Max Planck Foundation Award Ceremony in Berlin

Meshcapade winning team honored at Max Planck Annual Meeting

Cheering at the award ceremony: About half of the 15-member Meshcapade team celebrated their success together with co-founder Michael Black (2nd from left) and Florian Kirschenhofer. With the prize money of 50,000 euros, the start-up wants to expand and hire new employees – at the Tübingen location, but also worldwide. © Max-Planck-Gesellschaft / David Ausserhofer

On the eve of the Annual Meeting, the Max Planck Start-up Award was presented to Meshcapade in Berlin-Charlottenburg. The young start-up team was presented with the newly established award, jointly conferred by the Max Planck Society and the Stifterverband. Around 100 invited guests followed the award ceremony and the spirited debate on the challenges of technology transfer in Germany.

"It started as an experiment, now we have the chance to open up new industries with our avatars," said CEO Naureen Mahmood when asked how Meshcapade, the start-up she co-founded, planned to use the prize money of 50,000 euros. Founded in 2018 from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, the 15-member team led by Mahmood and Talha Zaman, co-founder and CFO, develops digital 3D human doubles - with promising opportunities for the fashion, gaming and film industries, but also for areas of medicine and healthcare. In addition to equipment, the company plans to invest in new employees to expand the team, which currently consists of 15 people. "Success is based on the people who work for us," explains Naureen Mahmood. She wants to promote a remote working culture and increase the proportion of women in the technology industry.

Prior to the official presentation of the award certificates, Max Planck President Martin Stratmann, Cornelius Riese, Vice President of the Stifterverband, and Thomas Sattelberger, Commissioner for Transfer and Spin-offs from Science, took the opportunity of the award ceremony for a lively discussion on topic of technology transfer.

One of the people accompanying the team of three founders from the very beginning is Florian Kirschenhofer. The start-upmanager at Max Planck Innovation remembers the first steps well: “What do you want to do? How concrete is the idea? Where do you want to found the start-up? Those were our first topics.“ He attributes the fact that Meshcapade is now a successful company with 15 employees from all over the world not only to the tireless commitment of all those involved, but also to the team’s openness. “The Meshcapade team has great interpersonal skills, but is absolutely business savvy at the same time, also with regard to its clients, many of whom are in large-scale industry. They don’t sell themselves short, without ever being agressive.”

To this day, contact with Meshcapade has never broken off, it has only varying degrees of intensity depending on the relevant phase. This is not a given, because the advisory service offered by Max Planck Innovation is on a voluntary basis. “Every start-up team at Max Planck can receive advice from us. However, you have to actively take up the offer of advisory guidance. So you should have a sense of when you need support.”

The consulting sessions were not only about the business model, but also about the question of location: “Mahmood and Zaman are from Pakistan, so it’s not necessarily obvious that they would found a company in Tübingen,“ says Kirschenhofer, who knows how important it is for founders to feel comfortable in their chosen location. Of course, the location in the “Cyber Valley“ in the deceptively sleepy-looking university town was also a decisive factor. After all, the largest research consortium for artificial intelligence in Europe is located here, with the state of Baden-Württemberg, the Max Planck Society, the universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen, as well as Amazon, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Bosch and others as founding partners. “I’m really excited about the activities in the Cyber Valley Network. We know a lot of people from Max Planck who are developing many new, exciting things here,“ says Naureen Mahmood happily. That the decision to settle in tranquil Tübingen has been the right one is obvious from the way her eyes shine when she talks about her new home town: “We love being in Tübingen. I personally like small towns a lot. Our office is right where a smaller river flows into the Neckar. The city is just beautiful!”

About Meshcapade

Meshcapade is creating realistic human avatars to recover detailed human attributes such as bodies, faces, hands and soft-tissue movements from 3D & 4D scans, RGB-D sequences, motion capture and image data. Using machine learning and advanced graphics, we model the nuances of how humans look and move. Meshcapade avatars are already being used in a variety of fields, including research, apparel, biomechanics, virtual reality, film and as training data for newer AI-based methods. Using state of the art methods from world leading research institutes and we are pushing to bring realistic human models to life in everyday environments.

About Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems

Intelligent systems can optimise their structure and properties in order to successfully function within a complex, partially changing environment. Three sub-areas – perception, learning and action – can be differentiated here. The scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems are carrying out basic research and development of intelligent systems in all three sub-areas. Research expertise in the areas of computer science, material science and biology is brought together in one Institute, at two different sites. Machine learning, image recognition, robotics and biological systems will be investigated in Tübingen, while so-called learning material systems, micro- and nanorobitics, as well as self-organisation will be explored in Stuttgart. Although the focus is on basic research, the Institute has a high potential for practical applications in, among other areas, robotics, medical technology, and innovative technologies based on new materials.

About Max Planck Innovation

As a technology transfer organization of the Max Planck Society, Max Planck Innovation is the link between industry and basic research. With our interdisciplinary team, we advise and support the scientists of the Max Planck Institutes in the evaluation of inventions, the filing of patents and the establishment of companies. We offer industry central access to the innovations of the Max Planck Institutes. In doing so, we fulfil an important task: the transfer of the results of basic research into economically and socially useful products.

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