As part of our #RoadToSuccess series, we had the pleasure to interview Shengyue Yao, co-founder of ANTS and alumni of the Entrepreneurship Hubs Incubation Program. Shengyue was born and raised in China and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at TU Braunschweig. His co-founders, Ran and Yang, moved to the United States from China to complete their higher education. While both are currently at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ran is pursuing his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering while Yang is a Postdoctoral Research Associate since 2019.
After getting to know each other at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2020, they decided to commercialize their idea and start their business. ANTS is currently striving to develop a simulation-based test platform for connected and automated vehicles, which will be used as the basis for consulting purposes. In doing so, they aim to improve upon state-of-the-art experimental procedures which are oftentimes time consuming and expensive. Their goal is to utilize their simulation platform and consulting service to link the public sector, industry and market together in order to speed up the development of automated vehicle technologies.
Why become an entrepreneur and start a business?
“Since doing a Ph.D. normally means you want to achieve something that is unique in technology, we think starting our own business is a cool idea and something as challengeable as pursuing a Ph.D. degree, which we like.”
Why start a business in Germany?
“Since teaming up in 2020, we decided to commercialize our research findings and try to utilize those findings in a more practical way. Since then, we started to seek opportunities that can support our start-up idea at the beginning stages.
However, there are not many of these opportunities in the U.S. for us and the EXIST project is the best opportunity we found. The ‚EXIST‘ project is tailored for academic entrepreneurs in Germany and is supported by the government. There are some other projects, but ‚EXIST‘ has the best international vision and most importantly, the tutors from the TU-BS Entrepreneurship Hub have experience in applying for ‚EXIST‘ funding, which can help us boost our chances of success.”
Why collaborate with the Entrepreneurship Hub and partake in the International Entrepreneurship Incubation?
“The reason is that we were looking for an organization that can help us applying for the EXIST funding. One of my friends introduced me to the Entrepreneurship Hub so we reached out to them. Luckily, they replied very fast and were very nice, willing to provide help from completing application documents to developing our business mind settings.”
Experiences and Key Takeaways?
“The major takeaway from the International Entrepreneurship Incubation was the development our business mind settings. We had meetings every two weeks and also took part in the business development lecture and some other entrepreneurship seminars at TU Braunschweig. This mind setting training is very important to formulate our business idea in different aspects and define our customer segment and value proposition. Other than that, the tutor group helped us a lot in drafting the business model and we have managed to improve a lot from our first draft, although it is still a work in progress.”
“The plans of my team members are not decided yet. They are reaching the end of their current contracts as Ph.D. or post-doc researchers. First, we will try to get the ‚EXIST‘ funding and afterwards, if moving to Germany is a good option, we will consider it seriously.”
ANTS are a promising example of an international team striving to become a successful start-up in Germany. While the age of digitalization has provided opportunities for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to collaborate internationally, starting a business can be demanding. However, we believe ANTS have what it takes to face these challenges head on and are excited to see what the future holds.