We talked to Andrey Shigaev, CEO of Geyser Batteries Oy, about the manufacturing of non-lithium batteries.
The Finnish cleantech startup develops and manufactures a new class of high-power, water-based, non-lithium batteries capable of over one million fast charging cycles even at ultra-low ambient temperatures. Thanks to the use of aqueous electrolytes and novel electrochemistry, Geyser Batteries’ products have the lowest carbon footprint across the industry; they are fully fire-safe and competitively priced.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Andrey Shigaev: Naturally, these times bring uncertainty to all of us, but compared to many players in the market, we at Geyser Batteries are doing well. The past year was somewhat slower than expected business-wise, mainly due to travel restrictions, but our company has anyhow reached some important milestones during these COVID-19 times. Just to mention but a few, we have finished the design of the automated manufacturing process, started important piloting projects with our key customers, and been able to grow our business development team.
Finland is comparatively safe COVID-wise, so luckily, all of us are safe and sound, which is the most important thing.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Geyser Batteries Oy.
Andrey Shigaev: Starting my career from a Ph.D. in Physics, I have gone a long way through technology transfer and venture capital roles, a leadership position in a major international infrastructure project to high-tech entrepreneurship, and ultimately leading to the foundation of Geyser Batteries Oy. My passion always lies in unlocking value through innovation, efficient execution, and the relentless pursuit of success of my team. For starting up Geyser Batteries, I was one of the first persons to receive the Finnish Startup Permit, endorsed by Business Finland.
Geyser Batteries was officially established in 2018 together with my founding partner and our company CTO, Mr. Aleksei Beliakov. Aleksei and his team have developed the technology innovation, and I am more in charge of commercializing this novel technology.
How does Geyser Batteries Oy innovate?
Andrey Shigaev: The core of our innovation – our novel battery technology – has its roots far back in the supercapacitor industry. Our R&D team has over 25 years of expertise in the field and further developing our breakthrough technology. As good innovations always, our business idea started from an existing problem that was not clearly solved by competing solutions. We can see everywhere electric passenger cars, but the industrial machinery has not yet reached this stage. The existing solutions, such as supercapacitors and li-ion batteries, are not safe nor sustainable, or they are highly over-priced and -sized. This is what Geyser Batteries technology is now successfully tackling.
The key to innovation is always in the end customers. Their need is what we fulfill, and currently, our product development is based on their ideas and applications. By customizing our solutions, we eventually come up with new applications and use cases for our batteries.
Geyser Batteries also has an employee innovation policy. We strongly encourage our employees to be proactive, brave, and open-minded when coming up with new solutions for the market or our business operations.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Andrey Shigaev: Delays in the development activities have delayed the financing round, so we had to stretch out and bootstrap a bit. Our team has really been supportive, though, and we delivered on the KPIs despite delays with suppliers and, sometimes, customers.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Andrey Shigaev: Quite the opposite, our team has grown during the past year. Obviously, this year has taught us that nothing is to be taken for granted. Businesswise, this means that we need to be prepared even for the most unlikely incidents, have us well secured, and be ready to adjust our plans even with a short warning.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Andrey Shigaev: Despite the situation, our customer relationships have evolved well during these COVID-19 times. As we work on a niche market, it is relatively easy to find the right contacts to work with, and we target them with a personal approach. Now, as our technology is gaining ground and we are becoming well-known, a lot of interest has risen in the sector, and many of our key customers have actually contacted us first.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Andrey Shigaev: We have not received any COVID-specific grant funding. However, the Finnish government is generally incredibly supportive. In January 2021, they announced the National Battery Strategy that presents how Finland will become a competitive, competent, and sustainable player in the international battery industry. The Strategy is founded on the promotion of responsible battery production and electrification. As sustainability is one of the key features of our batteries, this is great news for us.
Your final thoughts?
Andrey Shigaev: Geyser Batteries has in many ways been extremely lucky even during these tough times. At the same time, I believe that a great innovation always finds its place with hard work and good strategic planning. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our investors and stakeholders for supporting us and the Geyser team that has worked hard to make this happen.
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