Mostafa Shalaby (second from the left) and his team have big plans together with Swiss Terahertz. You can also see Benno Rechsteiner in the photo (on the far left), the CEO of Park Innovare, which is where the startup is permanently based.
PostFinance “startup space” workplace: this is what Swiss Terahertz is working on
An inspiring workspace with all the trimmings? PostFinance provides free, temporary workplaces at the startup space in Schlieren twice a year in order to support company startups. Four startups came out on top for the first half of 2019, including Mostafa Shalaby from Swiss Terahertz.
Why did you apply to PostFinance for the workplace at the startup space?
The workplace in Schlieren allows people to network, and it also gives us some insight into the startup world so we can benefit from the expertise of other people. We also have state-of-the-art facilities here that provide the ideal working environment. And, last but not least, the location is also just perfect: our production department is on the opposite side of the street in the Bio-technopark.
What does the company Swiss Terahertz actually do?
We specialise in terahertz technology products that we export to Asia, Europa and the USA. A terahertz wave is a type of invisible electromagnetic wave that can be used to locate hidden structures, just as you would with X-rays. Unlike X-ray radiation, however, terahertz radiation does not have any harmful effects on the human body. This means terahertz radiation is being used for an increasing number of different purposes. The most famous use of terahertz radiation is probably in security scanners, which are now used in the majority of Western airports. And yet, terahertz radiation offers even more potential than that.
Essentially, there are endless possibilities for terahertz technology, whether in the pharmaceuticals industry or food industry, in precision manufacturing or in automation, to name but a few. Our terahertz machines are used in the domain of quality control to measure thickness, for example. If we look at car paint or plastic water bottles, we can see these consist of several layers, and the thickness of these layers is absolutely critical to production costs, the product’s lifespan and its impact on the environment. Terahertz radiation can be used to measure individual layers without damaging them. Another area this radiation is used in is security. Terahertz radiation can penetrate clothing or documents to reveal concealed weapons, or it can be used to identify dangerous substances such as explosives.
Amongst other things, your startup, Swiss Terahertz, produces organic crystals known as “NOCs” to generate terahertz radiation
NOCs are our main product. These are a very special type of crystal that help to generate terahertz radiation efficiently, which in turn cuts the costs of using it. Producing high-quality NOCs poses a major challenge to us, and it requires highly specialist expertise. In fact, we are the only company in the world that produces one of these crystals.
Why do you think your company will be successful?
This is firstly because we do not just want to sell products, we also want our customers to legitimately benefit from the solutions we provide. This pays off in marketing in particular because customers sharing their positive experiences through word of mouth can be a great help. Secondly, we are investing a lot in research and development, meaning we are always a step ahead of the competition. And thirdly, we follow a very particular funding principle: instead of negotiating new capital with investors, we try to make sales as quickly as possible. By doing this, we were able to break even within a few months, and we have remained financially independent to date. And last but not least, my team and I have heaps of expertise at our disposal, and we also enjoy a great deal of trust in our industry.
What are your business goals in the start-up space?
For one thing, despite the major cultural and linguistic challenges we face, we want to do business in China. At the moment we sell our products in China through distributors. We are now going to become proactive by setting up our own subsidiary, which will enable us to interact directly with our customers and will also mean a huge amount of admin. We have also launched a new product in the form of the RIGI terahertz camera, which we expect to sell very well. The challenge at hand is to try and convince the market of how useful our product really is.
What does the future hold for your company?
We want to try and forge more partnerships with international companies so we can draw on a whole host of different skills in joint projects, and so we can increase our competitive advantage and reduce production costs. We are also now considering external funding. We have never spoken to an investor before. However, if we want to grow faster, this may change in future. We already have a solid basis for negotiation given we have just finished our very first year in the black.
What do you like about PostFinance in particular?
For one thing, we are going to offer start-ups a number of helpful financial services.
About the PostFinance “startup space” workplace
Get your business up and running – at the startup space in Zurich Schlieren. Here, PostFinance is offering up-and-coming company founders and young entrepreneurs free workplaces, as well as reduced rates for meeting and workshop spaces with a modern infrastructure. Swap stories about your experiences with other start-ups there and benefit from IFJ and PostFinance’s expertise and services. The number of workplaces is limited. The next moving-in date is July 2019.