Respyre: from lab to real-life environment
Urbanization and climate change need the development of new solutions to sustain and improve the quality of life in our cities. ‘Green cities’ benefit the biodiversity, climate, wellbeing, and air quality, assuring the improvement of the inhabitants’ lives.
Respyre is an aspiring pioneering company that has joined YES!Delft in spring 2022 with the ambition to contribute to the concept of green cities. Respyre has created an innovative, patent-pending, bio-receptive concrete solution that allows moss to grow after hardening. Their solution can be conveniently applied to existing structures while also being efficiently incorporated into new constructions. This makes their product a quick, simple, low-cost alternative to façade covering that can also benefit the urban environment.
From research to a business idea
Respyre looked at the research conducted by TU Delft on why mosses grow on different surfaces next to the railways with the scope of assessing whether it harms them. The conclusion was that the moss does not eat the concrete, yet if the railway’s operators want to prevent them from growing, they should use concrete that does not contain certain characteristics. That was the moment when Mark de Kruijff turned the idea into a business concept. Auke Bleij, his friend, got very excited about the sounds of it and decided to join the company shortly after that.
Auke explained that “many unused vertical surfaces can easily be turned into air filtering or water retaining surfaces”. He saw the potential of this idea and described this experience as being one of the few when he was “intrinsically motivated to keep on working”.
Respyre’s current target market is represented by the infrastructure operators, real estate, and the government (municipalities). Defining the target market helped them launch different paid pilot projects. One of the most exciting pilot projects was with the Municipality of Amsterdam, where they were asked to cover two bridges. Amsterdam has a lot of bridges that are constantly covered in graffiti, and by collaborating with Respyre, they could create “a natural shield”.
“What we try to do is to reach enthusiastic municipalities and empower them as pioneers of the product: meaning that they have the product and use it the way they find fit.”- Auke Bleij
Looking at where Respyre is to be positioned in the market, their biggest competition only focuses on brick and mortar. “That’s also where we want to compete as well. We want to make this as good as brick and mortar.” Their products are not supposed to be “an alternative for vertical greening, but an alternative for façade covering”.
According to Auke, “The Netherlands is a great country for start-ups” since there is a high interest in investing in unique ideas. Within the next couple of months, Respyre aims to gather between € 300-500k. This investment is meant to create “market-ready products”, with the goal of not only having a nice concept but a predefined supply chain and production site, among others. At the moment, they aim to do that by getting affordable loans for social investments and paid pilots with companies who trust the product or want to contribute to the concept’s success.
In a later stage, after 12-18 months, Respyre will then start looking at large rounds of investments (a couple of millions). These investments are expected to happen through private investors, crowdfunding, but also RaboBank, Angels Investors and Innovation Fund of Holland.
In this process, YES!Delft has played an essential factor in the growth of Respyre. The company was offered the general picture of what they have to think about as a business as well as the tools that they need to start building it. Apart from that, they could use their community and network, which has also made it easier to talk to investors.
“You have an Excel sheet for everything, and you can easily get your questions answered”- Auke Bleij
The next steps for the upcoming 6-12 months of Respyre is to pay a lot of attention to the pilot projects and everything besides that such as keeping the company going, getting funding, expanding the team, maintaining the website, and formulating different strategies.
“The pilots help validate the business model and the problem-solution fit and, at the same time, it helps us understand our products better.”- Auke Bleij
Your dream can become a reality too. As long as you want to make a change, don’t miss the opportunity to boost your startup by joining the YES!Delft Validation Lab or Accelerator Program. However, if working for a startup resonates more with your ambition, we got you! Check out the vacancies on our YES!Talents page!