At our First Pitch: Renewables on May 7th, judges declared Connora Technologies to be “Best in Show”. The win for Connora reflects excitement over very promising technology which will enable manufacturing from composites based on recycled material. To mark the occasion, we spoke to Rey Banatao, CEO of Connora Technologies.
CTC: Rey, Connora Technologies talks about cradle-to-cradle manufacturing. Why is that going to be important?
REY: The simple answer will be cost. We currently deal in the world of composites, where valuable materials like carbon fiber currently are degraded and/or discarded at the end of life, and as manufacturing waste. We believe that is untapped value the industry can take advantage of. But traditional thermoset plastics, when combined with carbon fiber, trap this value. Connora developed a new class of thermoset plastics we call ‘Recyclamines’ TM, as well as a low energy chemical recycling approach that allows these valuable materials to be reclaimed and reused in a near virgin state. We are working with manufacturers to prove that this will save them money in the long run.
CTC: Where is Connora in its growth story? Are you fundraising?
REY: We are a 2 1/2 year old startup, funded by some prominent angels, friends and family, and Samsung Ventures. With this funding, we’ve developed proof of concept around the technology, a strong intellectual property portfolio, and early commercial interests and development partnerships as well as funding from grants. We have received numerous awards having pioneered this concept in industry. Most importantly we are creating a demand for our materials in existing products that can take advantage of its recyclability. We are heading into a Series A fundraising soon to fund commercial scale availability, and expand our technology across multiple materials and product applications.
CTC. Your pitch included an actual product which you passed around the event. Our judges mentioned this tangible part of your presentation as a difference maker, helping people see the real promise of your technology. Has that made an impact for Connora in your launch?
REY: Yes, definitely. My background is in bio-based resin formulations, and have worked with large consumer brands to make greener products. Recyclability is an extension of sustainability for these same brands. So It’s been great to be able to leverage those relationships for Connora. I also believe the 'proof is always in the pudding', so to speak. There is no better way to show someone our technology is real than to have them touch and feel it.
CTC: Have you found any limits to the consumer applications for composites made from your process? Will this work for mobile products? Medical devices?
REY: Helping companies bring recyclability into diverse products is certainly possible, and requires attention to both technical and economical nuances related to the application. Some applications may be as easy as formulating a system, while others may require building in a full closed loop system for manufacturing. We like to work directly with partners to make sure we are engineering the best solution for their goals, from every angle.
CTC. Your Best in Show win through First Pitch comes with membership in CTC and time from a number of service firms who've committed to supporting entrepreneurs through this platform. What does this mean for you?
REY: Membership to CTC will be valuable for Connora as a young startup. We want to gain exposure across the value chain in cleantech, chemicals, investors, applicatons, and high tech at large. We think CTC is a great platform for that, especially being local to Silicon Valley.