The most challenging part has been to change my mindset from research to startup. Starting a company is quite different from doing research. There are a lot of other things to take care of, such as budgeting, marketing, and many considerations that are completely new. The speed at which things happen in the business world is something I at least needed to get used to. You have to be agile and fast to be first in an application or in order to deliver a product on time.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL WORKWEEK LOOK LIKE FOR YOU IN RELATION TO COMBINING YOUR COMPANY WITH YOUR RESEARCH?
These days, I am mostly in charge of running the company and talking to potential customers, and not so much in the research and development. However, this gives me the opportunity to learn new skills and improve myself. I do, however, use the knowledge I have from research when finding new products and customers, but more in a management role than as a researcher.
HOW DO YOU USE YOUR ACADEMIC COMPETENCIES FROM AU AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Starting a company is vastly different from conducting research at the university. There is a steep learning curve on the business side of things, but at the university you become quite good at learning quickly. Using my competencies from AU, literature searching, technology validation and experimental tests are faster to perform and evaluate.
WHERE IS THE COMPANY TODAY, AND WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS OF FOR THE FUTURE?
We are currently three people working full-time in Danish Graphene: one as an industrial postdoc, mostly at Aarhus University, and the other two at our production facilities in Kibæk. We have had our first sale within the first year of starting the company, which is quite good for a high-tech startup. We have several projects with customers and many leads to work on in the coming months. Our goal for the next few years is to expand both in scope and in people to bring in more competencies in the future and also, to acquire some facilities closer to Aarhus to have better synergies with the entrepreneur community and university. Growing the business side to match the development side is paramount to achieving the dreams we have for Danish Graphene, so this is an aspect I dedicate a lot of time to.
YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR RESEARCHERS WHO ARE CONSIDERING BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS?
Dedicate a lot of your time to business development, customer discovery and marketing. Your research has taken a long time to perfect and the same care should be given to building the foundation of the company. Great science and research do not necessarily make a great company if the foundation is not solid to build on. Choose your team carefully as they will be building this foundation with you, and compatibility on a personal level can be as important as on a professional level.
I am happy to have a talk about my experiences if anyone is considering the journey into startup life and want some advice.