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Carbonauten: On a mission to zero carbon

Carbonauten from Germany competed against more than 180 startups, making it to the Green Alley Award finals! Reducing CO2 in our atmosphere is an important result of Carbonauten’s innovative material made of wooden residues. Instead of emitting greenhouse gases while rotting, the wood is turned into carbon and combined with different binders. The resulting biomaterials can replace conventional plastics and building materials for various industries. In this way, one tonne of Carbonauten’s biomaterial can store an equivalent of more than 3 tonnes of CO2.

See how Carbonauten will help save us from climate catastrophe at the Green Alley Award final!

Your mission is captured in your slogan “minus CO2”. Can we still stop climate catastrophe and if yes, what do we have to do to change track?

Unfortunately, the reports of scientists and the experienced state of the environment make me pessimistic. Ironically, my friend and partner Christoph Hiemer founded carbonauten for this very reason. We still experience the attitude that, with all understanding for the crisis, saving the environment should not cost anything extra or even mean personal renunciation. Yet it is precisely the crisis that offers an enormous opportunity for society and the economy. Politics and business are currently waking up to the fact that the Thünberg generation represents other values that must be taken into account if they want to remain in power. In my opinion, the way to protect the environment and resources, cross-society solidarity and new business models is simply through education and empathy. Through Education, complex interrelationships will become clear and empathy helps people realize that their actions have an impact.

On your website you admit that pitching your idea to investors did not always go well. What were the main obstacles you had to face in the investor and startup scene?

I am proud to say that Christoph and I were on the begging tour for 3.5 years. A good 50 pitches with only pats on the back as a result must force you to give up! Personally, that’s not easy with families behind you. But the moments when the EC card didn’t work at the supermarket checkout were not shameful but motivation enough.

We wondered for a long time why we didn’t reach investors. Surely they must realize that humanity is hurtling towards the abyss and that they too must take responsibility! In my view, there are two very simple reasons for this. 

Firstly and most importantly, as a startup you need the right idea at the right time and an excellent team behind it. From today’s perspective, we were early and have been preparing the market since our founding in 2017. 

Secondly, we observed that our counterparts on the money bags were simply money managers looking for security. Startups may well see them as adversaries, questioning established business models and attitudes per se. But these managers do not remember where the origins of their companies were: Long ago, in small workshops, courageous pioneers like Margarete Steiff, Werner von Siemens, Carl Zeiss, Johann Voith, Franz Haniel, Ferdinand Porsche, Carl Benz laid the foundations for the fortunes to be managed today. Investors forget that.

Producing a plastic material that reduces CO2 instead of producing more sounds like a dream. How come that you are the first ones to come up with this idea? Are there any competitors?

Yes, this is indeed pure disruption. Because the more carbonauten NET Materials® are used in products, the better it is for the environment! That actually sounds pretty crazy and goes against all due common sense and the idea of recycling. But when you understand that one ton of biocarbon permanently stores up to 3.3 tons of CO2, and that these biocarbons from biomass residues can replace between 10% and 70% of plastics and building materials, the idea gains charm.

A coffee to go cup in a ditch is ugly but will eventually decompose leaving the biocarbons as CO2 sinks and the basis for what scientists call the “super fertilizer Terra Preta”. So our biocarbons are functional and filler materials that can improve properties of the final products. And the low price of our biocarbons makes carbonauten NET Materials® economically attractive and cheapens many products. In addition, attractive by-product are electricity and bio-oils. Currently, there are no competitors for us in the joint fight against the climate crisis.

Want to see these six startups with their outstanding circular economy ideas live and ask them some questions? Register now https://greenalleyaward2021.w.tame.events/ and meet our finalists online on 22nd April 2021, 5pm CET.

Source Green Alley Award

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