We talked to Simon Bachmann, CEO and Co-founder of IDUN Technologies, the leading producer of customized soft and dry electrodes. This is what he said:
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Simon Bachmann: Thankfully, we are all doing fine. Of course, COVID-19 has changed our lives significantly, but we remain relatively unaffected if you put things in perspective. It also allows us to question our behavior, status quo, and mindset and focus on what is important in life.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded IDUN Technologies.
Simon Bachmann: I grew up in the Swiss alps, in Graubünden, to be precise. I had the chance to dive into health, physiology, and medicine during my studies at ETH Zürich, one of the top universities worldwide. One of my jobs besides studying was health monitoring for managers to prevent burnout.
I began thinking of embarking on my own adventure at the end of my bachelor’s, where I met my amazing co-founder Séverine Chardonnens. We were both fascinated by the potential that technology can have on our lives, especially related to health and medicine. After an internship at the Biosensors and Bioelectronics Institute at ETH Zurich, where we filed a patent for an innovative biosensor, we felt ready to incorporate our own company.
What does IDUN Technologies do?
Simon Bachmann: IDUN Technologies is the creator of the DRYODE™ technology, a sensor which can be placed in headphones and hearing aids to record brain signals of its users. This neural interface enables understanding of human emotions to create empathic technology. We create the Internet of Humans by allowing machines to understand you. Our technology enables the next generation of human-machine symbiosis and empowers users to unleash the full potential of their brain.
How does IDUN Technologies innovate?
Simon Bachmann: Our management style involves flat hierarchy and a concept we call “area ownership.” Every person we hire will have to become an expert in their field. We expect independence and a sense of responsibility in every employee. In return, we offer freedom and support to challenge the status quo and truly operate at the cutting-edge of science. We are in a head-to-head race with some of the most innovative research groups in both academia and corporate institutions.
We believe in a holistic approach, a full-stack sensor solution. This means we have competences and control parameters from raw materials (e.g., our proprietary DRYODE™ material system) to electronics, biosignal processing, cloud computation, and neuropsychology.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Simon Bachmann: Of course, in the beginning, it introduced another layer of uncertainty. However, because of the nature of our business, being financed by venture capital and built to withstand time without significant revenue, we were able to soften the blow. We had to introduce safety measures in the company, which had an impact on the development speed (e.g., work from home), but the impact was much weaker than we feared initially. We were able to constantly grow our team (from 6 to 18 since COVID-19 started) and increase our development speed.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Simon Bachmann: We were privileged to be supported by an excellent economic and political system here in Switzerland. We had our cantonal bank of Zurich investing in our company when we needed it the most, ensuring stability and an important signal for other investors who joined the round. I am very proud to say that we did not have to let go of a single employee, quite the opposite. We were able to hire key employees throughout this difficult period.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Simon Bachmann: Meeting customers and investors got more efficient than in the before times, but also more one-dimensional. We were able to get in touch with some of the largest and most attractive customers through conference calls, presenting and demoing our technology to the relevant decision makers. IN all honesty, I think our customer acquisition process has become much more efficient throughout the pandemic.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Simon Bachmann: We were able to secure multiple grants due to the excellent work of our employees. We received a Eurostars grant to build a functioning prototype together with two European partners, we received an Innosuisse grant to further advance our material system, we have received a REACH grant to build AI generated music for cognitive enhancement, and all of this on top of a multi-year EU project.
Besides that, we have raised more than 2.5M USD in venture capital, and we are currently raising a 5-7M USD Series A round. We are looking for investors who are ambitious to change how humans are interacting with the digital world.
Your final thoughts?
Simon Bachmann: It was an amazing privilege to lead a company in these challenging and interesting times. What stood out the most and remains at the center of our success is one thing – the team. I have the best support in the world from our management team, from all employees, and from our Board of Directors. One of our company values is “the family you can choose,” and it has continuously proven to be true that you are stronger as a team.
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