Ahead of the Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC) final on the 23rd March 2017 we look back to past VCC contestants and finalists to see where they are now.

We start with LoMaRe Tech. Founders Dr. Andrei Mihai, Dr. Jan Zemen, Dr. Bin Zou and Dr. Evgeniy Donchev developed the concept prototype of their “LoMaRe Drive” during the VCC process. The drive is a high capacity, high performance data storage technology to rival current solid state drives and with the potential to enable the next generation of big data analytics.

The product is based on a novel magnetoelastic effect. It will store 10 times more data than current hard disk drives and increases the performance of current solid state drives by at least 10 times while reducing the power consumption per stored bit of information. The “LoMaRe Drive” is a data storage medium which addresses the challenges faced by data centres – mainly that of the growing capacity and performance requirements. It promises to be a potentially lucrative solution for the global digital storage market, which was worth USD$1.36 bn in 2014.

We caught up with Evgeniy Donchev to see where they are now:

1. How did participating in the VCC affect LoMaRe?

In all honesty, the VCC affected LoMaRe in many ways. First of all, we entered the VCC with an idea of a square inch, thin magnetic carrier, like a QR-tag if you wish, that could hold up to 1 GB of data. We had many applications for it, but all were niche. But, in the second week of the VCC we got together, brainstormed, and realised that a modification of our initial idea can be transformed into a high density non-volatile digital storage technology, that has performance merits close to those of a memory device (DRAM). This has the potential of disrupting a 70 billion dollar industry!

But I also think it is important to mention that because the idea behind LoMaRe was accepted to the VCC, this made us quickly shape up a team, may I say a temporary team (because no one thought anything will come out of it, we just wanted to try and see whether we’d like the idea of pursuing a business opportunity, although our initial idea was for very niche markets)… a year later we are still together, stronger than ever, united in pursuit of a common goal, passionate not so much about potential monetary gain, but about leaving a mark in the modern history of the world by offering a technology that will revolutionise our current technological surrounding.

Another gain, which is a result of the VCC, is learning how to design our pitch and how to best present it in a way that you attract not only investors but also followers, people that understand your vision and want you to succeed! We used our pitching experience from the VCC to later become runner-ups of the AdMaCom 2016 in Berlin.

Overall, the VCC helped us in more than one way, it shaped us as a team, pushed us to pivot, and sparked a passion for entrepreneurship.

2. What have you been up to since?

Since the end of the VCC, we are working hard on developing the company and technology. We filed our patent in December 2016 and currently our main activity is research and development towards a proof of concept demonstrator device. We recently reinforced our decision to pursue the commercialisation of our IP as company founders and we are now in the process of spinning-off from Imperial College.

Meanwhile, we’re also keeping busy with shaping up our pitch, which is a never ending activity, and actively fundraising to kickstart our venture and start developing our first product – PiezoMagnetic Random Access Memory (PMRAM).

3. What has been the most exciting development/experience for you and the company since you took part in the VCC?

A hard question, I would probably say the runner up prize at the AdMaCom 2016 in Berlin. I’ve personally always wanted a big cheque and we got one!

Joking aside, I chose to give [AdMaCom] as an example because we didn’t expect to be scored so high as the competition was fierce and at the time, we hadn’t yet filed our patent, so without revealing any of the technology, but just what we predict it can do, we managed to secure second prize! Even receiving appraisal from the AdMaCom Managing director, who after announcing LoMaRe as runner-ups said: “I especially would like to say a big well done to LoMaRe who managed to win without revealing anything about their technology – remarkable!”

A pure definition of exciting and a recognition of our ongoing hard work!

4. What would you say to an industry giant that wanted to support young entrepreneurs?

Many things, but mostly: Do it!

Supporting entrepreneurship is important to large organisations as much as it is important to young entrepreneurs themselves. Else, we’ll disrupt their industry and before they can act to acquire, we’ll develop companies that will become the new industry giants and take them down. The game has changed and relying on the name of your brand is no longer a guarantee for securing a share of the market, innovation is the main ingredient and entrepreneurs are the best cooks.

5. What do you hope the next five years has in store for you, your product and the company? And the next 15 years if you’re ambitious!

Next 5 years… I hope to see myself worried about the best way to spend a million pounds to grow the company, rather than my current worry of where to get a million pounds to start our game-changing mission; 5 years is enough time, if fundraising is going well, I hope to see our first commercial product license! And as for the company – the first acquisition offer we’ll reject! :)

15 years… I hope to see us investing in technology and expanding LoMaRe’s market participation. By that time, we would have already seen a few generations of our product and we hope that in 15 years it will be the leading technology, found in most to all consumer electronics.

As for the company we want to see LoMaRe develop into a globally recognised brand – not a key player, but one of the biggest! And as much as we realise that this future for us is probable, it can all go away in no time…does it scare us? Definitely not! If we fail with this, it will make us stronger and we’ll pursue one of our many other great ideas, but let’s wait and see what the future has in store for us…

 

Evgeniy Donchev graduated from his PhD in the field of nanotechnology and thin-films in 2015 as part of The Thin Film Technology Laboratory, one of the facilities in Imperial’s Department of Materials. He leads the business development and commercialisation of LoMaRe Tech. You can catch up with LoMaRe at the VCC finals or the Corporate Partnerships Industry Sneak Peak the day before on Weds 22nd March (contact Alison Dexter at a.dexter@imperial.ac.uk for more information.)

To find out more about the IBP only post-final meet and greet at this year’s VCC final see here. To register please email ibp@imperial.ac.uk