First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tedd Syao: I am doing fine. My family hides at home most of the time to avoid both the COVID-19 virus and air pollution from the wildfire in California.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Microsla.
Tedd Syao: I am an engineer specialized in optics, semiconductors, and finance. My first job was at Bell Labs, researching semiconductor lasers. I once taught in a university. Later I worked as a quantitative financial advisor at Citigroup, during which time I read an article in the Economist about the third industrial revolution.
This article ignited my interest in 3D printing, and there is a 3D printing technology called stereolithography that is very similar to semiconductor photolithography. I had a couple of years of experience in photolithography. After doing some study, I decided to start a company to fulfill my dream as an entrepreneur. 3D printing is just the beginning of the third industrial revolution, and now it is spreading over to robotics, AI, and IoT.
How does Microsla innovate?
Tedd Syao: We kept pushing our product’s performance, and we filed patents for new ideas. At the same time, we are looking into new applications for our product. Our company motto comes from Star Trek’s quotation, “To go where no one has gone before!”
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Tedd Syao: The business was frozen during the lockdown. Unfortunately, we had to lay off some people, but the R&D team is intact.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Tedd Syao: Laying off people is painful. During the good time, the company should always be worrying about the risks and keep some cash.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Microsla in the future?
Tedd Syao: When I am stressed, I keep on thinking of solutions and, of course, working even harder to solve the problem quickly. Being an entrepreneur, I have been trained to cope with uncertainties all the time. I have some stress but no anxiety at all. I am always reasonable optimistic when facing all these risks. The life of a tech entrepreneur is like a survival game on an island. The key to survival is innovation plus market penetration. The worst time has passed, and we see a bright future with our new products and technologies. We will be stronger after wading through the pandemics.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Tedd Syao: Our main competitors are Envisiontec and Asiga. We differentiate our products through performance, price, and services. Our Micro printer can achieve 15 um pixel size while Titan 3 printer has a wide resolution tuning range, from 25um to 100um. In addition to the performance, our price is also lower. We are able to provide customized solutions for our customers. We can adjust the resin property and printing parameters quickly to respond to our customer’s needs.
Your final thoughts?
Tedd Syao: 3D printing for localized mass production has been too costly over the years. The trend for 3D printing technologies would be either bringing the production cost down or finding an end product that can bear the high cost.