Making deals through the recession

Brian Ruby doesn't want you to take this the wrong way, but the recession has been good to him - or at least to his high-tech startup company, so far.

"This has been the absolute best time for us," Ruby, 25, said yesterday before the ribbon-cutting at his nine-person firm, Carbon Nanoprobes Inc., on Phoenixville Pike in East Whiteland, Chester County.

Because of the recession, Ruby said, he's been able to cut deals "that a year and a half ago we never would have been able to afford, and nobody would have funded."

Ruby's entrepreneurial tale begins in 2002 at Columbia University, where he studied engineering and came up with a system for making teeny-weenie structures called carbon nanoprobes.

In excess of $4 million later - money that Ruby said he raised from institutional and angel investors - he is ready to make and market nanoprobes. Researchers use them in the tips of multi-million-dollar atomic microscopes, where they act like little fingers reading the braille code of molecules used in medicines, computer chips, fabric coatings and solar cells.

"A few million dollars and a dozen patents later, we're actually pursuing the marketplace now," Ruby said.

Ruby, who hails from Westchester County, New York, said he picked Pennsylvania after being courted by state officials attempting to lure high-tech ventures - specifically in his case with the deal of a $500,000 investment as part of the Pennsylvania Initiative for Nanotechnology.

He picked the Chester County address for its proximity to the region's pharmaceutical corridor, and for the deal he was able to get on the real estate.

Profit, Ruby insisted yesterday, "is a very near-term occurrence."

"I'm no Marie Antoinette," he said, refering to the headless French royal's alleged quip about letting the poor eat cake if they couldn't afford bread. He understands the hardships the economic downturn has caused, and yet, "I'm not a complainer about the recession."

Mike Armstrong is away. Contact Reid Kanaley at 215-854-5114 or