Our CCO Robert Langer, one of Senorics’ founders, applies his expertise in business development and market entry strategy in his role as Chief Commercial Officer.
In this interview he talks about the similarities of GPS in the 90s and today’s NIR Spectroscopy and why our technology is adding an important input source to the decision making process in everyday life.
Please introduce yourself and briefly describe your area of responsibility at Senorics.
My name is Robert Langer and I’m the Chief Commercial Officer of Senorics. My background is in business and computer science; however, my main experience and expertise is in the field of entrepreneurship. I worked as a startup coach and consultant for more than 10 years before I joined Senorics in late 2015.
At Senorics, I am responsible for business development as well as the marketing. So, I’m in charge for our small task force of business developers who are eager to acquire new projects and identify new opportunities for Senorics. That’s one side of things.
The other side is marketing where we’re trying to inform and educate our potential clients and also users in general what near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR spectroscopy) can do for them and what kind of applications are possible.
You said that you are passionate about entrepreneurship and worked as a consultant. So, what was the main reason for you to join Senorics?
Basically, the main reason was to swap sides of the table. I was in an observer and mentoring position for a long time, seeing lots and lots of very interesting startups with very interesting, focused and determined people.
And I always thought: Wouldn’t it be nice to join a team? Wouldn’t it be nice to help create a new business and help an idea to break through?
When Ronny Timmreck approached me in late 2015, asking to join Senorics, I was looking for a new opportunity with two main attributes. On the one hand a highly motivated and educated team that I fit in. And on the other hand a fascinating technology with the potential of a game changer and a positive impact on people’s lives.
I didn’t have to think twice, because with Senorics I had both. So it was kind of a no brainer to join Senorics.
Senorics is a startup and you just said that you have to educate potential clients in the field of spectroscopy. Is that a big challenge and if not what are currently the most challenging aspects of your daily business?
NIR spectroscopy is a rather old technology. However, our new technological approach will enable NIR spectroscopy to be applied in more consumer-oriented applications.
That means that we address new kind of clients – not the typical customers that already use spectroscopy like laboratories or big research institutes.
Instead, we are focused on the mass-market.
And the tricky thing here is, most companies that build devices for mass market applications have heard about spectroscopy but it is not part of their devices yet. So they have no prior experience with this measurement technique and how it can benefit their customers.
So, this is a challenge that we have every day. We need to explain what NIR Spectroscopy can do, how our technology will enable them to successfully apply our technology in their products and how it can actually benefit the consumer in the end.
This is what I mean with educating clients and it is definitely one of our main challenges.
And how does it benefit the consumer in the end?
In the past, a lot of people made decisions based on experience, knowledge and intuition. Our technology adds a fourth input source to the decision making process: actual measurement results. And by adding this information to the mix, we are convinced that decisions are getting better and more precise.
For example, when you buy a an avocado. You have a past sense of what a ripe avocado looks like, what kind of texture it has, what kind of feel that avocado should have.
But with our technology, you can also measure the avocado and thereby determine exactly if it’s ripe enough for your intended use case or if you should buy different one.
So, what Senorics and NIR spectroscopy bring to the table is that we can finally base a lot of everyday life decisions on actual data and not on guessing – for consumers but also for B2B situations like incoming goods inspections in warehouses.
What’s so unique about Senorics compared to competing sensor technologies?
Our technology is based on organic semiconductors which lets us combine the advantages of the two main competing technologies that we see on the market right now. There are silicon-based sensors that are very low cost but on the other hand they’re very limited in their spectral coverage.
And then we have the other extreme: Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs). It covers a very attractive wavelength range where you can “see” a lot of interesting things. However, it’s a very expensive technology. Even though it’s getting cheaper I think it’s still far away from being compatible to B2C applications.
Senorics’ technology combines these two sweet spots. We can achieve the price point of silicon and at the same time achieve the excellent spectral coverage of InGaAs. And that makes our technology very attractive for consumer-oriented devices.
You can read more about that in our blog post “Why our VIS NIR spectroscopy technology is outstanding – and how you benefit from it”.
You once said that with Senorics technology it’s a bit like the spread of GPS devices in the early 90s. What does that mean?
One of the experts that we talked to in the early days of Senorics told us: “When I look at your technology it feels a little bit like the GPS in the 90s where it was basically just a toy for freaks and for university professors who were playing around with it and looking for use cases. And the modules were big, very expensive and immobile etc.
We see the same right now with NIR spectroscopy. It’s a very powerful tool, there are a lot of use cases but right now it’s just not applicable to everyday life.”
Look at GPS today. Everybody has it, everybody uses it on an everyday life basis. Nobody really thinks about it, it’s just there and it works. I think that NIR spectroscopy will follow these footsteps. In 10 or 20 years, we will basically have NIR spectroscopy in our pockets wherever we go. And we won’t really think about it.
How does a world with NIR spectroscopy in our pockets look like? You already described the everyday use case with the avocado. Could you describe another one?
NIR spectroscopy powered material sensing can actually cover a very broad field of applications. One of the things where NIR spectroscopy has a very good short-term chance to be implemented is in household appliances.
Maybe your next washing machines can automatically detect what kind of fabrics you put in and will then automatically choose the best cycle. Maybe it will be in your next vacuum cleaner which can then determine what kind of floor material it is to optimize the operations mode. Maybe it will be in your next iron to automatically adjust the heat to the fabric your garment is made of.
But maybe I am completely wrong and we will see the first applications in the fields of agriculture, automotive or fraud prevention.
Sounds great! Then let’s have a look at your vision for Senorics from your perspective as the CCO.
My personal vision is that our technology helps people to make better decisions because their decision making takes real time measurement data into the mix.
What I would love to see in a couple of years from now is that I go to the supermarket, doing my personal grocery shopping and then see other customers checking avocados or meat or whatever they want to check and thereby identifying the best products for them. Seeing our technology in action and how it improves people’s lives would just be great.
Thank you, Robert, for the interesting interview!