The art of growing our company without losing the start-up spirit

Written by
Hydrogen Mem-Tech

Scaling up the technology and manufacturing of Hydrogen Mem-Tech's hydrogen separator requires not only a shiny new factory. We also need future-proof workflows and procedures. Lucky for us that this is the favourite occupation of our Chief Operational Officer, Hanne Martinussen.

“It might sound like a cliché, but we started out as a typical start-up company, a handful of people doing a little bit of everything. That is great, but it will not work forever”, says Hanne Martinussen.

Behind the COO initials – Chief Operational Officer – we find a seasoned academic and professional. Hanne has vast experience within product development. She also has a Ph.D. in laser interferometry

And, no less important in this context, she has a passion for workshops and workflows. Streamlining processes, logistics, and manufacturing, and establishing protocols and standard operational procedures are all part of Hanne’s managerial scope. 

“I have always thrived when developing product and organisation at the same time. I am quite amazed to see how we have grown into a more versatile and mature organisation in a very short time. We have experienced specialists across the company”, says Martinussen.

Smooth as a clockwork 

What really makes her tick is making the oftentimes chaotic intersection of technology, sales, and manufacturing run like a smooth clockwork.

“It’s beautiful when it works! We are aiming for a seamless process of interactions between people from different departments and various academical and professional backgrounds. The fun part is when we are achieving big and small wins together, and we can celebrate the great ideas and solutions together. The interplay with my colleagues is what makes me love work for this company”, she says.

Hanne’s preferred arena for this interplay is the workshop format:

“I have a positive fixation on workshops that involve people from across the whole organization. It is the ideal framework for brainstorming between professions and stress-testing ideas. The goal is to come up with solutions that can work all the way through our chain of operations. That is really where the magic can happen!”

The perfect balance

The preferred single-word summary for all this might be “professionalism”. But Hanne is aware of the dangers of too much professionalism, creating the very opposite of the lean start-up: An organisation that is moving too slow due to bureaucratic and corporate obstacles.

“It is an important balance here, between the head-over-heels early days of a start-up on one side and creating a fundament for sustainable and healthy growth on the other. Flexibility, agility, and short paths to decisions are superpowers of a start-up”, says Hanne.

“But what we also know, is that a lot of start-up companies get growing pains. Promising companies are crashing into a wall if they have challenges with scaling up. What we are trying to achieve here in Hydrogen Mem-Tech is a kind of futureproofing of our whole set-up. We need speed and agility, but we also need solid workflows and operational control. We have to develop them with the possibility of rapid growth in mind”.

Bridge the knowledge gap

Another core component of Hanne Martinussen’s philosophy of operations management stems from her Ph.D. days at Trondheim’s renowned Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

“Bridge the knowledge gap! What do we already know and what do we need to figure out? Most often we don’t have to invent the wheel, someone else has done something that might be relevant for us in a particular case. We can go to the local dairy factory to learn from their workflows, even though milk and yogurt is quite different from separating hydrogen from a gas mix. Or we can talk to professors or researchers at NTNU. You need to be curious and seek knowledge”.

This rings true in Hydrogen Mem-Tech and is an attractive feature when recruiting new people. 

“We are pretty much a company full of researchers and science nerds!”.

Streamlining the commute

Life is not only research, workshops and streamlining, though. If you have drifted into the “Our People” section of our website, you might have spotted Hanne on her bicycle, which is the preferred means of transportation between home and work. However, the belief in process might be accurate in this context as well.

“It’s more of a logistics than sporting choice, I must admit”, says Hanne with a laugh.

“But I try to go jogging with my dog frequently. And now my sustainability colleague Camilla and I have signed up for an ongoing running competition for Trondheim companies. It’s like school or work – you might need some proper deadlines to push yourself to get things done!”.