Disruptive startups have the ability to change entire industries. Think about Airbnb and how they disrupted the vacation rental industry. Or Instacart, which is changing how we shop for groceries. Rajan Kumar, founder and CEO of Ateios, our first August Pitch Event presenter, has big plans to redefine the battery industry with a technology called conformal electronics. I have to admit, I had no idea what that was before meeting Rajan. In a nutshell, it’s a battery printed on flexible material that conforms to the application’s requirements. This is the polar opposite of traditional rigid batteries that fit into products designed to accommodate their shape. Rajan’s battery technology is driven by the $6.7 billion primary market demanding thinner, lighter power sources for a wide range of electronics. Here’s a preview of the Ateios story Rajan will share in detail at VisionTech Angels’s Pitch Events later this month.
BP: How did you learn about VisionTech Angels?
RK: I met Oscar Moralez for coffee through the TechStars Accelerator powered by The Heritage Group. After sharing the Ateios story, he suggested VisionTech Angels was a better fit given the stage of the company. So here I am.
BP: Why did you relocate Ateios from the West Coast to Indiana?
RK: Actually, we’re bi-coastal. Our business team is located in San Diego to be accessible to Southern California and Silicon Valley. Our R&D and manufacturing team, including myself, relocated to Indiana to take advantage of the Battery Innovation Center (BIC), a $15 million R&D and commercialization center in southern Indiana. We had landed a significant customer and they were concerned about our ability to manufacture. The BIC could help us with scaling our manufacturing. Since we began collaborating with the BIC, we’ve improved our battery capacity by 30%.
BP: Ateios’ focus is “conformal electronics?” What exactly is this?
RK: Conformal electronics includes materials, components, and devices that exhibit some degree of mechanical strain tolerance or stretchability. Traditionally, batteries used in electronics are very rigid and shaped like a cylinder or coin. The technology has not changed in more than 40 years. Here’s an example, if you wanted to integrate a heart monitor into clothing, conformable electronics make the device thinner, less bulky, more forgiving with body movement, and infinitely more wearable than a rigid device. Ateios is building paper-thin, flexible batteries that enable this.
BP: Explain Ateios and the problem you’re solving?
RK: Basically, what we’ve done is enable any material to be printed with energy with three key attributes: our batteries are paper thin, they achieve 2-5 times the energy density of coin cells and they’re customized to the needs of the product. These printed, stretchable batteries satisfy the trend of ever thinner electronics and personal devices. There is tremendous growth in etextiles used in the fitness and medical device industries; shirts and other garments that can monitor heart rates, blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Another application is industrial IoT such as sensors that monitor temperature, humidity, and vibrations in a manufacturing or distribution environment. Rigid batteries just don’t work for these applications.
The other major problem we’re solving is how to produce these batteries at a cost attractive to customers. We can manufacture our batteries 10 times faster and at one-third the cost of our competitors. This will drive innovation and adoption.
BP: What kind of IP do you have?
RK: Our company started with the invention of the first printed, stretchable battery. We have progressed a portfolio of intellectual property structured around systems, analytics, materials, and technologies that are needed to reshape batteries through rapid, custom manufacturing.
BP: What’s your business model?
RK: Our goal is to manufacture and sell the batteries to customers. We plan to build our manufacturing facility in Indiana as the state has deep experience with battering technology and a strong manufacturing presence. We have also received incentives from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to locate here.
BP: How big is the market?
RK: Huge. Primary batteries for electronics, typically zinc oxide, is a $6.7 billion market. The rechargeable battery market is a $15 billion market. We are concentrating our efforts on the primary battery market such as wearable devices first. However, we also will pursue larger opportunities in industrial IoT space that includes soft robotics and complex sensors used by global companies like Amazon and others for asset tracking.
BP: Do you have competitors?
RK: ThinFilm in San Jose, California, is our largest competitor and they’re looking at one billion in unit sales by 2025. There are smaller companies as well. Ateios’ advantage is that we’ve achieved price parity with coin batteries, and we have great partnerships to scale manufacturing. The latter has been a challenge for competitors.
BP: What will this fundraising round be used for?
RK: We are in the process of closing an $800,000 investment round and plan to use the funds to convert three to four customers – two in wearables and two in industrial IoT – into multi-million-dollar customers. We also plan to strengthen our IP and increase our customer pipeline to 10 to 12 customers. In addition, our recent success with NSF SBIR proposal, we are confident the funding round will give us beyond 18-month runway to achieve these goals.
BP: Why should VisionTech Angels invest in Ateios?
RK: We have a compelling product with paying customers. Our management team has more than 30 years of experience in the semi-conductor and battery industries, giving us tremendous industry credibility. Our partners—Techstars, The Heritage Group and the Battery Innovation Center—are exceptional. Lastly, we will be extremely efficient in our use of funds.
BP: Sounds great! We’re looking forward to the pitch events.
To learn more about Ateios, visit their website. View VisionTech Angels’ August Pitch Events schedule here. The pitch events are open to our members and accredited investors interested in joining our group. To reserve your spot, check your email for an invitation or email Ben Pidgeon at firstname.lastname@example.org.