“Be-Pack” converts agricultural waste and wood waste into packaging materials

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I’m a passionate coffee lover, and like many people, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home during the pandemic. With most of the world shut down, I decided to go to my rural home. It gave me time and space to think. I love making coffee, and I have a special way of doing it, but while I was making coffee, I often thought about the fate of leftover coffee grounds. Almost every day I asked myself this question. What can we do with them for the greater good? Can we make them work for something good?

Having found the answers to these questions, I decided to look for more information and see if there was anything I could do. I have initiated a global patent review to investigate potential applications for coffee grounds. I didn’t find any convincing patents, but I did connect with individuals who were experimenting with bark. While talking with him, I realized that bark has more potential than coffee grounds. This intrigued me and I thought that this discovery could be applied to packaging to make it more sustainable. So after that I started experimenting. My intention was to find a packaging solution made from completely sustainable materials, but it’s not as easy as it seems. So we experimented with different combinations, including ingredients like peanuts, nettles, and nut shells. I switched from one combination to another until I found one that worked. And so the Bpacks product was born.

Tell us about your business – what it is, what you aim to achieve, who you work with, how you approach your customers, etc.

We have developed the world’s first bark-based packaging technology that seamlessly replaces plastic materials. This means there is no need to recalibrate the plastic production line. Our packaging solutions are 100% home compostable and 75% of our materials are sourced from production waste. moreover, Use used equipment when it makes economic sense.

Our team is tackling the problem of integrating biopackaging into existing plastic production streams, as most of the current solutions on the market are not so easily integrated.of european union policy directive It mandates a transition to biodegradable packaging within the next five years. of $384 billion The global plastic packaging market needs to evolve to more sustainable solutions. Our technology helps businesses make this transition smoothly.

We can produce both ready-to-use biopackages and bio-based pellets for leading manufacturers. Of course, our priority is to integrate our technology into your current production line. However, establishing full-line packaging production requires larger capital investments. This is part of the second phase of our strategy development.

Our bark-based technology can replace rigid plastic packaging in various industries such as beauty, household, and food. Some of our main prospects belong to the food industry and as an additional feature, our packaging offers a high antimicrobial index. , this is thanks to the natural properties of the bark.

We know that single-use plastic food packaging is a major contributor to the global waste problem, and we’re passionate about changing that. For example, companies like Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Mars have already committed to fully recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging by 2025. So what we’re doing is completely aligned with the current plans of leading organizations, so there’s a huge opportunity. We are 100% committed to the circular economy and the proof of this is that our main raw material is bark, a by-product of wood production.

How has the business evolved since launching?

We registered our company in the UK in 2022 and opened an R&D center in Serbia in October 2023. This is his 300 square meter laboratory where we are constantly innovating and testing hypotheses. As mentioned above, we are fully committed to sustainable development and CO2 reduction.

After successfully exiting the consulting business, I invited: Lev Bolshakov, who has a proven track record in corporate finance and startup valuation, joined me and together we founded Bpacks. We then added Nikolai Semyonov, a PhD, researcher, engineer and expert in polymer materials science, as our third co-founder. With his participation, we raised our first angel investment and have since welcomed a new Head of Innovation, Dr. Aleksandra Nesic, who has extensive experience in obtaining and characterizing active substances from plants and organic materials. I did.

Our tests have shown great results and we have received a lot of interest from the scientific community. B pack It is supported by a strong advisory board of international scientists.

Please tell us about the work culture at Bpacks.

I believe that the work culture should align with the company’s values ​​and communicate them at all levels. As part of our sustainable transition, we are committed to reducing CO2 at every stage of our operations. You may laugh at this, but we have a company rule where we remind each other to turn off the lights.

Another important aspect to mention is the way we work. Our startup is a small team, so unlike larger companies with extended structures, we don’t have any resources to rely on outside of our own team. For example, in some companies the employee has three days to respond, and the employee cannot be forcibly fired. But that’s not the case with startups. After three days, the issue may no longer be relevant and may be considered slow. This also means there are rules about not attacking each other if something doesn’t meet a deadline. Instead, support each other and help keep everything up to date.

Furthermore, activities outside the office are also very important and part of our culture. Overall, we really value our team. Our intention is to create a work culture where people can grow personally and professionally and are proud to work at Bpacks because they know they have a team behind them. It’s about building. As CEO, I actively invest in all kinds of out-of-office activities to reduce my team’s daily stress levels.

And of course, we’re focused on building a diverse team. I always evaluate employees based on what they can bring to the team, and I believe we should hire more women. We currently have several candidates, all of whom are excellent, and we expect some of them to join us soon.

How is it funded?

Our first investment was from a group of private investors and we have also invested a significant portion of our capital.

Today, we close a new round of funding and are applying for grants to strengthen our research and development efforts.

What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?

Contrary to what many may think, creating a formula or modifying your equipment bag is not that difficult compared to the funding process. Especially in today’s economy and difficult venture capital environment, raising capital can take up to a year. It also includes a lot of cold outreach and warm pitches, which have low conversion rates. At the same time, as a CEO, you need to stay on top of business strategy, provide leadership, and hire new talent. Therefore, balancing both is a very difficult task.

Another challenge is the cultural differences that prevail in different countries. As we are an international start-up, we are active throughout Europe and when expanding our business we have to take into account not only the particularities of each country and its public and private sectors, but also cultural characteristics. there is.

Sure, product development has its complexities, but we love it and it’s a source of inspiration and adrenaline.

How does Bpack answer unmet needs?

The packaging industry is transitioning to more sustainable, affordable and scalable alternatives to plastic packaging. Consumers are also becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their purchases, and this includes packaging. According to several studies, consumers are willing to overpay for bio-based packaging and prefer that their favorite brands use recycled or biodegradable packaging.

Bpacks, unlike other players in the market, uses tree bark for the production of pellets. Just imagine, The bark production levels are: 300 million and 400 million m3 is produced every year, but no one uses it as a valuable resource. Instead, they simply throw it away or burn it. The involvement in creating new valuable products from the bark is very low. We solve this problem not only for the wood industry, but also for many related industries facing the problem of wood waste.

Then there’s the issue of regulation. As I mentioned earlier, a new EU directive mandates the transition to eco-packaging. And for this transition to take place in the right way, effective solutions are needed. Our products fill the gap and address the needs of companies integrating sustainable packaging into their value chains.

What does the future hold?

Looking to the future, our intention is to maintain a lab for new development and testing, and to separately plan to run a line for commercial scale production. Our expectation is that this will be used for a pilot program to demonstrate to our customers the uses and applicability of our pellets. We also intend to franchise our technology and, with the support of our global partners, enable the replacement of plastic pellets around the world and position us as a leader in sustainable packaging production.

What advice would you give to other founders or future founders?

Believe in yourself and your ideas, this is the most important thing. Ignore the haters and move on.

Building a startup is not easy. Start with an idea that everyone likes. However, it mainly faces challenges during execution. It all starts to take up your time and you have to work 24/7. At some point everyone begins to get very tired, lose motivation, and sooner or later everyone begins to doubt that your idea will work. That’s why we must continue. This is a critical stage and you need to continue to believe in your product, your team, and yourself.

Like all businesses, at some point we have faced negative feedback. Therefore, it is important not to give up even if you fail, to think about what you can learn from that moment, to gain experience, and to keep improving your product.

When you look at any company, it didn’t start out the way it does today. If you look at Airbnb or Meta, for example, it’s the result of decades of iteration and experimentation. Many of them worked, many did not. The same applies to the Bpack formula. So don’t be afraid to keep trying. If you believe in it enough, you’ll eventually have the version of your product or service that you’ve been dreaming of.

And finally, a more personal question. What is your daily routine or rule currently?

Because we are an early stage startup, sometimes my schedules conflict and my routine changes. However, I do have some habits that I try to keep. I like to allocate time for breakfast so I can start my day energetically without rushing. Some people skip it, but for me, I consider the morning to be my most productive time of the day, so it’s important that I have the right physical support. I have freshly brewed coffee with my breakfast. As a coffee lover, this is a must. I also dedicate 30 to 60 minutes each night to reading fiction books. And, very importantly, I spend time with my family on the weekends. Because my family is an important part of my support system.

Mikhail Skalkin is B pack.

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