Turbulent – Hydropower inspired by nature

STARTUP: Turbulent
DESCRIPTION:

PLACE:
Head Office Europe: Antwerp, Belgium
Lab in Europe: Hasselt, Belgium
Office and Lab South America: Santiago, Chile
FOUNDED BY:
Jasper Verreydt and Geert Slachmuylders

ABSTRACT:
Turbulent learns from nature and apply what they learned to produce energy out of turbulences. They have designed a turbulent turbine which is basically a mini hydro-power plant. This plant would allow them to provide electricity in areas where it never was possible or cost-efficient. So they create a niche for the hydro power sector but this niche makes it possible for remote regions to be electrified.

I met Geert and Jasper at the “Hello Tomorrow” Conference 2015 in Paris and we talked about “Turbulent” and their way to be an entrepreneur.This is the first part of the Turbulent story about the beginnings, the advantages to be an entrepreneur but also the “dark sides” of being a founder.

How did you develop this idea?
Geert: I had to come up with a subject of my thesis as en engineer and I was always interested in nature. While thinking what to do – it was somewhere in Ischl in Austria – I was standing on a bridge and looking down and I saw the water of the river stream passing by a bridge. Behind the pillar of the bridge you get all of this vortexes.  Apparently what happens there is you have two energy potentials and the river uses a vortex two dissipate into heat.
This was the inspiration. I was thinking if the river uses this principle to get energy out of the water, maybe I could use this principle to get energy from the water into a generator. So that is how the project started. And the we started working on it, did the necessary calculations, designed a turbine and afterwards we did the CFD, Computer Fluid Dynamics, and we got results and saw that it was feasible. And we started building our innovation in a lab and now we are scaling it up.

FUNDING:
Pre-seed: Bootstrapping
Seed-funding:
KIC InnoEnergy with a valuation of 1000.000EUR in the beginning of 2015
additional funding from iMinds and an Innovation grant from the government of Belgium 50.000 Euros

STAGE (April 2016):
At the moment Turbulent just got a new fund from their investor at special terms and they are submitting a larger government grant for Innovation. They are also looking for a smart investor for a growth investment.
COMPETITIONS (so far):
Hello Tomorrow Challenge 2015
ACCELERATORS/INCUBATORS:
Startup Chile 2015

You could have developed your idea inside an university as a science project. Why did you decide to leave university and build a startup?
Geert: There were a few moments. Two times they offered me a PhD that I could do it under the wings of a university but I knew some of the professors. They were really academic people and in academics they work out the whole theory before they even start building this. One professor had been building formulas for hydropower technology for more than thirteen years and he never built anything so he never validate it. This showed me a bit  that in academia they don´t make fast progress and as a startup I really can go fast. Well I need money of course, but you have to go fast, go quickly to the market and design only the things the market needs. You don´t over engineered it. This is better for focusing and it also more interesting.

Building a startup is a real adventure and from the outside world it seems to be an exciting thing to do. But what are the “dark sides” of the story?

What is your personal background as an entrepreneur?
Geert: I have no one in my family that is an entrepreneur. I come from a family of lawyers with is also handy with contracts and everything. I have some help there. The only person who had this entrepreneurial spirit was my grandmother. In her youth she was a rebel, she was in the “Resistance” and after the war she was doing all kind of businesses. I am as stubborn as my grandmother and she really taught me a lot. Without her I wouldn’t be an entrepreneur I think.

Your advice for other scientist who would like to build a startup?

Last year you applied for the Startup Chile accelerator, your application was successful and you went to Chile because of the Startup Chile accelerator. This sounds like a real adventure. Please tell us something about your experiences and the work you have done there?
Geert: We’re experiencing a different culture with a lot more paperwork. But we have seen the environment and have established the huge potential. We’re now in talks with developers to go joint venture with us and start building turbines here. Most of whom we talk to is very positive about the project and most developers tell us that they haven’t seen a technology yet for these kind of low head sites that was economically viable and our price point seems to do the trick.

Turbulent´s movie:

GALLERY