© DLR / Marcel Soppa

Exomatter: The Platform for Material Properties

The search for new materials is difficult for R&D departments, because they often still depend on the trial-and-error method in a laboratory. The Munich-based startup Exomatter wants to change that with computer simulations. The founding team answers our questions in an interview.

Munich Startup: What does your startup do? What problem are you solving? 

Exomatter: Finding new materials, for example for batteries in electric cars or efficient rooftop solar cells, is very time-consuming. Usually, many candidates are tried out in the laboratory until you have a good result months or years later. We want to change that. To do that, we use data from computer simulations to find better and more sustainable materials faster. 

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box! 

Exomatter: Yes, but there are huge obstacles for current solutions to overcome. For the simulation of materials, you need quantum chemical calculations, and the vast majority of companies in our target group don’t have suitable specialists for that, because it wouldn’t be worthwhile for them to build up the expertise themselves. We make the whole process as easy as possible. All our customers have to do is tell us what their requirements are for the material and our platform will then provide the appropriate data. 

Munich Startup: What’s your founding story? 

Exomatter: The three of us are a very complementary team with scientific and business backgrounds. Josua and Friedemann know each other from their doctorates at the German Aerospace Center, and they actively searched for and found Barbara. Two of us have worked in B2B software startups already and one has a strong background in sustainability and has dealt quite a lot with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

From Berkeley to Helmholtz Enterprise to UnternehmerTUM 

The first ideas and the technology can be traced back to Josua, who was to find materials for the use of solar energy for his doctorate. He thought there must be an easier way than taking years for the exhausting testing of all material candidates in a lab. So he teamed up with experts in California at the National Lab in Berkeley and worked there for three months. The result was the very first prototype of a material data platform, which he used to find new materials for his doctoral thesis in a very short time. To this day, they are still the most promising candidates for the application. In 2020, Josua decided to pick up the idea again and developed our first product in 2021, later also with the support of the Helmholtz Enterprise spin-off program at DLR. We founded our company in 2022 and are currently financing ourselves through customer orders and funding and have made it into UnternehmerTUM programs. We were at Xpreneurs first and have been at Techfounders since the beginning of the year. 

Munich Startup: What have been your biggest challenges so far? 

Exomatter: A major challenge was translating the idea from science into a product that gives real added value to customers in companies. In other words, the transition from the academic world to the business world. We’ve managed it quite well now by learning a lot from many discussions and participating in pilot projects. 

Another important point is team building. Like I said, we’re a very complementary team and bring different characters together. That makes us stronger and more diverse, but also led to conflicts, especially in the beginning, all of which we were able to resolve constructively. 

Exomatter aims to enable end-to-end management of the R&D process 

Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years? 

Exomatter: In a year, we will have implemented several features that are often requested on our platform. The most important point here is that customers can largely access data on our platform without our support. This is a huge advantage for customers, as they no longer have to commission us individually for each project, but instead pay an annual fee and can work on several topics in parallel or one after the other. And if things get complicated, we’re still there in the background. The type of data that will be available on the platform will also be more diverse, especially in terms of the sustainability and availability of materials. 

We want to grow as a company at our sites in Munich and Cologne and become an exciting technology company in the region. In five years, if all goes well, we will have established ourselves as a well-known player in Europe and North America in the materials informatics market segment. Our platform will then enable the end-to-end management of the R&D process, the integration with other enterprise software platforms and a broad community of academic users. In addition, we have some exciting ideas regarding the further use of AI algorithms that we can’t reveal yet. 

“What could be improved is the openness of companies” 

Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far? 

Exomatter: It’s extremely interesting. There’s a network of founders, investors and mentors in the B2B sector here that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Germany. What was extremely helpful was the support from UnternehmerTUM and its Xpreneurs incubator that we participated in. None of the three of us had ever founded a company, so it’s extremely important to build a network and learn from others. Coworking spaces such as Werk1 and Munich Urban Colab were also very helpful for finding a physical home and being able to exchange ideas in person despite performing a large amount of work remotely. 

What could be improved is the openness of companies in the region when it comes to new digital approaches. There’s the will to make progress in many areas, but then you often get lost in corporate structures and established processes that are difficult to break through. 

In addition, finding employees in the IT sector who are in Munich and looking for a new job is difficult. We could instantly hire people remotely around the world, but the mix of personal collaboration and proximity with flexible remote work is very important to us. If you know someone, please feel free to contact us. 

Munich Startup: Hidden champion or shooting star? 

Exomatter: More of a hidden champion at the moment, because we’re still a small team and have financed ourselves without external capital so far. However, we’re currently in talks about our first round of funding, which means we at least have great potential of becoming a shooting star. This is a very exciting time that’s also great fun and it will be interesting to see where the journey takes us.