Tuesday, December 13, 2016

GrollTex Founder Puts Passion First

Dr. Alex Zaretski, UCSD alum and founder of GrollTex.
On November 3, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department hosted a Ph.D alternative career path seminar featuring von Liebig alum Dr. Aliksandr (Alex) Zaretski, founder of GrollTex.
Dr. Zaretski, whose company helps to develop “graphene rolling technology”, talked about his journey from starting out as a doctoral student to gathering the courage to co-found a startup. It was his fascination of graphene and its variety of uses that led to his pursuit of his PhD in Nanoengineering at UC San Diego.  
At first, he thought academia was his future, but his passion for graphene’s exciting new tech potential directed him to pursue the entrepreneurial route. Eventually, he developed an innovative process to produce high quality “sheets” of graphene at a very low cost, without any toxic residues. Rather than write papers on the process, he wanted to explore the seemingly endless possibilities of this advanced material. With this, he co-founded a spin-off company called GrollTex, which holds exclusive rights on a portfolio of patents issued by UC San Diego. 
Dr. Zaretski stressed that it takes an immense amount of work and determination to start a company -- and that there are a lot of risks in embracing the unknown. However, being able to have a say on the future of the technology and directly shaping its direction was worth the risk to him.
When asked whether he wanted to eventually get acquired by a large company, or if he would be interested in merging with another company, he said that on less productive days, he imagines selling the company for millions. However, he still has enough drive to pursue this project on his own. “On days where it’s good, I have so much energy to go on,” he said. “I’m not at all ready yet to license to other companies, but I’ve made significant progress. We’ve signed a lease for a lab space earlier this year, and have exclusive licenses secured.”

A piece of advice he had for students was not to wait until graduation. “If you have good ideas, start as soon as you can,” he said.  

Dr. Zaretski acknowledged the von Liebig Center’s programs for helping him develop the savviness to become a successful entrepreneur, and pointing him towards resources like competitions and essential team members that would help him in starting a company. He noted that while it is important to be fluent in tech skills, having business savvy is also just as important so investors may take you seriously and believe in your product.

Grolltex is one of the von Liebig Center’s up and coming startups to watch. With initial investment funding raised, and all the needed manufacturing and testing equipment in place, GrollTex is hoping to start filling orders in 2017.

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