We talked to Pirmin Ulmann, founder of b-science.net, about energy storage technology development, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Pirmin Ulmann: We are glad that we have remained healthy so far. An uncle of mine and a good friend had to be hospitalized.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded b-science.net.
Pirmin Ulmann: Before starting b-science.net, I worked as a Li-ion battery product development scientist for a French multinational company in Switzerland. Together with two friends, I started b-science.net because of an understanding that R&D productivity can be improved if researchers have a good understanding of the state of the art as reflected in the patent literature.
How does b-science.net innovate?
Pirmin Ulmann: We combine a specific machine learning approach with domain expert know-how to provide content and ML-based patent search to battery researchers that they can access in a time-efficient manner.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Pirmin Ulmann: Growing from a small base, turnover was more than twice as high in 2020 as compared to 2019. Nonetheless, we think our growth rate has been substantially impacted by COVID-19. In our case, the crisis did not increase cash burn, but it slowed down the rate at which we can grow our team size and expand into adjacent sectors (e.g. fuel cells).
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Pirmin Ulmann: No. The lesson learned was that we turned out to be more resilient than expected because we entered the crisis with a low fixed cost base, because we are active internationally in a growth market (battery technology), and because we have customers in private and in the public sector.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Pirmin Ulmann: Webinars and virtual conferences have worked well to get to know new customers, along with free to premium content conversions and a collaboration with a distributor for China that is based in Shanghai. To prevent cash burn, we also accepted a small one-time consulting request, which we normally decline.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Pirmin Ulmann: We did not receive government grants.
Your final thoughts?
Pirmin Ulmann: I wish everybody good health! I hope that the electrification of the economy will accelerate and offer opportunities to many regions.
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