The miraculous journey of Nanolabs
A true-life experience by Dr. Ryan D. Corpuz
How did Nanolabs bolt as a business? Everyone is asking, what is the trick to success? I am sure you are very eager to find out about that thing. If you do, now buckle up because we will be disclosing all things that Nanolabs had gone through. You will surely love this.
Right back then, I have never got an enthusiasm for entering the business world. Never in my wildest dream that I have to wish to set my foot in. I shoved my first career in the industry as an Assistant Supervisor in a woodworking company. Oh! Also, did I experienced being a Management Trainee in a rubber company, and then I have undergone being a researcher in Refractories Company. Everything was going smoothly back then until this happened.
The company I was working on needs shut down because of the recession in 2008 that hit the country, and it was by far the saddest moment as a jobless worker. I am confounded, did not have a clue what to do, did not have a clue where to go. But just then, a bulb came glinting at the forefront of my thoughts came surging in. After the incident that had happened, I decided to do schooling for the betterment of myself. I enrolled for my Master's Degree in Engineering at the renowned university at Iligan City, the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU – IIT). While doing my studies at university, I also got myself in a part-time job as a teaching Assistant. It was so tiring for me to do it. Later on, as things go like calm waves, I have put forth a concentrated effort as an instructor and had the chance to apply for MS in Materials Science and Engineering in UP-Diliman. Things were whirlwind to me back then. There inside the UP cells, I had obtained my degree back in 2012. Perhaps that is the calling for me. UP-Diliman changed my business outlook. The place will surely remember.
There is this time during our technology and entrepreneurship class wherein I initially experienced and encountered the nuts and bolts of the business. As a young leader, I have volunteered to be the head of the team. Spearheading my team, going out and looking for pain points/problems, back to brainstorming with my group to generate a solution, transcending the solution into a business idea, creating and collating the proof of concept / MVP, sighting for customers, validating and reassessing our business idea, getting feedback, refining our idea, preparing our business plan out of our chosen field, pitching our business, these are just some of the things that I have loved. I must say that these kinds of stuff push me to go through. I can vividly picture out our business idea at that time. That was Pocowood Incorporated, a company producing composite material from plastic waste (HDPE) and coco coir to be used as a construction material to replace lumber.
That was such a big help for the community to consider in light of the fact in that time, where banning cutting trees is widely encouraged. Of course, it is aligned to the re-occurring problem in the community about plastic waste consumables. The business solution that we made is feasible, desirable, and trendy at that time.
It was even featured in the news! It was fulfilling and overpowering when you watch your work viewed by a big audience. Nonetheless, changing the business thought into a real business was not sought after the run of our entrepreneurship class. Our timetable is riotous to the point that we have not had the option to take care of business. Our schedule is so hectic that we have not been able to get the job done. We became caught up with completing our thesis and driven to earn a Master’s Degree in UP-Diliman! That was the first business idea that we had, but it had failed to materialize. It was not the idea of our team that came bad but perhaps the passion and motivation to pursue it as an actual business is not there. We just made it to pass the course and to get a rating of flat 1, and we did it. It was such a long ride but thanks to my colleagues, we have made it.
By the time that I am finishing my MS Degree, I have met wife Dr. Lyn on my way. We share a similar enthusiasm for the electrophoretic deposition technique for nanomaterial fabrication. It is just flattering that you have with you your special someone that understood you and your chosen career. All of this fascination led me to the publication of my thesis as a book chapter in Materials Processing Fundamentals published by Springer. By opening it to the public, it became instrumental for my journey as an entrepreneur and why Nanolabs LRC Co. Ltd. was shaped. My publication was discovered by the General Manager of THORLABS, Sam Rubin, who sent me an email that went straight to my spam folder. From the outset, I am reluctant to open and answer the mail. However, my gut pushes me to do as such. Our conversation then started and I am still doubtful if it is legit. So, I asked them to send me the materials and equipment needed for the experiment and the money for the creation of proof of concept (POC). At that time, the general manager is looking for someone who could help them replicate the expired patented technology of Japan that is about, “The Alternate Deposition of Silica on the Interdigitated Silver Electrode of Multi-Layered Ceramic Capacitor”. It was quite different from my thesis, but the principle that was used is the same. The correspondence went on for a year, lasted for a year, and it was during this time that I decided to register a business via DTI as a sole entrepreneur. That was the first time I got a business permit and applied for a bank account under Nanolabs for the money transaction. After the creation of POC, I was invited to apply the process in their production line for five days, which worked impeccably as expected! But then I have to stop my entrepreneurship venture because of a higher calling. Back when I was enjoying my job, I was scheduled to do my Ph.D. at Hokkaido University, Japan. That year was in 2014, where I got my promotion to Assistant Professor, received an award as a young scientist in Baku, Azerbaijan, and an entrepreneur who traveled in CHINA alone take note that I had gone through it without pocket money. All that I have is the hope and trust of my customer that they will pay as compensation. THORLABS is the first R&D accomplice and client of Nanolabs around then, and I will without a doubt recall those occasions they have been with me.
When I started peregrinating the peninsula of Japan, I decided to be an expert in nanoscience and nanotechnology. I became fortunate to be under a very notable professor in the field, being mentored by Prof. Tetsu Yonezawa. When I started my education in Japan, Professor Tetsu Yonezawa have this colossal influence in Southeast Asian countries like Taiwan, China, Japan, and especially Thailand. There were lots of opportunities that Nonalabs had encountered. There was a time that the team was selected for a pitching contest for the Hult Prize Award for our idea on a composite rechargeable battery and solar cells for renewable energy. Lamentably, we did not win the award but on the other hand, we are still hopeful to continue that here in the Philippines.
Japan changed everything in me. I have got my Ph.D. degree in Materials Science and Engineering, been married to my wife Dr. Lyn, and became a father to my wonderful daughter Anya. That was 2017 where it felt like I am the happiest man in the entire world for the blessings that I have conquered. In the year 2018, I focus my obligation as a father and husband to my family. I spent half of the year baby setting while my wife was finishing her Ph.D. years. Later that year, we went home from Japan. It was at this moment that I need to make a hard decision. I decided to resign from my tenured Profession and forget about my promotion. I have relocated here to NCR together with my wife and daughter, building the foundation of my family.
By the year 2019, on a lucky call, and my wife was given a postdoctoral fellowship at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, collaborating with Professor Soorathep on the development of inexpensive and safe rechargeable batteries. By this point, we arranged and chose what exploration are we going to seek after as accomplices, and afterward, we recalled our underlying arrangement path back in Japan. While on our journey to Thailand, we got a chance to do hands-on research on inexpensive and safe electrochemical energy storage, the Zinc Ion Rechargeable Battery. Which I believe to be one of the missing pieces for implementing a fully renewable energy source in our country. That started our product for Zinc-ion battery.
The year 2019 was full of brimming surprises. In the 2nd Quarter of the year, I have received an email from JICA/AUNSEED net about a research idea pitching contest hosted by Leave A Nest, Japan. I did not take it seriously because it requires a website for a startup to join. Now, a week before the deadline of submission, the staff contacted me to continue the application and input their URL to complete the application. I became so lucky that I had this opportunity with us. Luckily, we won the grand prize of Tech Plan Demo Day here in the Philippines. Won the ACSL award in Singapore, won the Best poster in Hyper Interdisciplinary Conference, and been invited to visit Japan early this year (2020) to attend the International Hyper Interdisciplinary Conference.
In the year 2019, we won the 2nd spot in a pitching event held by Investible OTEC (Australian-based Accelerator). We were also allowed to travel to Kunming, China to participate in the pitching competition and received the outstanding project award. Our team also garnered awards like finalists for the Falling Labs Wall held at Siliman University, finalists for the newcomer category ASEAN Bowl Award.
The team also flourished in various pitching contests around the globe. We have place 2nd in the startup weekend pitching contest, Philippine representative for the regional finals of the Circular Innovation Jam (CIJ), 1st place in the National level, and 2nd in the Regional Level of the Climate Launchpad, being chosen as one of the top 200 startups in Jumpstarter, and in Seedstars. There were pending pitching contests along our way, where we are glad for the colossal events that keep running to us.
Life is as hard as it will be, but always remember that it sure gives us sweet spots in our journey. I have deemed along the way that pitching is life for entrepreneurs. You will are taught to convince people around you. You should also create content with value. Love your field and be an expert. Never give up on finding business mentors, for it will surely worth your time. Most of all, learn the secret of great timing. We must be confident of ourselves cause that will picture out how driven you are to the success you are longing for. And that is the journey of Nanolabs as it continuously conquers the research arena.