Empowering Female Leadership & Environmental Sustainability: The Success Story of Fych Technologies

Empowering Female Leadership & Environmental Sustainability: The Success Story of Fych Technologies

Show Video

So I'm very excited by today's session with  our guest Andrea Cabanas co-founder and CEO   of Fych Technologies Andrea and her co-founder  Oksana founded Fych within the University of   Alicante after several years of research as  PhD students in the field of waste management   and plastic recycling. Thanks to their research.  They have managed to get three patents for three   Technologies focusing on increasing recyclability  of plastics and also the quality of the recycled   plastic material so Fych has been on the mission  to convert waste into resources since 2019. Since   then they have managed to grow the team to  five employees. They have been awarded several  

prizes and they have grown revenues to over  a million Euro this year. So I think that's   a very impressive start for such a young company  especially without significant investor backing   so very excited again and thank you Andrea for  joining us and please walk us through your journey   how did you become an entrepreneur. Thank you  Katarina for the introduction and good afternoon.   Maybe I can share the screen to  show better to explain it better so as you said we started with the company  ........ started in the research Field in 2016.   But then we founded the company a few  years later in 2020 in the beginning the   co-founder and the founding team, we were the  only ones that we were working in the company   me, Oksana and Andres - he was our  tested director in that moment so we   in reality we met each other during our studies  as chemical Engineers like many years ago in 2009   and then Oksana and I decided to make a PhD  after we finished the degrees we started working   in the industry but then we came back to the  university to start discovering a PhD based on   converting waste into new resources and we focused  on Plastics and the different challenges that the   industry is facing so this was Oksana started  in 2016 and I started the PHD one year later   and in 2019 we patented the different  Technologies and then we realized we   were really solving a real problem that the  industry was having and in that moment we   started to get interest from a big company from  multinational companies and in that moment we   decided to found the company so even before we  finish the PhD we already founded the company   and then one year later in 2021 we started  hiring people for the technical development   of the company so that Oksana and I will have more  time to find a funding and also to find customers Our Technologies as you have said we  have developed different Technologies to   increase the recyclability of plastics  and also to increase the quality.  

One of them is the DL Tech that we call that is  for the recycling of multi-layer packaging. If   someone do not understand what is a multi-layer  packaging do we think about any type of packaging   that is used in the food industry like for  packing pasta or for packing a bakery and also   for milk and juices. It's using different type of  materials so you don't have a single material in a   packaging and the complexity of the materials  that contains a package makes the packaging   not recyclable with the conventional technologies  that are available in the market. And this is why   we started with the delamination technology to  be able to recycle all types of plastic waste.   On the other hand another problem  that the recycling industry is facing   is the bad smell or the contaminants that  contain the plastic. Because normally when  

we recycle for example a detergent bottle or  a shampoo bottle this bottle afterward is used   for making rubbish bins or for making Garden for  gardening applications that do not require a high   quality of the plastic but with our technologies  that are able to contaminate and deodorize the   plastic we can reuse again this plastic to produce  another bottle of shampoo or detergent because we   eliminate all the contaminants and about others  in the in that are absorbed in the plastic.   We basically have been developing the Technologies  at laboratories scale for different type of   materials and just to show you an example of  the complexity of these materials so we are   talking about snacks they contain different  type of plastics and also they contain inks   for giving the color and the marketing part and  also aluminum because the aluminum is a very good   material to keep the properties of the food. So  we have a let's say a time for eating the chips   much longer even up to a year if we pack it in  this packaging then if we pack in a regular bag   and this is really good to avoid the waste the  food waste but on the other hand we have the   problem of plastic waste but this is what we are  solving with our technology because we are able to   to separate the different materials. For example  in this kind of packaging we have cardboard  

that in this moment is already recovered in  the industry but then we also have plastic   and aluminum and with our technology we are  capable to separate the plastic and aluminum   and recycle them in different streams.  Just not support you I will also explain   the this is the pilot line that we have  available for making all the tests and then the   other Technologies to remove the orders with this  technology in which we only use a stimulus esteem   basically like when you iron the clothes and you  use a steam and then you can fill the order of the   softener for example we use the same technique but  to extract the orders of the plastic and in this   case what we achieve is a efficiency of more than  95 in the removal of others with this technology   and a similar technology is used to the  contaminate not only the odorous compounds but   also the contamination in general that we can find  in a plastic sample so this is the summary of the   three Technologies and how we started from PhDs  and we went to to entrepreneurs and it's quite   challenging because nobody teaches you how to make  a business from scratch and nobody is telling you   how to find funding so this is something that we  really learned. The technical part is the easy   part for us to develop it at industrial scale for  us this is doable let's say is easy. But finding   money and also let's say being a good commercials.  This is something more challenging for us.   That's precisely what I wanted to ask Andrea  you said that you were a researcher and then   you sort of you saw that there is a lot of  demand and you decided to create this company   but I know as we've chatted before that you  actually didn't have much business uh skills   before or exposure to other startups so presumably  it must have been a little bit scary wasn't it   well I I guess it's it's a big leap so how did  you really what was your thinking at the time.  

At the beginning the first thing we thought  is we have nothing to lose so let's try and   see what happens but no it's just not just a  straightforward like let's see what happens   what we did it was first to go to different  type of courses for entrepreneurship for PhDs   where specific courses to go from PhD to make  a business so that courses helped us a lot to   develop the idea and to commercialize our ideas  and our prototypes let's say of Technologies   but of course there is a part for me the hardest  part is the negotiation when you had to negotiate   to sell something or to sell part of the company  for for increasing your funding this is something   that you know do never left because you don't have  examples previously previous example so there is   a moment that is the first moment and yes this  is a most challenging powerful at least for me.   And so today how much of your time is dedicated  to really science and research and how much of it   is really running the company. I would say only  20 is for Science and the rest is for running   the company yeah because we are lucky where we  are lucky we have a very good team a technical   team and they are quite autonomous so we just  make meetings and give some assessments but they   know how to run a scientific part. So I assume  that your life has changed quite a bit when you   decided to become an entrepreneur. The way that  you spend time in your day is very much different   and presumably the lifestyle of an entrepreneur is  also a little bit more hectic than the one of of a   scientist so is there something that you that  surprised you or that you miss now or are you   happy. Sometimes I miss the science because let's  say when I was doing the technical part I was in  

my comfort zone but now it's more uncomfortable  but in the same at the same time it's more I like   it because I learn a lot every day and something  that I like a lot is to travel so this is a good   way of traveling by working and selling the  products so I like the lifestyle but it's true   that every day you'll never feel 100 comfortable  because you do new things almost every single   day. And so that was going to be also my next  question what was your biggest learning to date.   As I said I think the biggest learning has been  the biggest challenge that is how to negotiate   with big companies because learning what should  be your starting point and learning how are they   thinking to somehow to to I don't know to get  is like playing to guess what is the other part   thinking so I think that's the biggest learning  universe as well but let's say you you learn   and to think how others are thinking from their  point of view so this has been addictive learning   and I think in our school you learn that you  learn that by by living and by experience   do you also have any mentors or people who help  you and guide you in the area of managing a team   yes at the beginning that we didn't get when we  didn't get any funding at the very beginning we   knew a man that he had many businesses but now he  is retired so he helped us a let's say for free   that's a for fun for him in the development of  the business and also in the patent applications   and all the claims and everything and then now we  hired we contracted ...... freelance that he is   working to help startups in the development phase  and in the baseball in the business development   finding funding Etc so we have an external person  helping us in that sense yeah otherwise is it's   almost possible we needed some help and some  people experience people that can tell us some   examples of what is normal what is not normal in  the negotiations Etc. That's really interesting.   So tell us or maybe a little bit more about  your customers and how many of them do you   have and what is your plan for the future uh and  maybe even what would success look like for you   so we have a company in which we don't need let's  say 100 of customers to be profitable we just need   few customers that that really have the same  mindset let's say that in which we have. So for  

example in total we have has 14 customers since  we started but like active customers that we work   with them every month I would say like five six  customers is what we have continuously and with   that we are ready economically sufficient but of  course we always want more and the most important   is to not only not only to have customers because  we one part of the company is for dedicated to the   R&D and the other part is dedicating to the  scale up of the Technologies so um we always   start with R&D and then we move to a scale Up. So  now what we need to focus is on the development of   the technologies that started this year as R&D  for the next year to be a scale up technology um and what would be helpful for you in order to  grow more or faster if that is what you want. Yes   this is what we are looking for now and what we  need now until now what we have done is to license   the technology to some customers for a specific  type of waste and for a specific type of solution.   But in this moment we have seen that we  have many type of waste that we can recycle   but uh only having a pilot prototype line that  we have now it's quite challenging to sell the   the technology so what we have seen now is that  we need to become the experts on the running an   industrial line and for that is for what we  are now looking for investment to build our   industrial line for recycling multi-layer flexible  Packaging and this will make us grow because in   Spain we can build the Recyclers of this type of  packaging but then we can license the technology   outside the spring and replicate the business  making a new inventor or just by licensing.  

So in the future you see Fych being all  over Europe or potentially even outside.   Yes, because already in this moment we have  customers from France from Italy from Indonesia   and from other countries Asian countries so yeah  I think uh yeah the European and the Asian market   now it's the most interesting for us so yeah I  can see ourselves being outside Spain for sure.   Is there a lot of tweaking that you need to do  in your product in order to um enter a new market   within with the different legislation. With a  different not really you mean if we go to Asia   for example. Yes in terms of their recycling  processes how different are they. No because   I think in the end uh the let's say the law in  Europe is the most restrictive one for recycling   um for for example for a water waste treatment  that our processes and consume water so we need   to treat the water so in the moment that you have  everything ready for Spain or for Europe let's   say it's easy to go to outside Europe because  the regular and the legislation normally is not   more strict than the one that we have now. I don't  think that's not a problem but the truth is that  

in Europe we have many legislation now that are  pushing the recyclability of plastic packaging and   this is helping us a lot to gain customers that  really want to be involved in that transition.   Yes indeed that's what we also see a lot of uh  Tailwinds coming from the European legislation   and the push to that zero and recycling more and  more um one of my final questions would be around   if you have any advice that you would give  to today's students who are contemplating   the idea of starting their own business. I  would tell them if they have really any idea   that they would love to bring to the market  just start doing that but to start doing that   please I would recommend go to look for specific  courses to be entrepreneurial and to test your   business model and to test your product or  the process that you are developing to see if   there is a real interest in the industry and  if there is like this is what happened to us   then go for it because in the end for me like  you have nothing to lose you always can apply   for other applications in companies and external  companies but maybe it's the only chance or or is   the best chance that you have when you really  want to commercialize something that you have   your own ideas and it's quite exciting I think  it's that for me it's a very good experience.  

Uh that's a great answer I did not even expect  it but my second question that I wanted to ask   you is whether there is any recommendation  you would give to our University so working   with students in in different uh fields in  including deep tech and scientific fields   in terms of entrepreneurial education which  seems that had had been lacking in your case.   Yes this we have been in many talks in the  University of Alicante where they asked this   question and the first thing uh we always say  is that uh we should join different profiles   like economics law and Technical profiles in in  our common let's say maybe optional subjects in   the different degrees that is entrepreneurship or  how to build your own company and then I think it   would be successful because then you meet people  from different areas and together you can create   ideas and you can create a company because this  is something that we are missing yet and that we   were missing from the beginning that we were all  scientifically possible but not no one was coming   from the economical path or from the law which is  really really important when you start the company   and I think a good idea for a university would  be to make a program or or starting from some   courses inside of the degree where you can join  people with different profiles to work together   in a common idea that they need to develop and  I have seen Masters that include these options   and in the end they become entrepreneurs  because they have all the profiles that   they need and then you motivate each other  and that's I think that will be a successful   thing to do. Uh one one of the big themes of the  Inspiring The Minds project um is green skills and   the other is diversity and inclusion um and  you being a female founder and CEO together   with your other co-founder Oksana uh you're the  two out of three co-founders are are females I   wonder if you see any any differences uh being  women in in business compared to to men at all my experience until now has been good I  would say but I would need to be a man to   compare how the society behaves with one  and the other I would say except for one   or two comments that we have heard everything  has been has been equal or has been positive   I think sometimes when tampons want to  invest in your company they ask what are your   family .... if you are looking to have kids, if  you are looking to be a mother etc. I think this   is something nobody asked me. They will become  fathers as well. But that is yeah I think it's  

because of the age we start we started creating  the company when we were 30s and we had no kids   so everybody's expecting when this will happen and  they will I don't know they think that we will run   away or something but that's not the case maybe  this is the only weak point that I have observed   but really in just one it just happened once so  I want to think that what they didn't have a bad   intention when they asked about that but but  yeah maybe in that sense they are a bit scared   when for investing in companies made of funded  by women that could be that could be a reason.   Could be possibly uh perfect so how much would  you say of your success so far has been would you   attribute to luck and how much was hard work. ..  laughing ... luck nothing is luck even sometimes   that you could think that you are lucky and  then you are lucky but when you realize why   some company called you one day and you thought  oh I was lucky that I got this contact and we'll   start working together but in reality this is  because you started a marketing strategy on   LinkedIn or something and this is because then  they look to your background and they saw same   few publications they also they trust you and  yeah and if you made a paper because you made   a PhD you made a business because you studied so  I feel lucky lucky maybe 10% lucky 90% of work   great okay so I think that's a good advice also  for everyone else listening uh hard work space   and then you will get some luck on the way yes  probably when you open yourself up for chances.   Yes yes perfect thank you very much I think that  was my last question anything to add from your   side. No thank you very much for for the interview  and for leaving us to tell our story and I hope  

we could incorporate someone that is thinking  about making a new business with new ideas great

2023-07-25 04:27

Show Video

Other news