Founders in Focus – Appsilon’s Diamond Ambition

Taylan Erol, Co-Founder, CEO & CTO
Gokay Hamamci, Co-Founder & CMO

Founders in Focus looks closely at the people behind startup growth.  Founders that have spotted a unique perspective, created something individual or had the sheer determination to drive change when it’s easier to take another path.

We provide a platform to Founders and look to amplify their stories, detail the individual journey as well as the aspirations for the future.  

talent.ai shares and elevates these stories to create insight and inspire others who are on or considering similar journeys.

Appsilon


Founded:

2017

Industry:

Materials – Diamonds

Head Office:

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Website:

https://www.appsilonscientific.com/

We spoke to the Co-Founders of Appsilon Enterprises a human-made diamond startup that has recently secured $20 Million in funding to further its diamond growth engine.

Appsilon’s journey begins with a group of 3 friends in their native Turkey.  Although now officially headquartered in the Netherlands, its founders tell us what led them there and where they plan to take Appsilon in the future. 

Q: Let’s start at the beginning, tell us about Appsilon and what it is you guys do?

TE: Our core competency is synthesizing lab-grown diamonds, which are exactly the same as nature-made diamonds. It is impossible to distinguish between the two, actually, they are identical. 

Like ice is ice in your refrigerator but it’s also ice in Antarctica! 

Q: How did Appsilon come to exist?

TE: We are friends from university, after graduation, I worked in a prominent military institution in Turkey for two years, synthesizing graphene. Making more than 900 experiments for synthesizing quality material. 

After quitting my job, we came together and decided to start synthesizing diamonds. We also have different backgrounds so Gokay may have a different point of view. 

GH: I was in software before from the business side, in my previous startup I was responsible for the commercialization of the technology, so actually this is the same role but just a different industry. 

Q: How did form your team? 

TE: Between 2017 and 2020 we were only 6 people, in the process of chemical receipt development and reactor development hired a few interns from our university. Then after their internships were over they took roles as full-time employees. 

At Appsilon there is minimal turnover, the core team is set and it is the team we built with in the middle of 2020. Only two people have left the company because of academic pursuits like getting their PhDs and the like. 

The age average in the company is 31. So, we are a very young company.
Of course with the new investment, we want to double the talent going from 30 to 60! 

Taylan Erol

Wanting to grow in both the technical side and business aspect. 

Q: Where are you in terms of your funding?

GH: To start out in 2017 we got our first seed funding of about €1.5 Million. Then after that, we started to get another grant of about €1 Million. Our investors then decided on an additional funding of €2.5 Million because of our growing numbers. 

TE: Yes, so far between 2017 to 2022 we were able to raise $6 Million from several investors and venture capitalists. 

This year was our biggest, in August we were able to close an investment from Esas Private equity, the most prominent family-based private equity in Turkey, and we were able to raise €20 Million. Additionally, this year we were awarded a €1 million grant from the Quantum Delta SME program.

Up until now, Appsilon has succeeded in raising almost $20 Million in funding. 

GH: We can say Series A or Series B, but in reality, that’s just terminology. We are on the scale-up – that’s the key!

Q: So, where is Appsilon now? 

TE: In 2021 we moved our headquarters to the Netherlands, so we are now 100% a Dutch company. 

Q: What was the motivation to go to Amsterdam?

TE: As we know Diamonds are a really interesting, brilliant material.  There are several applications for them like jewellery, optical lenses, etc.

However, we have always been interested in the cutting-edge applications of diamonds. So, what are these applications? One would be their use in quantum computing and the semiconductor industry. These are deeply interesting in the diamond-making niche. 

By moving to Amsterdam, which has an active quantum computing and diamond need, we will now be a part of that quantum ecosystem as well. 

There are many companies offering solutions for quantum computing, and at Appsilon we also offer a solution to the environment by producing quantum-grade diamonds. 

As Appsilon we are not defined as a jewellery company, we are a materials company and developing technology is at our core.

Gokay Hamamci

GH: Technology that we want to use to be part of the European ecosystem.

We want to collaborate with European cities and companies because there is no semiconductor or quantum cluster in Turkey. This is one of the reasons we moved to the Netherlands. 

Q: What is the solution, that diamonds provide for quantum computers?

TE: Right now in phones and computers, you have chips, produced by Intel and made out of silicon. For quantum computers instead of silicon, diamonds can be used. 

Q: So how is Appsilon split between Turkey and the Netherlands?

TE: So, Appsilon Turkey site is owned by Appsilon Netherlands. 

In Turkey, we have three facilities, staffed by our talented Turkish friends.

Q: Tell us about the technology…

TE: We grow high-quality diamonds in the laboratory, by using natural gases and microwave heating, as a consequence of microwave heating we are creating plasma inside of our vacuum chamber. 

Plasma is really an ordinary thing, we see it every day actually, for instance in lightning. So, lightning is a plasma version of the air. 

We actually have developed technology to control plasma in our laboratories. Inside plasma, we are dealing with plasma’s 4th state of matter. 

In this plasma environment, we put a small diamond piece called ‘diamond seed’ and we create atom showers. One by one, atoms stack atop the diamond seed and grow layer by layer. In the end, we get a bulk diamond which is big enough for wedding rings.

The thing is we have the technology to control this plasma area and that gives us an opportunity to synthesize various types of diamonds from jewellery to medical, quantum level or electronic grade quality for semiconductors. 

Taylan Erol

Q: How long does it take to create diamonds?

TE: It depends on the chemical receipt that you developed for your own reactor but I can say from 1 week to 1 month. The diamonds take time so the reactors must operate 24/7 so your infrastructure needs to be really stable. 

I would say to be successful you need three things infrastructure, reaction and the chemical receipt needs to be excellent. 

Q: How does that timeline compare to naturally occurring diamonds?

GH: Actually, it’s the same time just that in nature those diamonds stay underground for millions of years. 

TE: Yes, the time of formation is the same but the movement of the diamond to the surface of the earth is what takes years and years.

Q: So, what are you thinking will be the application for your diamonds? Will you stay in the quantum and electronics solutions? 

GH: We really believe in a diamond as a material, and we focus on diamond engineering. Not as a jewellery company but engineering diamonds at an industrial scale. So, we can use it for jewellery, for the industry of high-tech applications.  

Our perspective is to focus on the material [diamonds] and control the material in the best way. 

Q: What areas are you looking to develop? 

TE: Due to the fact that we are doing technology-challenging business, we always need to develop our own technology. 

Our team has already developed diamond deposition for small-sized diamonds. The challenge is now to scale to highly perfect, large-area 2-inch diamond wafers, suitable for use in existing waferfabs. In our research lab in Delft, we are already working on diamonds as a quantum material. This advancement awarded Appsilon an SME grant from Quantum Delta.

To realize the great improvements of diamond for energy, transport, and data, Appsilon needs to establish dedicated tools and highly skilled people in its facilities in Delft. This is why we are also looking for other possible grant applications & co-operations 

Q: What’s the growth journey you want to go on, the goal for Appsilon Enterprise? 

Becoming the best company in the world when it comes to diamond technology, not just the material but all related diamond technologies.

Gokay Hamamci