Foto: David Meulenbeld

'Pitching to the founder of Tesla was like playing a role in my own movie'

Redactie VU Magazine3 March 2024

In 2021, he was chosen as the 'Most Innovative Student in the Netherlands,' and now he also features in the '50 Talents of 2024' list by 'Het Financieele Dagblad'. Alumnus in Physics and Science, Business and Innovation, Jardo Stammeshaus, is making significant strides with his startup Liion Power.

First of all, congratulations on your spot in this FD list! This isn't the first 'nomination' or award you've received. How have the past years been for you?

„The past years have been a rollercoaster. After graduating cum laude with my Master's in Physics and the simultaneous Master's in Science, Business and Innovation, and winning the Dutch Boxing Championship, things moved very quickly. This led to being named 'Student Talent of the Year' by the VU. This remains the prize I'm most proud of. It felt like recognition for my hard work and rigorous training. I had to give up many parties for this. But this prize made it all worthwhile."

„After winning that prize, things started rolling. Suddenly, you're seen and acknowledged as a talent. And a cum laude Master's in Physics opens many doors. You're taken seriously and don't have to prove yourself in every conversation."

„Later that year, I was chosen as the 'Most Innovative Student in the Netherlands' for my idea for Liion Power, a smart charger for batteries. And shortly after, we won 100,000 euros at the Green Challenge of the National Postcode Lottery with Liion Power. These two awards garnered a lot of attention. People saw me pitch and speak. For instance, I got to talk in the Glass Hall in The Hague and was invited as a keynote speaker at the Netherlands Makes Impact Top Conference. This led to an invitation from Humberto Tan, features about Liion Power in Linda and various other newspapers and magazines, appearances on TV shows like Koffietijd, and a startup growth trip to Silicon Valley. There, along with my co-founder Reuben Moore, I got to pitch to Marc Tarpenning, the founder of Tesla."

„It's enjoyable, but it also brings a lot of stress. Having to perform and be at your best every time. Be energetic. Explain what you do. Answer critical questions. But I'm living my dream."

How did you come up with the idea for Liion Power?

„When I bought an e-bike, the battery's user manual had all sorts of instructions, like: don't charge for more than 12 hours. And don't always fully charge the battery if it's not necessary, but also don't let it run completely empty. And if you're not using the battery for a while, it should be stored between 50 and 70%. Nice and well, but when I got home at 3 p.m., I didn't want to charge the battery because it would be in the socket for more than 12 hours. But then I'd forget to plug it in in the evening and would end up with a dead battery in the morning."

„We could go to the moon in 1969, but an automatic regulation of my charger, no way."

„I thought: why do I have to do all this myself? We could go to the moon in 1969, but an automatic regulation of my charger, no way. I also personally suffered from batteries quickly deteriorating in my electronics, like my smartphone and headphones. This was usually the main reason for me to eventually buy a new device."

„Since I was studying physics, I thought: I'm curious about how all this works. I then conducted an extensive literature study on charging and degradation mechanisms for batteries. This led to the idea for an autonomous device that helps manage the charging of your batteries, and also ensures that these batteries wear out less quickly."

How far along are you in developing this smart device?

„We've been testing the USB-A prototype in the lab at the VU for a year now and have measured up to a 63% longer lifespan for batteries charged with our prototypes! Now we've made the transition to USB-C. Chemically it works exactly the same, but the USB-C hardware and software protocol is much more complex. For our USB-C product, we've now raised 250,000 euros in pre-orders with a 30-day campaign. We're now setting up production, which is a field of its own and always takes longer than you want. If all goes well, the product will be in the hands of those who contributed to our campaign in the first half of this year."

What does the device actually do?

„Essentially, the device autonomously and automatically does what you could also do to extend the life of your battery. There are many tips online on how to ensure your battery wears out less quickly. For example, by preventing your device from getting too hot. I had bought a long cable with more resistance so that my phone would charge slower at night. Since you're supposed to sleep for 8 hours anyway, fast charging doesn't make sense. Fast charging is also clearly not conducive to the lifespan of your battery. Just like charging it to 100% every time."

„I had downloaded an app (AccuBattery) that sounds an alarm when the battery reaches 90%, so you don't forget to unplug the charger. The app couldn't do this by itself, because Android and iOS don't give access to the charging mechanisms. If you're charging a Tesla, this is already built-in. It's recommended not to charge above 90%, certainly not with a fast charger. But with rechargeable electronics, this is taken less seriously. This is, after all, the business model. Some smartphones still try to take this into account, but certainly for non-smart devices like headphones, speakers, power banks, or even a PlayStation controller, there are absolutely no options."

„The device automatically and autonomously does all these things for your USB-rechargeable electronics. Plug & Play. It requires no effort or thought. Who is as crazy as I am to do all this? But it does help extend the lifespan of your battery, and that's much more sustainable!"

What's the most fun experience you've had since founding Liion Power?

„The most fun was our trip with Reuben Moore to the US. I had never been there before. San Francisco, New York, Boston, and LA. The highlight was suddenly pitching to the founder of Tesla, Marc Tarpenning. As a sustainable physicist, I'm a big fan of Tesla. It's the only company where I can see myself working. Pitching to the founder of this company and exchanging stories about the early days was like playing a role in my own movie."

With Liion Power, you're still fully connected to the VU via StartHub. What's it like being part of this club of entrepreneurial students and alumni?

„It's great to still be connected to the VU through StartHub. I've had so much help from professors and people at the VU! It's nice to be in a familiar environment and be able to ask for help from many old coaches/teachers/professors and acquaintances. It's also great that you can easily find interns for interesting projects. We've had many coaches and mentors over the years. Currently, for example, Femmie Geradts, the director of Startup Village, is still one of our mentors. But Hans Drenth (director of StartHub, ed.) is also an important contact for us. He always knows something or someone who can help!"