Next Stop San Francisco For Startup World Cup Winners Circu Li-ion

Circu Li-ion CEO and co-founder Antoine Welter is pictured the moment his company was announced winner of the Luxembourg Startup World Cup on 13 June at EY (Photo: Pancake)

Luxembourg cleantech startup Circu Li-ion was selected to represent Luxembourg at the regional finals of the Startup World Cup. 

Officially founded in 2022, and now with activities in Luxembourg and Germany, the startup gives a second life to lithium batteries, providing significant CO2 reductions.

After the prizegiving, Circu Li-ion co-founder and CEO Antoine Welter told Silicon: “It wasn’t my best pitch today compared to what we normally like to present. But I think it’s a great gift and recognition to the whole team of all the hard work that we put in. We’re always very happy to win an award […] Obviously, this is a big one because it goes very international.”

Awards aside, Welter said events like the Startup World Cup were essential to show what the team does in order to access talent. “We’re strongly recruiting,” he said, adding that the 25-strong team was expected to swell to 40 FTEs by year-end. “We’re always eager to talk to top notch talent, especially in tech space, to grow our team and move the product forward on the data side.”

The firm looks set to blossom in the coming 18 months. With an R&D hub in Luxembourg and an operations plant in Germany, it is working on developing computer vision features, automation processes and robotics. “We’re going to roll out to more places in Germany with a machine as a service. We will do one more in France, and later on we will move to Scandinavia, and the UK.” 

The contest is organised by Pegasus Tech Ventures, a US venture capital firm known for funding successful startups such as SpaceX, Airbnb and Twitter. At a ceremony in San Francisco on 1 December 2023, it will award one finalist with $1mn in investment. 

“The quality of startups, as well as the quality of pitching has definitely improved over the last several years. So the word is getting out,” Pegasus Tech Ventures partner Bill Reichert, who last attended the 2019 edition in Luxembourg, told Silicon. “The entrepreneurship ecosystem here in Luxembourg is definitely evolving, getting stronger and stronger. And the world-class, competitive capabilities of the entrepreneurs here are getting better and better.”

Reichert said he expected that the judges at the final will be looking for traction “and some unique capability that can not easily be replicated by another company. These tend to be the most powerful factors in determining the winner,” he said. 

Circu Li-ion was among ten finalists who pitched at the regional awards at EY Luxembourg on 13 June. Other finalists included digital funds Software as a Service startup Fundvis, social and music tech startup KEYM, Software as a Medical Device startup MDsim, spacetech and logistics startup Odysseus Space, Greentech Software as a Service ClimateCamp, ecommerce operating system GoNuggets, medtech Myelin-H, marketing tech startup Veezzy, and industrial technology startup Warden Machinery. 

Each startup gave a four-minute pitch followed by questions and comments from a jury composed of managing partner of Excellium Services Christophe Bianco, serial tech entrepreneur Fabrice Testa, director at Luxinnovation Jean-Michel Ludwig, CEO of ANote Music Marzio Schena, managing partner of MiddleGame Ventures Pascal Bouvier, partner at Kavedon Kapital Patrizia Luchetta and CEO of Finologee Raoul Mulheims.

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