Vincent, please tell us about Nanoleq!
Nanoleq is an ETH-spinoff committed to creating the next generation of health-monitoring textiles. We combine knowhow about innovative soft electronic materials, biosignal acquisition and textile engineering to enable a seamless integration of electronic functionality into garments. Our soft sensors allow the recording of the heartbeat, of an electrocardiogram or the monitoring of breathing and other vital signs based on simple, washable and comfortable garments.
We incorporated in 2017 and we are very happy to have started working with key textile brands in the industry this year.
What are the current challenges in your industry and how do you see them changing in the next 2-5 years?
We are building a complete system of soft materials for body interface to electronics, software and in the future machine learning and AI algorithms. Our sensors enable medical-grade recording and help people monitor their health precisely. We are not working in one traditional industry per se but operate at the interface of different fields. This is very challenging, as we need to quickly adapt to each customer segment’s needs.
Looking ahead, we foresee a few important challenges:
Product ecosystem: We are scaling up and automating our full production of wires, electrodes and sensors in Zurich. At the same time, we are developing a completely new product. This is challenging our focus, especially since the product’s complexity has increased – we are moving from a pure hardware space to a full hardware / software offering.
Regulations: We start collecting private data about people’s health, which is becoming a sensitive topic. The EU law on data protection and privacy (GDPR) is expected to change in the coming years and we need take this into consideration and plan accordingly.
Team upscaling: In order to face all of the mentioned challenges, we grew rapidly in forming a comprehensive team of experts. We are currently 13 people while at the same time last year, we were a team of 4. This means that we had to hire roughly 1 person per month and the hiring process comes with its own set of challenges and adds considerably to the daily workload of the founding team.
Overall, we need to have a clear strategy and excellent execution. I often see the parallel between building a company’s strategy and playing a chess game. Every move will have an impact and while there are a few ways to play a good game, you will only fully see the effects a long time after you have moved your pieces.
What do you do differently today, compared to when you started your company?
We allow ourselves to dream and do what truly matters to us, which is to develop meaningful sensors to monitor the health of people. This is in line with the values of the people working here.
Initially, we were only doing what we knew how to do. At the start, we had developed a robust concept of electrical cable with a longer lifetime, based on our expertise at ETH. This is still part of our offer as we sell stretchable / reliable cables, but we offer much more than that now.
What are you most proud of achieving with your company?
Putting together an amazing team. We have a group of humble, very curious and ambitious people. This is our 10x edge!
Was there any piece of advice you received during your involvement with the W.A. de Vigier Foundation that stuck with you? Or a certain meaningful anecdote that you could share about this time?
In the first phase, we joined many startup competitions but the W.A. de Vigier Awards left an especially good impression on me. It was interesting to see how the selection focused on the entrepreneur behind the company. I think this focus is really smart. A business / product idea may make sense at a given moment in time but it will certainly evolve and it can even become obsolete as the market demand rapidly changes. This is why it’s important to have a solid team behind the company, as going forward, this team will have to face all kinds of challenges to prevail.