It typifies the startup’s mentality when we ask whether Spintone might have collapsed without a Corona Bridging Loan (COL). “Yes,” said founder and general manager Michael Ravensbergen, “both financially and the delay and loss of suppliers slowed our development.”
Ravensbergen is both determined and thoughtful in the interview. This is common if the production process is not understood by 99 percent of the people, as with the Sneker Spintone. He no longer has to think deeply about the quantum mechanical aspects of the process by which Spintone removes CO2 and methane from the air and then turns them into graphene. The hesitation and thoughtfulness remains only when he tries to explain the process clearly to the layman.
When COL is discussed, Ravensbergen doesn’t hesitate. “Chapeau and hats off“, is repeated several times. “Which government can arrange such a scheme so quickly?” he states.
“It had to be fast, digital, targeted, and they had no experience with anything like that. At the same time, you know that no party other than the government can take up such a scheme. Chapeau”
Spintone had to report to the NOM, the northern counter for the COL. Spintone asked for 200,000 euros and received 100,000. “The NOM has insight into the number of applications and we do not, so such a decision can happen” Ravensbergen observes. Spintone was given a prognosis: how far they could get with this money? And the check was 60 days later. Ravensbergen: ,,That was yesterday. Questions where asked like ‘what has been promised and what have you done with it’. Control was good, healthy and real”
We too have to take a step back
Ravensbergen praises the way in which the scheme was implemented. In no time the deal was settled, even if it was a ton less than predetermined. Ravensbergen. “I thought for a moment: should I protest or not? I didn’t say anything purely out of respect. I just said: fantastic, we can continue. You have to realize that it is a joint effort. We too have to have to take a step back.”
The COL did lead to a spin-off for Spintone: the NOM. Ravensbergen: “Thanks to the COL, unknown innovative companies, such as us, are also emerging. Flinc (part of the NOM) immediately asked if they could guide us. Great, because they have experience there. “”
Five years costs and no turnover
Spintone is now facing the next phase. After five years of R&D – with only costs and no turnover – it is time to hit the market. Ravensbergen: “Doing something disruptive is one thing, building a large organization is two. That requires twice as much energy. You need a good team for that. We are now building on that”
The time of “looking at future losses” is thus behind Spintone. The underlying period is that of a startup with a great idea and a great perspective, while the ongoing question is how to make a complicated technology available for everyone.
Spintone plays a role in climate change
Safety plays a major role in this, safe from one stage to the next, says Ravensbergen, because safety is of the utmost importance to guide Spintone through the tense times of crisis and industry 4.0 Spintone’s viability serves even greater importance, as the company can play a role in global climate change.
The start-up from Sneek operates in two sectors that resonate in the crisis and industry 4.0: Quantum physics and Nano materials. “We use a converter to transform greenhouse gases into nano-material, or advanced materials” says Ravensbergen. “It is matter that cannot be seen with the eye and that makes it difficult to explain”
CO2 and Methane become Graphene
Ravensbergen immediately sounds a lot more thoughtful. How does he explains clearly to the layman what Spintone does? An impossible task. The big picture is important: CO2 and Methane are converted into Graphene. Graphene is a single layer of Carbon atoms with impressive properties, 200 times stronger than steel and unsurpassed as a thermal and electrical conductor. It is ideally suited as a replacement for the non-sustainable Li-Ion batteries, as a product in so-called “solid state capacitors” (It stores just as much energy as a battery, but absorbs and is able to build up and down the energy much faster).
Spintone is on the eve of a breakthrough. But the climate problem could be much bigger than a solution like Spintone, Ravensbergen suspects. “We will only make it when general awareness increases, if we learn to act nature-related,” he says.
Don’t give in
That is why he also looks at the long term. There were opportunities to sell Spintone to large American and Chinese companies, “But we don’t give in to big money. We can use one raw material to make a battery that will last 40 to 50 years and is biodegradable. That is Spintone’s existence”
Corona is a bummer for Spintone, just like for many other companies. For example, a foreign investor could not come to the Netherlands for a signature on the second tranche of his investment. “We have to adapt and therefore change“, says Ravensbergen. And of course, making good choices and staying “steady“, he says: “But thats obvious”