Light Polymers' Journey to China

Behind the Silicon Valley-based company's strategic Series B with a Chinese VC
By Amanda On

Light Polymers, a nanochemistry startup based in Silicon Valley with operations in Taiwan and Korea, has closed its strategic Series B of $5M on July 5th led by Tsingda International Venture Capital and Tokyo Electron (TEL). Tsingda International Venture Capital—HYSTA SVC (previously known as SVC Venture Club)’s longtime VC member—is a part of the Tsinghua Innovation Center in Dongguan (TICD)*, which is a joint venture between the Dongguan Government and Tsinghua University. TEL is a global leader in semiconductor and flat panel display manufacturing equipment.
 
HYSTA SVC helped to facilitate this deal when one of our Russian investor members referred Light Polymers to us in June 2016, in the hope that we could help connect US-China investors and partners. After an in-depth conversation regarding Light Polymers’ technology, funding needs, and strategic plan, we connected CEO Marc McConnaugheywith Tsingda, whose investment preferences and resources we believed to be highly matched with what Light Polymers was looking for. As such, we are very happy to see how successful their partnership has been since then.

  Light Polymers' breakthrough chemistry based on lyotropic liquid crystals.

Light Polymers' breakthrough chemistry based on lyotropic liquid crystals.

In this strategic round, Light Polymers carried out two joint ventures with Tsingda: One focused on film fabrication and one focused on lighting products. Light Polymers created a type of film that is 30 to 70 um thick, which is able to reduce the reflection issues on OLED panels. As China is projected to be a big player in OLED panel manufacturing in the future, this film represents a great opportunity for Light Polymers. Light Polymers is projected to attain 20 to 25% market share for OLED polarizers in China by 2020. As for the lighting joint venture, Light Polymers intends to use their chemistry to make LED lights more useful and effective in a wide variety of applications:

  • Agriculture: Smart farming, where high precision lighting will help plants thrive by replicating the specific spectra they need for optimal growth. This will be widely applied in vertical farming, light-sensitive herb planting (especially in China where herbal medicine is a unique and expanding market) and light supplementation for greenhouse crops. The Agriculture industry is undergoing a 100-year revolution in the way that our food will be grown in the future.
  • Beauty care lighting: Lighting with select spectra can help address a wide range of skin conditions. For example, red light can reduce wrinkles, while blue light improves acne conditions.
  • Professional lighting: There is a $2B global market of photography and videography lighting. Light Polymers can provide photo and TV studios with high performance lighting fixtures based on photonic films with very high CRI 98+. These films can also create light tailored to the studio’s artistic standards and needs.
  • Personal lighting: Light Polymers has developed an advanced study light using its high CRI films that provides comfortable, safe and very high quality CRI lighting with minimum glare.
  • Custom: Light Polymers will deliver a custom film program where films for precise custom spectra can be ordered. Given what Light Polymers’ films can achieve, Crystallin Custom makes it possible for lighting specialists to specify custom spectrums their application. Crystallin Custom films can deliver the specific light wavelengths your application demands in an easy and efficient package. Finally, a no compromise solution for delivering specific light spectra for any application.
  Light Polymers' Alpha Growblade lights help plants thrive by replicating the specific spectra.

Light Polymers' Alpha Growblade lights help plants thrive by replicating the specific spectra.

When Marc was asked to provide his thoughts and opinions on his partnership with a China-based company, he said, “Collaborating with Tsingda has been incredibly beneficial for Light Polymers. Tsingda has a number of advantages: capital access, market access, supply chain relationships, strong connections with potential customers and the ability to provide multi-dimensional localization support such as recruitment, legal, and financial services. Thanks to its unrivaled connections within, and beyond, China that centers around an elite Tsinghua alumni network, Light Polymers was fortunate enough to recruit an experienced executive candidate for our first joint venture in China, as well as a several partners with whom Light Polymers can collaborate with to understand the market requirements.”
 
As Marc puts it, Light Polymer’s partnership with Tsingda is not just about money, but also a fast and effective entry into Chinese markets. As many Silicon Valley-based startups are now aware, China is changing incredibly quickly in terms of not just being a base of manufacturing but a validating market for new products that boasts significant potential and a support network similar to that found in Silicon Valley. A few years ago, this was not the case. Marc told us how, in Light Polymer’s earlier years, he ran into significant trouble finding investors, partners and services providers in China. As a result, Marc is genuinely grateful towards the platform that SVC is able to provide to help startups get connected and close funding rounds through a high-quality US-China investment network. This network, maintained by professionals who look into the specific needs of startups and match their resources in a highly precise manner, has brought together entrepreneurs and investors worldwide in exploring possibilities to collaborate and mutually benefit.
 
“Once you sign the term sheet you are just starting,” commented Marc. However, being a member of the SVC community, he is excited to see more opportunities ahead as Light Polymer grows and as China’s capital goes international, because “If you find the right people and work hard to develop a solid relationship with your partner, you will work through any kind of problem.”

  Marc at the 2017 HYSTA Annual Conference, where Light Polymers received the 2017 HYSTA Global Innovation Award

Marc at the 2017 HYSTA Annual Conference, where Light Polymers received the 2017 HYSTA Global Innovation Award

* The Silicon Valley Office of Tsinghua Innovation Center in Dongguan, operated jointly with Dongguan Economic & Trade Office in US, is one of SVC’s most committed partners in deal exchange and promoting cross-border business collaboration.

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