Welcome to Pathfinders!

A brand-new video series where we present to you candid conversations with the OG founders from Blume’s first fund. These founders began their journey over a decade ago, when the Indian startup ecosystem was in its infancy with a handful of venture funds, a small community of peer founders, and a high-potential yet modest-in-size Indian market. Nevertheless, they’ve persisted and are now ready to share their stories with you. For the second video, we have London-based environmental technology company Carbon Clean Solutions and its founder, Aniruddha Sharma. As of July 2023, Carbon Clean has removed over 2.2 million metric tonnes of carbon from its 49 facilities across the globe. They provide all the services needed to achieve net zero, including technology licence and solvent supply, a full process design package (PDP) and proprietary equipment, and end-to-end systems — including design, build, financing and operation

What are some of the key milestones of your journey?

Carbon Clean has had a long history and we've been around for about 14 years now. So, maybe three inflection points or three key milestones for the business that actually really took us from the startup to where we are. 

I guess the first one I would say was a journey to the UK, getting connected to the British government in India, and then they're saying as well, this is a very interesting technology. We love carbon capture. We would love for you to be there. And we like the technology and they gave us a grant $6 million. So I think that was one of the very first major milestone for the business, because at that point of time, we were really small company and for someone to actually come and give us a grant was a big, major thumbs up. So that was first.

I guess the second one for us was in 2016 when we built our first large scale carbon capture unit in India, capturing CO2 from a chemical plant. For any entrepreneur, for any product that's coming out to the market, trying to shake the status quo, there is nothing better than having a first commercial product or a plant operating out there. So, I guess that was the second inflection point for the business.

And I would say the third inflection point's been very recently in 2022 when we actually raised $150 million series C investment with investors such as Chevron, Saudi Aramco, TC Energy, Semex, I think all these strategic investors coming in and saying, we like the technology, we love the product and here's the money go and make it happen. 

So I would say those were maybe the three inflection points or three milestones for the company that actually really took the company from A to B to C, and then really brought story from there.


Which is the most difficult near-death experience you have faced?

Absolutely. There've been a couple of near death experiences and they all necessarily come in the valley of death for a company, especially a green tech, for a company bringing new technology to the heavy industrial emitters capturing carbon dioxide. 

So I would say maybe one main experience was in 2016, when we literally ran out of money and my co-founder Prateek and myself, we were actually funding it ourselves through our own bank accounts for a few months, and I think that was really stressful because it was like we don't necessarily have all the money that we need to actually make stuff happen. And then at the same point of time, we are using our savings to fund the business. I would say that was pretty grim, pretty dark. 

I clearly remember it was November 2016 and I was here in the UK and winter days are short days here, so at around 4 o'clock it was already dark outside. And I was like, oh man, what are we going to do tomorrow? And the day after it was a couple of days was really stressful. But then you know that happened. 

We actually got one of the previous angel investors to come and give us a little bit more money that kept us going for a few more months and then we raised a bridge round that took us from that gap between series A to series B.

Reflect on your initial experiences with Blume Ventures.

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Just for context, I met Sanjay and Karthik through one of our early investors and mentor, professor Martin Haemmig, from Stanford university, so he actually introduced me to Karthik and Sanjay. 

At that point of time, I think the Blume fund was under formation at that point of time. And both Karthik and Sanjay were still affiliated with the Mumbai Angels at that point of time. And then I had a meeting with them and there was immediate sort of spark to say that, look, this is a new tech. This is a breakthrough product that's coming out to decarbonize the heavy industry. It's coming out of India and they have had the opportunity to meet with A. Martin. And then very early stage, commercial support/mentor, Dr. Avinash Patkar. 

They knew that there is something here. It's just that the whole structure was not set up. So I clearly remember we had our second meeting, maybe at Sanjay's home. And Sanjay's mom and dad, everyone was there. So it was pitching to the family at that point of time. And I don't know, a couple of weeks after that, Sanjay's mother put in the money into the company. So it came from her account. 

So yeah, I think for me, it's like pretty special relationship because it's just much more than a fund investing in exciting company. It's also about family relationship, a conversation there, and then it started before Blume.

Offer a piece of advise to young founders embarking on their journey.

Yeah, so the first piece of advice is it's going to need perseverance and focus, so go into this with open eyes. That there are going to be tough times, I mean, if it were easy someone else would have done it. So go in this with open eyes that you're going to be committing a lot of blood and sweat and money as well into making this happen and bringing out a product or a service that someone needs and is ready to pay for it. So I guess that's just one.

And I think the product market fit. That is absolute key. I've had so many great people, really smart and intelligent people with some of the best universities but from my experience, a little bit of an experience, the places I have seen these really smart and intelligent people fail is where they actually miss the product market fit. So really zero down on the product market fit. Who is your customer? Who's your consumer? What are you selling? Why would they pay you? How much are they ready to pay you? I think these are the questions you should be asking literally, pretty frequently within your team and it's not just you as an entrepreneur, you need to instill a culture, where everyone in your team is actually asking these questions, like what problem am I solving and for who?, is absolute key for the entrepreneurs to understand from day one.

What's been your proudest moment as a entrepreneur?

Aniruddha Sharma: Yeah, absolutely. So I guess look for any entrepreneur, a couple of proudest moment.

I guess the first one is just getting that technology on the ground. Especially for a product company like ourselves, the moment you get steel on the ground or steel in the ground, you have something operating, you have something running. I think that's just is a huge validation and you almost get this feeling like, all right, I'm halfway through my dream. So, I think for me, it was extremely really proud moment when we actually put first time steel in the ground and we have the unit operating and running and customer said, I love this. So totally happy about that. So I think that's great.

The second proud moment, I think for me was, when our customers actually turned around and said, I love your team. I love your people. I think that's, again, for any entrepreneur, it's about building a legacy. It's about doing something much bigger than you yourselves. And just, physically it's not possible for you to be present everywhere. 

Today, we operate 49 units in six countries and we have our team, our colleagues working here in the UK, in India, US, Canada, Germany, Spain, and it gives me so much happiness when our customers either in North America or in Europe or India actually turn around and say, I just love your team. Your guys are actually one of the best in this space. And I think that's a moment of extreme power for me as a founder.


Part of Pathfinders

Welcome to all our new series, Pathfinders!

We’ll take you through quick conversations with tenured entrepreneurs from Blume’s Fund 1.