Martin Angst was recognized as a leader who exemplifies what it means to be a risk-taker in technology in May at TechNite. Angst, is the co-founder of Rendyr, an emerging desktop robotics company developing a first-of-its-kind portable laser cutter that dramatically improves access to rapid prototyping and digital fabrication.
He was the recipient of the TechNite 2022 Entrepreneur Award for his pioneering work in desktop robotics. We were thrilled to interview Martin for a deeper dive into Rendyr, his experience with RAMP, and his journey through entrepreneurship.
Where is your alma mater and what did you study?
Virginia Tech, Master of Architecture, 2019 and University of Technology Braunschweig, Germany, Bachelor of Science in Architecture, 2016
What does it mean to you to have won the Entrepreneur Award at TechNite?
I am fortunate to have learned from and worked with many mentors, advisors, investors, professionals, and other individuals in our area, including Blacksburg, Radford, and Roanoke, as we have been building Rendyr. It has been an incredible honor to receive the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the community that has tremendously impacted my personal and professional growth.
Describe a typical Rendyr client and the reach of your product.
Rendyr is an emerging desktop robotics company making a first-of-its-kind convenient and intuitive portable laser cutter that gives anyone the power to create and customize their own products. The Optic Portable Laser Cutter works with hundreds of materials (plastics, wood, fabric, stone, metal, and more), can process projects of unlimited size, features integrated filtration and other safety features, and folds up for compact storage until the next time.
We hear from hobbyists, creative business owners, design professionals, educators, and students all over the world interested in laser cutting and engraving for anything from arts and crafts to product design and woodworking to jewelry. The possibilities are endless, and we are always excited to see someone pairing this powerful technology with a new kind of application.
Currently, we are focused on serving U.S. and Canadian customers and over the following years, we plan to expand internationally.
What has the journey been like to create the first-of-its-kind portable laser cutter?
On the one hand, our journey has been about sophisticated hardware product design and engineering, including lasers and filtration, to make this advanced technology available in the form of a highly compact and versatile device. On the other hand, we have learned a lot on the go and overcome countless business challenges while bringing this complex consumer electronics product to market as first-time entrepreneurs.
What resources did you have access to in this region that made a difference?
Unquestionably, the Roanoke-Blacksburg region has opened many doors for us. Starting at Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture and Design, where Kaelum Hasler, my co-founder, and I met over our shared interest in all things robotics, fabrication, and design, we connected with award-winning student entrepreneur resources. From the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs to the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology; insightful feedback, beneficial introductions, and award funding helped us move in the right direction.
Winning the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center’s Game Changers Challenge in the summer of 2018 provided more fuel and space for our research and development activities and more invaluable connections in Blacksburg and beyond, including Mitchell Law Firm and Impact Solutions, which we have worked with ever since.
Then, in 2020, we got to participate in RAMP, The Regional Accelerator, in connection with the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. The program led by Mary Miller, Lisa Garcia, and Mike Abbott, and our RAMP mentor, Doug Juanarena, played a vital role in our capital raise and product launch. On top of that, we have also been fortunate to connect with and seek advice from generous leaders, such as Ron Flanary, in engineering, manufacturing, and even consumer electronics around here.
You had an incredible Kickstarter campaign! How did this happen?
I believe that our dedicated planning and execution strongly contributed to our successful campaign. Kickstarter has been around for more than ten years, and the opportunities and challenges in the product crowdfunding environment have evolved. While preparing for our launch, we studied many successful and failed crowdfunding campaigns, from related projects to excellent category-agnostic examples. Kaelum and I even got the chance to speak with people who have run and fulfilled outstanding campaigns for their now very successful companies.
After all this, we still partnered with an experienced marketing firm because these projects have become much more complex. In retrospect, that was the right decision. We invested meaningful time creating content, such as photos, videos, other visuals, and writing. In addition, we shared our prototypes with beta users to gather feedback and testimonials, and with the well-known Adam Savage’s Tested so they could get their hands on Optic and preview our product to their community. Providing as much helpful information as possible about a project and soon-to-be product was critically important. Besides answering countless questions via email, social media, and directly on Kickstarter, we also streamed live demos and Q&A sessions so our supporters could see the product in real-time and meet our team.
The magic happened when our supporters turned up on the first day and pledged more than $250,000 within the first 24 hours to our campaign. Getting this staggering feedback that people want us to make the Optic Portable Laser Cutter a reality was incredible. Our community in our Facebook group, social media channels, and on Kickstarter has grown throughout our launch. They appreciated the wealth of information and our fast and informative answers to all their questions. Then, blogs wanting to feature our product and campaign and podcasters reached out to us. Of course, we seized these opportunities, which helped increase our exposure and support. Our efforts and excitement continued until the last moments of our 30-day campaign when we reached $738,169 in funding from 444 backers.
Since the campaign, we have focused on fulfilling our backers’ rewards and sharing updates on our project’s progress on Kickstarter. Creators sharing their stories along the way is an essential part of Kickstarter. It’s important to many backers because they agree to wait for the creation of the project, like complex manufacturing of a physical product in our case, until they finally get their reward. Many also enjoy learning about the milestones and challenges in making a project successful. Once we complete our crowdfunding promise, we will also make the Optic Portable Laser Cutter available in our upcoming online store for the many people waiting to purchase directly from us without the wait.
What inspires you most professionally?
Creators and the projects they bring into existence, from intricate details to huge enterprises, amaze and inspire me. I seek to contribute to our world as a creator myself and strive to ‘look behind the curtain’ and figure out what it takes to make things happen.
What’s your favorite hype song?
Share a fun fact about you.
While I was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany, I had my American family in this region and was christened right here in Roanoke, Virginia, when I was about one year old.
Congratulations Martin on your well-deserved award! We’re proud to recognize your hard work and contributions to the innovation ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.
RAMP and RBTC are part of the Verge alliance, established to grow the region’s innovation economy, technology and life sciences sectors, and the supporting professional communities. It aligns the strengths and programming efforts of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) and the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP). Verge serves GO Virginia Region 2 and works to form collaborations with government, business, academia, and other organizations to advance the region and grow a thriving innovation economy.