By Antoine Pradayrol
Our first pitch event of the new decade took place at the beautifully appointed Conduit Club in Mayfair, London. The room was literally packed with a uniquely eager audience of green angel investors, who were treated to five top-quality pitches from five ambitious businesses.
This time, we had three start-up companies contributing to the essential transition towards zero-carbon transportation; and two working at saving an increasingly scarce resource, water:
If you would like to learn more about any of these five new opportunities, or about any of our other four live investment opportunities – Zeigo, Zedify, Power Roll and SGMA – please click here.
Agile Charging – Fast EV charging, anywhere
Ambition – Agile Charging aims at accelerating the growth in electric vehicle adoption by enabling fast EV charging, anywhere – thanks to its innovative charger that integrates battery storage and is easy to install and transport.
Market and business model – Electric vehicle charging is a large and exploding market. It is worth £49bn globally and, within this, the company’s Serviceable Obtainable Market in the UK is estimated at £165m. National Grid estimates that the UK needs 50k new fast chargers p.a.
However, installation of a charger at a commercial site, a public sector office or a depot can be difficult due to (i) power supply limitations, (ii) short site tenures and (iii) the inability to redeploy (move) the charger at a later date. Agile provides a solution to these problems, with a charger that requires no power supply upgrade and is simple to install (it plugs into a standard mains connection); is smart (modular battery storage with 10-20kWh units; open API architecture); and is portable, but also durable and weatherproof.
Source: Agile Charging
What it’s achieved so far – In 2017, Agile Charging won two Innovate UK grants to develop its TRL5 prototype, and in 2018, a BEIS EFF grant for its Beta TRL7 prototype. The company is supported by Sustainable Ventures and raised a £120k pre-seed investment in 2019. The product’s industrial design is being finalised (TRL9). Agile Charging is ready for commercialisation and has received confirmed interest from car rental firms, automotive manufacturers, local authorities and energy utilities. The company has prepared multiple patent filings.
Team – Chris Morris (Executive Director) is a highly successful entrepreneur in the sustainable space, co-founder of Sustainable Ventures and founder & MD of E-Car Club which successfully exited in 2015. David Kaye (Commercial Director) has 10+ years’ experience in cleantech business development. Tony Duffin (Technical Director) has 30+ years’ experience in low carbon technology, including at Powervault.
Exit – The team foresees an exit in 3-5 years via a trade sale to a charge point OEM, an energy storage specialist of a power utility.
Fundraise – Raising £500k (EIS) to expand the team (electrical engineering, sales and operations), and to commence manufacturing and achieve early sales. The company expects a £1.5m Series A round in 2021 to enable mass manufacturing and full commercialisation.
Furo Systems – Direct to consumer electric bikes and scooters
Ambition – Furo Systems is designing and delivering elegant, practical and high-performance electric bikes and electric scooters. The company’s vision is to give people a new sense of freedom and independence in their city.
Market and business model – The European market for e-bikes is a multi-billion pound one, and growing fast; the e-scooter market is smaller but also growing very fast, particularly in continental Europe (in the UK, riding an e-scooter is currently not allowed either on the road or on the pavement, although the company expects this to change).
To differentiate in that very active market, Furo Systems is positioning itself with high-end e-bikes and e-scooters, but at significantly lower prices than competition thanks to optimised designs and to a direct to consumer business model – whilst keeping very satisfactory gross margins.
Source: Furo Systems
What it’s achieved so far – Furo made its first sales in 2018 and grew its revenue to £748k in 2019, representing a total of 600 e-bikes and e-scooters delivered, mainly in the UK, France and Belgium. Customers’ reviews are consistently excellent, with a 5* rating on Trustpilot.
Team – The ambitious team includes co-founder and CEO Eliott Wertheimer (MEng Aerospace Engineering) and CTO Albert Nassar (MEng Mechanical Engineering), who both also have a MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management from Imperial College London.
Exit – The cycling industry is undergoing a wave of consolidation. The Furo Systems team expects that this ongoing trend will provide significant opportunities for an exit via a trade sale.
Fundraise – Raising £1m, to finance the development of the team but also to build inventory, continue product development and increase efforts in marketing & PR.
XeroE – On-demand, emission-free deliveries
Ambition – XeroE was founded to accelerate the transition to zero-emission deliveries in cities, starting with London.
Market and business model – Demand for deliveries is growing fast globally, representing a total market expected to reach £13bn by 2021 in the UK alone, of which £400m for same-day deliveries just in London. Diesel-fuelled delivery vans are dangerous contributors to urban air pollution, as toxic gases (NOx) and particulate matters are a proven and growing cause of premature deaths.
The solution is to move to emission-free deliveries, using e-bikes, e-trikes, electric cars and vans. Yet, there is a lack of simple solution for companies and individuals to book emission-free deliveries – and this is what XeroE is proposing. The company aggregates supply from many zero-emission delivery providers and regroups them on a single platform where customers can book. The business model includes a subscription fee charged to drivers and a take on delivery revenues.
What it’s achieved so far – In 2019, XeroE has raised pre-seed investment from Bethnal Green Ventures, completed a London MVP trial and developed a sustainability-reporting algorithm with Imperial College London.
Team – Steve Evans (MBA Imperial College) is founder and CEO, bringing decades of experience as CEO/MD of marketing agencies.
Exit – The company targets a trade sale in five years, to a tech or logistic/mobility company.
Fundraise – Raising £500k to finance the app development and support and to recruit drivers and clients over the coming years.
Propelair – The world’s lowest water flush toilet
Ambition – Propelair aims at being the world’s leading water efficient toilet. In five years’ time, the company wants to be installing more than 50k toilets and save over 13bn litres of water per annum.
Market and business model – In the UK, there are 12m out-of-home toilets, and Propelair’s addressable target market represents 410k units per year. However, the company will also target water-stressed countries and regions such as South Africa, Australia and the Middle East.
Current toilets represent half of the water usage in commercial premises – and Propelair’s solution, based on compressed air, reduces that water usage drastically, requiring only 1.5 litres per flush. Contrary to vacuum-based solutions, Propelair toilets can be connected to existing drains, and also have benefits in terms of hygiene and time to refill. The payback for businesses is quick (<1 to 3 years) thanks to the massive water savings (-83%) and lower maintenance costs.
What it’s achieved so far – Since 2014, the company has sold more than 3,500 units. Propelair has successfully completed a large-scale trial with the University of Exeter and secured commercial contracts with large clients such as Moto (motorway stations) and McDonalds. The company has already passed £2m in cumulative sales, and its 170 customers save 875m litres of water each year.
Team – The very experienced management team at the helm of Propelair since 2018 includes David Hollander (CEO), ex-Dyson UK&I and ex-CEO of Aqualisa, Anthony Jones (CFO) and James Surgeon (Commercial director).
Exit – The team foresees an exit to a strategic buyer in three to five years’ time.
Fundraise – Raising £3.2m to fund continued growth, including inventory acquisition; innovation, product improvement, tooling and IP; as well as commercial development – including geographic expansion. Existing shareholders are expected to provide a significant portion of this round.
StormHarvester – Smart drainage systems
Ambition – StormHarvester has developed automated monitoring and control systems for drainage infrastructure, enabling optimised water management and environmental improvement – for example avoiding catastrophic and polluting flooding.
Market and business model – StormHarvester sees a £6bn market for its services, which target two broad types of applications: (i) a solution for incorporating rainwater harvesting and management into flood attenuation tanks in new building developments; and (ii) a sophisticated system to help water companies manage their entire sewage systems.
The company's software uses artificial intelligence to predict the behaviour of the systems that it manages, taking weather forecasts as key input – and then acts on these predictions to activate valves and pumps that manage water flows.
In new building developments, StormHarvester’s technology enables the rainwater harvesting and flood attenuation systems to be combined – generating a payback for the customer by enabling savings on up-front capital cost and on water sewage fees. With water companies operating sewage systems, Stormharvester seeks to charge an annual SaaS fee to help them manage the system.
What it’s achieved so far – StormHarvester has developed partnerships two leading providers of rainwater harvesting systems and has negotiated an exclusive pan-European partnership with one of the world’s largest suppliers of plastic pipes, Wavin, opening a number of high-profile commercial opportunities. For its urban sewerage system, StormHarvester has secured a number of paid trials with water utilities, in the UK but also in Germany, Belgium and Italy. Based on a UK trial, the system has demonstrated a 96% accuracy in its predictions.
Team – Brian Moloney (founder and MD) has 12 years’ experience as a drainage engineer. Neil Macdonald (co-founder and Commercial Manager) has co-founded three successful start-ups.
Exit – The most likely exit is via a trade sale to a partner, with StormHarvester acting as a potentially attractive add-on purchase to an existing product range.
Fundraise – Raising £500-750k to continue developing the product and enhance commercial efforts.