Startups in our network - DeepEn

We would like to introduce young "born globals" in our region: One of them is DeepEn. DeepEn develops ultra-thin endoscopes that provide high-resolution images from sensitive and dynamic environments. By using a single optical fiber as an imaging probe, the power of advanced microscopes can penetrate extremely narrow or sensitive areas. They are a spin-off of the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology that by its research, creates the basis for faster and more accurate medical diagnostics, new therapies, safe pharmaceuticals or a new quality of food and environmental analysis. The spin-off has been accompanied in its transfer process by Jena University's Startup Service since 2021. In an interview, we asked them about starting up their business and the implications of our market research trip to Japan. (By kristin.hesche)


Interview with DeepEn

When and how did you decide to set up your own company?  

 Our scientific mentor Prof. Tomas Cizmar has been researching the hair-thin endoscope technology on which our products are based for over 10 years. He has systematically advanced the technology from methodological fundamentals to application readiness. The technology met with growing interest from future users (neuroscientists). When Sergey Turtaev, our future CEO, finished his PhD with in Tomas' group, the two made the decision to unleash the spin-off project.  


What exactly is your startup and what is special about your business idea?  

We are a true high-tech startup from the field of photonics, with the goal of bringing minimally invasive, hair-thin endoscopes to users in neuroscience and medicine. Our founding team is interdisciplinary: We have a photonics expert, a physician, a physicist and an economist.    


What are your biggest challenges at the moment?  

We want to build the best possible product for our customers. Since the instrument is quite complex and many technical aspects need to be optimized, we are under time pressure to finish the prototype by the planned start-up at the end of 2023 and to test it too extensively with customers.  


What were your biggest fears and concerns when thinking about starting your business?  

As prospective founders, we often have to make decisions that can have far-reaching consequences for the company. Especially in topics in which you are not an expert, this can be quite nerve-wracking among other things. You have to learn to deal with a lot of uncertainty.  


What were or are the biggest difficulties you had to overcome on your (startup) way?  

Firstly, establishing ourselves on the market and successfully selling the first hair-thin endoscopes. Secondly, finding the right investors who would like to pursue our vision with us.  


Where are you located and why did you choose this location?  

Jena has been an important location in the field of optics for centuries. World-leading institutes and companies in this field are located here. So it is the ideal ecosystem for us.


Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?  

In 5 years, we have built a stable, international business in research instruments and are working to bring our hair-thin endoscopes into medicine now.  


What tips would you give to people who are thinking about starting a business right now?  

Keep your eyes open for opportunities in your area. Search the internet and go to start-up events to talk to like-minded people and experts.  


Regarding our upcoming trip to Japan to explore the market: Have you ever been there and if so, why?

I myself have actually been to Tokyo once before for an internship at Mitsubishi as part of my business studies.  


What are your expectations for the Japan trip and which program points are particularly relevant for you and why?  

We are particularly interested in the connection to the innovation cluster Kobe. Also, I have planned a visit to a neuroscience lab at Kyoto University to talk to potential customers.  


What kind of support have you experienced (from the ISC) and what additional ones would you like to have?  

The ISC has already supported us by establishing contact with the German Accelerator, who are currently supporting us in our plans to enter the US market later.  


[DeepEn's Feedback after the trip to Japan]

The Japan trip organized by the ISC solidified our thoughts on entering the attractive Japanese market. We were able to establish local contacts as well as connections to DJW, which we will rely on in the future. We were also able to exchange ideas with other international start-ups in our field that are active in Japan 

In the future, we would like to continue to contact the ISC to discuss our internationalization plans and meet more startups that have made it to Japan to share experiences and strategies and shape our IP strategy.  


If you also want to be part of that journey, please let us know.​

More info about DeepEn: