"Winning Falling Walls Venture has been a big gratification and confirmation for the courage and effort we are putting into our work every day."
Cynora, a young company that develops new lighting materials, was the winner of the first edition of Falling Walls Venture in 2013. Last year, its founder Tobias Grab came back to Berlin as a jury member, there we had the chance to interview him about his company and his “Falling Walls experience”.
Again, this year Falling Walls is seeking the “Science Start-Up of the Year”. If you are inspired by the following interview, we are looking forward to receiving your start-up nomination for the next Falling Walls Venture event on 8 November 2015.
1. What does the Cynora GmbH do? What is your business idea?
CYNORA develops next generation luminescence materials for displays and lighting products. We develop lighting materials required for flexible displays, large-scale lighting panels and printed light sources.
CYNORA is a young company located in Bruchsal, near Karlsruhe. Our main focus is to supply new and highly efficient materials for use in OLEDs (organic lighting diodes). This technology allows efficient display and lighting application without being dependent on rare materials, such as Iridium.
CYNORA researches and develops novel copper-based and innovative purely organic luminescent materials. To allow for a broad application in OLEDs, our materials are adapted to a solution-based process. By doing so, production becomes material and cost efficient. Energy-efficient luminescence materials produced with the „Singlet Harvesting Principle” can be seen as technological break through, making it possible to cover a broad color spectrum. This principle is the key to mass market compatible and sustainable materials for efficiently produced organic light-emitting displays and light sources.
CYNORA currently has 34 employees. Most of them are involved and employed in research and development. Research comprises all key aspects of developing opto-electronic materials, including quantum mechanical calculation and synthesis, as well as materials analytics and testing for organic light-emitted diode components. This broad approach enables CYNORA to explore and validate a wide range of organic light emitted diode design concepts, such as hybrid and multilayered components of solutions based on an innovative crosslinking technology.
Our business idea is to market our materials on every possible market: Displays, light sources, flexible and transparent devices, smart luminous packaging, and possibly novel solar cells.
2. Tell us about the history behind Cynora
The CYNORA GmbH was founded in 2003 as a spin-off of the RWTH Aachen. In 2008, the company was restructured by the new executive officers Dr. T. Baumann (CTO) and Dr. T. Grab (CEO), together with Mr. Bächle (COO). After a management buy-out, the existing business model was given up and the company’s official place of business was relocated to Karlsruhe.
Henceforth the company focused on the development of innovative materials for organic light emitting diodes. Since 2008 CYNORA has been successfully guided through three financing rounds.
The collective efforts of the CYNORA team and its supporters have lead to about 200 patent applications and several prizes, most recently the “Falling Walls Scientific Start-up of the Year 2013” and the “Deutsche Rohstoffeffizienzpreis 2014”.
In April 2014 the research and development field as well as the business sector of the company were enlarged. The company was relocated from Karlsruhe KIT Hightech Inkubator to the TRIWO Technopark in Bruchsal, now using more than 1500 square meters and state of the art labs.
Tobias Grab presenting at Falling Walls Venture 2013 © Falling Walls Foundation, Ralf Rühmeier
3. How did you hear about Falling Walls Venture and how did your participation come about?
Our ‘Alma Mater’, the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), nominated CYNORA for the participation at the Falling Walls Venture 2013. This nomination was a major honor for us, especially since there are a lot of truly interesting and successful start-up companies at the KIT.
4. What has changed for you resp. Cynora since winning Falling Walls Venture last year?
For the CYNORA team and our investors as well as sponsors, winning Falling Walls Venture has been a big gratification and confirmation for the courage and effort we are putting into our work every day. For our international image the prize has definitely taken us to a higher level. The reports and nominations in national and international newspapers continue to have an effect on the company. After the Falling Walls Venture 2013, many international applicants have become aware of CYNORA.
Furthermore, plenty of companies have shown interest in our company, which has lead to co-operations and opportunities. For me personally the presentation at Falling Walls was a special experience. Personally, I remember the tautness before and the relief afterwards.
5. What opportunities have arisen since taking part in Falling Walls Venture?
I got in touch with many interesting people around the event - with other founders, policy makers in politics and private capital, to whom I still have contact. These contacts have lead to various possibilities and learnings.
6. Which advice would you like to give to this year’s participating start-ups?
We might have been successful, because we did not design the presentation as an investors pitch, but rather tried to present our vision and mission as a company. We tried to explain our technology and pointing out the use for everybody. So, tell a story and explain what the contribution of your company is. A contribution, which helps mankind. And of course, explain your product, the market, your team and strategy – and all of that in 5 minutes!
Falling Walls Venture 2014 © Falling Walls Foundation, Ralf Rühmeier