LED company OptoGaN — from start-up to an international holding company

Since January Motor Show one of the largest dealers in St. Petersburg "Elva Motors" completely switched to LED lighting from "OptoGaN"


Scientists take a technological enterprise, usually draw such a prospect: to create a startup developing an innovative product — and step aside from the control when their child starts to turn into a serious business, giving way to the top managers with a degree in MBA. LED company "OptoGaN" for eight or so years went from start-up to an international holding company, and its founders — the two candidates and a Doctor of matematicheskihnauk — still at the helm. Atypically?

All three founders' Optogan "- classmates on" Alferov's group "St. Petersburg State Electrotechnical University" LETI ". In the current reared "Optogan" which has 350 employees, two production sites and several research "daughters", their roles were distributed as follows: Alexei Bucket led the direction of light engineering, sales, marketing, and the German division of the company; Vladislav Bougrov supervises the plant in St. Petersburg and research center in Finland; Maxim Odnoblyudov became head of the holding structure.

It looks like they have decided to compete in absentia with his teacher — Academician Jaures Alferov, who believes that where starting a business, science ends. During his public lecture, he argued that scientists rarely achieve success in business, "which is nothing less than a specific area of human activity." However, some of the things which were spoken by Alferov, could not inspire his pupils projected academician, about half of the global coverage by 2020 should go to the LEDs. How can you not take part in the change of technological way! It is known fact: where the new way — there are new leaders of the market.

While the goal of the St. Petersburg plant "Optogan" every day leaves "only" on the wagon with the products. By the end of the year, according to estimates of the founding fathers of the company, these "daily Fur" should be two or three. A German factory has already earned the title of the second largest manufacturer of LED chips in Europe — with a capacity of one billion units per year. Still, the founders of the once small startups still can not believe that now their products can be found in almost every store that sells lighting fixtures. Engineer's dream — to see the result of their developments — filled with pretty quickly. Now it is necessary to work with the "dream of the entrepreneur." As specified by the company's founders, for "Optogan" means nothing less than to become a "Russian Phillips."

Practice makes perfect light

The question of how successful it may be in the business of the scientist, in an innovative environment remains debatable. However, the founders of the "Optogan" on this subject for a long time formed an opinion.

Alexei Bucket believes that a systematic approach that teaches physics and mathematics education, to business management has to do no less than to the element at the level of heterostructures (1. Growing semiconductor heterostructures — the basis of the technology used for the production of LEDs.). In the end, both in business and in scientific experiments, it all comes down to the selection of the correct parameters to allow to come to the desired result.

All three founders' Optogan "assure that after school, passed a special group Alferov, master the skills of business administration was not too difficult. Especially as a business — nothing more than common sense. And engineers are, by definition, are the class of people who have common sense is all right.

— In our country, the problem lies more on the level of public opinion, — says Alexei bucket. — And for some reason it tends to see in the top positions in companies financiers, accountants and lawyers. From this point of view of physical and mathematical education in Russia is underestimated, given that it is it allows companies to manage vysokosistemnom level. Look who now sits on Wall Street: Moscow Fiztekh almost at full strength! In the U.S. business school graduates especially caught with a good technological education, to expand it in the direction of the business. A leading global technology company? A rare case where they are headed not engineers! In Russia, it's different. Even venture capital funds are managed by, as a rule, professional financiers, who, by virtue of their education is often lacking "nose" for emerging technologies.

Biographies of the founders of the "Optogan" — a clear case in which you can explore the brain drain from the country and the factors that can reverse it. None of their classmates on the "Alferov's group '1996 release now does not work in Russia. Still, specialization is that such personnel are always in great demand in the largest research centers. Bucket, bumps and also Odnoblyudov since its release over the years worked on abroad — in the world's leading lighting companies and research centers in the United States, Taiwan, Japan, and Sweden. "The time was this: who wished to remain in the profession were forced to leave quietly and to contribute to the development of the global industry — sadly smiling Vladislav Bougrov. — However, returning to St. Petersburg, we used to meet together. And during one of those meetings — whether in my kitchen, whether at Maxim's in the country — the idea to join together and start a business. "

It was in 2004. It is noteworthy that Russia at the moment startups even considered as a suitable place to start a business: a familiar work on the West infrastructure to rapidly develop a technology company, our country was not observed. But it has long flourished in the "vicinity of St. Petersburg" — in neighboring Finland, a country that in the last couple of decades like a "technological pot" (2. Egody In 2000, Finland spent the most on R &D in the EU as a percentage of GDP (v2010- m -3, 8%).). The first went there and Bougrov Odnoblyudov, leaving their employers to work out for about a year without a salary, but in close cooperation with one of the universities, which have the necessary equipment to conduct research and development and was interested in the ideas of Russian developers. A year later, when a new technology for creating semiconductor heterostructures were highlighted, the shareholders' Optogan "have found the first investor in the face of venture capital fund. Again, that is characteristic of the Finnish.

Once the company had the first patents (which are still owned by the Finnish "daughter"), in front of three startups rise to the classical dilemma: to remain in the area of R &D and market their technology — or move into a completely new area for yourself and become a production company. All of reflection ended after the company came a new investor — the financial group "Onexim" Mikhail Prokhorov, who bought the stake from the Finnish Foundation. A little later, in a pool of investors came RUSNANO, and then in 2009 the company was registered in Russia. By this time, "OptoGaN" already had its chip production in Germany. Now, however, it was necessary to look for the site and in Russia. In 2010, the company bought the St. Petersburg branch of Elcoteq, where nearly a year later launched the first line of LEDs.

By that time, was finally formulated the strategy of all shareholders bel
ieved that should not bet on the issue of components for lighting manufacturers, and end-user market. That is to produce not only LED and chips, but also LED lamps and lamp — based on its own designs and components. Now, as calculated by Maxim Odnoblyudova in Russia about five hundred lighting manufacturers, but the main components (diodes, matrices, and chips), they are forced to buy abroad. "We're in our sector — the smallest company in the world with full vertical integration," — he says proudly.

The strategy of "Optogan", is to recognize good agreement financial capabilities and ambitions of its founders. They understand that the modern semiconductor electronics — business, which is important economies of scale: the global level are winning large and well-equipped industrial production. The world market suppliers LED-components — the battle of giants. According to data for 2011, it excels at Japanese Nichia, with sales of $ 2 billion, followed by Samsung LED, Osram Opto Semiconductors, LG Innotek and Seoul Semiconductor. What to do if you want to become a global player, and provide economy of scale at the level of the world market leaders — not enough resources? To do this, and the amount of vertical integration to control the entire value chain — from development and growth of innovative semiconductor crystals to the final product.

Now "OptoGaN" built the entire production chain — from chips and modules to the control electronics, and design. One of the first products of the "vertical integration" has become a new generation of light "Optolyuks-E27" — LED light source in the form of a familiar lamp, the design of which has helped to develop a studio Art Lebedev.

Such a strategy will inevitably lead to consolidation. According to Maxim Odnoblyudova, now the company is focused on the production scale, the growth in products and access new markets. Especially in the situation of change of technological paradigm lighting market is for that fight. While the main sales market "Optogan" — Russia, but is gradually increasing and the proportion of exports. In "a regulated" America is difficult to break, but with regard to Europe, it already accounts for 10% of sales. "Sooner or later we have to become a global company, — says Alexey bucket. — The success of the IPO, we're aiming for, it will be due to this factor. "

Speed of light

In part, cease to be the founders of the three scientists' Optogan "still had. "We ourselves, of course, handles the scientific equipment is no twist, — says Alexei bucket. — Most are engaged in C &B management. Helping children who meet with us for the design, conduct this work systematically. Explain that sharpened the result of R &D, and not to satisfy scientific curiosity. "

Now the main thing — to avoid a significant drop in speed development, because it is one thing — a start, the other — R &D within the sprawling corporate structure.

— The bureaucratization not avoid, — concludes Vladislav Bougrov. — The more people in the company, the greater the process. The larger the company, the more expensive the price of each error. So now we face a non-trivial task — to learn how to quickly launch and market new products — and do not make mistakes. How to do it — the whole story. However, in my opinion, you should always adhere to the basic principles — focus on talented people around that and have to line up business processes.

Compete with world leaders on the market of R &D, of course, is not easy. Especially in semiconductor technology, where many of the designs have a long cycle and require significant investment. "We though it rose to an annual turnover of one billion rubles, but our performance has still not comparable with the figures of market leaders, who also operate the billions — but in the U.S. — says Bougrov. — Meanwhile, in spite of this difference, we are obliged to conduct comparable research. " It is therefore logical that the "OptoGaN" went in the end to ensure that complement the corporate R &D model of "open innovation", and began to actively cooperate with relevant institutions. In 2011, the company was able to open his own department "LED technology" in ITMO at the Faculty of optical information systems and technologies. Those developments that have shape, "OptoGaN" "picks up" to the company. "We are trying to use the mechanisms that in recent years, our happiness, appeared in Russia, — says Vladislav Bougrov. — Now our two "daughters" are residents of "Skolkovo". It is thanks to the participation of the fund, and there was one of our latest products, "OptoGaN X10", which has no analogues in the world. Now I would like to slowly absorb and other public institutions to support innovation. For example — to participate in the program of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Still, I think we can already be considered part of the industry … ".

Initially the company focused on segments that are typical of LEDs: its products are designed for industrial, municipal and public lighting (for example, for the development of the company has created a niche in the past year, a joint venture with Philips). However, despite the general line of the experiments is not excluded. "After all, we are not so big to ignore small niches that are not oblivious of the global market leaders — reflects Vladislav. — Recently, we have identified for themselves four or five niche areas, the market potential which is worth examining. We are talking about specific markets, such as lighting for greenhouses. In such products, the role played not only the "common" issues of lighting and energy saving, but also a variety of consumer properties of light, its spectral characteristics. Here, in my opinion, quite a lot of opportunities to beat the competition with interesting ideas. The more that consumers are very receptive to innovative products. The main thing that innovation was not a toy, but a real ".

On the question of whether the desire to learn "big business" and complete the courses MBA, all three founders' Optogan "a smile:" Perhaps it's too late: we are their business school to practice going through. "


Author: Natalia Ulyanov

Source: Business Journal, 08.02.2013

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