I have long been a fan of the mathematical modelling of materials – it does seem to offer a number of ways to both optimise existing materials and rapidly develop new ones. A growing number of chemists are now suggesting that their time would be better spent working on a computer than fiddling around in the lab, but I’ll keep their names to myself for the moment to spare them the ire of their more traditionally minded colleagues.
In the past few years I have seen a number of business opportunities in this area, but its a tough area to make money in. Market leader Accelerys, whose stock was trading at $87 in 2000 is going for under $4 now, and erstwhile Danish rivals Atomistix went bust last year. I think it’s an area where we are all looking for that killer app, and something that I’d be happy to have in house, but it would be a tough one to actually invest in.
I was glad to see that a new company, Quantumwise, has risen phoenix like from the ashes of Atomistix. Like many early nanotech companies, success is based on being around long enough to take things to market. From a VC perspective, software companies like this are ideal as they have low running costs, but in common with most nanotech investments, investors need to be patient while the market matures, something which is the Achilles heel of the VC model.