ZNL Energy: The Next Unicorn in Battery Technology?

ZNL Energy: The Next Unicorn in Battery Technology?

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The demand for reliable battery solutions has surged as the auto industry moves towards EVs. In this episode of the Auto Supply Chain Prophets Podcast, hosts Jan and Terry tackle the critical issues surrounding start-ups as they face the challenges of scaling up in this exciting new field of battery technology.

They invited Benjamin Ferstad and Jan Børge Sagmo from ZNL Energy, a tech startup at the forefront of innovative battery technology, to explore this topic. 

The conversation covers various aspects, including ZNL's breakthrough technology that addresses the safety concerns associated with battery hazards, ZNL's mission to commercialize next-generation battery technology, the supply chain challenges they face in sourcing materials, and the impact of legislation such as the IRA Act in the US on their startup.

Moreover, they discuss ZNL's strategies for ensuring a smooth startup operation, emphasizing the importance of strategic partnerships and seeking expertise where needed. The dialogue extends to managing suppliers effectively and understanding the dynamic nature of customer requirements, highlighting ZNL's customer-centric approach.

Finally, Jan and Benjamin offer valuable advice for aspiring tech startups, emphasizing the need for boldness in selling their product early and the importance of building a solid team to handle diverse tasks, allowing the CEO to focus on strategic growth and fundraising initiatives.

Themes discussed in this episode:

  • Challenges of battery performance 
  • Importance of addressing battery safety concerns in electric vehicles
  • ZNL Energy's innovative battery separator technology
  • Supply chain challenges and opportunities in the battery industry
  • The impact of legislation like the IRA Act on tech startups
  • Strategies for managing suppliers and fostering strategic partnerships
  • Prioritizing customer engagement and feedback in product development
  • Scaling up operations effectively in a startup environment
  • Advice for tech startups on delegation and focusing on core responsibilities as CEO

Featured on this episode: 

Name: Benjamin Ferstad

Title: Chief Executive Officer, ZNL Energy

About: Benjamin is a seasoned management professional known for his exceptional interpersonal abilities and adeptness in P&L management within global corporate settings. Armed with a Master of Science degree in Industrial Economics from the University of Stavanger and a Bachelor of Science in Subsea Technology from Bergen University College, Benjamin brings a wealth of expertise in financial data analysis and process optimization.

Connect: LinkedIn

Name: Jan Børge Sagmo

Title: Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, ZNL Energy

About: Jan is a process engineer and manager serving as the Strategy and Marketing Officer at ZNL Energy, where they’re revolutionizing battery technology with an innovative separator, ZnL-NPx. With a background in chemical engineering, he led successful ventures like Bergen Carbon Solutions, and he’s passionate about investing, writing, and contributing to cutting-edge developments in technology and beyond.

Connect: LinkedIn

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Highlights:

[02:31] Battery Solutions: How ZNL’s innovative product addresses prevalent battery issues, offering a promising solution for the automotive industry’s transition to electric vehicles.

[06:30] ZNL’s Mission: Benjamin articulates ZNL’s mission, emphasizing their commitment to revolutionizing battery technology.

[08:59] Supply and Legislation: They discussed the supply chain challenges that ZNL tackles and the impact of legislation such as the IRA Act in the US on ZNL’s startup.

[12:41] Smooth Startup: Benjamin and Jan elaborate on their strategies to ensure a seamless startup for ZNL’s operations. 

[16:20] Supplier Management: ZNL outlines its approach to managing suppliers and emphasizes the importance of a partner-based approach for startup success.

[23:49] Customer Side: Benjamin explains their process for managing customer requirements, emphasizing the importance of establishing clear communication and ownership of the testing process through structured agreements like test contracts.

[25:31] Expert Advice: Jan and Benjamin share advice for entrepreneurs and startups facing launch and scale challenges.

Top Quotes:

[07:52] Benjamin: “What we want to get out on the market and really help the industry with the adoption of our technology is you would be reducing or close to limiting the hazards of fire in batteries.”

[08:47] Benjamin: “Everybody is talking about how we can work more sustainably and utilize energy as best as we can, and batteries are part of that solution. So, that's what we want to help with in this world that we live in.”

[11:32] Benjamin: “I'm not saying that we have to have subsidizers to be successful in this industry, but for these very critical industries that have to succeed against the competition of the Chinese and the other Asian players, it's probably a necessity to build up an industry.”

[13:05] Jan Børge: “One of the first things we did was to ensure that we had the best partners to help us do the scaling. We are continuously in discussion with these partners that can help us because we are good at what we are doing, but there is always somebody better.”

[14:06] Benjamin: “The choice of doing this as a partner-based approach is quite important to us. In all the things we do, we try to find partners that are good in the things that they are experts in. And then we have the core competency in us. It's something we have been doing and will continue to do until we are successful.”

[16:56] Benjamin: “We're telling our vendors that we don't want you as a vendor. We want you as a partner. We want to buy your lab scale machine or your pilot scale machine because we see that you can also deliver this larger, giga-scale machine that could serve us a couple of years down the road.”

[23:50] Benjamin: “On the customer side, people are coming to us because they see we are solving one of the major headaches in the battery industry because of the fire hazard and short-circuiting and thermal runaway. So, they see that our product is really exciting.”

[16:56] Benjamin: “We're telling our vendors that we don't want you as a vendor. We want you as a partner. We want to buy your lab scale machine or your pilot scale machine because we see that you can also deliver this larger, giga-scale machine that could serve us a couple of years down the road.”

[25:50] Jan Børge: “Don't be afraid to sell the product in the early stage because of the value proposition; just talk to the clients, talk to the customers, get the feedback, and then you can iterate.”

[27:46] Benjamin: “I would recommend any CEO of a brand new startup to make sure that you find some good people around you who can do the tasks that you probably want to do yourself and that you can trust that they will be able to perform them so that you can relieve yourself to have enough time to go raise money because you are going to be raising money all the time, and you need to have time for that.”


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Keep in touch with Auto Supply Chain Prophet's co-hosts Terry Onica and Jan Griffiths on LinkedIn.


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