On the Promoting Enterprise portal we are talking to the entrepreneurs on the 33 Under 33 list. This Secrets of Success initiative aims to shine the spotlight on a selection of successful young entrepreneurs, documenting their stories in an effort to inspire others to consider entrepreneurship as a career path. Today it is the turn of young German Afshin Doostdar.
Afshin is German of Iranian extraction. He has studied industrial engineering in France and mechanical engineering at RWTH Aachen University. His heroes are his parents and his mentors are everybody who has joining him on his journey and challenged him from early on, such as his first business angels. Afshin’s entrepreneurial spirit comes from his ambition to make a positive impact as soon as possible and to enjoy his time at work every day. His company Voltfang GmbH works in the energy storage sector.
Tell us about your business
Voltfang was founded in June 2021 by Roman Alberti, David Oudsandji and me. We offer an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional electricity storage for industry and commerce with our sustainable electricity storage using used car batteries. In this way, we avoid the need to produce new batteries and the life span of already used batteries is doubled. This not only saves CO2 emissions, but also water, energy and amazing amounts of resources such as lithium and cobalt that would otherwise be used in battery production. This innovative concept enables a functioning circular economy for lithium-ion batteries, which already involve ethical-social problems in mining the resources before production. In use, our energy storage systems enable the capping of expensive load peaks, support the charging infrastructure of electric car fleets and the securing of emergency power supply, while at the same time creating the possibility to optimise self-consumption.
Where did you get the idea from?
In 2019, we came up with the idea when we wanted to drive our camper to a festival while camping. We realised that the camper battery was not enough to power all our electrical appliances. Without further ado, we installed a solar system and tried out different batteries.
How old were you when you first decided you would start your own business?
I was 20 years old and in the middle of my studies when I realised that I wanted to found something on my own. Working as an employee in a big corporation didn't motivate me, but whenever I was working on something for my own projects I could work tirelessly on it.
How did you get it off the ground?
We started as a team of three and quickly realised that we needed the first pilot projects to demonstrate the technical feasibility on the one hand, and the needs of the market on the other. Our first pilot projects were fully financed by the first customers, so we could expand our team with the help of further grants and our own capital.
Who did you turn to for help?
We started talking to various mentors from acceleration programmes and competitions early on, to get feedback on our ideas. One of these mentors even joined us as our first business angel at a later stage, as he saw our progress continuously.
Describe some of the obstacles you faced as a young person starting out in this business.
One of the biggest challenges as a start-up was gaining trust. On the customer side, we had to convince them to buy a 5-digit amount of battery storage from a young start-up. On the supplier side, we had to convince large automotive manufacturers to entrust batteries to a young start-up, to give them a safe second life. Over time, however, we were able to show both sides our rapid organisational and technological progress and thus gain their trust.
How do you define success?
Success for me in business can be defined in two ways: either we reach our goals with our team or we do not reach them but have learned what prevented us.
What was the most challenging aspect of setting up your business?
The biggest challenge in the beginning, especially as a capital-intensive hardware start-up, was to break the circle of dependencies of product development, paying customers and investors at the same time. You need each of the three to make it to the next stage, but each one is highly dependent on the others. We had to break the circle by taking a higher risk.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
The most rewarding part so far has been building a team of more than 40 employees who work every day with full motivation to make a difference. Everyone brings their own values, culture and ideas to the company and helps us to fulfil our great mission.
What are the future goals of your business, and how will you go about achieving them?
Our mission is to enable a future worth living, together with our team, product, and our customers. For this, we need to scale the further use of second life batteries and therefore want to build the largest second life factory in Europe by 2025 There we will generate over tens of thousands of units annually and thus create a blueprint for the circular economy. Our long-term goal is to build a large virtual power plant with our sustainable battery storage in the field, thereby supporting the energy transition to renewables.
What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
I suggest to everyone who has the dream to be an entrepreneur or to solve a specific problem to just give it a try. You need the right team and you need to show endurance at every challenge, then everything will take the right path.
Follow and learn more about “Secrets of Success: 33 under 33” via the app and the Youtube SoS 33 under 33 playlist.
- Publication date
- 3 April 2023
- Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
- Promoting Enterprise - categories
- Secrets of Success
- Promoting Enterprise - tags