Modumetal co-founder Christina Lomasney gets plenty of inspiration by just walking out the front doors of her offices. With the Modumetal headquarters located in an old industrial shipyard in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Lomasney frequently sees the rusted hulls of old shipping vessels, the type of corrosion that her company’s technology is designed to prevent.
“There’s lots of rust around here, so it is really inspiring,” she says.
A maker of non-corrosive nanolaminated materials, Modumetal is one of the more exciting startup companies to emerge in Seattle. Yet, its story is relatively unknown, in part because of its low-profile in recent years but also because it is not quite as sexy as some of the emerging Internet, mobile and software upstarts in town.
However, the opportunity behind Modumetal is immense, perhaps transforming the way everything from buildings to oil platforms to automobiles are constructed. And the 20-person company’s profile is about to go up.
Modumetal has received commitments for more than $10 million in funding from the likes of Second Avenue Partners; Catamount Ventures; Chevron Technology Ventures and others, with more cash on the way, GeekWire has learned. It also recently named Steve Singh, the CEO of publicly-traded Concur Technologies, to the board.
Lomasney declined to name all of the investors in the most recent round, noting that additional announcements are slated for later this month. But she did note that the business is doing well, with excitement among the customer base.
“You will see, as we disclose who we’ve raised from funds from, that we are getting really good traction,” said Lomasney. “It’s at a very exciting point.”
Modumetal is still in the pre-specification phase, meaning that it must prove that the technology can meet industry consensus-based standards for new materials. But Lomasney said they are starting to scale up production and continue to host trials.
“We have some very large customers that are engaged with us and are excited about the application,” she said. “I think we will see a huge turning point, probably in the next year to 18 months.”
A University of Washington trained physicist who previously worked at Boeing, Lomasney believes that her company’s nanolaminated coatings are stronger, lighter and more durable than steel. Obviously, that’s a bold claim. But the technology, which sprung from Lomasney’s work at another company she co-founded, Isotron, has the potential to transform manufacturing as we know it.
Modumetal’s partners include businesses in the transportation and energy sectors. She said one example of a potential use of the coating is in making more durable equipment for oil platforms or pipelines, one of the reasons why Chevron invested and remains a customer.
“There are a lot of components that get used in that environment. It’s the pipes, the pumps, the valves. It is all of the things that are degrading at a very rapid rate because of the environment that they are operating in,” she said. “There’s a great opportunity for applying coating … materials in that environment and it is a unique combination of characteristics that Modumetal offers.”
Lomasney said that Modumetal plans to compete head-to-head on pricing with other makers of coatings or nanomaterials. But she said the performance advantage with Modumetal is significant.
“Where most of our competitors are coming in saying they are 20 percent better or 30 percent better, we can actually come in and say we are 200 to 300 times better than the next best alternative,” she said. “It’s an easy sales process.”
Here’s an older video of Lomasney discussing the company.