Victor Rosenberg, Tropiglas Technologies
In this episodeof the InnovaBuzz podcast, Victor Rosenberg of Tropiglas Technologies, explains how his quest for wanting to be a part in making a better world led him into a business opportunity producing the the most advanced glazing in the world. His company is turning one of the world’s most common building materials, glass, into an energy source, as a solar collector, as well as giving that glass the ability to do other “intelligent” things. Listen to the interview to learn more!
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This week’s prize is a copy of the book, Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky. It is a really fascinating book in which Belsky describes that everybody has the capacity to make ideas happen. Just give us your comments about Victor’s business, about his invention, perhaps suggestions, some ideas that might help Victor do some more with what he has invented.
Some of the highlights of this episode include:
- Ask for help when trying to get a new, ground-breaking idea from inception to reality – you often can’t do it on your own, as an individual.
- Going out to where your potential partners are e.g. Trade Shows; and publishing in quality journals is a great way to get interest in a new invention.
- Victor’s philosophy is that we all need to become part of the energy supply side, to help with the problem of energy consumption, particularly producing energy on the site where it is consumed.
- Victor’s strong belief in his idea, his market research and development of prototype to demonstrate the concept have lead to where Tropiglas is today, and the high level of interest from big investors.
The Buzz – Our Innovation Round
Here are Victor’s answers to the questions of our Innovation round. Watch the interview to get the full scoop.
- #1 thing to be innovative – Having a mindset to recognize future trends, needs and opportunities and be inquisitive.
- Best thing for new ideas – My approach is to get clear about the end result – the outcome or product and then formulate a process to start making it and getting there.
- Keep project / client on track – Having good people in the team, all focused on “the why” and employing good people management. Also important is belief in the business owner / leader.
- Differentiate – BE different! Be better than anyone else, by playing to your strength.
- Number one piece of advice – Commitment and staying power.
Hint: To enter the competition, leave comments under this video about Victor’s business, his invention, suggestions or ideas that might help him do some more with what he has right now.
Click to Read…
Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz. Welcome to Episode No 17 of the InnovaBuzz Podcast – designed to help smart businesses with an interest in innovation and the Internet of Things become even more innovative.
In this episode, my guest is Victor Rosenberg, from Tropiglas Technologies, a company that invented and is commercializing “intelligent glass” – glass that can act as a solar collector, energy source and insulation material. Victor tells me about this invention and the challenges of getting the idea from his head to prototype and then to production with the needed financial support along the way. It’s another fascinating interview with lot’s of lessons for all entrepreneurs, so stay tuned.
This podcast is sponsored by Innovabiz, where we help smart, innovative business owners save time and money and grow their business by making their websites achieve more. Of course, at Innovabiz, we do more than just build websites – we provide solutions to our clients’ needs by leveraging the power of the internet in innovative ways. If you want to learn more, then go to innovabiz.com.au or if you are ready to find out how our magic can help you, then apply for our Website Accelerator Session at innovabiz.com.au/wac.
Before we meet Victor, a quick competition announcement – this week’s competition prize is a copy of the book, “Making Ideas Happen – Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality” by Scott Belsky. It is a really fascinating book in which Belsky shows how everybody has the capacity to make ideas happen.
Stick around for details on how you can enter the draw to win that competition prize later on in the interview.
So let’s get into the Innovation Hive and get the Buzz from Victor Rosenberg.
Jürgen: Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz and I am really excited to have with me today on the episode of the Innovabiz Podcast all the way from Perth in Western Australia, Victor Rosenberg, the founder and the executive chairman of Tropiglas Technologies. Welcome to the podcast Victor. It is a privilege to have you here.
Victor: Thanks Jürgen and it is very nice to talk to you. Thank you.
Jürgen: Now Tropiglas is developing and commercializing a fascinating technology that turns one of the world’s most common building materials, glass into an energy source as a solar collector. At the same time, that glass also provides considerable insulation properties and so much more. We will learn about that from Victor later on. In fact he describes it as intelligent glass.
Jürgen: Now before we learn more about Tropiglas Technologies, a quick competition announcement to give people an incentive to comment on the podcast and the prize is a copy of the book, “Making Ideas Happen – Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality” by Scott Belsky. It is a really fascinating book in which Belsky describes that everybody has the capacity to make ideas happen as long as they are prepared to modify their organizational habits, engage the broader community and develop leadership capability so that they can transform that idea into reality.
I thought that was a fitting prize today because I am pretty sure we are going to learn many of these things as we hear about Victor’s journey. Stick around for details on how you can enter the draw to win that prize later on in the interview.
Now Victor, as I said, great to have you here on the podcast. Before we learn a little bit more about the innovative stuff that you doing at Tropiglas technologies, I notice that your background is a pharmacist and in chemistry so we have a little bit in common there. Have you always been interested in science and interested in inventions from a young child’s age or did you have other aspirations?
Victor: No, you know what I was always keen to be involved in making something – that is only part of it.
Victor: Yes, I qualified as a pharmacist. Even when I qualified as a pharmacist, I was always looking at new methods of developing stuff, using stuff, gets a bit of uniqueness. In fact I have also branched out into the food business as part of another company parallel to the pharmaceutical where we developed, in fact we were the first to develop food condiments in tubes without preservatives. In fact in Anuga which was the biggest food show in the world in 1983.
Jürgen: You have always been developing and doing things out of the box.
Victor: Yes and innovating.
Victor: Eventually, I sold those businesses to big multinational company, and we then came to live in Australia from South Africa. Again, I was looking at where do I see the biggest opportunities, A, for business and possibly to be involved in making the world better. That’s where I looked at the energy and environmental space. That is where I started.
I really saw that not as a dot com type industry. That was here to stay. That’s real long-term stuff, long-term management, long-term developments whatever, whatever, and I looked at the window and said that surely got to be the obvious place to go, and that’s where I started. That’s what I actually created, but the first developments we made didn’t quite work out that successful. We were just 1 to 2 basically removed the infrared from coming into motorcar glass for example. I was looking at the motorcar.
We developed a product and the problem was we used organic materials, and I learned that the organic material is really not that stable. For a car if you got 7 years live or 10 years it would have been enough but in the building industry we need 25 years. Nevertheless I developed a product. We got stability. I actually met with Dupont in Finland. You want to know the whole story?
Jürgen: Yes, sure.
Victor: I met with Dupont in Finland, discussed it with them and of course they were interested particularly for the motor car industry where you can’t do anything with the front window in particular but they do want to reduce the glare from headlights coming into the car because it is uncomfortable when driving, secondly you want to make the cabin as comfortable as possible for the passengers and for the driver and also to reduce air conditioning cost, because it uses a lot of petrol.
They tested the product and they came back and they said, Victor, you know what, the product takes away that 85% or 83% of the infrared but the light transmission is only 57%. In other words for the motor cars it has got to be minimum 70. They weren’t prepared to spend the money on the R&D. They said when you get it right come back and see us.
I actually got two very big firms in America, one called Southern Clay Products (we used one of their products in a formula) and Epolin a big dye manufacturer, infrared dye manufacturer and I set up a meeting in the States for all of them. I put the proposition to them. They listened. I don’t have the money to do the work but if you guys take it on you will make it. You will supply the goods. There is actually a potential market with Dupont.
They took it on. It cost about two million dollars. Unfortunately, they still couldn’t improve the light that much. That project just died. This was about 2005. Then I left it for about five years but in the mean time thinking about it all the time and eventually I decided I think what I have learned, I am now going to come up with what I called the most advanced glazing in the world. A, it could let the light though which wasn’t going to lose out again. It will remove all the UV, will remove all the infrared. It will remove all the thermal as well. We will collect that infrared. I call it waste product and convert that to power. That’s what we developed. It is really the most advanced system today. It is a glass that gives you all your insulating properties, reducing light and heat and cooling cost and at the same time gives you the extra benefit of producing current.
Jürgen: That’s fascinating. Now before we go on Victor, can you just drop your camera down a little bit.
Victor: Yeah. Is that better or should I sit closer.
Jürgen: That is a little better. Perhaps a little more because we are just seeing the top part of your face.
Victor: Is it better.
Jürgen: Yeah, that’s better.
Jürgen: All right. That’s a fascinating story and a fascinating transition from pharmacy businesses into the energy sector. It is interesting how you took something that essentially hit a dead end and it didn’t really go anywhere but then decided that there was an application and your persevered and transformed it.
Victor: What we did then is we took, I only work in inorganic now, that’s the difference. That’s the difficulty again because inorganics are not as plentiful as organic materials. Also, the concept when I spoke to the Technion in Israel they all looked at me like you are a bit crazy. Then, I spoke to ECU (Edith Cowan University) in Perth and they also looked at me like a little bit cockeyed – but they took it on and in fact they have succeeded. There was a big challenge.
It was a difficult road. It could never have been an easy road, otherwise others would have done it as well, and also the fact that we are using inorganics puts us in another space to maybe competitors who are trying to work with organic because we know organics have a very short life.
Jürgen: Now there are a couple of interesting points there in that story of course. One of them stands out for me in coming back to the book I talked about and I saw an interview you did with Anthill magazine where you have raised this as one of the important points and that’s enlisting other people’s help and having partners on board.
Victor: Yes, you can never do things alone especially as an individual. A big company of course they can do it on their own. They have got the resources. They have got the manpower. They have got the science, but I had to always look out for those people, qualities, institutions whichever, that actually can form part of my workforce. They don’t actually work directly for me. They are employed by other people but I pay them to do the job. We have to do this.
Today, in fact I have got probably some of the biggest companies in the world who are now working with me and spending quite a lot of money, like Eastman Chemicals, Asahi Glass Company and a couple of others and they are spending the money, big construction companies in South Africa because they want to do trials, quarter of a million dollars.
A lot of money is being thrown at the project not into my company but as development work or quality work or whatever, on the prospect, on the technology as well. I have spent that money either way which I don’t have so these big guys are actually doing it themselves so that is helping us.
Jürgen: Yeah, that’s really good and certainly they have got the clout to penetrate the market with a product when it ultimately gets to that stage, right.
Victor: We are looking at some of the major players in the world today that are talking to me. We are on the global stage. As I said there are no juniors. Whether it is Dow Corning, Asahi Glass, Eastman’s, Guardian, all of them are really major global players and that’s who we are talking to today.
Jürgen: How did you access those people when you had the idea and you developed some prototypes together with Edith Cowan University I think is the way it progressed? How did you then approach the big companies that were in that industry?
Victor: Okay, with Eastman because we need to have the interlayer, the PVB interlayer or limonite. They are the biggest manufacturers in the world. I approached them if they would manufacture my product which is certain materials that go into that interlayer. It took me about six months before they actually took on the project, because they just don’t take on projects. It does cost money.
They probably spent close to a million dollar today by the way. Eventually they took it on. I convinced them to take it on. In terms of all the others I already got ahead of the traction going. I went to the big trade shows in the US. People saw me. I did a TED talk which you might have seen which pulled in a lot of interest. The University of Cadiz was with me, and they did a paper which is was published in nature.com which is probably one of the most prestigious academic publications in the world.
That’s very important because that gives you credibility on your technology. They published it. That’s like a Nobel Prize, because they don’t publish a lot of papers. They probably do about a six a year and every university in the world is throwing papers at them to get acknowledged. That was another major thing. A big building construction company, people are getting to know about us because we have got quite a lot of exposure now.
Every time there is a new development we put it on the website and I keep my circle of high network businesses informed of where we are at all the time so they know. In fact Asahi Glass, the big Asahi, they came to Perth to see me so did Viracon, Eastman, if they come to Perth that’s a big say. That is a big undertaking.
Jürgen: Yeah, that’s a commitment.
Victor: Even from Sidney they don’t come to Perth, you know what I mean?
Victor: We had some really some good traction and some good connections with major global players now. The last phase that we need to do is the framing because the prototype we showed, everybody saw, they came in themselves to see it, but you can’t actually frame that product. You need a proper frame. The next six months we want to spend engineering a frame to accommodate the technology so that we can be ready for the market by the end of the year. All these big guys are waiting to see, can they frame it now, because that’s the next challenge. That’s what we are working on now.
Jürgen: Okay, well that’s exciting stuff, yeah, certainly I was thinking before how could I embed one of the YouTube videos you have done showing the prototype in the podcast but what I will do is post the link underneath the podcast so that our audience can have a look at that. That is really impressive. I am thinking of the one where you had half a dozen fans sit up around the thing in the car park there.
Victor: Yes. That’s what attracted a lot of people. Also when I was in America about a month ago, I went to see two major architectural firms, one in Washington and one in San Francisco. At the end of the day, they are the people that are going to prescribe it. They are like the doctors. They will prescribe to the patient. They are very interested. That’s what they are looking for because the amount of power, for example in Europe, that you can actually draw per square meter from a building is low. It is 50 kilowatts per year.
It is really not a lot of power. Architects have to now design buildings that do not use more than that that kind of power because we need it. They have got also the restrictions, otherwise they won’t get the license to build and that’s where we are coming, because they need every product that can actually either save energy or produce energy. And they will work with us as well as the major firms.
Within this year we will do a lot more visiting and marketing PR with the big construction companies, engineers and of course architects, probably from July onwards we have already got potential greenhouse to do of about 10,000 square meters, and we are hoping for next year. We can’t do anything from next year because we need to finish off training and final testing this year.
Jürgen: Yeah, that all sounds pretty exciting.
Victor: It is yeah.
Jürgen: Now I heard you describe the whole issue around the problem of energy usage and fossil fuels and so on and described this in terms of we need to become part of the supply side. In order words instead of just trying to look at reducing our energy usage, let’s see how every one of can actually produce energy and help that equation and so that’s what you have been describing there in terms of the architect as well, looking at both sides of that equation.
Victor: The whole answer is exactly that is, A, there has got to be a design revolution to accommodate this energy revolution because the products that we produce. They are windows but they got to have a little bit something if they are doing something else. The design, in other words you might not have the precise 4 X 4 square meter windows. It is huge. They might have to reduce the size a little bit like 2 X 2 or that type of thing.
I am saying that they have to also change their way of thinking and either the actual consumer is the answer because they, as you said could form both parts of the equation which is the supply side, because they are the demand side so they can actually be the solution. The big thing is, it is onsite. There is no coming via cables from the grid where of course, they are unsightly, and are hugely costly to maintain.
Jürgen: That’s right.
Victor: I don’t think the governments today have got the money to actually keep them going and maintaining them or even build new ones because they run into billions and billions of dollars. I believe the answer is to produce the energy onsite. In that way you don’t lose your power and that’s the right way to do it. The consumer is the answer, yes.
Jürgen: Yeah, that’s fascinating stuff and as you say, the cost of infrastructure and perhaps new infrastructure for newer technologies can be debilitating.
Victor: Absolutely, absolutely, in fact that’s a major problem for them now because they have to supply you power. They only initially supplied about 25% of the power. They have to supply the rest, but their revenue is dropping and they’ve got a predicament and know it is going to drop further as we move a couple of years down the track. Actually can they afford to spend billions on infrastructure when in fact they don’t even have the money to cover it?
It is a big predicament for them. You know Jürgen, we are looking to become part of the zero-net energy generation people. We want the buildings to be self sustainable and to include several technologies not just ours. We eventually might be able to provide 50% of the energy but you need other technologies which will be energy reducing so that we can come down to that 50 kilowatt per square meter, yeah.
Jürgen: That’s right and you still have that challenge in that you are only generating power when the sun shines.
Victor: Yes, how that would work is of course you would store them in batteries. You will store your power. It is not a big issue. In fact we have discussed this with everybody. The battery technologies are also getting better, getting smaller, they can store more. We believe the answer is that I am suggesting that you have to produce it, you store it and the battery can sit anywhere in the garage or wherever, it doesn’t matter and you can draw off that, and when that’s dry you got your regular electricity and the next morning it charges up again. Every day it will charge up, yes.
Jürgen: Yeah, that’s good. How do you describe what you are doing in one sentence if somebody meets you at one of these tradeshows or for the first time, what do you tell them?
Victor: That we have produced the most advanced glazing in the world, and it has five features and I will mention them. That’s what I will say.
Jürgen: Okay. What do you say about the five features?
Victor: Okay, so it has five features, number one, it removes your UV, it has thermal properties, it has solar properties, it has day lighting properties, it gets the light through. It is safety glass by form, in that it’s got an interlayer and it produces electricity from the waste infrared. It is actually six features.
Jürgen: Yeah, that’s good because that certainly would generate interest, I would imagine and further conversations. Now I believe that there is also the option there to actually have, how do you call it, basically make it non-transparent at a flick of the switch, so for example for privacy or dark in the room.
Victor: Correct. You know what, Jürgen basically what we have produced is a self powering unit as well. You don’t depend on the external power to use it to whatever you want to use it for so you can power the LCD glass that is the one that becomes transparent or not transparent. You can use it to power multiple stuff in your home and the building.
It is self powering glass, the biggest problem that you have with the switchboard or LCD glass is to get power to the glass is very difficult if you are going to plug it into mains. It is very difficult. It is a problem. With us we would actually provide their own power to supply their power to work the LCD glass. That’s a different feature so we’re trying to become power independent.
Jürgen: As I said, there is certainly a whole range of features that are pretty exciting.
Victor: One other thing Jürgen, we do not have to change the technology. We are not waiting for the solar industry which are spending billions on trying to improve bigger solar cells in other words efficiency cells. We are using currently cells that are 10% efficient but we know that 80% are going to come out later this year from the people we are working with. That power will actually be nearly double just by getting better solar cells so that the knowledge is there. We are just waiting for the cell people to prove they are better convergence rate cells.
Jürgen: Yeah, well, that certainly will make a big difference to double the amount of power there.
Victor: Yeah, and that’s happening, so it is a fact. That’s a fact. We’ve just got to wait.
Jürgen: Within Tropiglas technologies what do you spend most of your time doing on a day to day basis?
Victor: You know what, I basically plan, map out the research program with the universities and then I meet with them probably three times a week. I go there to make sure that things are moving on track or they are not. We have got to make certain the directional changes, of course I am pretty busy on capital raising. I am pretty busy on naturally the PR and what you call it, the sale side but keeping touch with my major interested parties.
I do quite a lot of talks. I was invited to do a talk in Perth to the government or property arm of the West Australian government LANCO. I did a talk at the University of Torronto, in Canada, and that’s basically what I do now.
Jürgen: You are the PR guy for the business and for the product.
Victor: For the PR, the product, the part of the development, although I don’t do any of the physical development work, the university does it, but part of it and then there is patents. That’s all going to change because we are going to probably look at listing the company in the next three to six months. There are a few approaches from brokers that they would like to list it. We are looking at that as well so we can get 5 or 10 million into the company so that we can have it adequately stocked because we need people now.
I mean, I have people in states who work for me, otherwise you can’t do things. You can’t be everywhere. We are in Canada. I have got people in Japan, so they are remunerated in a small way, but I do have feet on the ground elsewhere, otherwise you couldn’t do it. Hopefully when we raise proper money, people will get a job. I have people that work for me and around me who are just waiting to be employed properly.
Jürgen: It sounds like they are the people you want because they believe in you.
Victor: They believe in me. They believe in the product and they will. The minute that we get proper money in they will get proper jobs here.
Jürgen: What’s the business model that you are planning to run with the technology? You are looking at a licensing model or how are you thinking of approaching that.
Victor: Yes, the model is definitely to sell licenses also to collect royalties.
Victor: We are not basically manufacturing. We want to keep on promoting the R&D to keep us in front otherwise we will fall behind. The revenue stream is from licensing and then the royalties.
Jürgen: Yeah, okay.
Victor: We don’t want to be heavily invested in equipment. We don’t want to be involved in equipment which other people have got. We would rather spend the money on human capital, marketing and of course PR and marketing.
Jürgen: Working on the research as you said which if I look at your website and having listened to several of your talks that is clearly is where your strength is and where your passion is.
Victor: Yeah, yeah. The developer will try to market. On the marketing, PR, and all that that’s where we need people and need money as well.
Jürgen: Yeah. Is there something that keeps you awake at night that worries you about where Tropiglas is headed or where you are at right now?
Victor: Well you do have sleepless nights. They are fewer and fewer now because we are at a much further development stage and whatever, but yes there were many sleepless nights, that for sure, and money was always an issue. Raising money is always an issue but that’s gotten easier. As you advance closer to a commercial product, raising money gets easier.
Jürgen: Yeah, and definitely as you have a prototype to demonstrate.
Victor: Yeah. Much easier. Even the people now that I am working with to develop the frames, they are working, they are encouraged to be part of it because they can see that this looks like this could be a product for the market.
Jürgen: Yeah. All right, that’s fascinating story. How do you keep balanced? Do you take time off from work and do other things?
Victor: It doesn’t take a lot of hours that’s the point. I would spend in the University three afternoons a week because I don’t have too much else to do and I will have to go over there. The rest of my work is an hour here and an hour there, two hours a day. I play tennis every week. I play golf every week. The problem with the amount of hours I am putting in I would say probably 15 hours a week would be about what I do.
Jürgen: Wow, that’ a pretty good model to aspire to given what you have been able to achieve there obviously with a lot of help from the people that you have mentioned already.
Victor: You need those to be working with you otherwise you would be doing 60 hours a week, that’s for sure. That is the way it is now so it is really comfortable for me and I don’t really have a job, otherwise I don’t have to be anywhere at 8 o’clock or 8:30 or 9. I don’t really have a job now.
Victor: I may have some meetings but they are normally spaced out to suit me at 11 o’clock or 10 o’clock – a couple of broker meetings whenever they are. They are always in the afternoon. My lifestyle is good now. To get the product to where it was the first year it was not easy. There’s a lot to be done. Suppose you got to put that into the balance, you can’t just say; I’m taking it easy now. It wasn’t that easy in the beginning. It was tough because nobody is sure what is going to happen because it has never been done before.
Jürgen: That’s right, and I am sure there was a lot of hard work that went into it and a lot of 60-hour weeks in those times.
Victor: Yes, definitely. Now it is on a very nice chill period for me.
Jürgen: What do you say as the risk and the opportunity cost for going out on a limb like you have here and thinking outside of the box and taking an approach that nobody has done before.
Victor: Okay, the high risk is that if it doesn’t work. You are talking when you start developing your new concept, the high risk is of course is – there’s a lot of bullshit if it doesn’t work. It sounds great and everybody thinks I am crazy which they did because nobody has done it before, that’s the high risk. That’s why we add my own money because nobody else will put money in that. What is the other question?
Jürgen: Well, I guess the opportunity cost which basically says; how do you know you are working on the right thing, because you could be doing something else with that time and money.
Victor: I just knew it was the right thing because again, when I went to one of the big US trade shows to exhibit my work – it’s like I tested the market first, I didn’t just jump in as it were. After two years we made a little 20 X 20 glass pane which is not much but we could demonstrate the principle and that sparked quite a lot of interest. People were interested in this.
Clear glass window producing power, driving fans – so that’s where we actually have some of the bigger guys like the Guardians and the Viracon and many others through that initial contact two years ago.
Victor: That’s how I knew that, and then I met a guy by the name of Selkowitz who was from the University of San Francisco, just forget the name of it – who is a big shot in the energy side. He works for the government, and he actually makes all the codes and the rulings. He did a paper and I spoke to him when he said that as much as advanced as the low E, the energy efficient glass is today, it has got to change that within the next 30 years is talking or by the year 2030 it has got to be showing other features like producing power.
Dow Corning did a video about five years ago, a futuristic video showing the same. They are all talking about it but nobody has done it. That’s what made me do it. When I did my 20-20, and I had quite a lot of traction and interest I realized that this is the way to go so I put in all my efforts into it.
Jürgen: Yeah, so you had a very strong belief in your own invention but you had a basis of knowledge what the market was looking for something like that.
Victor: Yeah, more advanced. It had to be because it can’t be the same as much as they were refining and improving materials for coating, it had to actually deliver more than just that.
Victor: Yes, that’s correct.
Jürgen: That is a fascinating story, and we really appreciate you sharing it with our audience, Victor. It is time I think now to move on to the Buzz which is our innovation round that is designed to help our audience, who are primarily innovators and leaders in their field, learning from the experience of somebody like yourself. It is about six questions we have and hopefully you can have a really fascinating answer. I am sure you will have a fascinating answer to each one. First one is – what is the number one thing anyone needs to do to be more innovative?
Victor: I don’t know, you are either on or off, I am not sure how to answer that. You either got that mind and you can see a bit into the future or you haven’t got it. I saw the future. I saw the energy and the environment. That is how I started. We have to know, we have to have a bit of the futuristic opinion if you want to be, whatever are you going to get involved in but you got to have it.
Victor: Yeah, so look to the future and be a bit inquisitive perhaps.
Jürgen: Yes. What if.
Jürgen: What’s the best thing you have done to develop new ideas? Do you have a structured approach or…
Victor: No, my approach is come up with what you think could be a concept that could work and then formulate a process to start making it and getting there. That’s like what I did with the university. I approached them and said this is what I want to make. I am not sure how we are going to get there, but this is what I want to make.
These I believe are the ingredients we should be looking to use or they may be better today, but that’s the end result. They worked on the aim inwards as opposed to starting from something and hoping to get somewhere. I gave them the true guideline of the end result and an indication of a lot of the materials I think that would actually get us there. They had to do all the hard yards. That’s how you do it.
Jürgen: Okay, I mean it sounds like from what you are describing, you saw a need in the marketplace which initially was related to car windows and reducing the energy absorption of the interior of the car and then expanded that out. You started with a need and then had some ideas around how you might fulfill that need.
Victor: Correct. You got to start with a game plan with an end result and how you get these. You can’t start with something and hope you are going to and you are not sure where you are going. It doesn’t live.
Jürgen: You get stuck. The idea has to match a practical use.
Victor: Yes, absolutely. That is a hard thing to teach universities because the scientists don’t really care about that commercial side.
Jürgen: Yeah, that’s right. I had to educate them that whatever we are doing, whatever process you are doing you got to understand that’s got to be able to be made on a big scale.
Victor: Yeah. It is still like that now. It certainly was like that when I was there.
Jürgen: That is a challenge.
Jürgen: What is the best way you know of to keep a project on track like this way? You have got lots of different partners and international people working on it together with you. How do you keep track of things and keep everything moving forward at the same time?
Victor: That’s where it is people management.
Victor: That’s what it is. It is actually keeping people under control and that’s not easy. There is no, that’s the answer. It is difficult but you have to manage the people and try and keep them in line all the time.
Victor: That would make you lose a week. That’s what happens. If you don’t, you lose time, and it does happen, and you don’t recover that time I can tell you.
Jürgen: What your approach then?
Victor: My approach is as I am saying. I do my best. I don’t want to fight with the people you are working with. What to do is to try and explain that it is important. We got to be here by this date guys because I have to show a sample to so and so and so and so and push them to deliver on time which doesn’t happen easily with them and you have to accept that. There’s a different mirror on that side because there are different scientists. It is people management, you got to control them.
Jürgen: It sounds like you are focused very much on explaining the why – a bit like the philosophy of the fascinating book by Simon Sinek called “Start with Why” which sounds like that’s the philosophy you are employing.
Jürgen: Getting people to buy in which that explains why you have been successful in getting other people to buy in whether it is partners or international employees, I will call them, that aren’t actually drawing a wage from you at this stage. They obviously believe in what you are doing and believe in you.
Victor: Correct. They all got to believe in me because otherwise they wouldn’t do it. They wouldn’t do it for, as they call it chikkis, that small packet. They do because they believe that it is going to work out, that there would be something in it for them and they will do. People have to believe in me.
Investors, they all have to believe in me. They are putting the money in me, and I have that – how good your technology sounds, looks. It is you, whom they are putting their money into because they trust you. They think you know what you are doing of course.
Jürgen: Yeah, well that’s great advice. Make sure that you get belief in you as the business owner and the key person in the business.
Victor: Yeah, and they have to believe in you as well. That should come with any investors – it has got to be a strong message that you are permitted. The other big thing is that I have my own money in the business. People love to hear that. If you can’t show that, then I don’t think people will invest in you either. They want to know that you are actually taking the big risk here.
Jürgen: Yeah. You got skin in the game as well.
Jürgen: They will do it, yeah. Alright, finally then what’s the number one thing that you think people can do to differentiate themselves?
Jürgen: From other people in their industry, their competition.
Victor: The only way is you got to be a little different. I can’t explain how but in my case I knew what’s on the market and I knew if I wanted to be different we had to be one better than what the market is currently got and offered. That’s what I approached. That’s the way they need to look at it. It is not we are going to head to head on with a big competitor. You need to be able to offer something a little better – whether it is a better feature in terms of performance, like I am offering a design or something but it has to be slightly better offer if you want to be better.
Jürgen: Okay, that’s very sound advice and being better doesn’t mean to say you can be better than a big company or anything but as you pointed out it is what’s your strength and making sure that’s what you do really well better than anybody else.
Jürgen: All right, well you have told us a little bit about the future for Tropiglas Technologies in terms of possible venture, sorry, words are escaping now that, we’re going to market.
Victor: To listing.
Jürgen: Listing, that’s it. What do you see is the future longer term?
Victor: The future longer term is either we get a big partner or we do a listing because now we need real money to motivate, to increase the management and to really become professional.
Victor: That’s what has happened now.
Jürgen: Do you see a lot of competition out there for this kind of product in the industry?
Victor: Absolutely. There are probably seven of the eight top universities and I am talking about the MIT, talking about Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, they are all trying to do the same now.
Jürgen: Yeah. There is a bit of urgency about commercializing this and then hopefully you have got things well protected from a patent point of view.
Victor: Well we have, but the problem with these big guys is when they get grant money from business or government, MIT just got 69 million from General Electric to do the study. Cambridge got 25 million pounds from somebody. You know, I beat the odds in this country but they get big subsidies and grants to actually do the work, and they can do it faster than me of course, but we are more advanced than them now. They know that we are advanced in terms of size and performance so that’s why we have got to get on the market by next year.
Jürgen: Yeah, I always find it a little sad now that in Australia we have just so many examples of this kind thing where the funding is just not there and as you said there are big international universities or companies getting involved and the resources that they can bring to bear are just massive.
Victor: I battled here all the time but most of my support is coming from the United States.
Victor: That’s what going to happen and something will happen there, where we maybe have a major partner somebody may buy the technology, I don’t know. All my focus and all my interest is coming from the US and Europe, but here absolutely not.
Jürgen: Yes, little unfortunate for Australia.
Victor: Yeah, that’s the problem.
Jürgen: All right, well let’s move on to our competition again and I should have mentioned this to you at the beginning but what we really want to do is put something out there that you can learn from our audience what can they contribute back to you in terms of comments or information in the podcast.
Have a quick think about that – so the prize today is a copy of the book “Making Ideas Happen”. It talks about overcoming the obstacles between a vision and reality.
It is by Scott Belsky and in that he says everybody has a capacity to make ideas happen but they have got to be prepared to do certain things. He steps you through and he has case studies there of some of the big ideas and really retro-engineers those, what do people do to make their ideas happen. Victor what would you like people to tell you for that.
Victor: Yeah, are they going to listen to this interview?
Jürgen: I certainly hope so.
Victor: Okay, so I am happy to hear any comment, good or bad, that comes back.
Jürgen: Okay, well so give us your comments about Victor’s business, about his invention, perhaps suggestions, some ideas that might help Victor do some more with what he has got there, and if you leave the comments under the video I will get Victor to come back in a couple of weeks and have a look at the comments and award the prize to the one that he likes the best.
Victor: Thank you so much Jürgen, thank you.
Jürgen: Excellent. Finally, oh actually one or two more things, what is the number one piece of advice you can give to any business that wants to be leader in their field and in innovation.
Victor: Commitment and you have got to actually have staying power. Often you get disappointed if it doesn’t work. It is easy to walk away, you got to have the staying power and you got to have commitment.
Jürgen: Yeah. That’s a really good advice there, commitment, staying power – don’t get bowled over by any little barriers, yeah.
Victor: You will have them. A lot of people walk away because they can’t handle the barriers because there are many that you going to come but you need staying power, you just got to stick the course.
Jürgen: It reminds me of course of the famous saying by Thomas Edison I think it was when he invented the light bulb and he said there were, he hasn’t failed a thousand times, he has found a thousand things that don’t work.
Victor: That’s right.
Jürgen: Yeah. This has been great Victor. Where can people reach out to you and say thank you for what you have shared with us today.
Victor: They want my websites. Why don’t they go to my website? They want my email address, what do they want? What do I give, I don’t know.
Jürgen: Whatever you prefer.
Victor: They can send me emails at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jürgen: Okay we will post a link to that and also to the Tropiglas website underneath the video and if people want to contact Victor directly maybe you have got spare few million that you want to contribute to his research that will be fantastic.
Victor: Thank you so much Jürgen. Thank you, thank you for your time.
Jürgen: Finally, who would you like to see me interview on this podcast in the future and why?
Victor: Who would I want, you mean other than you.
Jürgen: Who would you like to see as a guest on this podcast?
Victor: Oh I don’t know and can’t answer you on that. I am sure you have got plenty but I can’t think of one right now.
Jürgen: All right, then, okay well thank you so much Victor. It has been great to have you on the podcast. It has been great to learn a lot more about the intelligent glass that Tropiglas is developing and where it is headed. I am looking forward to seeing what happens down the track and actually seeing some commercial product in play and watching what happens, and I will stay in touch and try to find out more as we go forward.
Victor: Fantastic, thank you so much. Thanks Jürgen.
Jürgen: Thanks Victor.
I hope you enjoyed meeting Victor and learning about Tropiglas Technologies as much as I did. It is a fascinating story of a passionate entrepreneur who is contributing to changing the world for the better.
All the show notes for this episode will be at innovabiz.com.au/victorrosenberg, that is V-I-C-T-O-R-R-O-S-E-N-B-E-R-G, all lowercase, all one word, innovabiz.com.au/victorrosenberg, for all of the links and everything we spoke about in this episode. Remember, leave your comments underneath the video for your chance to win a copy of the book “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky.
Give Victor feedback on his business, his idea and product, suggestions that might help Victor with what he is doing. Of course, if you have some spare cash to help finance the company, I’m sure Victor will welcome that too! I’ll get Victor to swing by in a few weeks’ time and award that prize.
Thank you for listening or viewing the InnovaBuzz podcast. We’d love you to review this podcast, because they help us get found and your feedback helps us improve. You can review us at iTunes or Stitcher and while you’re there, please subscribe so you’ll never miss a future episode.
Until next time, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz.
Remember, if you don’t innovate, you stagnate, so think big, be adventurous and keep innovating!