A profile story about the ClimateLaunchpad 2021 global third place winner Qaptis
“During the competition we learned how to structure our idea and turn it into a potential business and how to communicate it to others. We learned how to master building a good pitch deck. It was a safe environment to learn from our trainer and coaches and to share our experience with the other participants.”
Qaptis from Switzerland won third place in our Global Grand Final 2021. We interviewed CEO and co-founder Théodore Caby about that win and his entrepreneurial journey so far.
Congratulations, you are the world’s third best cleantech start-up of our 2021 cohort. Tell us a bit more about your business.
“In a nutshell: we sell carbon capture kits for the freight industry to capture up to 90% of carbon emissions. It is a solution for both the truck and maritime industry.”
Up to 90% that sounds impressive, how does your technology work?
“Basically, we transform conventional trucks into low-emission vehicles with a plug-in kit that captures carbon. We can use the same principle for ships. Our patented technology extracts the heat from the exhaust gases and uses it to absorb and then release the CO2 that is physically attached.
We use part of the heat we recover to run compressors to liquefy CO2 and store it on board.”
How did you come up with the idea?
“Our story begins with my professor at EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne), François Maréchal. He’s an expert in system integration and one of our co-founders. He developed this idea, because he – along with many actors in the freight industry – was frustrated that there was no solution that could quickly decarbonise the industry. The available hydrogen and electric solutions for trucks are slow and expensive to deploy. Hydrogen trucks require infrastructure changes and electric trucks are simply not suitable for long distance. He worked on the idea for about a year and a half and that resulted in the current patent. He wanted to transfer this academic knowledge and work to the business world as there is a huge market demand and he recognized the potential for massive climate impact. Our kit turns trucks and ships into low-emission vehicles in a very short time without huge investments. The industry can still use its existing fleet while capturing 90% of its carbon emissions.”
“Our core business is not about harvesting and liquefying CO2, we want to complete the whole carbon loop.”
What is it like in the freight industry? And who are your competitors?
“A lot of freight companies are looking for new technologies and solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. We got invited to present at a European Freight Leaders forum along with other innovative solutions. What we experienced there is that companies are starting to realise that they need to decarbonise, there is real momentum for low carbon solutions. As for the competition, we have one competitor in the USA and it is a good thing to see them also progressing and developing a similar product. We need more solutions and more players in the market.”
What are important aspects to consider for your technology?
“Our core business is not about harvesting and liquefying CO2, we want to complete the entire carbon loop. The important part is what we do with the CO2 after capture; we have to provide solutions for our customers. We are looking for long term sequestration pathways, such as mineralisation of CO2 in brick, concrete and cement. That is a good option for us because of the purity and quantity required and the positive climate impact it creates. Currently concrete and cement producers are already using CO2 in their products. Our work is to set up local ecosystems that will use the captured CO2. For example, a cement truck fitted with our product will use the captured CO2 in the cement. Or take the agricultural industry, they use CO2 to heat greenhouses and sustain their crops. We are discussing with technology providers that can help us set up these local ecosystems. Our long-term goal is to provide solutions for trucks to offload captured CO2 while they load fuel.”
“ClimateLaunchpad gives you the basic knowledge and skills to structure your idea and to become an entrepreneur.”
So this all started with your professor, how did you get involved and how did the team get started?
“Late 2020 Francois Marechal started forming the team and early 2021 we were up and running. So it is the three of us working within the start-up, I am doing this together with Yves Loerincik and Masoud Talebi Amiri. We didn’t know each other beforehand; our link was Francois, who was our professor.”
How was it starting a company with people you didn’t really know?
“We had a good feeling about each other when we first met and we just got started. During COVID lockdowns it was difficult to meet, but we did manage a few in-person meetings to get to know each other. We discovered that our personalities and skills complement each other. As for any start-up we soon realised it is important to share a common understanding and common dream and we have been able to create that.”
How did you come to apply to ClimateLaunchpad?
“My co-founder Masoud had been involved in another ClimateLaunchpad edition a few years ago. As this is the first time for Yves and myself to become entrepreneurs, he figured that ClimateLaunchpad would set a solid basis for our journey.”
How was your fully virtual experience during ClimateLaunchpad? Any surprises?
“The biggest challenge in the beginning was to attend it all entirely virtual. Particularly with Boot Camp when you don’t know the other people and sessions last for four hours, that is intense. But once we recognized the quality of the coaches and materials, we started to open up. It was easier with the pre-recorded pitches, because you could perfect your pitch video, and you improve your pitching. That was less stressful than pitching live.”
How different is your start-up now, from before you joined ClimateLaunchpad? What has changed?
“First of all, we changed the name. The original name was Carbon Free Truck, but as the kit can be applied to all internal combustion engines, that name was too narrow. We needed a more generic image and market. During the competition we learned how to structure our idea and turn it into a potential business and how to communicate it to others. It was difficult to master building a good pitch deck. It was a safe environment to learn from our trainer Paris Thomas and from our coaches and to share our experience with the other participants. ClimateLaunchpad really helped me with pitching skills.
How would you describe the ClimateLaunchpad experience? Why should anyone join ClimateLaunchpad?
“There are lots of resources on the internet and books, but ClimateLaunchpad gives you the basis and confidence to build a first foundation for your start-up. I would highly recommend ClimateLaunchpad, because it gives you the basic knowledge and skills to structure your idea and to become an entrepreneur.”
What’s next for your business?
“In December we did the EIT Climate-KIC Dealstream where we pitched in front of investors. Afterwards we were approached by three investors, so that really was worth it. Currently we are developing our proof of concept. By the third quarter of 2022 it will be operational and that will help us gather more data on how effective and efficient our solution is. That will help us prepare for our seed round by the end of 2022.”
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
“By then we will have a few thousand Qaptis products up and running in the truck market, and hopefully other markets. We hope to see the freight industry significantly decarbonising and that Qaptis is a big part of making that possible.”
As of Monday 14 March, Qaptis will launch a crowdfunding campaign to finalise and test their prototype. To participate in the campaign: https://wemakeit.com/projects/qaptis-co2-free-trucks
(Active from 14 March – 13 April 2022 )
The ClimateLaunchpad programme in Switzerland was organised by our National Partner, Startup Academy Switzerland. The competition in Europe is supported by the Climate-KIC International Foundation and the Bank of America.
Watch Qaptis’ pitch during the 2021 Global Grand Final:Tags: Bootcamp, cleantech, Climate Change, Global Grand Final, global impact, start-ups