From graduate studies to startup founder: NanoCnet and the future of nanomaterials

Hadi Hosseinzadeh Khaligh never thought he would pursue an entrepreneurial venture, but now as the Founder and CEO of NanoCnet, he’s devoted his life to his startup. While completing his PhD in nanotechnology and considering a career in academics, Hadi wrote his thesis on the problems plaguing current nanomaterials and knew that a more efficient and effective approach could increase their capabilities and potential applications. That is where NanoCnet’s journey began.

NanoCnet is working to develop highly flexible, conductive, and cost-effective nanomaterials that can unlock the future of electronics. These materials are used in conductive thin films in electronics like touch panels, displays, and wearable technology. The main problems with current nanomaterials is that they are either expensive, non-flexible, or degrade quickly, which limits the performance and form factors of future electronic devices. Having researched those issues during their graduate studies, Hadi and co-founder Ehsan Marzbanrad are now aiming to create a new generation of flexible, durable silver nanomaterials that are easier to fabricate and at a lower production cost, which broadens the potential applications that have previously been prohibitively expensive. The team has worked out of Velocity Science since the fall of 2016 and last fall won $35,000 in funding at the Velocity Fund Finals, before moving to the science lab at the Velocity Garage startup incubator in downtown Kitchener.

The idea for NanoCnet came during Hadi and Ehsan’s PhD studies, but the motivation to pursue the venture came from the depth of Hadi’s research. He spent a lot of time learning and understanding every intricate detail of the current products available and the needs of customers, and ended up with a deep understanding of the problems in this area. Then, he decided to participate in the 3-minute thesis competition at the University of Waterloo. After applying to the competition with no pitching experience to speak of, he managed to place first in the Electrical Engineering department. He attributes this success to the importance of deeply understanding problems in the industry, because that’s the foundation for a great product or company. However, this in-depth research didn’t only help him to explain the science, it also helped him in marketing his eventual product.

“If you deeply know the science and the problem and why people in the industry are suffering from some disadvantage of the material, you have the confidence that you understand it and your customers can see that you really understand it. It makes the selling process easier because it lends you a sense of credibility and inspires trust in your solution.”
– Hadi Hosseinzadeh Khaligh, Co-founder of NanoCnet

However you look at it, starting a company right out of school isn’t easy, and no level of understanding the problem is going to be enough on its own without a strong motivation to solve a problem.

“I think you can take more risks when you start a company right after graduating – you haven’t had the chance to work for an established company and gotten used to the financial stability and consistent job requirements. While we didn’t have the industry experience, we were more motivated because we had dedicated our entire professional careers to this path.”