Miriam Haerst founded the Munich high-tech startup Kumovis in 2017 with her business partners Stefan Leonhardt, Sebastian Pammer, Stefan Fischer and Alexander Henhammer. The company developed the first 3D printer for manufacturing with clean room integration. We spoke with her about her motivation, experiences and daily life as a founder.
Munich Startup: What motivated you to found a company?
While I was working as a research associate at the Institute of Medical and Polymer Engineering at the Technical University of Munich, the issue of a 3D printer for plastic implants came up time and again. Because the market didn’t have a satisfactory answer to the problem, we started to develop the printer ourselves. The extremely positive feedback about our first results was so motivating that we founded Kumovis one year later.
Miriam Haerst: Did you have role models when starting the company?
I didn’t have a concrete role model, but admire anyone who believes in an idea and turns it into a reality. And that doesn’t just apply to well-known individuals, but also to friends who took off to tour the world or wrote a book.
“The best ideas are the ones that are actually implemented”
Munich Startup: When and where do you have the best ideas?
Miriam Haerst: I really like to go to conferences and professional events to get new input. The best ideas for me, however, and the ones that are actually implemented. To get an idea to the point where it can be executed successfully, it’s extremely important to me to talk with other people and particularly my colleagues first. As soon as a refined concept emerges, we take that idea further in the company.
Munich Startup: What’s your biggest talent?
Miriam Haerst: I’m authentic – that’s probably my biggest talent. And I think people appreciate that about me. They always know where we stand and what I stand for. That often leads to loyal partnerships and networks in which we support each other mutually – both on a personal level and professionally.
Munich Startup: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?
Miriam Haerst: While working on my doctoral thesis at TUM, I still thought I was too timid to found a company. Now – three years later – I take part in negotiations about the Series A financing round for my own startup and am working with amazing colleagues and partners on the future of medical device manufacturing.
Munich Startup: What’s your secret networking weapon?
Miriam Haerst: Probably that I’m authentic here too and also have a bit of patience. When the ranks start to thin out, that’s when discussions become more intense and open. That’s when I really like networking.
The right timing for Kumovis
Munich Startup: Do you think now is a good time to start a company?
Miriam Haerst: For me personally and for Kumovis, it was the perfect point in time. After working academically at the university, I felt a strong urge to work on a marketable and promising product. And my private obligations fortunately allowed me to take the risk of founding a company. If the founding idea is good, it not only helps to have intrinsic motivation but also the diverse networks and support instruments that are currently available. To this day, Kumovis has received so much support, and we very much appreciate that. The rapid development of Kumovis over the past two years wouldn’t have been possible without that support. So the conditions for founding a company are good right now – provided the idea behind it is future and solution-oriented.
Munich Startup: What are the three most offensive prejudices you’ve encountered in everyday startup life?
Miriam Haerst: Maybe I’m a bit too unsuspecting for this question, but I can’t think of any prejudice at the moment that I’ve had to deal with.
Munich Startup: What’s on top of your desk at the moment?
Miriam Haerst: My notebook. Although I deal with digitalization on a daily basis in 3D printing, I prefer the analog path in this area. I almost always have a pen and paper on hand to write down everything that seems important to me.
Munich Startup: Where’s your next vacation destination?
Miriam Haerst: It’s just a short trip, but nonetheless: I’ll be going to South Tyrol for a weekend in October for Törggelen. That’s hiking combined with good food and drink with friends – ultimate enjoyment.
Making female role models visible in technology and executive positions
Munich Startup: Do you think it’s important for more women to found companies in Germany?
Miriam Haerst: Women do start companies, but often as solo entrepreneurs and not very often as tech startups. That’s why I think it’s important to make female role models visible in general in technology and executive positions. That puts the option in the minds of tech-savvy girls and young women as well as that of their parents and friends – hopefully before or while deciding on a profession.
Munich Startup: Was being a female founder an advantage or disadvantage for you?
Miriam Haerst: Particularly in a technical environment, you stand out as one of the few women. That can be demanding sometimes, but can also make a contribution to the recognition value and profile of a company.