In conversation with Erik Langaker, Chair of the PragmatIC Board
September 17, 2020 Erik Langaker
This month we sat down, virtually of course, with Erik Langaker, the new Chair of the PragmatIC Board, to learn more about his background and to understand why he believes PragmatIC’s unique flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs), FlexIC Foundry and FlexLogIC are set to disrupt the semiconductor industry on a global scale.
Erik Langaker is based in Norway but has spent most of his life travelling and working around the world. Erik is a serial entrepreneur within the tech space; he formed his first company aged 21 and since then he has always worked for himself or in companies that he has invested in.
1) How did you become aware of PragmatIC?
Erik: I know one of PragmatIC’s shareholders, Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), from my time as Chairman at CMR Surgical (in Cambridge), and I greatly enjoyed working with them. So, when I stepped down from my role in CMR last year and was exploring other interesting companies in the UK tech space, it was natural to look into CIC’s other portfolio companies. The one that really stood out was PragmatIC.
2) Are there any particular features that make a company interesting for you?
Erik: Well, for me it is firstly about the management of the company, being able to see that they have a clear purpose and ability to step up to the plate as the company scales. I look for real values and that it is possible for the whole company to share them. That includes having shareholders that are aligned and understand that “lifting” a company is a real team effort. As non-executive Chairman my role is to help lead the company forward in a united way. During my due diligence I met Scott White (PragmatIC’s CEO) and the other members of the board and management team and it was evident that these qualities exist in PragmatIC.
It is also about what I can offer a company, what experience and skills I can bring. I have been Chairman of another company called Kezzler for nearly eight years. Kezzler are currently a global leader in supply chain tracking software within the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) market. Currently we have deployed close to 15 billion products serialised with our code systems. They are in use in all parts of the world. Like with PragmatIC this is heavily patented technology. I am also Chairman in Camo Analytics, a leader in multivariable analytics, supporting manufacturing companies in optimising production yields and performance. It was clear from my work with both these companies that there is an opportunity for making many more items smart and linking them using software, adding traceability and transparency to cost-sensitive items we use every day. I hope my experience means that I can offer PragmatIC better understanding of how we are to target key markets with a well-positioned product/solution. One could argue that there are complementary features between the companies that can be explored to mutual benefit.
Finally, I need to be able to see that there is a long-term big vision, something that is disruptive on a really interesting scale, which I see in PragmatIC.
3) What are you looking to achieve in PragmatIC?
Erik: Firstly, I hope to be able to bring a fresh outside view of the company, to open up some lively discussions about how to make it easier for customers, employees and other stakeholders to understand what PragmatIC offers and where we are planning to go in the future. We need at all times to focus on a clear narrative. One output of this is being able to attract more brilliant people to the organisation, who want to work on a technology that gives them the opportunity to design something truly innovative, that will transform how we live.
Second, the vision of a trillion smart objects within a decade is a great ambition, for which there are many drivers, for example the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals, that call for a much more circular economy. This requires close co-operation with suppliers, customers and partners, and significant investment to build multiple, distributed FlexLogIC lines around the world, close to their point of use and hence improving flexibility and responsiveness to demand for FlexICs just in time. I hope to play my part in making that happen.
Finally, I see FlexIC Foundry as being a game changer, a disrupter on a global scale. Traditional silicon foundries are now very heavily concentrated in certain countries and making a chip with them takes many man years of effort and a lot of money. This has led to some amazing advances in super computing and massive scale AI, but not everything in the world needs that amazing computing power. I see many applications that require what PragmatIC can bring – flexible low cost integrated circuits that can be custom designed and manufactured in a matter of weeks, then produced in high volume, with much lower upfront costs, right next to where they will be embedded. I have been amazed already at the range of customers that we are talking to, with ideas that simply weren’t possible with silicon technology. I am very excited to begin this new journey with PragmatIC and see what else we can invent together.