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Future Shapers: ''I knew this would be a journey towards an uncertain destination.''

The company was founded in 2014 by scientist and visionary Wiebrand Kout. A year later, Guido Dalessi joined the company, initially as an investor and soon as the CEO: "I was specifically looking for a tech start-up, and Wiebrand realised early on that, in addition to technological developments, expertise was needed to build the company. From a team of two, we have grown to 55 employees, working together to accelerate the energy transition."

Potential from day one

Guido, originally a physicist, graduated in 1986 researching solar energy. In 2004, he became the CEO of Singulus Mastering, a company that became a global leader in laser technology for Blu-ray discs: "With Singulus Mastering, we became a worldwide market leader and could compete with Sony. I see a similar exponential growth potential for Elestor, and I wanted to experience such development again, this time as an investor. Wiebrand was still at the beginning of his company and already realised that not only technology but also the development of the company around it is crucial for success. We understood early on that lithium batteries alone won't solve the world's problems. Other technologies are needed to bridge economically longer periods, up to several days. The transition involves renewing the system: investing in new processes and products. Our battery relies on two very common and therefore cheap chemical elements."

We were fortunate that the first round of investment went smoothly, which says a lot about how the world views this issue – Guido Dalessi

Launching partner with a vision

Guido's first step was to familiarise himself with the subject matter, write a business plan, and search for investors and funding: "We were fortunate that the first round of investment went smoothly, which says a lot about how the world views this issue." The first financial investors came in 2015, and later, Elestor found a 'launching customer' in Vopak. The tank terminal operator in Rotterdam is now also an investor, increasingly focusing on sustainable energy. Their seaport terminals provide an optimal situation and infrastructure for the flow battery. Vopak, with experience in storing chemicals, aims to further develop in energy storage. A project has been initiated in Vlissingen to scale up the battery capacity from 3 MWh to 250 MWh. A new milestone in Elestor's collaboration with Vopak.

On course through investments

Elestor's technology has been built from the ground up, with Wiebrand filing the first patent in 2014 before Guido's involvement: "Based on my previous experiences, I knew this would be a journey towards an uncertain destination. We now have patents on our 'membrane stacks,' where the chemical reaction occurs for energy storage. Additionally, the financial aspect for further development was a challenge. The global energy issue is noticeable, and cleaner methods for energy production are sought after worldwide. Developing new fuels is necessary, and our flow battery is an innovative solution to the energy problem. Elestor's rapid growth has resulted from significant investments, with Equinor as the lead investor, indicating confidence in the technology. We also successfully participated in subsidy programs for additional funding. This growth meant that we had to be prepared organisationally. In addition to technology, engineering, and R&D, we hired a procurement specialist, a financial and operational director, and are now building the commercial department. Looking back at this development, I wish I had anticipated this extremely rapid growth sooner."

That specific expertise emphasises why we don't just partner with any entity – Guido Dalessi

European technology center

Communication and collaboration are essential pillars for Elestor: "We have employees of many nationalities, and we want everyone to align with our vision. This begins with the hiring process, where, in addition to knowledge and skills, the type of person is central. Intrinsic motivation and a 'can-do' mentality weigh heavily in the selection. Employees have Stock Appreciation Rights, allowing them to build rights in the company's value appreciation: we share success with everyone who contributed. In terms of collaborations, we work extensively with universities such as TU Delft and Eindhoven, and at the European level, we are building an integral ecosystem, with Fraunhofer ICT being a crucial partner. That specific expertise emphasises why we don't just partner with any entity. We provide transparency in technology, operations, and the business plan, all based on trust. Communication must flow constantly, and knowledge sharing is essential in collaborations." With an eye on the future, Elestor aims to become a technology center for flow battery technology and produce large-scale flow batteries. The interest in the technology is substantial, but production capacity needs to grow significantly. The construction of a pilot factory will commence next year. In this regard, the company knows no boundaries and aims to achieve an annual production capacity of 1 gigawatt by 2026.

Elestor is the winner of the Offshore Wind Innovators Jury & Audience Award 2022. The jury stated, "Elestor convinces with feasibility and entrepreneurship. The company is advanced in the development of the bromine and hydrogen flow battery, and practical applicability has been proven." The jury consisted of Suzanne van de Beek of Vattenfall, Jakob Bergvelt of Green Giraffe, and was led by Simon Watson, professor of Wind Energy Systems at TU Delft and director of DUWIND. Guido emphasises the significance of having important names in the jury: "The real value of an award is determined by the people in the jury, and that's precisely why the recognition from these individuals is of immense importance. Additionally, we were also the number one choice for the public." The Offshore Wind Innovators Award 2023 will be presented in January 2024 during the Q-meeting of Siemens Gamesa and Van Oord.

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