Deepak Atyam, 23

Alex Finch, 25

Tri-D Dynamics, a Cerritos contract manufacturer of rocket engine components that uses 3-D printing to reduce production time.

Employees: 4

Financials: Self-funded with $15,000; won $100,000 in business plan competitions.

What led you to start your own business?

Atyam: As undergrad students, we were on the forefront of using 3-D printing with liquid rocket engines. We had filed for IP related to designs and manufacturing processes that our mentors at NASA told us haven’t been seen before in the industry. The opportunity to be an agile game-changer in the heritage field of rockets was an easy decision.

Finch: I decided that to build the future that I envisioned, I couldn’t bet on someone else to do it. The best way to ensure the future of my dreams was to get working building it myself. Tri-D Dynamics will help to build the vibrant, space-faring society of the future.

Where did you get the startup money?

Atyam: Business plan competitions and savings from working at various internships over the past six years.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Finch: The biggest challenge thus far has been pushing forward the progress of the startup while simultaneously trying to complete a graduate thesis program in engineering. It often feels like I have two full-time jobs.

Atyam: Product market fit. Talking to customers and validating that our product/service was needed in the market.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Atyam: Be as efficient as possible. There are only 24 hours in a day and sleep is somewhat necessary.

Finch: There is always a way forward. We live in a world where there is never a situation where all options have been exhausted; we just reach a threshold that we are unwilling to venture into, for any number of reasons.

Has your youth led to any awkward situations, such as when you supervise older employees?

Atyam: My youth had led to more awkward situations when I was younger and had different leading styles due to my experience levels. Over the years, I’ve transformed my leading styles from a top-down approach to more of a mentor-mentee methodology.

Would you start another company?

Atyam: Most definitely. Would love to tackle difficult problems and develop innovative solutions through the entrepreneurial realm.

Finch: Effecting the greatest amount of positive change on the world is my driving passion. I see this being manifested through many possible means, of which starting multiple companies is a likely option.

Could you ever work for someone else?

Finch: I have thought about this a lot. The primary consideration in answering this is the fact that it is easiest for me to fully commit to something of my own creation. However, after a lot of reflection, I reached the conclusion that I could work for someone else if the overall mission is deeply in tune with my driving passion.

Atyam: I could work for someone else as long as I truly admired that individual and knew I could grow immensely from the experience.

What do you do to unwind?

Atyam: I try to exercise to unwind on a “normal” workweek. In general, I try to plan bigger trips with my friends where we would go to a music festival, camping, or travel and explore new cities.

Finch: My first passion was basketball. Playing pickup or just shooting around on an empty court is my way of getting away from the world for a bit.

– Helen Zhao

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