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Do You Have a Great Team?

At my next mentor presentation at ERANYC, as at all the previous ones, I will advise the new cohort not to say “We have a rock star team” when they speak with investors.

The older I get the less certain I become about offering any wisdom or advice at all, to anyone, about anything. On this one small idea I remain firm.

They probably do have a rock star team. That is not the point. Investors have heard that usually baseless claim so many times it no longer has any positive meaning. It’s like telling people you have a cute baby.

Don’t tell people you have a great team. Prove it with something they have accomplished.

At Voyant, we have a team that designed our first LiDAR system chips in total quarantine. Except for the sneaker-netting of some computer gear, standing on doorsteps while wearing masks, no members of the Voyant team saw each other between March 2020 and May 2021 when we got together for the first time to start setting up our new lab, a few weeks before the arrival of our first imaging chips.

During that summer and fall, Voyant’s team designed advanced photonic integrated circuits with capabilities far beyond known limits. Photonics for sensors being what it is, our team had to create their own simulation and modeling tools, their own system design tools, and design our own library of photonic components that had to work perfectly, or the system would not.

We also had to design and start the manufacturing of the other more ordinary bits of tech necessary to create low-cost machine perception sensors, and none of that was easy, but the silicon photonics part is so, so much more challenging.

What our team built worked on the first try.

We now know that our system and component-level performance far surpasses anything available in the field of integrated photonics for sensing.

Every expert said it was impossible to get an advanced photonic chip working on a single tapeout during the best of times. Yet during a quarantine, a worldwide pandemic, and an electronics supply shortage, despite every never-before-experienced challenge the world sent their way, the Voyant team succeeded in doing just that and a whole lot more.

Those first imaging LiDAR chips are the core of Voyant’s development kits we have deployed with customers since last summer.

I don’t need to tell anyone we have a great team at Voyant.

I can point to the chips and the resulting systems and show them.

Peter Stern


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