MassDevice talks to OmniGuide's Yoel Fink and Yair Schindel about their company’s business development strategy.
When Yoel Fink began his groundbreaking work with mirrors at MIT in the late 1990’s, he didn't know he would be creating a material that would be used to carry lasers into areas as hard to reach as the inner ear or brain. He was working on a problem that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research and development arm of the U.S. military, wanted solved. For reasons still unknown to Fink, DARPA wanted large-area, low-cost surfaces more reflective than a mirror that could reflect light from all angles. Eventually, his work led to a PhD thesis and OmniGuide, the company where he is currently chairman. OmniGuide, which employs 120 workers, just last week celebrated its 10th year of business.
Since commercializing its technology in late 2006, the company’s product lines have enabled it to grow steadily. OmniGuide last year raised $1.84 million in equity financing, on top of a $25 million private equity round from the previous year, which the company used to develop new fibers indicated for different clinical applications in laser microsurgery. Late last year, the company won a half-million dollar tax break from the quasi-public Mass. Life Sciences Center to aid in job creation.
From his attempt to create large reflective surfaces, Fink was able to create what are essentially tiny pipes or hoses lined with what his research team at MIT called “perfect mirrors.” The mirrors that DARPA wanted to coat what Fink speculates were aircraft, or even aircraft carriers, are now lining the inside of tiny, hollow tubes that OmniGuide creates, in-house, to lengths of several kilometers at a time.
“We’re manufacturing products here that are really highly sophisticated and are technologically advanced. In fact we’re producing structures that companies like Intel would build in multi-billion dollar fabs, but we’re able to do it inside of fiber,” Fink said.