ATI comms • 09.04.20 • 6 min read

Interview with Andre Wegner: CEO Authentise

Andre Wegner is CEO and co-founder of Authentise, the automation software platform for additive manufacturing. In a guest blog from the ATI Boeing Accelerator team, Andre talks about his early startup days, his approach to finding and keeping tech talent and the future of manufacturing.

Explain your product in one simple sentence.

AW: Our connected workflow management tools for additive manufacturing help companies handle lot size 1 in a scaleable way.

Tell us about the problem you’re solving in aerospace.

AW: We started the company in 2012 when we witnessed a plane crash in Nigeria, where I was working, which killed 159 people. The cause of the crash was said to have been unavailable spare parts: instead of waiting for 3 days, the airline kept flying. I knew then that it was inevitable that we would make parts locally, on-demand one day, using digital manufacturing equipment.

After some trial and error, Authentise now enables that vision by capturing and controlling the full digital thread of production, which means that we can control access to information; as well as the integrity of the final part. These tools will power distributed manufacturing thanks to a smart use of data and integration of third-party algorithms.

The same qualities are important today, even if the world isn’t quite prepared for distributed manufacturing at large. Our workflow management tools power major additive production operations — including aerospace — across the globe. And, cautiously, we’re seeing the first companies make moves to outsource critical parts too. Our digital thread helps in that journey because it reduces the cost of production today by leveraging data to increase efficiency. It also helps capture the knowledge generated throughout the process to ensure more repeatable parts, faster.

Working with large corporates like Boeing is a team sport. It takes an understanding between you and the implementing team that we’re working on the cutting edge, together.

What is the key challenge you need to solve to move forward as a business?

AW: Our biggest challenge was undoubtedly building a product that was relevant for the market, today. The inevitability of distributed manufacturing is striking, but what the next step on the trajectory to get there is, is less clear. Technically, the challenges are surmountable, even enjoyable because they can usually be broken down quite easily to bite-sized chunks. In any case — Authentise has built its entire foundation on an open approach, working with third parties to address specific challenges so we don’t have to solve those challenges by ourselves.

What is your experience selling into a company like Boeing?

AW: Working with large corporates like Boeing is a team sport. It takes an understanding between you and the implementing team that we’re working on the cutting edge, together. That’s necessary too because undoubtedly there will be antibodies who have their own agenda and don’t want the deployment to happen — whether it’s inside the business unit, within IT, legal or purchasing: the relationships you have with the team that needs the tool are the defence system against those antibodies.

Tell us the story of how your team came together.

AW: Our team started at Singularity University in 2012, just after the plane crash I mentioned above. Our initial plan was to start a “Napster” of additive to make people realise they needed the protection we had built (we filed the first patents for intellectual property protection in additive manufacturing). The platform was called “Make Anything”, later renamed to “” and it sort of worked: we got tons of coverage. But in reality — it was a distraction. We could have just focused on finding the real market niche: the market wasn’t ready for intellectual property protection. We learned that lesson and evolved, but could have done it sooner.

How do you find (and keep) tech talent for your company?

AW: I wish I had the answer for that!

One approach that’s really helped me is described in The Alliance by Reid Hoffman et al. They describe a tour of duty, that usually lasts 18 months or so, in which the company helps the team member accomplish a personal growth objective, while the team member helps the company accomplish their own objectives. Framing early conversations with team members that way helps me understand who they are, and knowing what they want to accomplish helps me help them better — and be aware of when they come to the end of their tour of duty.

Of course, all our team has options and is taken care of (relatively well). But I think beyond that I am lucky to work with a first line of people who really like to mentor and support younger team members. That works well since I’m not particularly good at that 😉

What’s the greatest learning from your startup journey so far?

AW: That a single-minded focus is hard. It takes 10 years minimum to make a company a success, so you have to be able to focus 100% in one direction for that entire time. Very different from the human needs Reid identified in Alliance. If I didn’t have a role at Singularity as Chair of Digital Manufacturing my soul would have shrivelled by now. Being able to talk more broadly about the distant future of manufacturing is a relief from the daily rigmarole of actually making it happen.

How was your mentoring experience during the programme?

AW: We’ve had some really engaged corporate mentors, as well as people from industry lobbies and of course the accelerator team themselves. Several of them have gone beyond their call of duty and will stay important sounding boards for a long time to come. Of course, excitingly in the short term, they also opened big doors to revenue. Also helpful: some of the specific training sessions we had at the programme — especially the one on sales!

Follow Authentise on Twitter @authentise.