Meet Maximilian Rothenberger, CEO of Spacetek

Congratulations on the significant developments at Spacetek over the past year. Could you provide more insight into the strategic significance of closing the seed financing round with Swisscom Ventures and the Moonshot Fund from Spectrum Value Management?

First, thank you for the good wishes. Having institutional investors join in the financing round is a game changer for our governance and financial strength longer-term. Last year was transformational for our company and looking at the full picture of the cap table now, it makes so much sense and it was/is our preferred setup. Swisscom Ventures and in particular, Pär Lange, with his long-standing track record in the industry brought a lot of genuine “curiosity” for our products and hence asked the right questions. Our initial contact to Spectrum Value Management and the Moonshot Fund came through another portfolio company of them which is also active in the semiconductor space. Once we could connect both sides, it was a match made to be.

Could you elaborate on the factors that led to the decision to update the overall organization structure at Spacetek effective January 1st, 2024?

I think as a young company, you get often pushed into different directions and as you don’t have too much “operating hours” as a company (yet) from which you could build a useful organizational logic, you tend to apply a first draft of how it would be done in a textbook setup.

But for a small, fast-growing organization, standard is often not the right way. In our case, this was the traditional CEO function. We came to the conclusion that it would be best for our team to have two strong drivers, market and technology. That is why my title is also Head of Sales whereas Jürg’s role became Chief Technology Officer. As I am one of the few team members without a technical background but with experience in business and corporate finance, it made sense to allocate the investor relations to me. Jürg has now the perfect conditions to focus on all technical aspects of our company.


Your role has expanded as CEO while retaining your responsibilities as Chief Commercial Officer / Head of Sales is quite unique. How do you envision this dual role contributing to Spacetek’s growth and success?

In my opinion, every CEO needs to be a good salesperson. Even more for a company of our size, knowing about your customers’ pain points firsthand is super helpful in focusing on the single most important goal of the company: provide a product which can fix the most important problems of your customers.

So, on the one hand side, not much has changed to my previous function as Chief Commercial Officer. I continue to build and lead the sales team to bring projects and opportunities to the technical team in Switzerland. On the other hand, one of my key talents is finding structure in an ambiguous environment. That helps me to plan well ahead which in turn gives the team the maximum amount of time and concentration to be creative and deliver on our core promises.

Who initiated this organizational change? Looking back, what would you describe as the hardest part of this reorganization?

Overall, I would say that there was no truly hard part about it. Every step of the new structure was a mutual decision. Since I joined the company in October 2022, we had very direct and honest discussions within the management team about our challenges, after several months of learning and preparation we raised the point in an informal session with the board. In that session, it became clear that we needed to work on our overall structure to address how we become more efficient as a team. Looking back, I would say that the hardest part was the ongoing fundraising which happened somewhat in parallel. With such a change, you would probably either do it before the fundraising or wait longer after closing. We were worried that the new investors who hadn’t signed their commitment at the time would see this as a negative factor in the investment process. We decided that our board would proactively address this topic with them to get alignment early on… and as it turned out, they didn’t walk away, but listened and supported our plan.

As the founder of Spacetek, how does Jürg Jost’s transition to focusing primarily on technical aspects impact the company’s strategic direction and innovation efforts?

From my personal point of view, I would say that the change had a liberating effect on Jürg’s agenda. It gave him more time to dive deeper into the technical topics and lead the technical team more directly than before. This focus was needed for the phase that our company is currently entering. We have several large qualification projects running in parallel with each project having its technical challenges, for me it is good to know that Jürg keeps an overview and knows in detail where we can make smart decisions to leverage on synergies where we can.

As for the strategic direction, Jürg has held a seat on the board of directors since October 2023, so he keeps also a high-level perspective on the company.

Michael Gabi’s promotion to Chief Product Officer reflects a commitment to product innovation. What key initiatives or areas of focus do you anticipate under his leadership?

You are right and especially as a young company; innovation is the reason for our existence. Mike’s focus is not only refining the products which are in use, but also to continuously innovate on our core technology. With the current speed of development, I would say we are revising the underlying platform probably every 12 to 18 months. I mean from the original prototype, the steps were even larger, but even after five years we are consistently integrating the learnings from our key installations to think longer-term about elements for our volume products.

If we would simplify our instrument, you could say it consists of three modules. The analyzer, the electronic control unit and the analytics software. So you can imagine his area of focus is actually quite versatile; you have to be an outstanding engineer to be able to have the bandwidth to cut through the complexity of the various modules.

Lukas Hofer’s appointment as “Master Inventor and Head of Research and Development” sounds intriguing. Could you shed light on the significance of this role and its implications for Spacetek’s future projects and technologies?

Lukas has been part of the core team since Spacetek’s inception in 2018. Job titles only go so far, but in reality, Lukas has been the brain of the analyzer unit and thoroughly understands our key technology. He is a true expert in the area of time-of-flight mass spectrometry and in combination with the tasks of Mike, he is the source of most of our inventions to date and most likely beyond.

Bernhard Seewer’s decision to shift his operational focus outside of Spacetek raises questions about the company’s IT-related strategies and operations. How do you plan to address this transition and ensure continuity in IT-related matters?

Actually, Bernhard is still supporting Spacetek with a part-time role. He still leads our IT activities and continues to be an integral part of the early co-founder group.

Will the board of Spacetek remain the same or will there be changes, too?

Our board changed with the closing of the seed-financing round quite a bit. We could welcome Pär Lange (Swisscom Ventures) and Jascha Forster (Spectrum Value Management) as new board members (together with Jürg Jost as the founders’ representative). Christian Studer who is part of the board of directors since 2020 became the chairman. Victoria Lietha from Swisscom Ventures acts as a board observer. Overall, as CEO I am very happy to have such a powerful group as “sparring partners” in our endeavour to bring the company to the next level.

Looking ahead, what are the key milestones or objectives that Spacetek aims to achieve in the upcoming year, considering these organizational changes and developments?

To be honest, when I reflected over Christmas about the last year, I was so relieved that we could complete not only our financing round but also conclude the administrative changes. This left us with nothing but determination to focus on our three most important goals this year: firstly, we work to deliver on our key pilot installations with leading semiconductor companies. Secondly, we continue to build our company culture and welcome new team members (as we are now more than 20 people in the company and across several countries, this task becomes much more relevant than with a handful of people all in one location). Last but not least, we have to balance our financial runway with an outlook to 2025. Two months into the new year, I would say (with some caution of course) that we are on a good track…

How can the Swiss Startup Association support startups like Spacetek?

From my own perspective, I think it’s great to become part of a bigger network and such a live ecosystem. Switzerland holds great potential of talented entrepreneurs. For you as the Swiss Startup Association, I would say any chance you see to expand this network, share its knowledge among its members, and personal partnerships among the group is very rewarding for entrepreneurs across all industries.


Connect with Maximilian, and find Spacetek here.


Other, related articles you may like

Become a member today

Join us as a member and enjoy various benefits that will take your startup to the next level!

Join the movement!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Other things in mind than becoming Enabler? Don't worry, leave your email address and we'll get back to you soon.