Entrepreneurship interview

Entrepreneurship interview

“Dream big and follow the dream, do it now, not tomorrow”

Amin Amani is a design engineer at ASML. He obtained his Ph.D. in the field of mechanical engineering at Delft University of Technology (TUDelft) in 2016. Amin is a passionate, motivated, and hardworking man who is always feeding his curiosity with new knowledge and challenges. These traits have turned him into an entrepreneur with heuristic solutions for unforeseen challenges. After his graduation and working in different industries (i.e. automotive, printing industries, and engineering consultancy), he ended up at ASML and is now working there as a design engineer. Meanwhile, since he has entrepreneurial characteristics, he began working on his startup at HighTech XL in Eindhoven. Besides, since 2018, he has commenced coaching and leading other startups with the technical aspect as well. Explicitly, 

  1. Printed Electronics: Using printing technologies based on TNO patent for low-cost processes (Mentor, Aug 2019- Sep 2019)
  2. UVLite: Flame/spark detector sensor based on CERN patent (CMO, Sep 2019- Jan2020)
  3. inPhocal: Laser structured beam (Core team member/Technical marketing, Jan 2020-Current)
  4. Keiron Printing Technologies: LIFT technology based on TNO patent (Mentor, Jan 2020-Current)

Dr. Amani, how would you describe ‘entrepreneurship’?

From my standpoint, an entrepreneur is a creative person who has a heuristic solution or idea for a specific market problem. In other words, that person’s idea should solve one of the market’s problems. For instance, Arash Ferdowsi, the founder of Dropbox, understood that people need a platform to upload their data there and it should be accessible from all connecting devices, namely Mobile phones, Computers, and Tablets. It is noteworthy to say that this idea should be feasible from a financial aspect that generates a decent revenue stream for expanding your business. Also, I tagged entrepreneurship as a path. In this path, you do not know what will happen, yet you should have an entrepreneurial spirit to continue this path. 

What is the entrepreneurship spirit? Should an entrepreneur have it instinctively or is it achievable? 

Entrepreneurship spirit means that you should be brave enough to face challenges and accept the risks which might happen during this path. In other words, the risk of being rejected by an investor(s), losing all savings that you have saved, being refuted from your close friends or relatives, etc. From my point of view, an entrepreneur should have a spirit of turning Why matters to How matters. For example, instead of thinking Why I was rejected by an investor, asking him- or herself, How I can find a better investor, and How I can improve my idea/technology to be more attractive for investors. 

What is the most important tool that an entrepreneur needs to have?

Team. The most important tool that an entrepreneur needs is a decent team. The proper team is a vital factor in the determination of one startup’s success or failure. From my standpoint, the best team is a mix of people who have different background knowledge such as marketing, technical, finance, etc. Moreover, gender diversity is also very important in startups. Based on the research of different startups organizations and also my experiences; working in a diverse environment can make the team smarter and helps the startup to go to market with a product that solves a wider range of customer problems, considering that the diversity can gain more trust of customers and investors.

At the first glance, it may look irrelevant that a team should be a mix of people with different skill-sets but it is necessary for the success of a startup. As an entrepreneur, you need different points of view from various fields to ensure your startup success. One important point, the team members should have the same entrepreneurial spirit. 

Why do you think that the team is important?

The team (the team members) is an important factor. Because without a good team your chance of success is too low. The best example is LinkedIn. Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn has mentioned this vital point in his book (The Start-up of You). 

Figure 1. Reid Hoffman (2012), The Start-up of You

Do you think that having sufficient financial resources is a high priority for running a startup or not?

As far as I experienced, the initial capital is not important. There are many options in order to receive funds or subsidies. I am happy to say that the Netherlands is one of the pioneer countries for supporting startups. I emphasize again that the main challenge for an entrepreneur is to find and maintain good team members. 

Should students work full time on their startups to achieve a significant outcome?

My answer is No. There are many startups out there with team members that work part-time on their startup. Working full time does not guarantee your startups’ outcome. The team and its commitments to deadlines are more important. One more time, with good team members, you could reach all your goals. When an entrepreneur and his/her team are in the first steps (developing ideas, creating/expanding their connection, etc), it is usually still not clear for the team what the exact outcome will be. Because, as I said before, entrepreneurship is a path, and they will have to follow this path to see where they will end. Then, it is natural to look at opportunities as a plan B. In other words, if they work or study, they do not want to jeopardize their current task. If an entrepreneur works part-time with good team members, they will reach their plans a little bit later. When I was at UVlite, all team members worked part-time on the startup and we got the highest points from the HighTech XL venture manager during the program, since the startup output was great. 

As a final question, what is your advice for passionate students who want to become an entrepreneur?

Dream big and follow the dream, break down the dream into the different goal- steps. Plan for the goals, stick to the plan, and stay positive! Do it now, not tomorrow. 

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