Tales and Tips from the Winner’s Circle #3 Divea (formerly 2D Membranes)
As this year’s cohort prepares to pitch at the Regional Finals, we catch up with last year’s winners. Read on to see how they’ve progressed, what they’ve learned, and their golden tip for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Mojtaba Rezaei, Divea (formerly 2D Membranes), Switzerland
With their carbon capture technology, Divea targets the biggest industrial CO2 emitters, such as steel, cement, metal and gas production facilities. They created an innovative solvent-free graphene filter that captures CO2 at its source and will be cheaper and more energy efficient than the status quo.
What was special about your ClimateLaunchpad experience?
ClimateLaunchpad was a very compact and precise programme, so we could start making our first pitch deck. The trainers, coaches, and alumni really pushed us to refine our pitch deck, and that’s still the foundation that we use.
Our project is deep tech, so we needed a coach that understood the different sides of what we do: research, industry, climate, and business. In the beginning we focussed on the climate side, but through the coaching we realised that that was not the customer’s problem we were solving. The actual problem we needed to solve was to provide a cheaper and low-energy carbon capture technology.
Your biggest highlight since ClimateLaunchpad?
We have a new name! 2D Membranes has become Divea, with the help of graphic designers and identity designers, we have created a brand. We are officially beginning with the start-up in December, meaning also starting to fundraise.
In the meantime, the biggest development is that we have just opened a demonstrator plant in one of our industrial collaborator sites . When we started with ClimateLaunchpad the size of what we could do was very small. Now it’s 200-300 times bigger, and with this demonstrator, we can test the whole system. We’re no longer lab-size, now we’re getting real data.
What’s the hardest part of running a start-up?
When you start, the question that is always asked is “is this even possible?” We started our technology very small (at 1 mm2), and that was already an achievement. People said it wasn’t possible, but we moved on to create a filter that was 1cm2, and now we know it’s possible.
If you had a time machine, what would you tell your earlier self?
Think about creating a team first instead of doing experiments in the lab. In the beginning I did everything alone – business and research – and nothing got done. Then I found a partner to take over the business side, and from then on we could make significant progress on both fronts.
Tell us about your team
We have 3 full-time employees (including myself) at the moment, but after the demonstrator we will need to grow. Moving onwards, we want to manufacture filters – that means that we need to move out of the lab into a production line with the right equipment and the necessary finances. It’s a high gain, high risk project, but we believe in it and we want to find funders who do too.
We’ve just launched our demonstrator in Gaznat, which is a gas factory. We want to install more demonstrators in different industries, like steel and waste. That way we can get real life information and can show that our technology does work. We are also in discussions to have our own factory in 2 years. In 5 years we want to show that our membrane can be manufactured commercially in a roll-to-roll process. We have big dreams, but we believe in them.
And your golden tip(s) for this year’s cohort?
Listen to the coaches: Their advice may not be what you want to hear, but try to be open minded. Just try and see what happens – it could turn into something.
Most of all, relax!