YC 2017 application

We think the YCombinator application format makes a quite good general description of our startup. Further it might serve as inspiration for other startups so why not put it online!

COMPANY

Company name: KiteX

Company url, if any: http://kitex.tech

If you have a demo, what’s the url? For non-software, demo can be a video. rebrand.ly/ycPrototypeDemo

Describe your company in 50 characters or less. We build efficient wind turbines using kites.

What is your company going to make? We are building kite windmills much like Makani, but with the difference that we use two kites attached to the same tether achieving an aerodynamic advantage. If control and robustness challenges can be solved, kite windmills will bring down the cost of renewable energy to below the level of non-renewable sources.

Which category best applies to your company? Energy

Is this application in response to a YC RFS? No

Where do you live now, and where would the company be based after YC? Copenhagen, Denmark / SF or Copenhagen

CONTACT

Not shared. See contact-link.

FOUNDERS

Please enter the url of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube video introducing the founders. https://youtu.be/0_2CUAhhbmI

Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together. Include urls if possible. We worked together in Vaavud, a smart wind meter/wind measurement crowdsourcing startup. Andreas had come up with the idea and founded the company, designed the hardware and written the signal processing software. Gustaf made the iOS app and also worked on the signal processing. Additionally, Gustaf and Andreas worked on a Dropbox for data project called Purple with which we applied to YC last summer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boCkAD_9XSw

How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person? We have worked and kite surfed together since 2014, when Gustaf joined Andreas’ startup Vaavud.

PROGRESS

How far along are you? In a few days our fifth prototype will be completed. It has already been successfully flown, but will receive some finishing touches.

The prototype (which can be operated both as a quadcopter drone and a fixed wing aircraft) was designed and built from scratch and is controlled by our own ground control software. The aircraft itself contains open source flight controller code that we have modified - to be able to fly with a tether etc. Aeronautically speaking, the present prototype is fairly close to the end product, but it is still missing a ground station and on board energy generation, and its size and constructions methods are different.

Earlier prototypes have taught us a lot about autonomous control, flight dynamics of tethered fixed wing aircraft and drone RC systems.

We plan on being the first team in the world to fly a dual kite system during April 2017 and then we will start work on a 80 kW (rated power) prototype.

How long have each of you been working on this? Have you been part-time or full-time? Please explain. Andreas has been working full time on the project since June 2016 except for smaller freelance programming projects. Gustaf worked part-time initially, also spending time on freelance work (we are still bootstrapping) but full time since February 2017.

Which of the following best describes your progress? Prototype

How many active users or customers do you have? If you have some particularly valuable customers, who are they? Commercialisation is still a few years away.

Do you have revenue? No.

Anything else you would like us to know regarding your revenue or growth rate? No.

How much money do you spend per month? 1000 (USD)

How much money does your company have in the bank now? 4000 (USD)

How long is your runway? 4 months, assuming no freelance work.

If you’ve applied previously with the same idea, how much progress have you made since the last time you applied? Anything change? We applied for the winter 2017 batch. Since then we have made four more prototypes, getting close to a final aeronautical design, and added the ability to take off and land using onboard engines. Added three advisors to the team. We’ve established contacts with industry experts. We have found our key differentiating factor (dual kites).

If you have already participated or committed to participate in an incubator, “accelerator” or “pre-accelerator” program, please tell us about it. We are (very likely) going to participate in the hardware accelerator Danish Tech Challenge, a joint venture between the Danish Technical University and the public “Industriens fond” during fall 2017.

IDEA

Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you’re making? Producing cheap energy with the use of kites is both a worthy goal and an incredibly fascinating technical challenge requiring the fusion of multiple competencies (of which we already have many) and it has the potential to make a big positive impact.

While the basic theoretical concepts are solid and known, the solution space is still vast and there is large sense of pioneering spirit about it. This is a project for people who dare to dream big and commit to it.

Being from Denmark (Danish companies account for about 20% of the world’s wind turbine revenue) does provide a certain natural exposure to wind power in general. We have an advisor to the team with 19 years of domain expertise and have been in dialog with the inventor of the modern wind turbine and CTO of Siemens Wind Power for 27 years Henrik Stiesdal.

There is no indication that peoples’ desire for power will decrease any time soon, quite the contrary.

What’s new about what you’re making? What substitutes do people resort to because it doesn’t exist yet (or they don’t know about it)? Using kites to harness the energy in the wind significantly reduces the cost of installing and running the power station. This is mostly due to savings in materials and bulk compared to traditional wind turbines, but also the higher altitude.

A wind farm using kites can potentially produce energy at a lower cost even than existing non-renewable sources. This can completely change the economics of power production.

Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most? The current market leaders in large wind turbines, Vestas, Siemens and GE, still seem to lack the ability or interest to go after kite energy, deeming it too early (according to insiders we’ve talked to). Thus we don’t see them as direct competitors at the moment, only in a broader sense.

The market for airborne wind energy systems is still uncrowded, but a handful of companies are working on some very interesting products, notably Makani (owned by Google) and Ampyx power. These companies would be our direct competitors.

What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get? The question of which type of airborne wind energy will prevail has not been settled yet, and we believe that our solution has a good chance to emerge successfully. A main concern among industry experts is whether the competing designs can be scaled to large enough MW ratings (due to scaling laws for wings). A dual kite design has higher specific output, making it far less susceptible to this issue.

How do or will you make money? How much could you make? A kite energy system is at between one and two orders of magnitude lighter than a traditional wind turbine for the same output, and calculations indicate that the cost of building and installing a kite based wind turbine could be less than half that of traditional turbines.

When it comes to the size of the market, one datapoint is that last year € 20 b was invested in off-shore wind farms in Europe alone, and Asia is emerging as an even bigger market in terms of wind energy.

Almost all future investments in offshore wind energy could be kite based. Furthermore, there is potential for remote on-shore areas where traditional windmills are not cost efficient.

How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg problem in the sense that it won’t be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that? As a producer of critical large scale installations, the major obstacle to overcome would be establishing trust in the product itself, as well as the company and, especially, in our ability to provide continuous support for it. Generally speaking, the market is fairly efficient, so the challenge is rather on the regulatory side..

EQUITY

Have you incorporated, or formed any legal entity (like an LLC) yet? YES

What kind of entity and in what state or country was the entity formed? Denmark, LLC.

Please describe the breakdown of the equity ownership in percentages among the founders, employees and any other stockholders. Not shared

List any investments your company has received. Include the name of the investor, the amount invested, the premoney valuation / valuation cap, and the type of security sold (convertible notes, safes or stock). There have not been any outside investments in the company.

Please provide any other relevant information about the structure or formation of the company. .

Are any of the founders covered by noncompetes or intellectual property agreements that overlap with your project? If so, please explain. No.

Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product? Was any of it done by a non-founder? Please explain. We both participate in designing and building the hardware and software (mechanical, aerodynamical design, electronics and ground control and embedded flight control software), but given our backgrounds Gustaf is more focused on the software side of things, whereas Andreas leans towards the hardware.

Is there anything else we should know about your company? Nothing particular.

OTHERS

If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we’ve been waiting for. Often when we fund people it’s to do something they list here and not in the main application. We did apply previously with a different project (see above), but now we are completely focused on this one.

Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered. In Shenzhen it’s sometimes faster to receive your embedded device by the post than to download the source code for the toolchain. Further, most hacker spaces provide VPN backed wifi despite being government funded…

CURIOUS

What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator? We have tremendous respect for Realm and the CEO Alexander, and we have heard only good things about their experience with YC.

How did you hear about Y Combinator? Basically through osmosis. It’s one of those things you feel you have always known about.