Turning waste heat into energy
On a mission to save 500,000 tonnes of CO2e by 2022.
Big things are happening for our 2017 finalist Capricorn Power. Not only did they just close a major seed round and obtained a $300,000 government grant, also their revenue forecast for 2018/19 is a whopping $3.3 million.
“We were introduced to the key investor for this seed round through the ClimateLaunchpad network.”
They create a new sustainable source of electricity that they want to roll out globally. How? Their technology turns waste heat into an on-site combined heat and power (CHP) solution. The heat can come from flare gas (landfill, waste water or food waste) or furnaces (green waste). Their system is remotely operated, eliminating waste and just selling heat and power, so there’s no risk, hassle or capex for customers.
Very efficient technology
“Our invention is a thermo-dynamic process based on the Brayton cycle that turns heat into electricity very efficiently,” says Mike Hodgkinson, Chief Commercial Officer at Capricorn. “We use the energy from an external heat source to drive a piston engine, that then drives an electric generator. The technology is more about the simplicity and efficiency of the process that it is about hardware, which is virtually all repurposed off-the-shelf components from the energy and auto-industry’s. For example, the engine base of our prototype is a second-hand Opel engine.”
“If a potential customer isn’t prepared to make some type of commitment, it’s important to stop wasting time on them.”
Funding and the financial close with first customer
“We are in very different place than we were six months ago. We closed our seed round, obtained a $300,000 government grant that enabled financial close with our first customer, I’ve moved from part-time to full-time and we’ve just hired our first non-founder employee. Plus, we’ve started using proper business systems like accounting and knowledge management.
We’re presently building and by mid 2018 we will install our first heat engine for our first customer, Geelong Cemetery Trust, crematorium heat. Furthermore, we’ve obtained letters or support and MOU’s from four other customers that we’re progressing to financial close. And there’s more in the pipeline that we’re yet to obtain written commitments from. In this energy space each customer sale is worth over a million-dollars, and the focus on ‘early adopters’ is really important.”
The mission: install 50 MWe and save 500,000 tonnes of CO2e by 2022.
Capricorns socioeconomic impact is broad. They provide regional jobs and development, customer electricity and gas cost savings, electricity network support, waste reduction and local manufacturing for a region transitioning away from auto manufacturing.
Savings can include methane avoided from green waste, renewable electricity displacing mainly brown coal-fired generation in Victoria, renewable hot water displacing gas and bio char storing carbon.
Trusted relationships, word of mouth and PR
“In our business the face to face networking and leveraging off our partner’s existing, trusted relationships with their customers has been critical for obtaining ‘early adopter’ customers. More broadly, entering a competition like ClimateLaunchpad has been great for investor networking. As we grow and move beyond early adopters we expect word of mouth and PR activities will be our major marketing source of customer acquisition.”
“It was cool to make it to the 2017 Finals in Cyprus!”
The networking, training and market focus really helps
“We’re a fairly experienced team, with multiple start-up experiences, but we still gained a lot out of the ClimateLaunchpad experience. The networking, training and PR – it all helped in building our business. Putting everything into a cleantech context is valuable, as ‘hard tech’ is different. Competing also helped us improve our market focus, messaging and communication. And of course, it was cool to make the finals in Cyprus!
“The network may lead to investors, partners or future employees.”
Joining ClimateLaunchpad led to many changes in our idea, including a more focused target market and improving our communication. The thing that resonated the most for me was the discussion around the ‘mum test’ for customer acquisition because ‘false positive’ customers are such a big problem in my experience. If a potential customer isn’t prepared to make some type of commitment, then it’s important to stop wasting time on them and find someone that is.”
You can have different reasons for joining
“Everyone will be in a slightly different situation and have different reasons for joining. The knowledge gained from the training may be the most useful part for some, for others it might be about the mentoring, and still others may find that the network leads them to find investors, partners or future employees.”