With a heavy heart I predicted a few high profile nanotechnology failures this year, and Evident Technologies are the latest to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In common with Oxonica, Evident found themselves in a patent infringement fight with someone with deeper pockets then them, in this case Life Technologies (formerly Invitrogen) who got into the business by acquiring Quantum Dot Corporation back in 2005. The court costs were so high it pushed Evident over the edge. Losing their CEO earlier in the year probably didn’t help either.
There’s a nice contrast between the two litigants here, and one that illustrates the problems involved in getting a technology to market. In the case of the troubled companies, Oxonica and Evident, the strategy was based on first figuring out how to produce a nanomaterial and then trying to find a market for it. While both companies have made sales, neither has ever had quite enough volume to cross the chasm and become a sustainable business. Life Technologies, in contrast, pursued an acquisition strategy that netted them entry to other markets, and nanotechnology is just a part of their business rather than the whole of it.
There is a valuable lesson here, which is to start with the market, not the technology. In the early stages of a technology when investors are bullish a technology led strategy may work, but diversifying as quickly as possible is the key to survival.