SuSoS has been focusing on consulting and the development of coating solutions using such thin polymer films since it was established as an ETH spin-off in 2004. “Thin-film polymers are all-rounders,” explains Christian Mathis. They are used as lubricating layers or adhesion promoters, and they prevent the formation of biofilms on surfaces or support the binding of antibodies, proteins, or cells to sensors. This is why they find frequent application in medical technology and the life sciences. About one year ago, the company expanded its scope: In addition to services and individual customer solutions, it now also includes a range of standard products. To this end, it had to further expand its sales, which is where Christian Mathis comes in. The engineer with a second degree in economics had just finished his doctorate at ETH Zurich.
Startup Campus interviewed the Business Concept Alumnus to find out some insights:
What is your background? How did you come up with the idea?
The idea of SuSoS AG is based on strong demand by the industry for solutions to surface issues such as: What connections do I find on the surface of an implant? How can I reduce the friction of a catheter? How do I prevent cells from adhering to a petri dish? Or, how can I specifically bind and examine DNA on a surface? These questions form the background of SuSoS AG.
What do you want your project to achieve? What motivates you?
We believe in a future with better medical technology and better diagnostics. Because the critical element in many products is the property of the final surface, instead of changing a whole material or product, our motivation is to adapt only the last few nanometers to provide optimal treatment for our clients and, ultimately, for patients.
How are you positioned? What sets you apart from potential competitors?
We occupy a niche. Over the past 10 years, we have expanded our expertise massively, enabling us to set ourselves apart from the competition. Today, we are a sought-after development partner for large, well-known companies, on the one hand, but also for young startups. Our surface technology enables our partners to develop a product that stands out clearly from the current state of the art in terms of performance.
How did you proceed in developing your idea?
While in the first few years the focus was primarily on surface analysis, our expertise and our patent portfolio grew with each project. For many projects, individual solutions were originally developed and used individually. Today, we work with a motivated sales team on expansion, using these tried-and-tested technologies on a wide range of products in the medtech and life science sectors, which helps us generate new added value for our customers.
What role do strategic partners play in your environment and in the further development of your startup?
ETH Zurich and EMPA Dübendorf have both been important strategic partners. Many research projects were launched together, many contacts were made, and enormous technical progress was generated – for us as well as for our partners. Our partner companies have built a strong bond with us over the years.
Do you work full-time or part-time at your idea? How do you deal with the workload? àGrowth in the team
Today we have a team of seven people, six of whom have a doctorate in surface technology. Four people focus on development and production while two others drive business development. The seventh person is a financial affairs expert who supports sales.
Where do you want to be in three years?
Our goal is to continue researching promising technologies in the field of surface technology – developing them has been and continues to be our core competence. In addition, we aim to further expand the production and sale of our coatings.
Why should someone invest in your startup?
We are a rarity. There are few companies worldwide like ours and we have managed to build a bridge between science and industry. Our coating technologies are protected by a broad patent portfolio and are being continuously expanded. If someone wants to invest in a sustainable company that promotes Switzerland as an economic and research location, we are guaranteed to be on the shortlist.
What would you do differently next time?
Communication is the critical element in developing technology from lab to finished product. In retrospect, it would have made more sense to put a greater focus on this. It is extremely demanding to explain to a customer who does not know our field what our technology is all about in 50 words or less – so we will continue to work on our communication.
How has the CTI Entrepreneurship Training course in Business Growth supported you in your day-to-day work?
The Business Growth course was a perfect complement to our planned growth strategy. I had the opportunity to interact with other entrepreneurs and receive valuable feedback from experienced coaches. The fact that our growth strategy earned us the Zurich Start Award was a welcome confirmation and motivation for the entire team.