Neil Patel

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In the world of business, there are individuals whose journeys exemplify resilience, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to turning ideas into reality. Simon Litsyn, a seasoned entrepreneur with a background rooted in academia, is one such individual whose story is as inspiring as it is insightful.

In this interview, Simon talks about the relationship between business and academic activities and the transition between the two fields. He also reveals his experiences making deals worth $1B and raising funding for his company XtraLit. This venture has attracted funding from a top-tier investor like Halliburton Labs.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Simon Litsyn’s journey from academia to entrepreneurship highlights the power of bridging theoretical knowledge with practical innovation.
  • His pivotal role in companies like M-Systems and StoreDot underscores the transformative impact of technological advancements in flash memory storage and battery technology.
  • Simon’s ability to secure significant financing for StoreDot reflects his strategic acumen and leadership in navigating the complexities of the startup landscape.
  • Through ventures like StoreDot and now XtraLit, Simon continues to push the boundaries of innovation, particularly in the fields of battery technology and lithium extraction.
  • His transition from technical specialist to CEO exemplifies the importance of adaptability and visionary leadership in driving entrepreneurial success.
  • Simon’s journey serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and resilience in overcoming challenges and achieving breakthroughs.
  • As he continues to chart new territory with XtraLit, Simon’s entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to innovation inspire aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide.



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About Simon Litsyn:

Simon Litsyn is an educator, researcher, engineer, entrepreneur, and recipient of the IEEE Reynold B. Johnson Information Storage Systems Award and Medal for pioneering contributions to storage systems based on flash memory (together with Dov Moran and Amir Ban).

Since 1991, he is a Full Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering (Tel-Aviv University).

He also was a Visiting Researcher and held Professorship positions at many leading labs and universities, including Los Alamos National Laboratories, AT&T Shannon Laboratories, Bell Laboratories, Rutgers University, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Telecommunications (ENST), Eindhoven Technological University, etc.

For 13 years, Simon was the Chief Scientist and the Engineering Fellow (the company’s highest technical position) at SanDisk (till 06’ M-systems, acquired by SanDisk).

In recent years, he has served as Co-founder, CSO (Chief Strategy Officer), and Director at StoreDot. In 2010, Simon was awarded the Special Prize for Exceptional Achievements in Science by the State of Israel.

He holds M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering (summa cum laude) and Ph.D in Engineering. He wrote two monographs and more than 200 papers in leading profile journals and holds more than 60 patents.

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Connect with Simon Litsyn:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Simon Litsyn: Okay.

Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So do today we have a founder that has that it multiple times you know he’s been involved in some really serious transactions and now he’s really writing you know he’s led this baby. You know, yeah rocket ship and we’re going to be talking about it in detail. So we’re going to be talking about. The relationship. You know that he has you know when it comes to business and academic activities how he sees both and the transition between one another also moving from one topic to another you know, obviously the different industries that he has been able to tackle. Um, we’re gonna be talking about to the deal making side of it. You know he’s been involved in 1000000000 plus type of um, you know deals and then also you know when it comes to the stuff that we like to hear which is building scaling financing exiting. And so forth. So brace yourself for a very inspiring conversation today and without farther ado let’s welcome our guests today Simon Let’s in welcome to the show I so originally born in the former Soviet Union so how was life growing up Simon.

Simon Litsyn: Thank Alicandra for having me.

Simon Litsyn: Ah, okay, it was pretty pretty long ago actually pretty long ago when I I was born but as well pretty long ago when I have left yet Soviet Union I was born in Ukraine. Ah, but most of my life I was I spent in Russia having got my education from Leningrad San Peterbook now and then in 9090 one I moved to Israel. Where I was for modern city years holding a position or for professor of the telviv university but in parallel I started to be quite active in the in industrial activities first as a. Consultant and then as entrepreneur and founder of companies and holding some execution execute.

Alejandro Cremades: I mean 1 one of the first one of the first companies there Simon that you were involved with which was really impressive. Journey was with m systems. You know m systems there you were ah one of the technical guys. You know that were senior. You know you were there. The chief scientist. The the chief scientist actually and and essentially the company ended up selling to senddi for one point five billion I mean that’s really remarkable. You know how was it like for you to be part of something like that where you could see a company being developed then a massive transaction happening you know to Sandisk. And then obviously you start you stayed at Sunday this for 6 years which is a remarkable amount amount of time too. You know so what did you learn from that too and then also you know as part of being you know in in in within a successful integration of that nature.

Simon Litsyn: It’s ah an interesting experience. I mean I was a purely academic guy and I had some experience in writing papers. But I had so almost zero experience in having. The results of my papers being implemented and I had an idea that eventually became very productive namely the idea how in the. And them systems was the company that was doing your flesh memories actually m systems was the first company that introduced the Usb stick and I was working on the. Ideas that are related to increasing the density of the memories in the beginning. The flesh memories were much more expensive than I am not sure that you still remember the kind of plastic Dis kits that we had had that time. And but to be competitive. It was necessary to increase the density of the memories and I have come up with an idea that was even difficult to grasp for to my colleagues in m systems.

Simon Litsyn: And I had to overcome a lot of ah lot of ah, let’s say people were not convinced that such a technology could work. They were not convinced that a small. Small startup company could compete with such dinosaurs like Toshiba sanddis samsunk and so on but eventually we made it and we by. We were the first to increase. To use increase in the number of ah of voltage levels in their memories to drastically increase the density ah of the memory and that was what made flesh memories. Much cheaper and affordable, affordable storage and that’s where the usb stick started to be the common and the ah main way to store. Ah, to store data for many people in the world. Ah, this was a very let’s say very difficult trip for me because I had 0 experience of putting my.

Simon Litsyn: Scientific ideas making them working in electronics and I had to really to present a lot of things to understand the rules that are quite different. From the rules of the game I was used to but so that was quite successful. This technology became and became ubiquitous. And we are seeing it now in all the devices that are using Flash memories.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then obviously after the 6 years you know that you did you know as part of the integration with a sundisk. You know that’s the moment where you started to realize that perhaps there’s a world out there where you could you know actually start something of your own and go at it as ah as an entrepreneur. So. That ended up being your first company. Your first company being store dot so that was back in 2012 so how did the whole idea of store that they you know come together and and at what point do you realize? it’s time to take a stop at. This venture world.

Simon Litsyn: Ah, ah for many people who were working in M Systems thatcquiitioned by somedik was really a lucky event as well as it was pastured and lucky for me. But very soon I Yeah, realized that being in being the leading person at least in the field in a relatively small company is very different of being one of the. And let’s say so eleggiian. But so also in a very big corporation. Be organization so implementation of and ah testing and the ideas in a small company is something that is pretty easier that you go. Directly to people who are responsible for testing for responsible brain limitations and this process is quite ah, becomes quite so bureaucratic and difficult and big corporation. Actually some disk was very. A very good place for innovation. But at the same time being a huge carbonation. It. It made very very difficult to implement and to to take risks on the ideas which is much easy and small companies.

Simon Litsyn: And so well after a while I decided decided that my mentality is not so a good fit for such big population as sun riskk and I decided to return to the style I liked most. Of a small company in the beginning of the way and while thinking about about what should be should be the best thing to to look what will be the best area for. Applied my ideas I suddenly realized that such looking faraway fields as electronic memories and batteries. Really really closely related in the sense so that so you may look at the memory non-volatile memory. You may look as a collection of very small batteries. So each battery being charged based may store one and mean discharge may store 0 or you may have some intermediate value of the voltage. It’s a very simple idea. But so when.

Simon Litsyn: You realize it. It seems that these ah ah fields of knowledge that are pretty far away from each other and people before me didn’t think of this and that’s why I decided that there could be. That could be a possibility of further development ideas that I was working on in the field of storage and to extend them to the field of Buttons. So one of the bottlenecks of flesh memories is the speed of writing and as I have explained before the writing is just charging writing in the in the flesh memories. And since there were some ideas about the fast child fast writing on flesh memories. Ah I with my colleagues started to develop ideas of of how to fast charge the batteries.

Simon Litsyn: And with my Co-founders. We started a company that was called store dot that was dealing with their batteries that can be charged faster than the existing batteries. Actually this field is also a big bottleneck for the electric vehicles and they’re one of the main factors that are considered um before acquisition of electric vehicle. Is So the availability of fast charging Currently, the charger is really takes a lot of time and what’s caused range and anxiety in electric vehicles is a big. Issue people are afraid to find themselves without juice in the car and the possibility of having and chardging similar to gas feeding into a car. Would be a fantastic feature that will make the elex vehicles much more appreciated. The.

Alejandro Cremades: And I mean you guys were you guys were literally like a visionaries because that was a 2012 you know we’re not a lot of you know the whole charging and and the electric you know side of things you know was like a like what we see right now everywhere. Um, but I know it was quite the right I mean it was say eight years you know over 8 years that you guys were pushing this that you were really at the at the Helm there. You know as one of the co-founders and the company went through different rounds of financings I think that the company. Raised over 200000000 at evaluation of 1000000000 plus so how was it like to on the financing to be able to capitalize the business capitalize the growth because obviously it was intensive too on the capital side of things. So how is that journey as well to go in parallel with the business.

Simon Litsyn: Ah, it’s not a simple task. It’s the thing you should reallyly work on and it’s not only the technology you should you should develop. You should really ah, look for your place. The.

Simon Litsyn: So a full system you should clearly put your message and state your message. Ah I must say that to.

Simon Litsyn: Finds financing. It’s pretty easy for such ideas when you give us say such ideas in the beginning but of the implementation of such ideas by definition are not so not. Simple and they are very knowledge intensive and they are also require a big effort and a lot of time and the question is that after several years you have. Clear proves that your technology works but still, it’s not sufficient for making it working especially if you’re in the field of electric vehicles. You know that design of a new vehicle takes like 5 years maybe and to see your product in the next generation you have to be accepted long time before the car goes to the road on the road. So. It’s a pretty complicated complicated financial financial intensive field eventually it worked and we managed to raise a significant sum of money.

Simon Litsyn: Still still. The company is struggling for making it to the final products and I believe that very soon you will have this feature in essentially every. Electric vehicle and the company store dot will not be the last and hopefully will be really the first one to promote and to propose such a solution of fast changing of.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then after 9 years there I mean you decide that it’s time to really turn page and you know recently you actually in in 2021 you got started with extra lit which is your your recent company but I guess. Why I mean you were now a co-founder of like such an amazing company raised tons of money. Incredible valuation like what what got you to think that hey maybe it’s time for me to turn page and and do another one.

Simon Litsyn: Um, ah, that’s ah, that’s a propm of my mentality I have explained my reasons to move from Sundays to to the next adventure. And it seems that eventually I understood that my value as as executive and as technical specialist is in. Much much higher in the beginning of the way of the company. Ah rather than in the already big company when a lot of things are being done that require different features of the character. Than the ones I possess I like very much to face the problems that others consider to be difficult or impossible to resolve I want to see challenges. And I’m probably less less good in the day-to-day work when it is necessary to apply some. Let’s say some more traditional.

Simon Litsyn: Traditional Yeah capacities. Ah well the better people than I that can do it and when the company becomes real real big, really big and that was happened to store dot. I Decided that there is much more driven that I can find in startingting a new company. Moreover there was an idea of an idea it was.

Simon Litsyn: Contemplated for long time while being in the store dot and that’s the idea I moved forward with just put him behind me the store dot Story. And this was the idea of medium extraction that I found out fascinated while working on the batteries and somehow it was related to them. Material studies that I was involved into a while being in the store but and the question I was asking quite often many people this so that. Why Litome that is so one of the main main and critical materials that are involved in the in the battery production while how how it is it produced how it’s. Manufactured and why just sort of battery cannot be used for the extraction indeed the idea of catching vi is the extraction medium is quite natural. Yeah, the battery by itself.

Simon Litsyn: Is sort of iron catcher the cutats that are one of the types of the herixtrols that are used in butteries are just intended for accepting for absorbing absorbing mediums so the question is. Can cathos be used or cutho materials. Can they be used in just Putin. So can you put a butter in in a brian that contains liiumines and just. Of suck in their lead minds and the answer was so partially partially yes, it can be done but in general, what’s happening that the butteries so they’re not. Many other souls by litium and the natural brides. There are many salts many salts that are much more dominated have much more dominated presence in the brides and the next question I have asked. What should be corrected. In the catholic materials for it to be accepting only litium minds and ignoring all the rest of the ions and that’s how we have started to discuss with I’m lucky to meet very.

Simon Litsyn: Ah, clever people I like to discuss new ideas. Ah, with scientists I may speak very deep science with I have an extensive knowledge in different fields of science. And that’s how we arrived that some ideas that far later were implemented in what extra it is doing namely in the material that is able to absorb litium. And actually I started. It’s the first time in my life I have started as Ceo of the company chip.

Alejandro Cremades: And how was that because you’re a very technical guy. So how was that transition from bit from technical to business.

Simon Litsyn: Um, it’s ah I still cannot believe myself that I decided to go for this experience since for the last at least 25 years if not thirty years I was next to these business guys and ceos. And I was really watching them and sort of quite often I was becoming nervous about their decisions and I had so my ideas about in most of the cases they were wrong. But in a while I have arrived at the state of minding so that I am ready to test myself at their life challenges and I want to change myself if the possibility of. Taken care of other fields. Not only the technology and I must say that I somehow overestimated myself but with hard work and belief I’m now in the position that i. Can say that I manageed.

Alejandro Cremades: So oh you see extra it now is say you guys have raised about thirty million bucks so I’m sure that raising money now you know after all these rodeos that you’ve done. You know it was. It was not that hard. So what were you looking for the investors that they that you ended up bringing to help you guys here.

Simon Litsyn: 1 of the things. It’s difficult to explain or essenceus is exactly the question you have asked me before because I’m traditionally technological guide and to come convince them that I’ll be able to. To organize the business of the company. Ah, and I believe I managed to do it with many investors. Also we were ah. So the company is only 2 years we managed to arrive at rare working solution that is now being tested on the upscaed pilot level in many in several locations in the world. So when you have a working solution. You may you have proofs you being tenders in different ah different locations then it’s simpler to to raise money.

Simon Litsyn: As you know the situation now is not so simple for manation. There is significant decrease in the investments especially at the ls stages. Ah, but so we have managed to conveence. Also the litium source owners and these these are for example, oil and gas companies. These are ah owners of the companies that are working on extractive minerals. From Salt Salt lakes like the dead sea and great Salt Lake at the United States um salt lakes in in South america ah in these cases I managed to.

Simon Litsyn: Talk for these guys into into our business and presumably my previous career was also instrumental in convincing that the technologies we have developed um may be believed and trusted.

Simon Litsyn: For For example, we managed to have an agreement with head Aboutton well and gas service company which is a huge ah huge monster storm in the oil and gas. Industry and I’m happy that halibbarton lops halibbarton is working with us on the introducing our our technology into. Yeah. Several in several places and we are moving forward with haribat. Also we reckon that big companies in the United States in Canada in Europe. And our in South America but our fast and our ah our favorite project is at that and that sea that is next to you see now in our backyard. And we hope to start production of freedom from the dead sea in the near near speech.

Alejandro Cremades: So then I guess obviously you know you’ve been at it for a while now seeing all types of stuff. You know all types of companies. You know some that you’ve started you know like that they are rocket ships you know others that. For example, you had tons of lessons learned like so fun or. Air show I guess say if I was to put you into a time machine and maybe I was to bring you back to let’s say 2012 where you were thinking about maybe starting something of your own and. Let’s say you were able to have a sit down with that younger self and being able to give that younger Simon Litsyn: 1 piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.

Simon Litsyn: Um, ah of of try of the this piece is rather never give up I gave up on several projects I. In the ah current perspective I see as having had good chances to succeed would ah wouldn’t I have given given up on on it.

Simon Litsyn: I Believe that would I be more persistent in these projects they would be they would be successful by now and of course would I come in the time machine I will definitely Convey. Of the days ofset projects I didn’t continue with.

Alejandro Cremades: So then Simon for the people are listening that are inspired and that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Simon Litsyn: Um, ah I hear I fear um would really advice on the being more brave with the idea so that. Ah. That seemed the most crazy to you So Do not give do not ah give ah those filter too much your ideas. Ah free Your brain. From the restrictions that are posed by ah by the Auto Wealth belief that you can bring the ideas that are not.

Simon Litsyn: Believed by others to Work. You can do it anyway. Even if everybody says to you that it will not work and be more yeah hope. Persistent with making your ideas come to life.

Alejandro Cremades: And are you also assignon on Linkedin or anything like that where people could they you know reach out.

Simon Litsyn: Yes, please I’m not very active in social networks but only kidding I can be easily reached. It’s Simon ah lis an l I t s white had.

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey, well thank you so much Simon for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.

Simon Litsyn: Thank you Aleandra! Thank you for the very interesting conversation.


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