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Conversation
Highlights

 

Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Antoine Welter, CEO & Co-Founder of Circu Li-ion, a battery upcycling company that has raised $8.5 Million in funding.

Here are the most interesting points from our conversation:

  • Antoine’s Entrepreneurial Journey: Born in Luxembourg and raised partly in the US, Antoine’s journey into entrepreneurship was influenced by early work experiences and a strong environmental ethos instilled by his mother. This background laid the foundation for his venture into solving global problems through technology and innovation.
  • Identifying the Problem: Circu Li-ion addresses the premature end-of-life recycling of batteries, a process that often sees batteries disposed of before their time. Their technology focuses on disassembling batteries to recycle components more effectively, tackling the “shit in, shit out” problem prevalent in the industry.
  • Innovative Solution: The company’s approach combines software and hardware to create a battery library, enabling robots to handle a high variability of batteries. This strategy allows Circu Li-ion to work across a spectrum of battery types, from e-bikes and scooters to electric vehicles and energy storage systems.
  • Business Model and Impact: Circu Li-ion operates on a B2B model, partnering with major recyclers and OEMs to implement their upcycling process. Their solution not only offers a more sustainable alternative to traditional battery recycling but also presents a cost-effective option for businesses, promising up to 40% in savings.
  • Scaling and Operations: The company’s growth strategy includes leveraging existing infrastructures to expand quickly and efficiently. By setting up small, modular processing units within partners’ facilities, Circu Li-ion aims to navigate the regulatory and logistical challenges of battery recycling.
  • Overcoming Challenges: Antoine shares insights into navigating lows in the startup journey, including losing and subsequently winning back a significant deal, and the complexities of operating in a heavily regulated space.

 

Actionable
Takeaways

Leverage Personal Experiences for Business Insights:

Antoine's early experiences with anti-consumption and environmental consciousness shaped his entrepreneurial journey. For founders, personal beliefs and experiences can be a powerful source of inspiration and differentiation. When looking for business ideas, reflect on personal values and how they can address global challenges.

Focus on Solving Big Problems with Simple Solutions:

Circu Li-ion addresses the complex issue of battery waste with a relatively straightforward approach — disassembling and recycling components. This highlights the importance of aiming to solve significant problems with solutions that, at their core, are simple and understandable. Founders should seek out big problems and consider if there is a simpler, overlooked solution.

Build a Flexible and Adaptable Technology Foundation:

The ability of Circu Li-ion's technology to handle a variety of battery types showcases the importance of building flexibility into your product from the start. Founders should consider how their solutions can be adaptable to different use cases or customer needs, potentially opening up new market opportunities.

Start with a Clear Economic Value Proposition:

Especially in B2B, the economic benefit of your solution is often the primary interest of potential customers. Antoine's strategy of leading with cost savings in the US market underscores the necessity of having a clear, compelling economic value proposition before layering on additional benefits like sustainability.

Use Existing Infrastructure for Scalability:

Circu Li-ion's strategy to scale by integrating their solution into existing facilities provides a model for rapid expansion without the burden of building from scratch. For startups in sectors where infrastructure is a barrier, partnering with established players can offer a pathway to scaling while mitigating risks and capital expenditure.

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