1. Who are you and what do you do?
The M-Bee founding team includes four people: Christoph Dietrich (27), Arthur Singer (32), Martin Sprehe (31) and Nam Truong (31).
Christoph completed his master’s degree in Technology Management at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). His major was market strategy and organizational development, and his minor was in energy technology. Arthur got his PhD at the Bundeswehr University Munich focusing on modular power electronics for battery storage systems, which is the foundation of M-Bee. He also completed his MBA at the Collège des Ingénieurs. Martin got his master’s degree in electrical engineering at the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences and worked on Arthur’s research project for several years. Nam performed his post-graduate studies at TUM on the analysis and optimization of stationary battery storage systems.
Arthur and Martin met during the research project for M-Bee technology and became friends over time. Towards the end of the research project, both pushed ahead with the idea of a spin-off based on power electronics. Arthur had known Nam since the second day of their studies in electrical engineering (2007) and simply asked him while looking for additional members for the founding team. Christoph was the last member to join the founding team and knew Nam from the time they spent together at the student-run consulting firm Academy Consult.
The team has developed an innovative inverter for industrial scale battery storage systems and for electromobility. It modifies the fundamental construction of storage systems and offers numerous technical advantages. The storage system works with safe low voltages, the useable battery capacity increases by approximately five percent, the storage system becomes fail safe and energy loss is reduced by seventy percent.
Safe handling of the battery and reduced storage costs
2. But that’s already been done!
Inverters that convert battery power into the form necessary for a power grid or an electric motor already exist, but they are expensive and require — for the high performance we’re aiming for — life threatening voltage of more than 400 volts. With our technology, we make it possible to safely handle the battery and reduce the storage costs by an estimated 20 percent.
The system also offers a few more technical advantages which have been met with great interest in numerous talks with potential customers.
3. What was your biggest challenge so far?
Apart from technical development, probably putting our highly technical explanation of the technology in an intelligible form. We’re still not sure if we actually managed to do it.
4. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: How is business going?
We’re completely financed until the end of March 2020 by the Exist Transfer of Research Grant from the German Federal Government. Our goal is to develop a mature prototype until then. In April 2019, we’ll be constructing our first demonstration system for a pilot customer, which will prove that our technology also works outside of a lab.
In addition to written intentions to buy — which total to an equivalent of seven-figures in revenue — we’ve been fairly successful in business plan competitions. We came in second place in the 2018 TUM IdeAward and were among the top ten startups at the annual reception held by the German Renewable Energy Federation. We were also chosen as one of the ten winners in phase I of the Munich Business Plan Competition by Baystartup, were invited to a two-day coaching seminar in Berlin by Science4Life as one of the 20 best startups and, from 222 applications worldwide, made it as one of the ten finalists that were able to pitch in Amsterdam for the global call by Innoenergy for electrical energy storage startups.
“War for talent” in Munich
5. What does Munich mean to you?
Munich provides an outstanding framework for B2B startups in the industrial sector. Of course, the highly educated students, the proximity to partners, investors and other founders as well as the high quality of living in the city itself are what make it so attractive as a location. On the flip side, that all unfortunately intensifies the “war for talent.” Nonetheless, we’re still convinced that new team members will want to take on the challenge to make their contribution to creating a sustainable future.
Three of us also link Munich with our student days, which is when we were able to experience and learn a lot. Our fourth member agrees that the good beer is also an important factor.
6. How will your startup become the next unicorn? Or will we be seeing you at an Epic Fail Night soon?
We’ve come in at a great point in time because the market for battery storage systems is growing exponentially right now. With our new and patented technology and a smart business strategy, we hope to win over our customers and set new standards for battery storage systems. If not, then the least we can do is get up on stage and tell you about our adventures (back when we were young…).
7. Isar or English Garden?
There’s no topping a barbecue by the Isar!