Cable breakage is a major cause of obsolescence in electronics. As a consequence of repeated mechanical stress, the copper wire inside the cable inevitably breaks. This problem concerns every electronic system where cables move. In robotics and high-end consumer electronics, broken cables can cause financial loss and reputation damage. In critical medical devices requiring wiring, cable failures can potentially be life threatening. Ultimate reliability is equally a concern in aerospace.
nanoleq is taking up the fight against this cable wear. The Zurich based startup has developed a fundamentally new cable and connector technology: Under mechanical stress, the Zurich startup’s patented FlexOne cable has up to a hundred times longer service life than a standard cable while retaining its high flexibility. nanoleq’s technology originates from the laboratories of the ETH Zurich and is based on the smart layer arrangement of the cable and the use of innovative stretchable and conductive materials with tunable electrical and mechanical properties.
nanoleq’s target markets are in med tech, high-end audio applications, consumer electronics, aerospace and robotics.
The team of four behind the ETH spinoff are Vincent Martinez (CEO), Luca Hirt (CTO), Flurin Stauffer (Head of Materials) and Serge Weydert (Head of Products).
What inspired you to start your company?
I like pursuing ambitious objectives and being confronted with hurdles and challenges. I feel like I don’t particularly learn if I remain in my comfort zone. What currently drives me most is the team spirit behind the company. I like mountaineering and I see the company’s venture as being similar to a mountain expedition. You share some tough and unexpected times but you are driven by the same ambitions; sharing these good and bad times reinforces the feelings of fellowship. Teamwork is a major source of inspiration and motivation to drive our company.
What entrepreneur(s) do you admire and why?
Now that I realize the tremendous effort that is required to build a successful company, I tend to admire every entrepreneur. I admire even more entrepreneurs who try to pursue a noble cause and be useful to human kind. In this regard, I find Elon Musk respectful. You may like or dislike his idea that we will have to colonize another planet one day, however there is something fascinating about flirting with the borders of science. Other entrepreneurs like Walt Disney or Benjamin Franklin are also very inspiring; they never let anyone stop them from accomplishing their dreams.
Can you tell us a short story about a customer using your product?
We do not yet have any customers using our products. However, we have received exciting and positive feedback from potential customers while presenting our technology. For example, we recently demonstrated the performance of our newly developed stretchable cables, plugged into audio speakers, for engineers of a cable company. When the head of R&D realized that the audio performance was not affected by the heavy stress on the cable, he said: “Oh my boss will really regret that he couldn’t make it to this meeting”. At another meeting, one of the engineers of an audio company told us: “This is by far the best solution I have ever seen to this problem”.
What do you love about your own leadership role in your company?
I have a feeling of personal satisfaction because I recently convinced two of my friends and former colleagues to step into nanoleq’s venture as co-founders. When I started 2 years ago, they were more skeptical. I was able to finally persuade them, as well as recent inventors and potential customers who show a lot of interest in our company. What I enjoy most is to have reunited a group of talented people who share the ambition of creating a great company and selling meaningful products.
Why did you apply for the W.A. de Vigier Award?
The de Vigier Award has a prestigious reputation and large exposure in Switzerland. One of our potential investors was awarded the de Vigier Prize about 10 years ago and became very successful with his company. It inspired me to apply for the de Vigier, in the hopes of emulating his path to success.
What are your impressions so far about the W.A. de Vigier Award?
I am very impressed by the high quality of the selection process. Questionnaires, personal interviews, and personal debriefings – every step of the way – are carefully thought through and well-managed. I also learned about myself, during the process, with the feedback that I received throughout. There are inputs that I will definitely try to implement to become a better entrepreneur and team manager.
The de Vigier also rewards the entrepreneur behind a project and this is why it isn’t similar to any other prize in Switzerland. As the road to market is always uncertain, I find it very positive to highlight the entrepreneur and team behind each project.