Intelligence regarding materials used
Ben adds that Circular11 not only manufactures recycled products but provides a full audit trail of where the materials have come from. “People told us they really want to know where the waste material originated, and the amount that had been saved from being incinerated or dumped.”
The firm has also developed machine learning software that assesses the different types of plastic to be processed and how suitable it may be for certain recycled products. “The difficult thing with low-grade plastic is not just making it perform well, but making it perform consistently. So we need to adjust every part of the process all of the time, depending on what we are working with. We may have 100 various types of plastic arriving and 15 outputs, and different plastics will affect each other in very complex ways.”
The software looks for patterns in the data that comes in, allowing the company to adjust what it manufactures to suit the waste streams that come in.
Circular11 is currently valued at £3 million and the company has eight investors. The co-founders were supported in their fundraising by strategic consultant Pohco, who they were introduced to on an InnovateUK Edge programme. “They helped us to create financial models that made clear what the underlying drivers were for our unit economics, and how they would change at scale,” Ben says. “They gave us more of an understanding of our business and its potential than we had been able to achieve in any other way.”
Ben says last year’s Investor Day at the Shard “got us across the finish line of that particular round of funding” but adds “the difficult thing with raising money is it can be so emotionally stressful and exhausting.
“Last year was challenging, but we have managed to expand our facilities and pay for new, much larger machinery.
“Now we are no longer focused on raising money,” he adds. “We want to be in profit before raising again. If there is one thing I have learnt from our fundraising journey, it is you really want to be in a position of strength. And when we fundraise, we want to make sure the technology is exactly where we want it to be, and we have a large pipeline of orders.”