Today Greenlyte Carbon Technologies (GCT), a leading Direct Air Capture (DAC) start-up from Germany, has announced a pre-seed extension round, raising an additional €4.5 million.
GCT was founded in September 2022 and aims to develop a low-cost, robust Direct Air Capture technology that captures CO2 at world-leading energy rates whilst supplying hydrogen as a by-product.
The company's technology is based on 15 years of research and has been proven at various scales.
I spoke to Florian Hildebrand, CEO and co-founder, to learn more.
Direct air capture is still a fledgling and costly technology, but companies like GCT aim to reduce prices by scaling up in response to carbon-zero commitments in big industries. It wants to achieve CO2 capture costs well below €100 per ton in the coming years.
Hildebrand explains that the company wants to be part of a broader carbon utilisation shift where companies no longer dig for oil, instead taking Co2 and hydrogen from air and water."
Hydrogen has compelling industrial applications, such as in sustainable aviation fuel , particularly if delivered at a competitive market price.
GTC's goal for 2023 is to master its technology with a "go big or go home mentality."
GTC's goal for 2022 is to master its technology with a "go big or go home mentality." -> needs to be 2023
It aims to open a g100-ton CO2 demonstrator unit in September this year, the size of two parking lots and five metres high in response to "extremely promising." tests.
"We have seen in the market that it's not just about the energy requirements but the capex costs. We can only build cheaply if we do it ourselves by starting with a model for testing and an opportunity to validate cost assumptions.
Even if we hit this energy efficiency that we dream of, it still breaks the case if the capex is not where we want it to be."
Direct air capture is an increasingly competitive market with over 500 companies, which in Europe include, Climeworks (Zürich), Seao2 (Amsterdam), Carbyon (Eindhoven), and Carbfix (Reykjavík).There are currently 15 direct air capture plants operating globally. There's also companies like Carbon Clean (London), a point-source carbon capture company, capturing CO2 directly from the source of emission, i.e. blast furnaces.
How does Europe stack up against other parts of the world?
In response to this question, Hildebrand asserts,
"The question is not so much about when they are coming from but where they end up, which is the US, where there are massive pools of green tech, climate tech companies towards the US because of carbon credits.
If we don't watch out, climate tech will be invented in Germany and scaled in the US."
He highlights the need for better incentive structures in Europe where grants require months of consortium building, then it takes months to write a grant. Applicants then have to wait 12 months for the outcome, and then it's another six months until they receive the first funds.
"This does not align with radical innovation."
Fast funding for the win
This latest funding comes six months after the company secured its initial €3.5 million pre-seed, effectively doubling its funding to €8 million within this period. Oh, and the company was only founded in September 2022. It raised its first round in November, two months later. Speedy stuff.
Hildebrand attributes this to existing relationships with investors — he was previously CEO of Qualifyze, who raised $19.7 million in funding — and GTC's experienced team.
Besides Hildebrand, Dr Niklas Friederichsen has a solid entrepreneurial and research track record in Material Chemistry and Operations Management. Chief Science Officer, Dr Peter Behr, is the leading researcher with over 15 years of carbon capture experience, various relevant publications and scientific accomplishments.
He also notes that the company's transparency with investors makes it stand out :
"We document everything, list all the technical problems that we have, where we believe we have a solution and where we think we don't have a solution and the areas which we just don't know what's going to happen.
We're extremely transparent about this to our investors, we're taking them on a journey. As long as there's enough trust that we're making smart decisions and trying to give it our best, we can influence the outcomes. And so far, this has been going extremely well."
Dr Hendrik Brandis, Earlybird Co-Founder and Partner, contends:
"Out of all DAC approaches out there, GCT shows the strongest indication of delivering a technology that can truly change the world.
We were impressed with the team's ambition and speed of progress. I'm excited to join the company's board."