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“We want to get more pluumo units out in customer’s hands”

Pluumo, an insulation material made of waste feathers

Interview with Green Alley Award winner Aeropowder

After the Green Alley Award our winner startup Aeropowder did not have much time to catch a breath. Back to London, then to Italy attending the green technology expo Ecomondo, then back to London to find ways to automatise the production of their insulation packaging – there is a lot of work to do for the small team of two people. Inbetween, Ryan and Elena took the time to tell us more about their strategies to handle the enormous work flow and what they are going to do with the prize money.

# Elena and Ryan, you have just won the Green Alley Award 2018! Congratulations! How do you feel? Was it a tough competition?

We are still in a bit of shock! It was a tough competition for sure, especially since we had to get Elena to pitch when normally that is what Ryan handles. Elena had more than a few nerves going into the final presentation, but handled them brilliantly in the end. The other startups were also very varied in what they were doing and after every pitch we could see how strong the competition was. Despite there only being one winner, with so many incredible finalists in the Green Alley Award we think it’s a great sign for sustainability and innovation across Europe.

# It has been very busy around your startup lately. How do you manage the workload, since you are a small team and Elena even has to cope with her PHD as well as two little kids besides her work for Aeropowder?

For sure, there is a LOT of work that needs to be done and we are an extremely small team. We are lucky that our strengths compliment each other well. By splitting our roles up so that Ryan covers the commercial tasks while Elena handles the technical ones, we can cover most of the bases and keep making progress. It really is just the two of us that are the core of the company, but it doesn’t mean that we work alone. Another one of our strengths are that we know how and when to get assistance or expand our network if we come up against problems. When we get advice, we use it to quickly assess a situation and make a decision on how to proceed, which again keeps us progressing without getting bogged down.

Another important thing is to recognise that is always possible to do more work. Therefore, its necessary to set specific milestones to achieve, and to ensure that we are not creating more work for ourselves and getting overwhelmed by trying to do too much. We manage this by having constant communication between each other, and making sure that we revisit the big picture milestones frequently to ensure that we are working efficiently towards our long-term goals. There is no point working for 10 hours to do something that can be done in 4 hours!

# With the Award you received a prize money of 25.000 Euros. What are you going to do with the money? How will you invest it?

We are a critical state with AEROPOWDER as we look to scale our manufacturing capabilities so that we can get more pluumo units out in customer’s hands. Our first pilot production run involved us doing many steps manually, which was sufficient at the time, but as we are now looking to manufacture tens of thousands of units so the hand made touch is no longer an option! Therefore, we are looking to use the prize money to purchase some equipment that will allow us to automate certain steps. We are looking for machines that are not only have a high throughput speed, but also are flexible as we still want to explore different product configurations for pluumo. These machines won’t be suitable forever, as eventually we need something appropriate for the millions of pluumo liners in the future. But for right now, these machines will be critically important to show that we can be relied upon to mass produce pluumo liners and satisfy market demands.

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