Geneva, April 17, 2018 - Seaborg Technologies has closed the company’s first pre-seed investment round, amounting to ‘several millions'. Among the investors is David Helgason, the founder of the leading Silicon Valley based game engine Unity, who says this is one of his 'most exciting investments'. He joins Bill Gates, Pieter Thiel and Gary Bergstrom as the big investor names behind revolutionary energy start-ups in the field of advanced nuclear.
We would like to say that we have a share in something that has changed the world in a positive direction. And we don’t get there if we don’t invest in moonshots.
- CEO of PreSeed Ventures, Christel Piron
Investment coalition led by PreSeed Ventures
The investment coalition was led by the Danish innovation incubator PreSeed Ventures. For them, the investment in Seaborg Technologies marks a new type of investment called "moonshots" that PreSeed Ventures is now ready to venture into. Indeed, the company even changed their investment framework to open up for a new type of investments so they could get onboard. Moonshot indicates a longer time horizon for any return, but also a similar potential. With this new type of investment, PreSeed Ventures aims to invest in companies that can have a major impact on the lives of many people and help shape a better future for our world.
"We can see that we have acted as catalysts for private investors to dare to invest in a company like Seaborg. When we find a company like Seaborg, which holds such a vast global potential, then we want to join. Many years from now, when we look back at PreSeed Ventures, we would like to say that we had a share in something that has changed the world in a positive direction. And we don’t get there if we don’t invest in moonshots", explains CEO of PreSeed Ventures, Christel Piron.
Investment in TMSR is still a hard sell, and requires some bold and visionary investors to lead the way. “The company has had a longer financing process than usual because of their different product. We are particularly happy that we have now gathered a lot of talented people in a slightly larger investment, "says Peter Egehoved, Investment Director at Preseed Ventures.
Among the private investors is David Helgason, founder of Unity Technologies, the developer of the leading global game industry software. He sees that a lot of his success in software (bits) is applicable to TMSRs (atoms). “So far that’s absolutely the case. Like so many not-obviously software related projects, Seaborg’s technology is infused with and carried by software, and the way the company fits into the rest of the value chain isn’t at all unlike what I’ve seen before.” says Mr. Helgason.
Like so many not-obviously software related projects, Seaborg’s technology is infused with and carried by software, and the way the company fits into the rest of the value chain isn’t at all unlike what I’ve seen before.
- David Helgason, founder of Unity Technologies.
He was impressed by the commitment of the Seaborg team to solve one of the biggest problems our world is facing today, and aims to be an active investment partner along the way. “It’s exciting to work on solving big problems, and Seaborg certainly has the potential to do so. Initially it seemed like a risky investment, but I have rarely come across a team as talented and ambitious as Seaborg’s, and I believe they won’t rest until they make their mark. This is one of my most exciting investments and I intend to stay close to Troels and his team to see how I can help.”
Seaborg's team will grow to 16 employees, making it the largest reactor development startup in Europe.
The other private investors include Mette og Lars Fløe (Sitecore) and Peter Holm (Danprotein). Also INDEX : Design to Improve Life (a Danish VC) participated in the round.
With the new investors on board, Seaborg's team grows to 16 employees, making it the largest reactor development startup in Europe. The company is seeking to close a further €1.5-2M in the near future. “Obviously, this investment is a major milestone for us. However, it’s just a milestone, and we have significant work ahead.” concludes Dr. Schönfeldt on the work ahead.
Call for vision and foresight from policy makers
Troels Schönfeldt welcomes the visionary private investors and hopes that the investment will lead to the same long-term perspective in public investment. Seaborg has managed to get some public funding as well: one EU grant from Eureka Eurostars (€1.5m) and one from the Danish Innovation Fund (€200k). Dr. Schönfeldt is, however, concerned of the lack of long-term political vision in the EU, and fears that Denmark and the EU can miss a huge opportunity.
"We are experiencing a public and political reluctance to act, which is a major barrier to our thorium-based technology. We need to break down this barrier to gain access to Danish and European energy groups and authorities on equal terms with other energy technologies and companies, "said Troels Schönfeldt. The Danish government stated in 2016 that "The government will remove potential barriers to research in thorium-based technologies," and Seaborg hopes that this investment will help initiate this process.
Seaborg’s technology is aiming to remove licensing barriers for TMSRs. “MSRs are highly dynamical systems that require the modeling of the interdependence between neutron transport, fluid dynamics, heat transfer, and the associated chemical reprocessing. Existing tools are either not compatible with the current regulatory requirements, or not able to include these dynamical effects, thus none of them can be applied when licensing an MSR. This represents an important barrier to the deployment of MSRs.
The investments will both accelerate our own technical development, and shorten the road-to-market for all MSR developers.”
- Troels Schönfeldt, CEO of Seaborg
One of our primary objectives is to allow for the first deployment of MSRs, therefore we focus heavily on developing beyond-state-of-the-art simulation tools for MSRs which can be applied by regulators or MSR developers in the licensing process. The recent investment and EU grants allows us to significantly accelerate these efforts. Therefore, the investments will both accelerate our own technical development, and shorten the road-to-market for all MSR developers.” describes Dr. Schönfeldt.
We have just made a 50 quadrillion dollar discovery!
- Glen Seaborg, Nobel prize chemist
"Thorium developers are still in their early stages of development, and investing in the growth story is not as straightforward as buying a stock at the exchange. However, for the visionary investor with financial means for a moonshot investment, it represents one of the world's greatest commercial opportunities", says Andreas Norlin from Thorium Energy World. Like Mr. Glenn Seaborg, the American chemist who discovered the energy potential of thorium, famously said “we have just made a $50,000,000,000,000,000 (fifty quadrillion) discovery!”
Among the big names that are leading the way to investment in advanced nuclear are Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft and owner of Terra Power), Peter Thiel (founder PayPal and Transatomic Power investor), Gary Bergstrom (founder Acadian Asset Mgmt and ThorCon investor), and now David Helgason (founder Unity and Seaborg investor).
Who will be next to invest?
About Seaborg Technologies
Seaborg Technologies is a research and development company in one of the world's most promising energy sources - a so-called Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (MSR). The company’s thorium-based molten salt reactor (MSR) is inherently safe, while the thorium allows the reactor to reuse old already-spent nuclear fuel (nuclear waste) from conventional nuclear power plants. In addition, Seaborg performs external consultancy work, in the form of modeling and simulation of specific MSR designs, for other foreign MSR companies. Dynamic neutronics are required for commercialization of MSRs. Seaborg’s team consists of physicists, chemists and engineers with roots at CERN, Niels Bohr Institute and DTU.
"We have a groundbreaking design, which is far more compact than all competing technologies. Our liquid salt reactor will be able to deliver cheap, sustainable and stable heat and power to 200,000 households from a module that can be in a 20-foot container. This advantage gives us a unique position on the market, and this is the advantage our investors have now bought in", explains Seaborg's director Troels Schönfeldt.
About PreSeed Ventures
PreSeed Ventures is Denmark’s largest and most successful innovation incubator. We have been financing and assisting talented and hungry entrepreneurs for over 15 years – helping them realise their dreams through our pioneering early stage investments. We have explored thousands of ideas and teams and are proud to have helped several hundred on their journey. We have worked with so many amazing companies and have played a key role in getting companies like Vivino and Trustpilot off the ground.