At a meeting in Zurich, Thomas Gütschow met Dr. Carsten Mahrenholz in November 2019. Both have been in close contact since their first meeting, exchanging ideas and perspectives. The great enthusiasm for the business model behind Coldplasmatech (https://coldplasmatech.com) led to the following interview.
Can you briefly tell us about the company you founded in 2015?
At COLDPLASMATECH we have developed a Star Trek-like medical device that provides the solution to killing multi-resistant bacteria and treating chronic wounds. We use our newly developed, technology to generate the 4th state of matter – cold physical plasma. Our product, a thin wound dressing, connected to the PlasmaCube generates this blue glowing, bioactive gas on a large scale, easy to use and mass-market compatible. Sounds like science fiction? Yes, it does, but we’ve made it a reality – it’s registered as a class 2b medical device.
As I understand, there are up’s and down’s in young companies. Can you reflect on your personal journey throughout the years?
A young medtech company is like a ship navigating through unknown waters. Through a proper vision to develop and build an organization, I had to ensure the production and market growth are upscale. Hence, it’s my role to plan our journey and steer – if needed, tied to the steering wheel – through the often rough sea. As a scientist with a Masters in Biology and Economics and a Doctorate in Chemistry, I’ve also had to learn to also master my role as a leader of my company and my team. I enjoy learning new systems and don’t hesitate to challenge them.
Being a successful leader, how do you deal with the challenge? What keeps you motivated?
I am a very curious, enthusiastic and resilient individual. Being a scientist by heart, it helps me to stay motivated, even if results take some time. Recurring and ongoing problems can be very challenging and, if unmet, demotivating. Raising a company sometimes feels like opening pandora’s box. However, I try to make problem-solving a mental challenge and define my job inside the company as a troubleshooter – making sure everyone can perform. This way a problem is no longer an obstacle but an anticipated event that builds the basis for creativity and unconventional solutions.
What word best describes your personality?
I would say, ‘bold’ is the perfect word that defines me.
What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs or healthcare professionals
My usual advice to everyone would be to find what you love and start working on it. You will notice that your performance and endurance will go up when you like what you do. A friend once told me I was a dreamer because my goals and visions are often unrealistic to achieve. That bothered me for a while until I understood that I actually am a dreamer. However, as soon as I started dreaming about something, I started to think of ways how to make that dream a reality. I now understand that bridging the gap between visions and the real world is something I am very good at. So, yes, I’m a dreamer and my advice would be to not be afraid to build bridges to your dreams, instead of seeing dreams as unrealistic ideas.
What is your opinion regarding the current landscape of the healthcare market?
We are addressing the advanced wound care market, opening up a complete new field of medicine: Plasma medicine. Our main focus is on chronic wound treatment and infections. Two of the biggest problems in modern medicine. Unfortunately, there is a huge trend to manage chronic conditions rather than healing them. I understand the business case-aspect of this approach; however, I find it morally eyebrow-raising to maintain current methods rather than adopting solutions that can actually permanently heal. This is why COLDPLASMATECH puts patient needs above the market trend. Quite similar to IKEA’s famous slogan: Still treating or healing already?
How is the advancement in technology changing the healthcare space in your sector?
Interestingly the advanced wound care market is still a rather non-innovative market with huge turnovers for stabilizing products. This is a huge disadvantage for health care systems. More effective technologies and innovations are needed and should be fostered. Lately, we even received the prestigious German Innovation Award – maybe a sign that there will be a game change in the market soon.
You are personally and professionally highly distinguished to hold more than 20 awards. Please tell us about your achievements and accomplishments.
I’d rather let others talk about them and concentrate on my mission! However, it’s very encouraging to see that ideas that no one believed in initially are now getting noticed and seem to inspire others.
Where do you envision yourself and your company in the near future? What’s your next big thing?
We are working on spearheading a new area in wound care. As a result, the COLDPLASMATECH team are trying to solve a problem that not many people have had the privilege to do — how to bring completely new technology to the world. The X-ray did it, the laser did it and plasma definitely has the potential to become one of the next big standards in modern medicine. But to get there is like navigating in unknown waters — a journey that I very much enjoy taking.
Besides conquering new markets and indications, FDA approval for our technology, treating as many people as we can and fighting for disruption of the chronic wound market – my very personal next big thing, that I look very much forward to, is the birth of my son Kilian.
Thomas Gütschow is a banker by training and started his career in the early 90s at a Hamburg bank. He has been working in the financial industry for 3 decades and gained experience as a relationship manager at Swiss insurance companies in the B2B segment between 2008 and 2016. In 1999 he founded a consulting company, which was renamed to Stone Invest GmbH (https://www.stone-invest.de) in 2008, after orientation and business areas were expanded. Stone Invest offers professionals (lawyers, tax advisors), as well as M&A boutiques an interface to the financial industry for successful mutual networking with a focus on Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein.
For him, small and medium-sized businesses are systemically relevant and so he develops creative solutions together with his network partners for those who are looking for diversification and security in global markets.
Carsten Mahrenholz studied biology and received his PhD in chemistry alongside an MBA from universities in Berlin and Cambridge. After working as a consultant for SMEs and scientific institutions, he became CEO of a high-tech transfer company. He co-founded COLDPLASMATECH GmbH in 2015 and became a pioneer in plasma medicine. This team developed a Star-Trek-like medical device for treating chronic wounds and killing multiresistant bacteria. Amongst various awards and prizes for business, innovation and technology, they received the IQ innovation award, the Leibniz Founder Prize and the prestigious German Innovation Award 2018. He entered the Hall of Fame at the Entrepreneur of the Year award, is one of the first LAB fellows of the Nobel Laureate Meetings and recently ranked #1 Health&Science in Business Punk’s Top100 Watchlist. Carsten supports the European Institute of Technology as Ambassador since several years and became part of the high Perspective-Commission of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2021.