Main Sequence made a trip to Macquarie University’s Australian Hearing Hub Building, this morning.
We were looking at the startup, Modular Photonics.
They had created a convenient ‘plug and play’ chip to improve the capacity and transmission reach of multimode optical fibres.
Yeah, I felt a little lost during the conversation, but nothing some quick research won’t fix (and hey I’m all about learning). Here’s my basic understanding:
- Currently there are 2 types of fibres — single mode and multi mode
- Single mode fibres have a much smaller core and only allow one mode of light to propagate inside it. It’s more expensive and is better at maintaining the signal travelling within. Hence can be used for long distance transmissions
- Multi mode fibres on the other hand have a much larger core and allow many modes of light to propagate inside. It’s cheaper and more commonly used. Due to the deterioration of the signal it can only be used over really short distances
So modular photonics with their plug and play chip have conveniently produced a way for:
- Multi-mode fibres to carry more information and over longer distances.
- This means that they have created a way to cheaply and easily improve the functioning of the extensive network of multi-mode fibres that exist in data centres, hospitals, shopping centures, sport arenas etc..
- They have ‘future-proofed’ the commonly used multi-mode fibres.
Getting back to the trip, we got taken on a tour of the amazing facilities inside of the Hearing Hub. We visited a room that held different types of 3D printers and a display table that exhibited items created by those machines, including a thylacine pup. (sadly now extinct)
The operator in the room explained that the metal 3D printer operated by using extremely fine metal powder stored in canisters.
The machine would spray a fine layer of the metal powder on the platform then melt it into the previous layer. As each layer was completed the platform would drop 30 microns down to make room for the new layer.
After the tour, we congregated into a meeting room to talk about the more serious side of things. The partners as Main Sequence had to gauge if this could be a potential investment. To make this judgement we had to better understand the:
- Saleability of the product — can we start selling now?
- Projected sales — when can we start seeing some of the money we invest?
- Unit economics — how much profit could be earned?
- Competitors — how big of an obstacle will this be?
- How much money do they need in total? And from us? (this is important, as every new round of funding, will dilute previous holdings)
In the afternoon, we headed over to Cicada Innovations, and what a cool building it is!
The startup we met with, BCAL Diagnostics had a great vision and method to tackle the current limitations with breast cancer detection. Limitations that are ample in volume and critical in gravity.
Right now, breast cancer detection is largely done through mammography.
It’s a problem because:
- Only women aged 50–74 are invited to get a screening once every 2 years. So if you are 40–49 years old or older than 74, you are not reminded. If you are under 40, you need to pay for a screening.
- False positives. Mammograms cannot accurately distinguish between fatal and benign cancers. This potentially means that a patient can go through unnecessary treatment and distress.
- Uncomfortable. The process causes physical discomfort and pain, deterring more women away from screening.
- Inconvenient. You have to physically be there
With so many obstacles, its no wonder why early breast cancer detection is a problem. But BCAL is on the way to knock down these obstacles with their new detection method. With a simple blood test, they can determine with high levels of accuracy whether you have breast cancer or not.
Lipids extracted from within plasma are analysed to make the conclusion.
But this young company faced one massive obstacle. As a VC we invest in founders, but what happens when there is no founder? When the driver of the company has little share control?
I personally am an advocate of this technology, I look up to the driver of this company, I respect her work and I really admire the way she wants to revolutionise the breast cancer industry. But how do VC’s invest in a company that lacks the ownership structure that is so fundamental to making it work.
Wow! Being a VC is great, you get to be educated by some of the most innovative and brightest minds, experts from fibre optics to breast cancer diagnostics.