Meet our Alumni: Sven Rens, CFO of Mr Beam Lasers
Sven Rens, co-founder of Mr Beam Lasers, has a lot on his plate. The recent Kickstarter campaign for the Mr Beam II, a Desktop Laser Cutter and Engraver, reached past the funding goal of 80.000€ and eventually collected 942,673 €. Ever since the campaign drew to a finish, Sven and his two co-founders, Teja Philipp and Florian Becker, are working hard to drive the production of the Mr Beam II – and simultaneously, they’re trying to cope with an enormous amount of inquiries from all over the world.
Sven, not only did your Kickstarter campaign meet the funding goal, you exceeded the goal by almost 12 times. How did you that?
By having a great product. Even before the campaign, we were quite sure that a Laser Cutter that fits on a desk would draw a lot of attention – and so we decided to simply go for it and set up the Kickstarter campaign. No doubt, our first successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2014 gave us some confidence and something to show people. But still – eventually it was all about the product itself.
Was launching a Kickstarter campaign a deliberate funding strategy or did other financing approaches simply not work out?
Our first Kickstarter campaign worked out very well for us and gave us something to build on. At the same time, we learned from our mistakes from the first campaign in 2014 which allowed us to shape an even better campaign – and at the end of the day, the latest campaign was far more successful than the first one.
You co-founder Teja had the original idea for a Desktop Laser Cutter. Where did you guys meet and how did you decide to team up?
We first met in Garching at the Entrepreneurship Center, when I was pursuing my MBA. Teja just happened to be there to pitch his ideaand we got into talking about the project. I liked the idea and decided, to use one of my MBA assignments, an Investment Projects Evaluation, to further analyze the feasibility of the Laser Cutter project. I gave my evaluation report to Teja as kind of a work sample and proof of my financial skills and knowledge. Following this, Teja and I began to talk about concrete steps to take – and eventually, I decided to join Mr Beam Lasers as a shareholder.
Today, the Mr Beam team consists of three founders and several employees. Are you planning to further increase the size of the team?
Absolutely – we’re hiring and have several positions to fill. To give one example, we’re urgently looking for a Social Media expert, a “Head of Social Media” so to speak. Also, we’re in the process of moving to a new office that is way bigger and will allow us to keep growing.
You are an engineer by training and after several years working as an engineer, you decided to pursue the Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation. What made you go back to University?
As an engineer, I had a good job and a lot of responsibility. However, the more I had to deal with project management and leadership tasks, the bigger became the role of business administration and management skills.
For me, the EMBA was very helpful in this regard. Not only that, the program helped me broaden my horizon; I learned about the fundamentals of management and the practical tools that I was in need of.
When I heard about the Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation, I was immediately sold. That was the program I was looking for, as it had a clear focus on the topics I was most interested in, innovation and entrepreneurship. Among all the MBA programs I looked into, this emphasis on startups stood out. How to start and run a successful business – that was exactly what I wanted to know.
Did the EMBA deliver on its promises? Did you feel well-prepared for your entrepreneurial journey?
Yes. And to be honest, I knew that from the very beginning. Before joining the program, I used to work for a large DAX company. It’s hard to find and drive innovations in such an environment. I had no doubt that in order to actually experience entrepreneurship, I had to immerse myself in the startup scene – and there was no way I could do that within my organization. I had the desire to develop and reposition myself. By joining the Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation, I made the right call.
Looking back, what aspects of the program did you enjoy the most and which ones did you find the most challenging?
I really liked my class, we made a great group. We were very diverse with participants from 16 different nations. We really felt like a unit and worked together very well.
Our EMBA Whatsapp group is still alive and well. Even though many of my former classmates have returned to their respective countries, we keep in constant touch. The ones who’re still in Munich meet on a regular basis. Those meetups are great fun and I always look forward to them.
I often found the more theoretical lectures and research approaches quite challenging. That’s just not my world. The practical sessions were more rewarding for me personally – the speakers maybe didn’t have a PhD, but they had founded five startups, three of which failed. They told the inside story, spoke from the heart and really got across what counts when you’re founding a startup – that was a real revelation for me.
What is your advice for those of them who want to make the most of the MBA?
That’s easy: Grow your network! Talk to your neighbors in class! Spend the breaks with your peers, even if that means that you’re late to class.
Of course the theoretical knowledge is important, too – however, the friendships and connections you make, the network you create, the people you meet, all that is very, very important, too. Even years after the EMBA, you will be able to access so much knowledge, so many skills and people just by talking to people during your MBA. That’s where I, personally, would put my focus: Look to your right, look to your left, look who’s sitting next to you. And make friends – because eventually, the network is everything.