“My filter does not only remove kitchen and sweat smells, but also pollen and bacteria.”
“I love things that don’t exist yet,” says Martin van der Sluis (35). Since his revolutionary air filter PlasmaMade was certified earlier this year, he has sold thousands of these. Next year, he argues, he will sell at least 20,000. Also internationally, because two weeks ago, the first filter was sold in Hong Kong. It goes fast, but Van der Sluis stays realistic. “It is exciting now, but I have a thousand other ideas.”
At the industrial area in Staphorst, nothing shows that anything special is happening behind the dull front of Van der Sluis RVS. But once you’re inside, you immediately see an original new kitchen island. To a curved black metal undercarriage, a thick, irregular slab of wood is attached, which features black gas hubs here and there. The bottom floor is also filled with small boxes. These loose hubs are a part of Van der Sluis’ already sold invention Pittcooking; the boxes contain new filters.
Van der Sluis, who took a technological course for two years even after his part-time metallurgy training, is a practical inventor. “Because my son has asthma, I bought a small machine that cleans the air years ago. That made me think. Since my firm has been making kitchens for years, I have combined a great number of existing techniques in order to create a new filter for cooker hoods: plasma, ionisation, UV-light, carbon, etc. The development took four years. Afterward, I’ve been working for a year with certification agency TÜV. PlasmaMade does use electricity, but can even be used in the bathroom.
At the Health Care Institute in Poland, the Polish distributor of Van der Sluis had the filter examined, and the testing space was clear of bacteria within one hour, whereas this took 24 hours with other means. “The filter does not only remove cooking smells, but also sweat smells, cigarette smoke, bacteria, viruses and pollen. It is suitable for homes, but also sport schools, hospitals, and other spaces. I am now working on a solution for a chicken farm.”
According to Van der Sluis, the development of the filter has cost at least 500.000 euros. This does not take into account the time invested. The sale of the filters, which takes place at an established price of 749 euros, should hit the break-even point at the end of next year, after which investment will be earned back.
Van der Sluis has been haunted with phone calls ever since he introduced this filter on the market. “All producers of cooker hoods want to buy my invention, but only for their own brand and I don’t want that: this technology must be accessible to all. A little while ago, someone offered me a lot of money. I didn’t accept this because I don’t want to sell yet. Investors don’t mind investing a few thousands of euros in return for a couple per cent of the stock. ‘It goes faster then,’ they say, but why would I? It’s not about speed for me.”
Van der Sluis has created a separate company for PlasmaMade. “Of course it is my intention to sell eventually,” he says. “But I do not want to do that yet. It is still exciting.” He knows that Atag, producer of kitchen products, was sold some years ago for 130 million euros. He claims that PlasmaMade is “definitely worth something”. But what if he gets a 20 million offer tomorrow? “I would have trouble declining this, because that is a lot of money. I’ll see. At some point someone will tell me that the fun is over.”
PlasmaMade is still entirely owned by Van der Sluis. “Staphorst, eh!” he says. “I started this firm fifteen years ago with one euro. I never borrowed from the bank. I have no debts, apart from my mortgage.” He has understood through Pittcooking which he founded with a partner, that external investors are important. After Van der Sluis had allowed himself to be bought out for a couple thousand euros, the buyer invested a great deal. “It’s nice to see how well the firm is doing now.” says Van der Sluis. But he has so much confidence in PlasmaMade that he does not need to sell right now.