Entrepreneurial Mind of the month: Dr. Adjmal Sarwary

Name: Dr. Adjmal Sarwary
Occupation: Founder @ Mind Trace
Wakes up at night for: Only an emergency. I am fond of my sleep.


 

 

We had the opportunity to speak with Adjmal Sarwary. Adjmal is one of the two founders of Mind Trace, a company initiated by two postdocs from Radboud University. We talked about Adjmal’s career, the product he developed and his most important lessons in business.

Adjmal studied cognitive science in Germany. But when he spent a semester abroad in the United States, he decided he wanted to spend more time abroad. He decided to continue his studies in Nijmegen. When he graduated from his master’s degree, he got offered a PhD at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. And that is where his journey started.

Adjmal really enjoyed doing research on mechanism of motor learning. But during his research he started noticing that there were also a lot of marketing professionals visiting the research institute. “At some point I talked to one of them. I was just interested in what they were doing at the institute. I found out that they were researching how people really perceive advertising. I thought that was a valid question. I didn’t think much more of it. I just continued my PhD.”

However, after a while Adjmal came in touch with business again. He got asked to do a presentation about eye tracking (a technology that makes it possible to gain insight in human behaviour through tracking their eye movement) at the company where his dad was working. At the end of the presentation, Adjmal got a job offered immediately and he decided to take it. “I just mentioned a random number when they asked me what kind of salary expectations I had. They hired me immediately.  Then I realized the number I mentioned was too low.”

Adjmal started programming and when everything was ready, he performed the data collection of eye tracking measurements. He found out that the process was the same as in research, but not as strict. The data collection process was exactly the same. “I got a little bit upset. I thought it would be fun. I realized that the actual fun part was setting up the experiment.

Adjmal realized that all computers have webcams nowadays. Why aren’t these webcams used as eyetrackers he asked himself. That would get the whole process of collecting data done a lot faster. He thought that it would be possible to use a webcam and turn it into an eyetracker. “I talked about it to one of my friends, Ivar, who was more specialized in programming. Then it became clear that this idea could be executed. We were wondering why nobody does this yet. Then we continued doing our PhD without doing anything with the idea.”

However, Adjmal and Ivar were still thinking about the idea. They came up with measuring emotions through the camera as well and measuring heart rate. Then you really know how someone perceives any type of content. When Adjmal finished his PhD two years ago, he got a grant for a postdoc where he managed to work three days a week. The rest of the week he started working on his own business with his business partner Ivar, who also finished his PhD, which resulted in Mind Trace: A tool to gain consumer insights with the use of unique technology. “I had no idea how money flows. I came out of my science bubble.”

I came out of my science bubble.
— Adjmal
MindTrace.jpg

Adjmal knew money was necessary to build up and sustain his business. So he needed clients for his new business. “I thought a sales person is a slick guy with a suit. I tried to be that person and nothing was working. I could barely talk to people. I got super frustrated.”

He learned that it was necessary to be yourself in order to sell something. When he transformed back to being himself when selling his product, he actually started selling it. Now, Adjmal and Ivar are two years on the way and it is going better and better as they are understanding their market segments more and more. Adjmal told us that there is one thing about entrepreneurship he learned that he thinks is really valuable: “You need to understand that everyone has an opinion about your business. Ask them the ‘why’ question. Can they argue with valid arguments why they have a certain opinion? Then it is valid to me. That is my academic background applied in business.”

If someone needs some advise about entrepreneurship, Adjmal is happy to help. He has some last advises for students and PhD’s who have a great idea: “The business world is not that scary as some people think it is. It is a projection that is held up by a lot of institutions, but it is not as scary as they say. I would encourage you to develop a company if you really want that. Do you want to stay in science? If the answer is: Yes, then you can develop the idea and pass it on to someone else. If you don’t know, you can explore business a bit. At your own pace.”

Entrepreneurial Mind of the month: Eric Hester

Name: Eric Hester
Business: Biotic Bloom
Occupation: PhD Student Microbiology
Life quote: “Things take time”
Wakes up in the middle of the night for: Too much coffee during the day


Nijmegen is Green Capital of 2018! To celebrate this, we would like to introduce you to Eric. As the founder of startup Biotic Bloom, Eric is committed to improving the environment. Together with his co-founders, he helps farmers to reduce the waste of fertilizers, which causes harm of aquatic life, pollutes our drinking water and has a huge contribution to climate change. By creating a powder that farmers can use while fertilizing their crops, he contributes to make the world a little bit cleaner every day!

Tell us something about Biotic Bloom!

“During my PhD, I read a lot about fertilizers. They are very wasteful: most of the fertilizers do not make it to the plant and run out of the soil into canals and rivers. Anyhow, farmers need them to grow enough crops to meet our food supply. I wanted to apply my knowledge by solving this problem.” Eric visited pitch competitions for entrepreneurs and started a course in entrepreneurship and innovation at Radboud University. This was the early start of Biotic Bloom. “The Biotic Bloom powder is equivalent to a living sponge”, he explains. “The waste of fertilizers is kept in the soil by micro-organisms living in the soil around crops, which reduces the waste.”

Come out of your comfort zone! Meet that stranger and talk to them. The best way to achieve goals is to take small steps.
— Eric
Eric.jpg

What is it like to be an entrepreneur?

According to Eric, an advantage of being a young entrepreneur is having a lot of energy to grow a network very fast. “I like to be connected with the world outside of academia. By translating knowledge into something people can use, I am in touch with different kinds of people.” Also, being a young entrepreneur keeps him occupied: “I always wanted to have a business of my own, but I also have to spend a lot of time on my PhD-program”.

Why did you choose the Heyendaal Campus?

“Back in California, where I come from, it was a very international community. I had a Dutch colleague who connected me with the Radboud University. The Heyendaal Campus feels like it has a goal: it wants to grow and become something bigger. It cares about changing and becoming better. That is the best environment for a start-up.”

MindAffect, spinoff company of Radboud University, raises €1 million in Venture Capital for ALS-invention

MindAffect, a Dutch startup, raises €1 million venture capital from different Dutch investors. The startup and spinoff from the Radboud University develops a breakthrough technology entitled with 'brain computer interface' that enables amongst pters ALS patients to communicate again.

Peter Desain, one of the founders and professor Artificial Intelligence at the Radboud University has already performed research for over 20 years in brain computer interface. He explains that the technology is able to link brain activity to objects that people are looking at, which in turn enables us to control a computer. ''In other words, patients who are not able to speak and move as a consequence of ALS or cerebral infarct can use our technology to communicate with their loved ones again.''

MindAffect is founded in September 2017 and soon opens their new office in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Its mission is to open up new dimensions of interactions through the development of Brain Computer Interface. With the €1 million investment by a consortium of Dutch investors, the startup is empowered to complete its mission. Ivo de la Rive Box, CEO of MindAffect, is proud of the investment: “We feel honoured that so many stakeholders in the market have given us the confidence to further develop our technology into a product for people that have lost their ability to communicate.”

The best idea for Mercator Launch? Win a trip to Slush, Helsinki!

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Do you have the best idea for Mercator Launch? Win a trip to Slush (Helsinki), the coolest startup event in Europe!

On May16th we will officially kick-off with Mercator Launch! We are very excited to present you the entrepreneurship program we have developed and show the location (hub) where it all will happen.

What is Mercator Launch? Mercator Launch is a pre-incubator located at the Heyendaal Campus in Nijmegen. We invite entrepreneurial minds at campus and support them with the translation of their (business) concept into a viable product, service or event. We connect starting entrepreneurs with experts, advisors, investors & funders, leading entrepreneurs, government agencies and corporates in order to launch new ideas into society. Because together we innovate faster!

We are looking for the golden idea for Mercator Launch

We are looking for engagement with our students, phd's and teachers. Therefore, we would like to know how we can advance Mercator Launch and boost the hub where ideas take off. How can we help students to make their idea concrete? What has to be absolutely present at the Mercator Launch hub? How can we built the entrepreneurial community at campus? Or what has to be done to attract the entrepreneurs of the future?

Submit your golden idea for Mercator Launch, come to our Grand Opening on 16th of May and maybe you’re the one going to SLUSH on 4 and 5 December 2018! Mercator Launch will take care of your ticket, travel and lodging costs. Read more about SLUSH here.

Ready to share your idea with us? Please let us know if you attend the opening!

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Also register yourself on this link for the opening of Mercator Launch on May 16th, 2018!