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Raising £12M To Build Better Batteries For A Better Tomorrow

Dr. Amrit Chandan

Aceleron Energy

Powered By:

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Raising £12M To Build Better Batteries For A Better Tomorrow

Dr. Amrit Chandan


Aceleron Energy

Watch this episode on SpotifyWatch onListen on YouTube
Dr. Amrit Chandan Aceleron Energy
Full transcript here

About Dr. Amrit Chandan

The BAE HQ welcomes Amrit Chandan, the co-founder and CEO of Aceleron Energy.

Amrit came from a family of entrepreneurs but initially decided it wasn't the life for him!

He gained his PhD in Chemical Engineering and then joined the engineering world. It's here he met his cofounder Carlton and they decided they could make way more impact on their own.

They've got a unique way to make batteries that could huge amounts of waste and help protect our planet.

They've already raised £12m and are looking to raise even more!

Amrit Chandan

Aceleron Energy

Show Notes

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Dr. Amrit Chandan Full Transcript

Amrit Chandan: [00:00:00] So we've raised 12 million pounds of funding. Ethnic minority led businesses are not funded as much as, as white founder led businesses. There will be enough batteries that are needed by 2040. They will fill globally, you know, 23 times Wembley Stadium every single year. So I, I believe that we should be building business that's not just considering the financial return, but also return to people and the return to, to the environment as well.

Amrit Chandan: I think we have a business that deserves to be there for the future. We want to impact positively over a hundred million people around the world, and we want to offset more than 25 million tons of rolled outside.

Amardeep Parmar: Welcome to The BAE HQ, where we inspire, connect, and guide the next generation of British Asians. If you're watching us on YouTube, make sure you hit that subscribe button and if you're listening on Apple or Spotify, make sure you leave us a five star review. Today. we have with us Amrit Chandan, who's the co-founder and CEO of Aceleron.

Amardeep Parmar: They're maximizing the value of batteries to make a positive global impact. How are you doing today? [00:01:00] 

Amrit Chandan: I'm really good, thanks. How are you? 

Amardeep Parmar: They're maximizing the value of batteries to make a Yeah, good. So you've made the way from Birmingham for us, especially. 

Amrit Chandan: I  have, yes. So thank you for doing that. Travel down to the big city. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah.  And you've got an interesting journey, right?

Amardeep Parmar: And you've done a PHD and you're now transforming batteries in particular. But if you rewind when you're growing up, did you ever think you'd be building your own businesses and doing the kind of thing you're doing today?

Amrit Chandan:  I come from a family,  which is entrepreneurial. My, my grandfather moved here by himself and brought the whole family, uh, uh, along the, the Kenyan migration route and all of my, all of my uncles, They all had their own businesses.

Amrit Chandan: Have their own businesses, and I didn't want to have a small business myself. Uh, I saw the stress that my dad was under and the family were, were under during times that it can be really stressful and decided that I wanted to have a standard corporate job and it's worked out really well.. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah That's exactly what you've done.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. And. So you studied with like in the engineering space and the sciences space, what took you [00:02:00] down that route in particular to  study those subjects?

Amrit Chandan: I didn't really put much thought into what I wanted to study at university at all. Just chose a subject that I enjoyed doing at school and which was chemistry.

Amrit Chandan: And it was actually for me when I, when I got to the end of my undergraduate degree that I realized. I didn't want to pursue a graduate career, so I did. What happened was I did two grand total, two grad scheme applications, and for those of you that that know what a pain it is, you, you have to deconstruct your whole cv.

Amrit Chandan: You have to answer essay questions and put it into an online form and you don't even get the courtesy a response. You know, they, they sort of say, if you don't hear from us in two weeks, then uh, you haven't got the job, or you're not gonna be called for an interview. And I decided that just wasn't for me.

Amrit Chandan: I didn't wanna do that. I didn't want to live life like that. And, I didn't have the perseverance to get through more than two forms, so I decided I was gonna walk my own path, do a different, do things differently. And so there was an opportunity [00:03:00] to study for a PhD in chemical engineering, and I decided to pursue that.

Amardeep Parmar: And when you  took that decision, and I guess a lot of your friends then went on into corporate careers and did things like that, how did you feel about that when you were like at university studying Hardy? Did you feel like at the time you made the right decision, or did you ever regret that decision?

Amrit Chandan: There were many times during my PhD where I had real doubts about what I was doing. The PhD is a really grueling process. Um, it a long year, you know, self-directed. You don't really have much guidance or support as to what it is you're doing. And there were many times when I was really close to just

Amrit Chandan: calling that a day and, and deciding that I wanted to do, you know, do something else. But I stuck with it and, and wanted to see that through. And it was during my PhD that I started exploring what else I could do. So there was a small grant available from the university, and that's how I started my first business.

Amrit Chandan: It was a, it was around the research topic, which was in, in fuel cells and electric vehicles. And we were looking at how to, [00:04:00] how to commercialize them and, get product into the, into the market. That gave me the the real taste of entrepreneurship. I didn’t ver really looked back since then. So that, that, that was my taste in entrepreneurship.

Amrit Chandan: And it was a talk that I heard, a UN scientist came to our research group and he said, the world is beyond saving. There's no point in even trying that damage the climate too much. Uh, this is almost 10 years.

Amardeep Parmar: Is, it's the fun guy then?

Amrit Chandan:Yeah. Super depressing. Super depressing. I was depressed for a week after listening to that talk and  I decided that I wanted to do something about it.

Amrit Chandan: Um, we're on this planet. Need to do something, try and make it better for all of us. One of my favorite phrases is, is a Native American saying that goes, um, we borrow the resources of future generations, so I wanted to try and do something for that, that future, those future generations. 

Amardeep Parmar: So with that first startup, how was that journey?

Amardeep Parmar: Obviously you've gone into bit Accelerant now, but how did that first startup go? What did you learn [00:05:00] from it? 

Amrit Chandan: Yeah, so it was, it was a consultancy, um, based business and learned some really basic things about sort of starting a business and we were bootstrapping it, so we, we didn't raise any kind of investment.

Amrit Chandan: We took a bit of seed money from the University. I think it was about 1000 pounds and prospecting business and working with, with partners and clients to, to help them understand how to get their, their disruptive technologies into market. And so learned quite a few things during that process. And it was, it was scaling, uh, it starting to grow quite nicely.

Amrit Chandan: So we were getting some nice projects and, and winning some big, big projects because we were doing it as a side project. From our PhDs, myself, and it was another co-founder, um, who was also a PhD student at the time. I finished my PhD and decided to, to try and get some more experience in a bigger company, doing the same thing.

Amrit Chandan: And my, uh, co-founder of that business, really good friend of mine, he decided to pursue an academic career. So he moved over to the, to the US and it was just a difference in aspiration as to what we wanted [00:06:00] to, to do with our careers. So we, we stopped doing that work and it was while I was at the larger, uh, consultancy doing pretty much the same work.

Amrit Chandan: Then I met my current co-founder, Carlton, uh, of Acceleron, and we saw that there was a massive opportunity there with, with batteries that we wanted to pursue. 

Amardeep Parmar: So I've, I've watched the video about Acceleron and the journey of how you met each other as well. And could you share that with the audience because.

Amardeep Parmar: It seems really crazy about how you guys met and then you just got along so well, so quickly. 

Amrit Chandan: Yeah, so we met while working at the same, whilst working at the same uh, company. Um, actually we met at a trade show, so, uh, Carlton was, uh, he, he got into a vehicle. We were both doing a test drive of this vehicle.

Amrit Chandan: He got into the vehicle. I was in the vehicle. We were, we just started talking at that time. And then it turns out that Carlton was joining the company, um, as a, as an intern. And I, I was working there. And so we got along really well. Um, [00:07:00] he's from the Caribbean originally. Uh, so we both recognized and, and felt that sort of shared kinship of kind of not being,

Amrit Chandan: not being sort of like everyone else in the, in the company and wanting to look at things differently. And we both had a passion for creating things and doing and looking at sort of problems and challenges. So we started. Acceleron. It, it really started as a lunchtime conversation. We, we knew each, we had known each other by that point for about a month, um, and decided to start putting in lots of applications to competitions and prizes and things to get some funding and test the idea and get some critique on the idea.

Amrit Chandan: So it started out just really as a lunchtime conversation that progressed into a, almost like an afterschool project, and then we decided that there was enough in it to, to leave the place of work and to pursue that as a, as an option. 

Amardeep Parmar: It's interesting to mention  there about how you both felt that you didn't quite fit in or you had different ideas for what other people were.

Amardeep Parmar: How [00:08:00] did that, like as a person in a large company like that, if you just done your PhD and do you know, obviously having done your PhD, you know your stuff right. How did that feel like, was that something, iff Carlton hadn't come along, would you have continued to do, look at starting a startup, or what do you think you would've done?

Amrit Chandan: So I  think if I hadn't met Carlton at that point in time, I probably would've left anyway and done something more entrepreneurial. It was just, I found that the, the culture fit with the company wasn't, wasn't the best. So I was employed in a technical role and I was, I just found it very difficult with the way the rigid processes and the way things were done, and it wasn't in line with

Amrit Chandan: what I was used to during my PhD, which is really, you know, self-directed and I know what the outcome is and what's needed and, and I think I know the best way to, to get there. There was going to be a change at some point and we both decided that, you know, Carlton felt the same way and we, we wanted to do something different.

Amardeep Parmar:So how did you settle on the idea of particular batteries and what you're doing with et cetera? And can you just explain as well [00:09:00] what Acceleron actually does? 

Amrit Chandan: Yeah, sure. So Acceleron is making batteries that are much more sustainable. So we came up with a way of constructing batteries that don't need permanent techniques.

Amrit Chandan: So we don't use any spot welding, we don't use any glues. This is a big problem with the way lithium batteries are made at the moment. So we know that there's a huge amount of batteries needed to give you power when the sun doesn't shine, when the wind doesn't flow, and also to to power electric vehicles.

Amrit Chandan: But the issue is that they are made with these permanent techniques, spot welding and glues, and so on. The challenge is that they are not easy to repair, maintain, upgrade, recycle over time, and that creates a massive, looming waste challenge. So it's kind if you're driving down the road in your car and something goes wrong with your car, you scrap the vehicle instead of getting it repaired.

Amrit Chandan: It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah.

Amrit Chandan: So we, we figured a better way. It was actually Carlton who came up with a better way of, of [00:10:00] doing this. I probably should explain his background. He's from the, he's from the Caribbean. And he's a mechanical engineer by training and, and worked in the solar industry for a number of years, and he came to the UK to study for a Masters in Business and Sustainability.

Amrit Chandan: While he was doing that, he was also on an electric motorcycle race team, so he was, he was the battery engineer in that, in that team. So he had some ideas about how batteries could come together in a different way. The rest is, the rest is history as it as it goes. 

Amardeep Parmar: So could you illustrate, so what's the scale of this problem for how many batteries are wasted and what's the damage that it does to the planet?

Amrit Chandan: There will be enough batteries that are needed based on the forecast that by 2040 they will fill globally, you know, 23 times Wembley Stadium every single year. That's how many will be coming offline when they don't necessarily need to be. And there'll be 10 times that number in circulation. It's a huge amount of batteries that we're gonna be using.

Amrit Chandan: And the problem is if we, if we don't use them efficiently, many batteries will not pay back. The energy that goes into their production and recycling because they're not used [00:11:00] long enough and it's all down to the way they constructed. So if, if there's a few components in a battery, which no longer work as well as they, as they would in their first life, um, or when they were brand new, they, the whole thing at the moment is, is waste.

Amrit Chandan: You can't do anything with it. You can't really use it. So if we can make that more efficient, make you really maximize the value we can extract from these batteries, then they can have a positive impact in the world and we can, we can really make sure we're treating the battery and all the metals and everything that goes into it as a precious asset, not as a consumable device.

Amardeep Parmar: And you mentioned as well that you had this idea and then you went into different competitions and as was a lunchtime project at the, at the start. What were the tipping points then meant that, okay, now this is something which we could take full time. Was it you won grants or what was it that made you decide like, this is something which now it we should dedicate all of our time to?

Amrit Chandan: Part of it was that we both felt the need to do something different. And so it was not, it was, it was like pushing on an open door and then part of it was the [00:12:00] feedback. We didn't have any particularly large grants. We had small amounts of funding that were coming through from that, so maybe 1000 pounds here, 1000 pounds there. But we both thought there was enough in it to, to leave and, and, uh, pursue full-time.

Amrit Chandan: So it took a couple of years to get it to a place where, you know, I think the first 18 to 24 months, I wasn't taking a salary. Calton wasn't taking a salary. We were just trying things out and testing things and seeing what worked, seeing what didn't work.

Amardeep Parmar: And obviously now you say, you mentioned at the beginning you were getting grants of a thousand or 2000 at a time.

Amardeep Parmar: Whereas now you've got significantly more funding. Right. How much funding have you raised over and how did you go about raising that funding? 

Amrit Chandan: So we've raised, now it's about 12 million pounds of funding over our journey, and it's about half of that is in equity, so people have bought shares in our company, and half of that is through Grants philanthropic funding.

Amrit Chandan: Yeah, I've, I've learned a lot through the journey. Uh, I, I think there was a, so there's a, there's a definite challenge where ethnic minority led businesses, are not funded as much as, [00:13:00] as white founder-led businesses. And it's, and it's even worse for women-led businesses. So there's a definite disparity in terms of the amount of money that's going into it.

Amrit Chandan: When I started, I had no idea about fundraising whatsoever. Had no idea about how to do any of it, and it was just trying things out and, and being naively optimistic that things will work. I think looking back on it now, I would have tried to have raised much more funding, but I didn't know any better. So the first funding round we did was 50 pounds from friends.

Amrit Chandan: Friends and family and, and angels. I really didn't, I mean, that's, that at the time felt like a lot of money and it really is not a lot of money. So yeah, there's lots of things I would do differently this time. If I was starting again.

Amardeep Parmar:  I, I guess  it's also the scale of remission, right? Because for some businesses, 150,000 would do what they need to do, whereas, because you're trying to impact a

Amardeep Parmar: Global market that's gonna have such an impact on the world. That's where you need the extra funding to really make that impact you want to make. And what are some of the lessons [00:14:00] you learned about the funding side of things? Of how to, 'cause I think it's a common problem for a lot of people from like ethnic minority backgrounds.

Amardeep Parmar: Also, like you said, women where because they know there's these biases out there. It's then tough to then go out there and pitch because you think, have I got a chance? Are people gonna see me and think, oh, I don't trust them? How? How did you go about that? Because then I think that could inspire other people listening to think maybe I can get that funding too.

Amrit Chandan: I have now done five frounds just starting at six. Uh, and that's, that's raising equity money. And there's many, many different grants that we've won now over the, over the years, ranging from a couple of thousand pounds, up to million pounds. The biggest lesson is to, you have to be ready for the rejection ‘cause there'll be a lot of rejection, doubly so, because, you know, we are people of,

Amrit Chandan: of an ethnic minority and just the fact that it's a self-fulfilling proxy, but the fact that you are someone of an ethnic minority, that means you are inherently more risky to invest in because other investors don't want to put as much money in so [00:15:00].

Amardeep Parmar: Contagion effect, yeah, 

Amrit Chandan:  Yeah. The, the capital that's available is, is lower, but I still think it's important to try and just go for it and have that naive optimism that something will.

Amrit Chandan: That blind optimism that something will work and and come through. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. And I guess you've also now used that money to scale significantly, right? And you went from it being two of you sitting at, in the cafeteria chatting about what you could do about batteries and changing the world to actually being part of that journey and really doing that.

Amardeep Parmar: In terms of scaling, what are some of the hard lessons you've learned there about how to grow a business that maybe you didn't expect? 'Cause you had that academic background rather than a business background? 

Amrit Chandan: Getting  the right people is critical. Really critical. Um, if you get the wrong people, it can be, it can be devastating for what it's you're trying to do.

Amrit Chandan: And especially when you're a small company and you're not self-supporting in the sense that you are, you are overall profit. Profitable. That can waste so much time and resource and energy. And often it's the internal people challenges, which are the most draining to deal with [00:16:00] and the most challenging to deal with.

Amrit Chandan: So definitely getting the right people higher, slow and fire fast, I think is the, is one saying. I think I might be one of the founders of indeed that said that, but you know, just get people in, get them slowly and make sure they're right before, before taking them forward and, and sort of having them there and then it's, it's getting, it's having that

Amrit Chandan: being really intentional with the, the culture of the business and what it's you're trying to do. So, and having that at all levels. So that includes at a board level, finding value aligned investors. And sometimes it can be really difficult because projects and projects and, and partners are there, they wanna work with you, but it, they can be Fausti,  Faustian deals? Like you signing a deal with the devil. They can, 

Amrit Chandan: yes you got some money now, you get a partner now. You can,  you use their name and say that you're partner with them, but if you're not comfortable with it, right from the outset, it will really make your life painful for you in the future. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah, I, I think  on that second point as well, it's something which, especially if you don't have a background where you know people who've got funding or you don't have [00:17:00] that experience, then there are a lot of people out there who are sharks, right?

Amardeep Parmar: They're trying to see how can I get money into this business and then extract as much value as possible for myself rather than necessarily believing in your mission and what you're trying to achieve. And it's really difficult for somebody at the early stages to know who to trust and who not to trust.

Amardeep Parmar: And this is what hopefully we are trying to do other organizations trying to do is connect people in that way. And what have you learned about that process of how do you judge who you should partner with and who shouldn't? Have you got any criteria that built up over time of, okay, red flags? Okay, if somebody does this, then maybe be more cautious.

Amrit Chandan: Again, it comes back to value alignment. So make a judgment on whether the people you're dealing with are ones that you think will actually are value aligned. They believe in the same things that you do. And I don’t mean Politics or Religion or anything like that, but actually their moral compass is the same as yours or very similar to yours.

Amrit Chandan: I think the other, the other point is to talk to as many people as you can and get into as many [00:18:00] networks as you can. So I find that really helpful. I've received so much support from various mentors, so find a mentor as well. That's a really powerful thing. Again, I really like quotes. One of, another favorite, one of mine is from Isaac Newton, who said, if I can see far, It's because I stood on the shoulders of giants.

Amrit Chandan: So it's, it's a acknowledgement that you know this, you just really don't know and you learn from, learn from you. And, and there's a lot of learning from mentors, from peers as well. So getting into peer networks with other, other founders and other people who are leading businesses and raising funds and learning from them and, you know, doing the due diligence on.

Amrit Chandan: The investors in particular, but also, um, partners as well. Often you overlook that because you see the price of the, the name and you know who they are, but being really careful with, with that and doing that due diligence to make sure that they are the right partners is, is good 

Amardeep Parmar: And what stage, et cetera, that today, like what's, what does your day-to-day look like or what you working on right now?

Amardeep Parmar: And then also what are you most excited about in terms of [00:19:00] what's coming up soon. 

Amrit Chandan: So we've just launched another funding round, then they're never ending. And what I'm most excited about is the next phase on our journey, which is scaling our company and doing that through technology partnerships. So we are too small, our access to capital is too limited to set up a, a big factory somewhere and start making lots and lots of batteries.

Amrit Chandan: And actually the way it’s for us to have the most amount of impact is to work with manufacturers and 

Amrit Chandan:work with suppliers that are already, already are either producing or want to produce batteries and get them adopting our technology so that they can, they can do this at scale. So that's a bit, that's the next phase of our journey, which I'm really excited about. And we've got some great partners on board as well. So, uh, working with partners like, like Toyota, who have invested in our company and, and some of the investors we have as well.

Amardeep Parmar: And then like,  what, what does success look like for you? Right? So what's the big dream that you have for Acceleron and where the company could  get to?

Amrit Chandan: So I, I believe that we should be building business that's not just considering the financial [00:20:00] return, but also the return to people and the return to, to the environment as well.

Amrit Chandan: If we can bake in that sustainability and how a business that addresses all three. I think we have a business that deserves to be there for the future. In terms of our specific goals. We want to impact positively over a hundred million people around the world and we want to offset more than 25 million tons of carbon dioxide.

Amardeep Parmar: And one thing I know you're doing as well, right, because you've obviously got the batteries that you're building, but there's also a program you have of Africa, right? What is that about? What does that do?

Amrit Chandan: So we work, we are working in, in emerging markets. That's a key. That's a key sector for us because in particular, it's not just that people need the batteries there, but that they don't even have the recycling infrastructure to deal with the batteries when they are there.

Amrit Chandan: So, and, and in many parts, especially rural parts of Africa, the only thing that can be done with waste is to burn it. And that's hugely damaging to the environment, hugely damaging to people as well. So, we are working with partners like Toyota, uh,Total, Shell Foundation in the local market to showcase the technology and then use [00:21:00] that as a platform to create partnerships to scale our business.

Amardeep Parmar: So it's really exciting what you're doing and like really excited to see what happens with it. We're gonna need to move on to the quickfire questions now, just looking at the time. So the first one is, who are three British Asians that you'd love to shout out that you think people listening to right now should be following or paying attention to?

Amrit Chandan: So, the three British Asians I would really like to shout out are one is my, my cousin, Dr. Jhot Chandan. So not only is he a doctor working in the N H Ss, he's also just finishing a PhD. And he's also a police officer at the same time. So he is working in the police force. So he is doing just about everything you can imagine all at the same time.

Amrit Chandan: I dunno where he gets the time, but it's amazing to watch. And he's been on the B, B, C and he talks about the work that he's been doing quite a bit. So really representing, representing our, our, our community. And then the second shout out is to Dr. Ranjit Sagu. So he's, he's my cousin as well, and an, an entrepreneur.

Amrit Chandan: So he, he makes the most amazing fine art and his pieces are available. He's on, [00:22:00] he's on, I think all the young people call it the gram. He's on Instagram as well. And yeah, really, really cool to see what he does and how he does it, as well as being a, a full, uh, a doctor as well. Um, so I believe he's a plastic surgeon as well.

Amrit Chandan: Um, and then the third shout out is to an entrepreneur, Beant Singh, um, from Birmingham. Uh, so he's just started a company called Vardan and what they are doing is really amazing. Um, they are chronicling our history, our shared history, so they are. They are working with elders within the community and right, and recording videos and doing in-depth interviews to understand all the history that we have from the Punjab all the way to here in the uk.

Amrit Chandan: So well worth it if you are interested in, in, in documenting and archiving your, your family history while the elders is still here to reach out to him. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. So  a multi-talented family you've got there. Very lucky to be part of it. And the next question is, if people right now are listening and looking for guidance or help, what could they come to you about?

Amrit Chandan: I would be really happy [00:23:00] to help out with, um, introductions to my network, um, help with fundraising in particularly in their sort of in the tech space and just to be a sounding board. 

Amardeep Parmar: And then on the  flip side is that you need help with right now. Or accelerant needs help with?

Amrit Chandan: So right now we are raising funds.

Amrit Chandan: So if any, any anyone out there wants to get involved and, and, and, uh, contribute, that would be amazing

Amardeep Parmar:. And then finally, so thanks so much for coming on. Have you got any final words to the audience? 

Amrit Chandan: I'd  just really like to, to end with that you know, this planet is, is shared. We are, we are borrowing the resources of future generations.

Amrit Chandan: So anything we can do to preserve that legacy for the future. Uh, and, and this is not, we're not talking many, many generations, but even the next generation, our children are gonna face immense challenges that we can only imagine. And so, even just bringing it right back to the near future, we need to do something together.

Amardeep Parmar: Hello. Hello everyone. Thank you so much for listening. It makes a huge amount to us and we don't think you realize how important you are because if you [00:24:00] subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you leave us a five star review, it makes the world of difference. And if you believe in what we're trying to do here, To inspire, connect, and guide the next generation of British Asians.

Amardeep Parmar: If you do those things, you can help us achieve that mission and you can help us make a bigger impact. And by doing that it means we can get bigger guests, we can host more events, we can do more for the community. So you can play a huge part. So thank you so much for supporting us.

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