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15-11-2013

15 ноября 2013 г.  “How Curiosity and Clean Energy Trends Fueled the EcoCat”  by Liz Elfman , http://1776dc.com/2013/11/15/how-curiosity-and-clean-energy-trends-fueled-the-ecocat  part of Challenge Cup series. To view more Challenge Cup news, visit the Challenge Cup website /

How Curiosity and Clean Energy Trends Fueled the EcoCat

By Liz Elfman

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Moscow-based EcoCat is a producer of catalytic heaters and filters, used for the decomposition of combustion products. Doing this eliminates heat exchange and forced ventilation, reducing heating costs by a factor of four.  The company is beyond the development stage and, at this point, has focused on commercializing.  During the last year, EcoCat received numerous awards for innovation in startup challenges and contest, including Russian Innovation Week and the Skolkovo Startup Village. 

And now we can add one more to that list: 1776 Challenge Cup finalist.  1776 got the chance to catch up with cofounder and CEO Sunchugashev - to discuss science and technology, the startup landscape in Russia, and  future world domination! 

 1776: How did you get the idea for EcoCat?

 Sunchugashev: The technology itself was developed by the Boreskov Institute of Catalysis of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk. EcoCat’s management had some previous experience in the fields of energy and technology, and we  were curious about combining our expertise to develop a product we felt was needed. Our management was educated at places like the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the USSR Academy of Sciences, and collectively we have experience in both large Russian corporations like RUSAL and MetalloInvest, and entrepreneurship as well.

1776: Are you funded?

Sunchugashev:  Currently we have an investment memorandum with the Russian Venture Company.  So far we received our first tranche of RUB 5 million, and we are expecting another one twice as large in the near future. What we are actually looking for is “smart money”—attracting investment funds with broad international experience to access overseas markets.

1776: Who do you see as competition in this space?

Sunchugashev: It may sound strange, but we do not see any competitors in either Russian or overseas markets in the coming years. Our technology is advanced and simple and is likely to be in demand. We do not set market monopoly as a target; rather, we are aiming to be acquired. We are in need of local partners like heating equipment manufacturers and engineering companies, who could quickly integrate our product in their technology processes.

1776: What are the general trends you’re seeing in your industry?

Sunchugashev: We see an increasing efficiency with transferring fossil fuel into energy. Catalytic heating is just a first step. Further out, we foresee the emergence of other industrial technologies—diaphragms, membranes, fuel cells and so on. On that horizon, Russian science (and our company as well) has many inventions to offer to the market.

1776:  are the biggest obstacles to innovation in your industry and for EcoCat?

Sunchugashev: The biggest issue is the challenge of promoting a pioneer invention on the market. The situation is similar to cellular phones—at first there are very few of them, then thousands and in the end they became ubiquitous. Another problem is the weakness of Russian producers; the market is filled mostly by Europeans. That is why we need partners with significant international manufacturing capacities.

1776: What was your Challenge Cup experience like?

Sunchugashev: The Challenge Cup gave us a phenomenal experience, and an opportunity to meet investors directly. We were able to demonstrate our passion for the product and willingness to drive it forward. For the Washington event we will be better prepared for interviews and maybe even contracts with U.S.-based investors and potential partners.

1776: What did you learn? What were some of your key takeaways?

Sunchugashev: A significant part of our team comes from an academic environment, though with experience in the energy sector in project management. Unfortunately, most of us lack the skill of public performances. The challenge focusing, briefly explaining the idea, hitting all the major points…all of this in a non-native language. The ability to practice doing this has really inspired our whole team!

1776: As a winner, what were some of the best parts of the Challenge Cup for you?

Sunchugashev: We learned a lot from other presenters—some of them made brilliant pitches—even though some didn’t make it to the finals. Also the way that some of them handled the jury questions was extremely informative.

 

This post is part of our Challenge Cup series. To view more Challenge Cup news, visit the Challenge Cup website

Liz Elfman is a D.C.-based writer, editor, and content strategist who tweets at @lizelfman.