Brett Walker: Texas Has a Very Low Cost of Doing Business, a Really Competitive Environment to Pull In Top Tech Talent From Other Areas Such as Silicon Valley or New York

Brett Walker, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Electroninks Incorporated of Electroninks.

Tell us about yourself?

I am CEO and co-founder of Electroninks, Inc.

I’m an experienced materials science and engineering professional who invented Electroninks’ proprietary metal complex ink technology while a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois.

After completing my Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in 2013, I completed a fellowship at Harvard University that same year. I founded Electroninks Incorporated while moving back to Illinois to start the company.

It was here that I met fellow co-founder, Melbs LeMieux.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you? 

Always be flexible and humble. Remaining nimble – and keeping an open mind – helps to avoid pitfalls.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Be patient and enjoy the little victories that come along the way. Take a moment to celebrate the milestones.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

It’s always challenging – but it really is necessary to have some off-time.

Burnout is a real phenomenon and it’s important not only for myself but for the decisions I make for the company that I be fresh and give myself some recharge time.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

Since founding Electroninks in 2013, our goal has been to successfully implement our proprietary conductive inks into the supply chain for companies while closing the gap of commercialization.

Over the last 9 years, Electroninks has successfully positioned itself to meet the needs of global commercial customers through its development of breakthrough conductive inks.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

Electroninks has developed and brought to market a platform of metal-complex, particle-free inks that can provide consistent performance and reliability. Some quantifiable points that help to set us apart from others include:

– Fundamentally, our silver, copper and nickel films can result in 99.99% metal content from printed inks, marking best-in-class purity that provides more predictable long-term behavior and reliability.

– Electroninks’ particle-free inks based on gold and platinum can be used to metalize medical devices with a more straightforward path for regulatory approval. Electroninks is the only company to deliver this type of performance from gold and platinum inks.

– Our inks and films can achieve conductivities up to 40-90% of bulk metals with low annealing temperatures for flexible and stretchable substrates. Electroninks has the only true HVM (high volume manufacturing) particle-free metal complex ink on the market.

Electroninks is also a key player in the research and development sector of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Intelligence Community (IC), with multiple products and contracts.

We continue to grow our dual-use technology with customers both within and outside government agencies.

We are the only domestic and global supplier of a full suite of particle-free inks, making Electroninks truly valuable and important in key supply chains.

We partner closely with best-in-class equipment and integration partners to provide customers with a total ink and process solution with an ultimate goal to reduce the manufacturing costs and complexity.

Our goal is to successfully implement our conductive inks into our customers’ products and close the gap of commercialization.

We are backed by strong strategic partners and some of the most prominent global technology investors.

We have also successfully completed our Series C funding with Tier 1 global investors. In 2018, Electroninks opened its new headquarters a world-class 30,000-square-foot R&D and production facility in Austin, Texas.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

Materials companies have long supply chain acceptance times, but we’ve been fortunate to build large scale partnerships with Merck and Fujifilm as well as the rest of our investor syndicate.

This has helped us build our pipeline and distribution to allow us to grow sales much more efficiently than we could have alone.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?

While raising funds for a materials company always presents a challenge, I would say it’s been figuring out the big picture problems and deciding what we focus on and what we rely on partners to help with.

We’ve focused initially on really optimizing our materials and formulations that has translated to building a really talented team. That exercise has been very challenging as personnel for a technical business is always a hurdle.

Then we’ve relied on our partners for scale up, which could’ve been extremely CapEx-intensive for us otherwise. This has led to much more efficient growth for us than if we’d decided to do everything ourselves.

What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in Texas over other states in the US?

There’s a number of reasons we have grown the business in Texas.

It has a very low cost of doing business, a really competitive environment to pull in top tech talent from other areas such as Silicon Valley or New York, and a general work/life/cultural balance that’s hard to replicate elsewhere.

Are there any disadvantages of operating our business in Texas?

The challenges we have seen as of late is we are far from the only company to think that Texas is a great place to operate a business, so there is a competitive job market here for the talent we are looking for as an employer.

Also, due to the popularity of Texas in general, especially Austin, the cost of living increases over the past couple of years have also led to challenges.

Texas has a pretty diverse population. How have you found the quickly changing demographics have impacted your business? Have you got new opportunities? Managed to expand your business into new areas?

Austin has enjoyed a highly skilled local tech population with an influx of even more talent over the past few years.

Also, with the growth of the local tech infrastructure as a whole with new offices and companies, this has given us more pipeline opportunities locally than we saw previously.

It is often reported that, in Texas, politics and business are intertwined. Have you noticed this? Has it impacted your business?

Texas clearly plays on the national stage and is looking to add significant infrastructure as a result of the CHIPS Act as well as other tech-centrical policies.

We plan to work with local and state representatives to see that we are duly considered for appropriate opportunities.

With rising prices across Texas (and the US as a whole) have you been impacted? Do you have a plan for dealing with inflation going forward?

Yes, the rising cost of living in Texas has definitely impacted our strategy for recruitment and the strategies we employ for employee retention.

As far as other aspects of our business, this is where our partnerships with our strategic investors plays a key role – allowing us to remain nimble and minimize CapEx expenditures when we can leverage their pre-existing infrastructure and expertise in those areas.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?

I want us to execute on the large scale partnerships with the current customer base we have.

We’re in the door with a number of large customers and need to follow through and make sure the product is delivered and meets customer expectations in order to build upon our current pipeline.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

Feel free to reach out to me directly – [email protected] – or check out our website at

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