It typifies the startup's mentality when we ask if Spintone might have gone under without Corona Bridging Loan (COL). ''Yes,'' it sounds decidedly from the mouth of founder and general manager Michael Ravensbergen, ''both financially and well as the delay and elimination of suppliers slowed our development.''
Ravensbergen is both determined and thoughtful in the interview. This is common when the production process is not understood by 99 percent of the people, as is the case with Sneker-based Spintone. He himself has long since stopped having to think deeply about the quantum mechanical aspects of the process by which Spintone extracts CO2 and methane from the air and then turns them into graphene. The hesitation and thoughtfulness is there only when he tries to clearly explain the process to the layman.
Chapeau and hats off, it sounds
When it comes to the COL, Ravensbergen does not delay for a moment. Chapeau and hats off, it sounds several times. ''What government could regulate such a scheme so quickly,'' he thinks. ,,It had to be fast, digital, targeted, and they had no experience with something like that. At the same time, you know that no party other than the government can pick up such a scheme. Chapeau.''
Spintone had to apply to NOM, the northern counter for the COL. Spintone asked for 200,000 euros and received 100,000. ''The NOM has insight into the number of applications and we do not, such a decision can happen,'' Ravensbergen observes. Spintone was given a forecast: how far they could get with this money. And the audit was 60 days later. Ravensbergen: ,,That was yesterday. Questions like 'what was promised and what did you do with it' came up. The audit was good, sound and real.'
'We too must turn in'
Ravensbergen heaps praise on the way the scheme was completed. In no time at all, the deal was done, although it was a ton less than floated. Ravensbergen. ,,I thought for a moment: should I protest or not? Purely out of respect, I said nothing. I only said: fantastic, we can continue. You have to realize that it is a joint effort. We also have to give in.''
The COL did lead to a spin-off for Spintone: the NOM. Ravensbergen: ,,Thanks to the COL, unknown innovative companies, like us, also come to the surface. Flinc (part of the NOM) immediately asked if they could guide us. Great, because they have experience there.''
Five years of only expenses and no revenue
Spintone is now facing its next phase. After five years of R&D - of just costs and no revenue - it is time to go to market. Ravensbergen: ,,Doing something disruptive is one thing, building a big organization is two. That takes twice the energy. You need a good team for that. We are building that now.''
The time of "looking at future losses" is thus behind Spintone. The period behind is that of a startup with a great idea and a nice perspective, while through it is the permanent question of how to make a complicated technology available to everyone.
Spintone plays role in climate issue
Security plays a major role in this, safely moving from one stage to the next, Ravensbergen believes, because such security is of paramount importance in guiding Spintone through the exciting times of crisis and Industry 4.0. Spintone's viability serves even greater importance, as the company can play a role in global climate issues.
The Sneek-based startup operates in two sectors that resonate with the crisis and Industry 4.0: quantum mechanics and nanomaterials. ''We can transform greenhouse gases with a converter into nano-materials, or advanced materials as it is also called,'' Ravensbergen says. ''It is matter that cannot be seen with the eye and that makes it difficult to explain.''
CO2 and methane become graphene
Ravensbergen immediately sounds a lot more thoughtful: how does he explain clearly to the layman what Spintone does? An impossible task. What is important is the big picture: CO2 and methane are converted to graphene. And graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms with impressive properties: 200 times stronger than steel and unsurpassed as a thermal and electrical conductor. It is eminently suitable as a replacement for the non-durable Li-Ion batteries, as a product in the so-called "solid state capacitors" (stores as much energy as battery, but takes and allows the energy to be built up and down much faster).
Spintone is on the verge of a breakthrough. But the climate problem could be much bigger than a solution like Spintone, Ravensbergen suspects. ''We will only make it if general awareness increases, if we learn to act nature-related,'' he believes.
'Not giving in to big money'
That is why he is also looking at the long term. There were already opportunities to sell Spintone to big American and Chinese parties, he says. ,,But we are not giving in to big money. We can make a battery with one raw material that lasts 40 to 50 years and is biodegradable. That is the essence of Spintone's existence.''
Corona, like numerous other companies, is a game-changer for Spintone in the coming period, though. For example, a foreign investor could not come to the Netherlands for the second tranche of an investment for the signature. ''You have to adapt and therefore change,'' Ravensbergen believes when asked for a tip. And of course make good choices and stay ''steady,'' he says: ''But those are open doors.''