This week in our Startup Spotlight blog series is our 2022 XTC Cleantech & Energy Category Runner-Up – BeFC!
Interviewed and Edited by John Martin
Six Questions for Dr. Jules Hammond – CEO and Co-Founder, BeFC
Jules received Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees in Electronic Engineering from the University of Bath, UK after which he joined Serge Cosnier’s research group at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Grenoble to work on novel biofuel cells. That led to the founding of BeFC (Bioenzymatic Fuel Cells) SAS in 2020.
1. What problem is BeFC solving and how?
BeFC tackles polluting and unecological miniature batteries – sometimes called “coin/button cell batteries” – in low-power electronics. An estimated 15 billion primary batteries are disposed of every year, with a staggering 97% of miniature batteries ending up in landfill or being incinerated. Our vision is to replace such batteries for low-power electronics in markets such as Healthcare/Medical, Logistics, IoT, and Wearables.
2. What is your background that led you to founding BeFC?
I was into electronics straight from secondary school. By the time I got to the doctoral level, I was working on nanofabricated biosensors at the University of Bath, UK. During this time, I co-founded a startup on silicon carbide switching electronics for dynamic configuration of energy elements. I was inspired by the intersection of bioelectronics and energy, so after my PhD, I joined Serge Cosnier’s research group at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Grenoble to work on implantable biofuel cells based on enzymes. That became the eponymous BeFC startup.
3. What is unique about your technology and what is its validation status?
BeFC is empowering low-power electronics with an organic, eco-responsible energy solution. BeFC produces paper-based biofuel cells that focus on bio-sourced and bio-based materials; they are lightweight, flexible and thin. BeFC built a patent portfolio of more than 30 patents.
4. What are your Go-To-Market ideas and traction received so far?
BeFC is a B2B solution provider, meaning it currently provides bespoke solutions to meet the needs of its innovative clients. We started in 2020 with two joint development agreements and were able to raise €3M in seed funding. Today we have 12 joint development agreements with the target to serve our clients millions of units per year in the next two years.
5. What’s next?
We are pleased that our product development and continued scaling of our processes for pre-industrialization enabled us to close a €16M Series A round in June. We now have support from the French state (via Bpifrance) to build our first factory (Première Usine) for just over €17M. With this funding, we will be preparing machines that could offer a capacity of one million units per day over the next few years via roll-to-roll (R2R) manufacturing technologies whilst ensuring we continue to innovate. BeFC will soon be starting new pilots with leading industry players to create a smart and sustainable future.
6. Tell us about your experience with XTC and what were the benefits/takeaways?
It is imperative that startups with disruptive and innovative technologies have a stage to showcase. With Extreme Tech Challenge, BeFC received expert guidance and support to refine our pitch, to connect with key opinion leaders across relevant industries and present in front of top investors. While a finalist in 2021, we were making such progress, we came back again in 2022 and rose to Runner-Up in our category, which gave us the opportunity to present at incredible events such as TechCrunch Startup Battlefield. Pace is an advantage of a startup, but whilst alone you can go fast, together we can go farther.
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