Landa is fully dedicated to the secret breakthrough he says he has achieved in nanotechnology, but he always uses superlatives. When he describes the unveiling of the nano-graphic printer and nano-graphic ink two years ago at the international Drupa Exhibition, he emphasizes, "The market's response was amazing. Everyone loved the machine."
"Globes": You obtained
Landa: "When you can make a product only after two or three years, it's never an order set in stone. We explained to the customers that anyone who wants to keep his place in line has to make an order with a deposit in the tens of thousands of euros, so that we don't waste time on non-serious customers."
Will you return the deposit if the development is not ready in time?
"Anyone can cancel whenever he wants and get his money back. We can also cancel, because there were seven different models, and we reserved the right to tell the customer, 'Sorry, we decided not to make the model you ordered right now.' We learned that there is a demand for the biggest and most expensive machines, and therefore these are the first models we're launching."
When will the machines actually be ready?
"One year from today."
Were you not supposed to launch the product already in 2013? On the face of it, it looks like you are late.
"We were supposed to send the first models to beta consumers by the beginning of 2013, but that was before the Drupa Print Media Exhibition. After the exhibition, we learned a lot from the customers. After all, we developed the product in secret, so we didn't have many contacts with the customers along the way. When we sent our people to 120 customers to start working with them, we discovered that there were many things in the product they would prefer to be different."
"For example, they wanted package printers to be able to coat the package, while our plan was for them to do the coating separately. The contact screen, which people just loved, was in the middle of the front of the machine, but we found out that the machine operator prefers it on the end where the printout comes out, so we had to change the contact screen's entire structure. There were other changes, too, and it took a long time."
Are the customers waiting for you?
"They're waiting. A few months here or there don't matter to them. The fact is that today, even though they have the option of canceling, we have the same number of orders we had then -- over 4,000. Yes, a few canceled, but for every one that canceled, there was at least one new order. Although we have stopped signing up customers, it will already take years to supply all the orders, and there's no point in extending the supply time. Since Drupa, we haven't been taking part in exhibitions or sending salespeople to customers; we have only taken care of those we already have."
In effect, you have taken a step backwards into the laboratory.
"I wouldn't call it a step backwards. It only happened because of the big demand. We didn't expect to leave Drupa with so many orders."
No more capital raising planned
The new announcement about the investment mentioned the sum of
Why the vagueness? A minority shareholding could be 2% or 49%.
"They're a private company, and we decided not to reveal it. Their stake is definitely a minority holding not 2% and not 49%. I'm willing to say only that it's a two-digit number."
Why did you change your usual practice by taking on a partner? You say you have
"If it were possible to get money from the bank on the basis of orders for machines that aren't yet on the market, I'd do it. This burden is too heavy for one person, who is supporting
"We already have orders and have proven that it's viable. Now we can recruit someone who shares my vision. He can check everything, and they did it. They did due diligence on us, brick by brick. They examined the technology, the patents, the competition, the markets, and the employees."
When you started all of this over 10 years ago, didn't you think about what would happen if it was unsuccessful? You put your money and many years of your time into it.
"That's a defect in my character. I believe so much in the vision that I don't think about it. Would a rational person invest 16 years in research and development in something, like I did with
It was indeed reported 18 months ago that you tried to raise capital, and nothing came of it. What happened?
"Already then, we felt that this was too big for me to do alone. We looked for a financial investor. We didn't want a strategic investor, meaning one of our competitors, because an investor like that wants something in return, like copyrights and marketing rights. We got several feelers from them, but we more or less ruled them out from the start.
"When we started talking with the bankers and the investors, we realized that
"We came to the conclusion that the only way was a group of investors, each of which would invest
"Who dreamed about an investor like this? They're strategic, but they doesn't compete with us in sales of machines and ink. They operate on the side we need -- the supply side. They give me raw materials, add-ons, coatings, pigments, and they have a lot of know-how that I need, because I previously set up a manufacturing plant, for ink too, but not on such a scale of thousands of tons a year."
You are not a man used to working with partners. You want things done just your way. How will you get along with them?
"I'm very demanding," Landa proudly admits. Those sitting in the room, several employees working with him in various ways, nod vigorously. "I'm not willing to do business with a person I don't trust. I've done a lot of negotiating in my career, but I've never had such an enjoyable and mutually beneficial experience. They're people who know how to stand up for themselves, to be tough in negotiations, but they are fair and honorable, without a hint of aggression."
What benefit do they see in this investment?
"They are a materials company, and in our business model, we're a materials company. It's true we need to build and sell machines, but only in order to create demand for materials, such as ink. The main revenue from a machine (whose average price is
Will you need to raise more capital or recruit more investors after this investment?
"We think the money we have is enough to bring the company to where it can finance itself and make a profit. We're not planning more capital raising."
"Patents are like minefields"
Landa says that the nano-graphic printer based on nano-ink is the first commercial invention from
In addition to the printer,
According to Landa, it is fairly easy to reduce material to a size of 100 nanometers, but any reduction beyond that is possible only with a great deal of energy, time, pollution, and money, and even then, the result is not pure or uniform. "We had a breakthrough 10 years ago in this field. We discovered a way of breaking almost any material down to a size of 20-40 nanometers. It could change the world," he says.
This process is extremely secret, and Landa is not registering a patent for it, because he says it is very difficult to protect the process, because it is almost impossible to know how something was made from the final product. On the one hand, registering a patent will reveal its particulars, while on the other hand, a patent will not protect
The centerpiece and the reason why nanotechnology is necessary is the ambitious goals of producing energy from hot air, for which nano-particles of a specific type are necessary. Landa agrees that this sounds completely fantastic, but he says it will happen. A team of top-level scientists -- physicists, chemists, and materials personnel -- have been working on this for 11 years already, "and it will take another few years before we get it."
You are a person who looks far ahead.
"In my experience, it takes 10 years to develop something. You can develop gadgets and applications in less than 10 years, but not basic technologies. We invested 16 years in
Landa is doing all this from his personal resources, probably thanks to the sale of
In order to photocopy that many pages a minute, however," Landa says, "you also have to scan and feed in paper at that rate. For lack of choice, we also had to develop high-speed scanning and paper feeding methods. We were the first to develop them, because the industry did not need them yet. When you are the first to spot a problem, you can register excellent patents. When the global photocopier machines industry learned how to make faster machines, each one of them --
Did you send lawyers to them?
"I didn't like doing things through lawyers. I contacted them politely, writing, 'Hey, I want to draw your attention to my patent; maybe you'll find it interesting.' That was a polite way of saying, 'You're using my patent, and you have to pay.' They paid
Landa, married and father of three, living in Kfar Aharon in Nes Ziona, was born in 1946 to Holocaust survivors who fled from
His academic career was diversified. He started as an engineer and dropped out, changed to physics and dropped out, and also studied psychology and English literature, and dropped out. "I didn't find what most interested me. I love science, but I would come home and write poetry and stories. I was torn." He finally studied cinema in the
The sale of
In Landa's current company, the initial focus is on companies that print packaging, which are much larger than the relatively small printing houses. Even in an era of less printing the packaging printers remain stable, because their products in the supermarkets and pharmaceutical chains still require printed packages, and no I-Pod application or website can replace the packages.
"Part of the reason why I sold
There were assessments that you sold it for too little.
"Yes, but HP was willing to commit to
That is a really important contribution to employment and the country. At the level of the tax on the deal, however, the state got less out of it.
(c)2014 the Globes (Tel Aviv, Israel)
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