Alchemy is a vertically integrated nanotechnology company. We develop cutting-edge nanotechnologies and build upon them to develop products & solutions for the automotive and defence industries.
Tell us about yourself?
I am a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Nanotechnology Engineering program. I have worked previously at Facebook (growth marketing) and Harvard Medical School (reproductive biology research).
Alchemy started out of a fourth-year design project at UWaterloo, where a nanocoating technology to prevent frost from forming on windshields was developed. The original coating could be sprayed on any surface to prevent frost formation, but it had a short lifespan and needed frequent reapplication. We changed our approach to instead develop a film (with the coating integrated into it) that could be applied on the windshield like a window tint or phone screen protector. It would be completely transparent and after application on a windshield, prevent frost for years on the windshield.
After a few years of development and scaling the technology up to be able to perform real-world field trials, we recognized that our film was being scratched by the sand trapped underneath the wiper blade (like sandpaper). We recognized the need to make the film more scratch-resistant, and unfortunately, nothing in the world existed that was scratch resistant enough and met all of the other safety requirements of a windshield.
As a result, we paused working on the anti-frost coating and instead began building a scratch-resistant coating. Around this time frame, we also recognized that windshields were becoming quite expensive due to the introduction of ADAS safety systems in new vehicles. We recognized that because our product was using a soft film, it could improve the impact resistance of windshields (kind of like a phone screen protector, but for windshields). Recognizing that almost all new vehicles were projected to have these systems, we realized that the problem of protecting windshields was far bigger and set on to build ExoShield, our windshield protection film.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Believe in your thesis and grind it out till you either prove it is right or wrong. No point in worrying about it before the end.
What problem does your business solve?
Almost all new vehicles now have ADAS features like lane keep assist and pedestrian collision avoidance. The sensors that power these systems are mounted right behind the windshield. Whenever a windshield gets a stone chip and must be replaced, these sensors have to be recalibrated.
The recalibration process of these sensors is so sensitive and important that the average cost of replacing a windshield on entry-level sedans has gone from $300-500 to $1500+. ExoShield is a thin, transparent film that is applied on the exterior surface of the windshield to improve the windshield’s impact resistance. It goes on just like window tint but on the outside of your windshield. It’s completely clear and increases the windshield’s impact resistance by 6 times.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
Around 2006/2007, most cell phones had plastic screens. This meant that the market for phone accessories was quite small and limited to just belt clips and decorative accessories. Decorative accessories were for lifestyle customers and belt clips for power users. With the onset of the smartphone, phone screens started being made of glass and gave birth to a 30+ billion dollar industry for phone screen protectors and phone cases.
The automotive industry is going through a very similar change. Prior to the onset of ADAS-driven expensive windshields, the most common surface accessories for a car was window tint and paint protection film. Window tint is a lifestyle product, and paint protection film only makes sense for those with extremely rare or expensive vehicles. However, with expensive windshields on every vehicle, the windshield protection film is something that every vehicle user will need, regardless of the class of vehicle they own.
Our goal is to solve this problem for the automotive industry.
What is your magic sauce?
All of the core nanotechnologies and ingredients that go into our end product (i.e. the film) and help it perform at a high level are developed in-house (in Canada).
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
Our focus is on continuing to drive the adoption of ExoShield across consumer segments and channels. We believe we are just scratching the surface of the market and there is enormous growth potential for ExoShield.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
COVID was definitely a tough time. We were in the middle of raising a round and had to pivot when COVID came in. Our manufacturers are also based in the US, so the travel bans significantly affected our ability to produce our product at a consistent level and continue pushing improvements. In addition, supply chain issues have made keeping on top of inventory a challenge.
Regardless, our team has continued to grind it out, and we have overcome a lot of these challenges and put them behind us.
How do people get involved/buy into your vision?
If you want ExoShield, visit: www.getexoshield.com
If you want to learn more about Alchemy and what else we do, visit: www.alchemynano.com
If you want to learn more about investing in Alchemy, contact: [email protected]