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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 Berk Birand, CEO & Co-Founder of Fero Labs, an AI-powered profitable sustainability platform that has raised $28 Million in funding.

Here are the most interesting points from our conversation:

  • Transition from Academia to Startup: Berk discusses the challenges and learning curves of moving from an academic background in electrical engineering and computer science to founding a tech startup, emphasizing the significant shift in roles from researcher to entrepreneur.
  • Foundational Motivation: The core motivation behind Fero Labs was to apply Berk’s technical expertise to tackle real-world problems, particularly in making industrial processes more sustainable and efficient, highlighting the importance of impact in their entrepreneurial journey.
  • Evolving Sustainability Focus: Although sustainability wasn’t as prominent in 2015, Fero Labs always aimed to align sustainability with profitability. This approach has gained traction as businesses increasingly recognize the importance of integrating these objectives.
  • AI from Day One: Fero Labs has been an AI-focused company since its inception, aimed at applying AI to the industrial sector to improve sustainability and efficiency. Berk emphasizes the importance of explainable AI for building trust and understanding in their solutions.
  • Acquiring First Customers: The story of securing their first paying customers highlights the challenges of convincing traditional industries to adopt new AI-driven solutions. It showcases the importance of finding champions within customer organizations who believe in the startup’s vision.
  • Future Vision: Looking ahead, Berk envisions Fero Labs as the intelligence layer atop the industrial sector’s hardware infrastructure, optimizing not just individual factories but the entire industrial ecosystem for better sustainability and efficiency.



Leverage Academic Skills in Entrepreneurship:

Transitioning from academia to entrepreneurship involves a steep learning curve, but the research, writing, and grant application skills you've honed can be invaluable in selling complex technical concepts and securing funding for your startup.

Emphasize Impact Alongside Innovation:

When founding a tech company, especially in sectors like sustainability, focus on how your technology can make a real-world impact. This not only motivates you and your team but also resonates with customers and investors looking for meaningful advancements.

Integrate Profitability with Sustainability Goals:

Early on, identify and articulate how your solution not only addresses sustainability challenges but also enhances profitability for your clients. This dual value proposition is increasingly becoming a necessity for businesses across sectors.

Educate Your Market:

In emerging or conservative sectors, part of your go-to-market strategy should involve educating potential customers about the feasibility and benefits of your technology. Use transparent communication to build trust and demonstrate the practical application of your solution.

Never Underestimate the Power of Early Adopters:

Securing your first few customers will likely be challenging, but finding and nurturing early adopters who are willing to take a chance on your solution can be pivotal. Their feedback and success stories can serve as a powerful tool for scaling and attracting more customers.

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