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Student, now entrepreneur, offers start-up advice

Society is not looking for your perfect 'idea'. It is looking for someone to carry out the ideas that are already out there. Nuggets of wisdom from a Copenhagen student, just graduated, who is now also CEO of a company that makes systems to treat heart arrhythmia patients

Last year, Mads Mathiesen was one of the winners of the innovation competition Venture Cup. Now he, and other Copenhagen graduates, are running a successful company WiMed.

As recently documented on the University Post, the 2008-2012 financial crisis and recession set off a small wave of entrepreneurship. In Denmark, the numbers of student-started companies has gone up, not down, since Europe’s paralysing recession ground the normal amount of jobs for graduates to a halt.

The spirit was not driven out of budding student entrepreneurs. And apparently not with this particular graduate, now CEO of WiMed, Mads Matthiesen. The University Post caught up with him, now a year after, to ask him how life is after the prestigious entrepreneurial prize? And what words of inspiration can he share with our readers?

Enjoy the journey

Tell us a little behind how WiMed got started?
»We saw that there was something potentially missing, something that the healthcare system was suffering from. I had no idea about the design, or the specifics of the problem. It was just ‘okay, this looks like it could be a big problem’ and we were starting totally from scratch. It was a very nice progressive journey, where we learnt bit by bit, it was an awesome experience and continues to be«.

»The trick is if you can understand there is a problem. For example, only a few patients are treated in the full scale of things, whilst too many patients proceed without getting the right attention. So it’s a clear medical problem and area that we felt passionate about innovating«.

What about your background?
»I was in a programme at the University of Copenhagen called Medicine and Technology at the Faculty of Health Sciences. I was actually a student until 7th August this year, so it has really been a balancing act! The project has gone alongside my studies, and in fact it’s been a good time to learn and combine the two. Meeting and talking with experts, along with networking within the university with researchers. It is important to meet with people who might have tried similar things before, collecting advice and letting them know who you are, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, you never know what it might lead to«.

Society is looking for someone to ‘do it’

What about those who are tempted to ‘go and get a real job’ instead of the risk or potential failure? What are your words of wisdom to them?
»Remember this…what society is looking for, is not so much that you might be incredibly smart or that you can solve the biggest of the world’s problems, the new Facebook or a cure for cancer. «

»They’re looking for someone who can ‘execute’. It’s not very romantic to admit it, but all ideas are taken, but not a lot of people carry them out, and there’s not really any good reason for this.«

»You should be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say this one thing: ‘What do you do?’
If just a few people feel the effect of your work, then you’ll know it’s been worthwhile and fulfilling«.

»I love to know that I do something that very few people in the world do, I hate to think that maybe in thirty years I look back and see I have sacrificed so much, but that I never actually got round to doing what I once intended«.

»There is a Danish saying ‘I don’t look forward to going home before 4pm’. If that’s you, then you are passionate about what you are doing. If not: Then maybe it could be time to re-evaluate«.

Tips of the trade

Of course it’s hard to communicate best advice to budding entrepreneurs in an interview like this, but what words of encouragement can you give to our readers?
»The key is: You don’t really know anything as a young entrepreneur, but you should just come up with your ‘best case scenarios’. You should come in with a sound plan. Be humble about it and make it sound like this direction is the most plausible direction to be heading in. If you can make it sound convincing and human enough, trust and be passionate in your product, you will give your self the best opportunity, it’s very much ‘calculated risk’ being an entrepreneur«.

»Be humble. Tell yourself that even though you had a good thesis, a good grade, or a good student job, you have more years to learn, go out in an industry and you will still have to learn many new attributes. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Get feedback from people who can inspire you. This can keep up your motivation high, especially during the more difficult lulls in pushing for your dreams.«

»Remember that you’re still an ‘apprentice’ and keep soaking up as much information and advice as possible. Communication is always the key«.

»Go out and give it a try, your future career will be very much boosted by getting out there and being able to look at yourself in the mirror and feeling satisfied with a good body of work, or day filled with tackling goals head-on«.

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