Victor Rosenberg first developed an interest in the concept of turning clear glass into energy way back in the 90s when clear glass solar energy wasn’t even a working concept – never mind a profitable business model.
Victor worked with a team of physicists for over a decade to develop this inspired idea into large scale working prototypes. Today, he’s founding Executive Chairman of Tropiglas Technologies Ltd – created to commercialise this innovation.
Anthill recently spoke to Victor and below is what she had to share about how he got his idea, how to bring ideas to reality and the challenges of invention.
How did you get the idea of clear glass solar energy?
Throughout my career I always tended to think big. For me the future was always going to involve the environment and how we as a society meet our future energy requirements.
My idea of combining one of the world’s most common building materials – glass and how to turn this into an energy source is really an extension of this vision.
In many respects, one of my strengths has always been to think outside the square and create a new paradigm in whatever project I have worked on.
Needless to say that when I got my first working prototype of 2cm x 2cm in size it was an unbelievably exciting time as I had done something that no one else had done before.
Now we are at 1m x 1m and looking to go larger.
How did you manage to keep working on your idea for over a decade where some would have given up and moved on, given it wasn’t even viable – let alone profitable at the time?
Yes it has been a long journey and a colleague of mine tells me that I am going to be a 15 year overnight success.
For me, the ability to keep working through all the challenges has been my wonderful support network. My family are involved in this journey just as much as I am given that they too experience the emotional rollercoaster that is trying to start a new project let alone a whole new technology altogether.
Without a strong and close support network, it will be hard to succeed.
Many people have great ideas but most stay exactly that – ideas, what can you share about bringing an idea to reality?
I think we do try to over complicate things these days and keeping my business lean has been a key part of my success to date.
For someone starting out I would make the following comments:
Give it a go – don’t die wondering!
Even if you fail you will be a better person for the experience.
Passion – you have to believe in what you do.
People will see straight through you if you don’t.
Be realistic – if you are working on your own or even in a small team you can only do so much in a day. You have to be kind to yourself with realistic expectations and project time lines. Rome was not built in a day and it certainly was not done by a single person.
Be conservative – things always take longer and cost more than you think. When you set your budgets, go heavy on the costs and revenues will take longer than you think.
Learn the art of selling – in the start-up space we live in the world of selling the vision, therefore it’s critically important to focus on your marketing collateral and pitch decks.
Get support – ask for help, you will be amazed how many people will be willing to help you with advice and tips. When you are starting up this is invaluable.
And lastly, partner up – I have partnered with Edith Cowan University for the testing and most of the technical research, if I hadn’t done this, Tropiglas would still be just a dream.
I say this because the world is a large place and to do it on your own is difficult when you are a small start-up. Sharing the load makes this journey more enjoyable but also less risky.
In your 35 years of innovative business experience, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
Let’s not kid ourselves – one of the biggest challenges in Australia is raising money.
In my experience, most Australian investors are very risk averse and appetite for the renewable energy space is low, so bringing attention to your cause is always a challenge.
My experience in the venture capital landscape has been mixed with unrealistic demands and with the benefit of hindsight; I can see we were simply not ready for a VC investment.
I overcame the need for funding through a mix of R&D concessions, and a number of small investments through a close circle of family and friends.
You just “gotta do what you gotta do” to keep the business going.
The final challenge of course is people.
When you are a start-up company and you cannot pay a salary, attracting and keeping people with the same vision is a real challenge.
The only way you can overcome this situation is through equity in the company.
I spent a lot of time trying to find the right people and this is more by initiation than anything else but, in order to be successful you have to realise that you cannot do it alone.
To hear Victor speak live, get to TEDxMelbourne set for 10th October 2014.