Q&A With Mark Kuhn: Co-Founder and CEO of Oat Foundry
June 20, 2014
CEO of Oat Foundry and Drexel Mechanical Engineering alumni, Mark Kuhn, has been making sparks fly at his start-up company with his five fellow co-workers and other Drexel alumni. Oat Foundry specializes in rapid prototyping, 3-D modeling and printing. Part of the birth of Oat Foundry was influenced by Kuhn’s academic, co-op and study abroad experiences at Drexel.
Kuhn explained that the origins of Oat Foundry date back to his time at Drexel’s College of Engineering. While studying abroad in Germany for their senior design project, Kuhn and his peers jumped on one of the most popular projects offered: The opportunity to create a vending machine for Philadelphia Pretzel Factory. The senior design teams are usually limited to five members, but with a compelling argument they were able to convince their professor, Dr. Mishah Salman, to allow Sean Rossiter, Oat Foundry’s current president and co-founder, in on the project as the sixth member. Through the work that they did on senior design project for the Philadelphia Pretzel Factory, they learned that their favorite part of the entire project was the design aspect; thus deciding to start a company from the group. After trying their talents with various types of products, Oat Foundry recently expanded into the prototyping of toys and custom model trains. We were able to reach out to Mark Kuhn and learn more about his personal experiences and dreams for the company.
What kind of short and long-term goals do you have for your company?
“For short term, we have two recurring clients right now. I would like to grow that portfolio to about five. For long term, I would like to be able to pay everybody at the company a salary. We’ve been trying to get more press, but I feel like more will come with the projects we do.“
What’s the best experience you’ve had in this company?
“We had this client in Germany. He needed this prototype made for a USB charging tower, but there were some features about it that were a little bit different. We designed everything using Solid Works, and we sent it off to be fabricated at this really great facility called Laser Fab. And the day that we got all of those parts in, raw materials that had been bent and laser cut, that we could then weld together and paint, was one of the greatest days of my life because it was something I had designed and it was now arriving to me, ready to be built. Then we built it over the next few weeks.”
What skills did you learn at Drexel that you apply to your job as the CEO of your own company?
As Drexel’s trimesters are composed of the 10-week terms, Kuhn and his team quickly discovered that time management is a root skill. “OK, I wake up every day and think, ‘What am I going to try to get done?’ I could stay at home and go on Facebook or I can go to class and go on Facebook. But I wouldn’t actually get anything done. So I had to learn how to manage and budget my time; and since I’m in charge of everybody else’s time, I have to keep that in mind to be the most effective. I took electives like machine design, manufacturing processes, and those were awesome because I got to spend a lot of time in the Hess Labs. We also have 10 commandments of design that we read before every meeting, and the tenth one is ‘Prototype early. Prototype often.’”
Do you have any dream products you would like to make?
“There are so many awesome kits out there for teaching, getting into a new hobby, prolonging an existing hobby, so we’ve been forming all these kits. We have this whole list of kits because what we like to do is make things. That’s why we became engineers.”
For the official page of Oat Foundry, click here.