Story: Natalie Kammies
Photo: Brenton Geach
When Denislav Marinov was in primary school, he was fascinated by technology and science, particularly 3D printing. Little did he know that years later he would transform his passion into a thriving company that would help businesses bring their ideas to life through design.
Marinov, an honours student in Material Science at the University of Cape Town, is the founder of Amnova Tech. The company produces a range of additive manufacturing technologies, from educational 3D printers to industrial-grade, large-format 3D printing hybrids.
He is also a winner of the 2019 Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Challenge, an Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) initiative that identifies budding student entrepreneurs at universities and helps showcase their business to encourage investment. The year, UCT students again gained entrepreneurial support from UCT Careers Service and showcased their business ideas at the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity, which took place on 26 and 27 November in Johannesburg.
The challenge gave Marinov’s business the type of exposure that has brought him a long way since receiving his first 3D printer in Grade 10.
“Since primary school I was always fascinated by tech and science. I was mesmerised so I attended expos and read articles on new tech. I knew I wanted to do something in the Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics space,” he says.
Find the Gap
He started his business (then named DVM Designs) in high school and realised that an essential part of being successful was to find the gap in the market and plug it. Even though his parents encouraged his interest in 3D printing, there was little to no community support. “I didn’t find the resources or the community to help nurture my passion and nothing to cater to it so I decided to create a community that would provide support for young people”.
The business initially focused on helping family and friends, but Marinov soon discovered there was a huge demand for prototyping services required before taking a product to market. He then extended his services to a range of clients from students, small-scale business to big corporates.
Marinov’s entrepreneurial path was not always easy though: “Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. You also have this vision and not everyone sees it.” However, helping his clients develop their products and realise their vision has made the journey worthwhile.
He says that opportunities like the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity challenge helped by creating a ‘hotspot’ for like-minded, creative and innovative people. The subsequent publicity sent “ripples through tech space”, which led to several collaborations.
The 2020 Intervarsity Entrepreneurship Challenge
Nadia Waggie, the national EDHE coordinator, representing UCT and who is also the Head of Operations at the Career Services, says UCT students have put on a “phenomenal show” at previous Intervarsity Challenges. The service works closely with participants to ensure they are pitch ready. “We are fully committed to supporting UCT students realise that entrepreneurship is a viable career choice and look forward to making this year’s Challenge as exciting for participants.”
What advice would Marinov give participants? “Test your product and pivot to market needs”. Interacting with like-minded entrepreneurs and capitalising on those networks was essential.
Marinov is grateful for the Careers Service support as it defined and refined his business. “The Career Service was there to represent and support. They took on the community role.”