On November 5th, I was, together with two more from class, invited to participate at the inauguration of GraphmaTech´s new facility. GraphmaTech is where we plan to do our master thesis.

The logo of GraphmatTech on the wall of their new facility.

GraphmaTech is a fairly new company that produces graphene. They have managed to solve the agglomeration problem that graphene producers and users have been struggling with until now. This has made GraphmaTech a great player in this industry and they are growing fast.

Their product, Aros Graphene®, is available for purchase and is part of a large number of industrial projects. They have already managed to solve a good number of industrial problems. Graphene is truly shown to be a great engineering material.

The inauguration started with a mingle where we met a number of interesting people. We had a long conversation with two persons from “Uppsala Kommun” that were involved with startups and university relations in some fashion. We talked about how we could improve the relationship between students and companies, both small new and big established ones. They gave us information about an event coming up in nanotech, held at Norrlands nation. The man from the municipality invited the three of us and we managed to convince him to provide seats for more of us from Eskolan.

We also presented ourselves to the employees of GraphmaTech. When we told them we are starting there in January they all were a bit confused since the CFO, who we have been in contact with, had not told them yet but they all were positive about what we told we are going to do for them during our master thesis.

During the evening we were divided into groups to receive a tour of their facilities. We were shown their new production line, small but effective. They presented a few problems they are solving and a few more they aspire to solve with their Aros Graphene®. They showed their 3D-printable conductive plastic and demonstrated a piano they constructed with keys of polymer containing Aros Graphene® abling them to sense resistivity, since graphene is highly conductive, and turn that into a note when a human finger touches it.

An out of focus image of the demonstration of the 3D-printed piano (seen below the upside-down microphone).

When we got to the strategic room, where they were to display their goals of the company, we entered the office of Mamoun Taher, the CEO. When Björn, the CFO, had shown us what they aspire to be in the future, I noticed som notes hanging on the wall above Mamoun´s desk.

The notes on the wall above Mamoun´s desk.

Here I see a lot of statements and words we have talked about in class. For example “value creation”, “Do you 110% believe in this?”, “innovation”, “prototype it” and so on. When I see this, everything we have talked about in class seems much more applicable. It has mostly been words before, but here I realize that it is actually usable information and realizations we have been given.

The evening ends with a nice buffet dinner and a small chat with a former student of chemical engineering (same major as me), and an employee of ABB. Not discussing work, business or anything. Just having a great conversation about the night.

On the 9th of October, I attended an event held by Entrepreneurs Acadamy and Almi called SYNC. The purpose of this event was to enable smaller/newer companies to get in touch with engineering students and vice verse.

The event started with a brief introduction for us students while being offered a light lunch. When this Q&A session was done, we were expected to pitch ourselves in front of all the attending companies. In 90 seconds, we were asked to deliver as much relevant info about ourselves as possible. This was a real challenge, both the limited time and talking in front of 20 unknown persons from different companies.

I have not had a lot of practice talking in front of strangers, which made me nervous. However, I am happy with what I manage to accomplish during these 90 seconds and as a few of the companies actually came to me later showing interest and complimenting the performance I believe it was not as terrible as I had thought. (Even though they probably said the same thing to everyone, it made me glad.)

After the pitch parade, done by the 20 students, it was time to “fika” with the companies. This was done at several round tables where 3-4 students were seated. The companies sat down at the tables, 2-3 at a time, for 10 minutes briefly explaining their product or service and discussed further with the students at the table. When 10 minutes had passed, the companies switched tables.

This way of interacting gave me the chance to interact with a lot of companies during a short period of time. As I sorted out which companies were interesting and not, I could then, later on, grab them to discuss further. I discussed their interesting products more and also the possibilities of doing my master thesis with them and the possibility of employment after graduation.

SYNC gave a lot of good experience. To practice pitching yourself in front of an unknown audience, which I probably will do a lot of times during my career, is invaluable. I also got to know about many companies that I never had thought of before. Not only companies that I knew existed but did not realize were interested in hiring people like me, but also companies that I never heard of that would be interested in people like me.

The SYNC logo as you entered the pitching room.

To summarize the day at SYNC: It was a really good experience pitching yourself in front of an unknown crowd. We got to know a lot of companies and meet a lot of new people that could be valuable contacts for the future.

10/10 would do again.

I am a student at the School of Entrepreneurship at Uppsala University. The class got an assignment to form teams of three and sell coffee during the week. So I teamed up with two other students and started to come up with ideas to do this at once.

The most obvious in all of this was to choose the customer segment. Which people drink the most coffee, are most furious about high prizing and are easily talked into spending money several times a day? Yes. Students. Where do most students pass at the same times every day on their way to class? Outside the main entrance to the large campus of Ångströmlaboratoriet. Thus, it was rather easy to choose this location for our business. To compete with the cafe inside, selling coffee for 17 SEK, we decided to charge 7 SEK for a cup. Enough to make some money but low enough to give students an easy decision of where to buy their coffee. And of course, most coffee is drunk during the morning, so that is when we will sell.

There were more problems than expected at first. Is it legal to just start selling coffee anywhere? No, you need permission. So I contacted Akademiska Hus, which are the property owners and managers. The answer I got was “Talk to the university”. So I called the commissariat at the university and they told me they can not permit me to do business on the grounds since they do not have that power over the property owners and directed me back to Akademiska Hus. After one more conversation with the person in charge of these questions at Akademiska Hus, I was told to send him more details and he would contact some colleagues to see if we could get permission then get back to me. Which he did and indeed we got permission to sell coffee on the university ground. The terms were to not be in the way of daily traffic and not be inside the building, which would cause too much competition with the established café.

More problems arose as we talked in the group. How do we store the coffee without it getting cold? Can we borrow containers from somewhere? How do we serve it? Can we get free coffee or where do you get the cheapest coffee? How can we get away with as low costs as possible?

One member of the team tried to get a hold of coffee, cups, and a large thermos from a student nation. He could get everything for free except for the coffee. He then made a trip to the nearest grocery store to buy coffee, filters, and milk for around 200 SEK. The rest of what we needed (table, thermos, coffee brewers and cups) we borrowed from student nation.

To set the mood we thought of bringing a portable speaker and play some nice empowering morning music to lure the customers. It is not clear if this made a significant difference but at least it was pleasant for us standing there.

Our business idea seemed to be somewhat good. Between 8.00 and 12.45 on a Thursday we managed to sell more than 100 cups of coffee, resulting in a profit of around 700 SEK.

Since I personally never done something like this before, I learned a lot. I had no idea there needed to be so much planning just to sell some coffee, which I think gives a good feeling of the fact that there is a lot of work behind every good innovation, project, and company ever created. I also learned the importance of marketing. When one person in the group stood a few meters away from the table asking “Would you like to buy some coffee?” the sales went up compared to when we just stood there waiting for people to come to us. There were more lessons learned, small but important. However, I would like to summarize this project with one word,

experience.