15 questions to ...
15 Questions to … is a interview series dedicated to spotlighting women in entrepreneurship. Women entrepreneurs question the status quo and lead change. They push boundaries and leave their marks on all aspects of (entrepreneurial) life. As such, they are strong role models who inspire and empower future generations of women and deserve to be seen and heard. We see women entrepreneurs in all areas of our community and want to make sure they are recognised far beyond the RWTH Aachen University ecosystem.
Therefore, we are leaving the stage to hear what they have to say. The format is simple: 15 questions, 15 answers – and lots of (un)learning throughout. Our guests: women entrepreneurs with that special can-do and will-do attitude. The stage is yours!
Judith Schenk is Business Developer, Finance Responsible and co-founder of VesselSens, a young MedTech company that develops sensor-based monitoring solutions for patients with cardiovascular implants (e.g., stents) to improve early detection of blood vessel/implant re-clogging and thereby prevent amputations and deaths. After her Ph.D. in neural Cell Biology Judith pursued a career as group and project leader in pharma, life science and MedTech before becoming an entrepreneur with VesselSens earlier this year. As one of 14 start-ups in the Fall Batch 2021 of our RWTH Incubation Program the team now focuses on refining their business model and raising the seed financing round. The start-up’s vision is to establish its innovative medical sensor solutions as gold standard for monitoring patients with implants in their blood vessel system. Now, Judith sat down to tell us about her journey as an entrepreneur.
1) Why our idea is going to change the world:
At VesselSens we want to change how patients are monitored after receiving cardiovascular implants. Alexej Domnich, our CEO, is inventor of the core technology. As a first step we aim to lower amputation rates and improve long-term survival of stent-patients by dramatically shortening the time intervals between monitoring procedures and by increasing the ease and access to monitoring for those patients. At VesselSens we share a common goal: improve patients’ lives.
2) Did I choose it or did it choose me?
To be honest, it chose me. But I had to take the leap and embrace it as well. During my time at Fraunhofer IPA I met Alexej Domnich. We got along from the start, sharing the same passion for bringing good engineering to bloom as an actual medical device product. I had previously worked in several roles and realised that I was always searching for more “freedom to operate”, meaning chances to shape my area of work. In addition, I wanted to do something with a positive, tangible impact on people’s lives. That was the reason I went to applied research in the first place. And that is why I was so fascinated by Alexej’s project and joined in.
3) Biggest challenge on my entrepreneurial journey so far:
It took me some time to embark full-time in entrepreneurship. For some years I have been a part-time advisor or in roles that had strong independent character but were still embedded in larger corporations. In early 2021, the VesselSens team took a fresh start (after being founded a couple of months ago and after quasi shut-down during corona) and I decided to join in full-time leaving a well-paid job with unlimited contract as a product manager. I have never regretted this move!
4) Lessons I have learned as a founder:
Stay open and learn as much as you can – fast! That is the most important attitude to take when becoming an entrepreneur. You will meet a lot of people that seem more advanced, experienced, self-confident than yourself. But, in the end, your entrepreneurial journey is unique and incomparable. So, stop comparing and start digging up information and wise up. That is what pays off in the long run.
5) How did I finance myself? (Business Model)
through a combination of self-financing, funding through innovation funding mechanisms and investors.
6) 5 years from now we will …
have made VesselSens a profitable MedTech company enabling patients to receive faster, easier and more cost-effective monitoring after cardiovascular implantations.
7) If I weren’t a founder, I would be …
looking for a way to become one.
8) What do I need to be a successful entrepreneur?
Passion, endurance, and a healthy environment (partners, friends, colleagues, hobbies)
9) RWTH Innovation helped me with/through ...
getting us in contact with mentors, coaches, and other founders. That is very inspiring. It gives us a fresh perspective on our business and enables us to grow as entrepreneurs. I am confident the lessons and knowledge we receive here will help us deal with challenges ahead.
10) Is there anything more that could be done for entrepreneurs in Aachen?
In general, entrepreneurs should be given more chances to interact with established companies. One could envision an “entrepreneur in residence” program.
11) 3 reasons to become an entrepreneur:
- To make the world a better place!
- To live life to the fullest!
- To never stop learning!
12) To me being an entrepreneur means …
feeling like a fish that finally got into water with the right amount of salt in it.
13) My favourite digital tool:
LinkedIn and video conferencing. It is wonderful that we manage to stay closely connected no matter what!
14) I am inspired by/my role model is ...
nature. When watching a small plant make its way through a seemingly indestructible asphalt surface, I feel humbled and inspired at the same time. Life is both vulnerable and indestructible.
15) My advice to women who aspire to be entrepreneurs:
Do not shy away from taking responsibility. Connect with other like-minded people. Support each other whenever possible!