Dr. Manuel Aschwanden: Enabling optical innovation

Many people have the wish to become an entrepreneur, but before becoming an entrepreneur, choosing the right domain and acquiring the right skill set is a difficult task to accomplish. One person who was not only technically sound before starting entrepreneurship, but also acquired an adequate business background is Dr. Aschwanden, CEO of Optotune.

Dr. Aschwanden’s Journey to Become an Entrepreneur

Dr. Aschwanden got his MSc in electrical engineering and PhD in nanotechnology from ETH Zurich. He is a person always looking for ways to expand his knowledge.  While pursuing his education at Imperial College London he benefitted from an excellent training program in economics and marketing. Furthermore, he was able to learn about the culture of the United States during his 7 month stay at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Aschwanden states that it has always been his dream to become an entrepreneur. Therefore, he decided to take on a practical PhD at ETH Zurich, so that he could stand a chance to develop a technology that had chance to be commercialized. At the end of his PhD Dr. Aschwanden and his co-founders realized that there is a lot of untapped market potential in the field of tunable optics. Therefore, they decided to found Optotune in the year 2008.

Dr. Aschwanden says he gets inspired by the people who follow their hearts desire, such as Roger Federer in tennis, scientist like Karl Hess or other entrepreneurs who persistently pursue their goals until they succeed.

Optotune: Shaping the Future of Optics

Optotune was founded in 2008 as a Spin-off of ETH Zurich. Since then, it has grown into a company of more than 100 highly skilled employees mainly located in Zurich, Switzerland. The vision of Optotune is to enable optical innovations by providing unique optical components. Their first product was a focus tunable lens that works similar to the lens in our eye. By changing the shape of the lens, we can focus on objects located at different distances without the need to axially move the lens. In the last few years, Optotune has expanded its product offering to other light shaping components such as very compact 2D mirrors. Their products always allow for faster, more reliable and more compact light shaping in their customers systems. Outperforming others, the unique features of Optotune’s components have already benefited many applications such as cameras in logistics, eye care and laser marking equipment, surveillance cameras, LIDAR systems for self-driving cars or consumer systems such as high-resolution projectors or cameras.

Nurturing an Environment to Foster Creative Thinking and Innovation

For Optotune, to succeed as a company, which operates out of Switzerland, they need to deliver unique solutions. To do so, they believe in following some simple yet result oriented rules.

First and most of all, we value practical smartness and a positive attitude towards challenges more than experience, meaning that we hire the best possible minds even if they do not have the perfect background required for a given job. Of course, if an applicant is smart and experienced it is ideal.

Second, innovation is often only a combination of existing technologies and processes. Therefore, we believe in diversity. It is helpful to have employees coming from different technical fields working on a challenge to come up with unique solutions.

Third, we are not shy of giving up on investments, when we see on the way that a better and more cost efficient solution emerges.

Fourth, failures are part of the learning process and if you want to be fast, it is inevitable that you fail from time to time. If this happens we do not punish but accept it as part of our process.

Optotune’s Future Perspectives

At Optotune they believe that they are at the very beginning of witnessing the growth of their company. Having a positive track record with many early adopters, they are looking forward to grow with additional customers but also into new markets. Furthermore, for early adopters, Optotune is constantly developing new products delivering unique benefits for the systems of the customers. By moving forward with this innovation driven strategy, Optotune is fueling its nice upward spiral.

Some Valuable Words for the Budding CEOs from Dr. Aschwanden’s Desk.

I believe that the CEO or founder is setting the tone and the culture of the company. He is a role model for others and will influence what is valued in a company. If he is fascinated by technology and innovation, then the company will be innovative, if he is money driven, the company will attract different employees and most likely become a cost driven organization with little innovation. In any case it is critical to hire the right employees that can work in an organization and to let those go that do not fit in – asserts Dr. Aschwanden.

Source :-The 20 Most Admired Tech Leaders in Business 2017