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Pushing Bioprinting To The Frontier Of Personalized Medicine, A Founder’s Story with Tomi Kalpio

Tomi Kalpio is the co-founder and CEO of Brinter, a Finnish SME specializing in 3D bioprinting. With a Bachelor’s degree in machine automation and a Master’s in technological competence management from the Turku University of Applied Sciences, Tomi’s expertise lies in additive manufacturing technologies, production automation Research and Development (R&D), and technological competence management.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
With a grandmother from the west of Finland and a grandfather from the old Karelia region that was ceded to Russia after the Winter War, I am a combination of the eastern and western borders of Finland. I lived in a suburb of Turku – one of Finland’s biggest cities, located in the southwest — called Ilpoinen in the 1980s and 1990s. My mother was a hairdresser and a housewife with my 3-year-old sister and me for a long time, and my father worked as a builder all over Finland. During this period in my life, I learned money doesn’t fall from the sky. I also learned to understand that it was already a lottery win to be born in Finland, where it’s possible for everyone to study and succeed, regardless of background or status. In my youth, I played football and various martial arts, as well as played with my lego blocks and computer that I bought myself. My friend and I also set up a “company” at primary school whose source of income was collecting bottles, washing cars, and various painting jobs until I got a magazine distribution job that lasted until almost adulthood. So I have always wanted and strived to be self-sufficient, allowing me to focus on the essentials in life and get what I want or need.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
Ever since I was a little kid, I was always building something in 3D. In 1999, I first saw 3d printing and in 2006, I already used it to create products. At that time, it was the SLS 3D printing method. In 2011, I started to think about how to utilize 3D printing business-wise with a couple of colleagues, who would later become the co-founders of our company 3DTech – a company that specializes in industrial 3D printing. In 2013, after analyzing the markets and buying our own scanners, printers, and 3D design software, we launched 3D Tech. In 2015, we developed our own DLP-based 3D printer. And in 2016, we found our passion and the path for the technology business unit. We were asked to participate in a brain 3D printing project. We said yes immediately because I felt it in my heart that this is the path that we need to take. The next year after that, in 2017, we participated in a 3D printing kidney project with the same feeling… And during that time, we also started to develop our first own bioprinter. We also got the idea about the modular system with the tool-changing interface that differentiates Brinter from others. And we have been using that in our own research and development process as well. So after a couple of years, in 2020, we separated the two companies, and now Brinter is its own separate entity and has nothing to do with 3DTech anymore. So that’s the very long story about how it all happened.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Find your passion and go for it. I am sure that many share it with you. Don’t try to do everything by yourself – instead, find the right team first with the same passion and slightly different know-how. My tips for the three main things when starting up a new company: 1. passion, 2. team, and 3. knowledge. When you have all three, the possibility for success is much stronger than when one of them is missing. Passion is the driver, the team brings multidisciplinary competence, and knowledge is your core. Knowledge is third on my list because it can always be improved, but passion is harder to generate if it does not come from the heart.

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