How Oxyle Destroys PFAS with the Energy You’d Actually Waste

Yes I know, we just entered the PFAS removal age, so why already looking on the horizon? Well, removal is great if we stop drinking PFAS. But if the concentrated waste stream goes to landfills (and pollutes soils) or gets burnt and sent to the atmosphere, where’s the win? We’ll inevitably enter the age of PFAS destruction down the line. And you know what, it might even be a profitable move!

Let’s explore it:

with 🎙️ Fajer Mushtaq – CEO & Co-Founder at Oxyle

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🔗 Oxyle’s Website

🔗 Come say Hi to Fajer on LinkedIn

🔗 Fajer’s first appearance 4 years ago

🔗 My conversation on PFAS destruction with Julie Bliss Mullen from Aclarity

🔗 My conversation on PFAS recycling with Henrik Hagemann from Purafinnity

🔗 The only water tech unicorn (so far)

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Full Video:

Are we entering the PFAS decade?

So, we know that Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are notorious for their persistence, toxicity, and ubiquity in the environment. They resist natural degradation, accumulating in water, soil, and living organisms, posing significant health risks.

But as the US EPA adopted an ambitious PFAS removal regulation, and while more moves are in the talks in Europe, the question raised by my previous conversations with Aclarity and Puraffinity stays: is PFAS removal a solution, or a way to displace the problem?

If you believe the latter to be true, then expect the demand for effective PFAS destruction technologies to surge as awareness and regulatory pressures will inevitably increase.

Oxyle – a guest in the so distant first season of this podcast, and surely a pioneering company, has responded to this call by harnessing energy that would typically go to waste, innovating a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to this pressing issue.

The Persistent Challenge of PFAS

So, if you need a refresher, PFAS compounds are synthetic chemicals found in numerous products for their resistance to heat, water, and oil. However, their stability, which makes them useful, also makes them a persistent environmental pollutant.

While “removal” is traditionally achieved through activated carbon, ion exchange or reverse osmosis, each of these processes comes with its own limitations. When it comes to PFAS destruction, traditional treatments struggle with effectively breaking down PFAS, often requiring substantial energy inputs and resulting in harmful byproducts.

Oxyle’s approach, however, promises a groundbreaking shift, directly addressing these challenges.

Oxyle’s Innovative Technology

At the heart of Oxyle’s solution is a catalytic oxidation-reduction process that leverages mechanical energy sources already present in water systems, such as flow and vibrations. This approach not only avoids the need for additional energy but also enhances the process’s efficiency.

The catalyst used is uniquely capable of converting this mechanical energy into chemical energy, initiating the degradation of PFAS molecules into non-toxic elements like carbon dioxide and water, with no dangerous byproducts left behind.

Think, full mineralization, through an advanced oxidation process (AOP) that uses a fraction of the energy that conventional processes gobble.

Economic and Environmental Advantages

One of Oxyle’s standout features is its economic feasibility. By utilizing waste energy, the operational costs are drastically reduced, making the technology both scalable and affordable.

From a sustainability perspective, Oxyle’s method completely mineralizes PFAS, addressing the issue at its core without transferring the pollution elsewhere, which is a common drawback of other technologies that focus merely on containment or transfer.

Market Implications and Future Directions

As regulations tighten and the demand for effective PFAS remediation technologies grows, Oxyle is well-positioned to lead the market, which I’l caveat by mentioning that for now, we’re at PFAS removal, and it’s pretty recent. But if common sense wins down the line, we’ll eventually go for PFAS destruction, right?

Oxyle’s technology not only meets current regulatory standards but is also adaptable to future changes, promising a long-term solution to the PFAS problem. With its low operational costs and high efficiency, Oxyle sets a new standard in environmental technology, pointing towards a future where clean water does not come at the expense of high energy consumption.

(PS: none of my post and podcasts are ever sponsored, I’m just a tech enthusiast that genuinely believes that most of my guests’ tech could be changing the World!)

In a nutshell, Oxyle’s approach exemplifies how innovative thinking and attention to economic and environmental impacts can revolutionize water treatment technologies.

By turning wasted energy into a valuable resource for breaking down one of the most stubborn pollutants, Oxyle not only offers a powerful solution to the PFAS crisis but also paves the way for sustainable practices in the industry!

My Full Conversation with Fajer Mushtaq on PFAS Destruction

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

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Antoine Walter: Hi, Fajer. Welcome back to the microphone. You were a guest in season one. A lot of things have changed in the market and in Oxyle within those four years. And I’m just checking on what is still today your biggest challenge, which you’re addressing. When we talked, you say micropollutants, and I guess today it might still be micropollutants, but to characterize micropollutants a bit differently and maybe focus on PFAS.

How wrong am I with that?

Fajer Mushtaq: You’re not wrong at all. You’re absolutely correct. PFAS are also micropollutants. There are a subset of them. They are mobile toxic persistent. That’s the definition of micropollutant, right? But in terms of being super focused, yes. So this is our focus as a company for the last two and a half years.

And this focus kind of came from the market. We listened to the market. We listened to all the inbound leads that we got from customers and 90 percent plus of them were PFAS related. So we listened, we talked to our customers and we felt a real urgency there. It’s not a pivot. It’s more of a focus because nothing we did, from the technological perspective changed.

It’s still the same technology, but the focus is absolutely there to make sure we are establishing ourselves as the benchmark when it comes to, you know, PFAS treatment or monitoring is a focus shift for sure.

Antoine Walter: You mentioned inbound leads for PFAS. What’s their challenge? What do they Ask you.

Fajer Mushtaq: The most important thing they want us to focus on is can we meet the performance metrics?

If they have long, medium, short chain PFAS, if they have a very tricky matrix of water, can we help them or not? Then the questions of cost and scalability and all are always a secondary concern. But if we cannot meet their treatment criteria, where they do have a lot of short chain, then it’s a no go.

That’s the first hurdle we have to cross where we have to build trust with the customers that we are the broad spectrum of PFAS removal. treatment on the market if they want to talk about scalability and cost, right? And we happily share all the data for the broad spectra because we’re very proud of that.

That’s the first thing we have to explain to the customers because there’s not a single customer we have met so far who only had long chain or maybe back in the day they only had to report a long chain data but now they’re absolutely have to measure 12 PFAS compounds, many of them medium and short chain, or they also have to look at sometimes 40 different PFAS compounds based on which country they are from and which legislation they have to follow.

And that’s a very interesting challenge when we get questions like this. One of the most interesting project we got last year was from an industrial wastewater customer. And they only had C fours in there. C four PFAS compound, super tricky water, just a bunch of PFBA in there, super high concentration, and they went everywhere.

And then they came to Al as an inbound lead and basically working with them, and we are going onsite with them this summer, which proves that even if you. only have short chain, you can just come to us and we will help you with that. Inbound leads come in different fashion, but broad spectra is a huge component of can you do broad spectra and can you make sure that what you have treated at the end is safe to discharge?

How much confidence do you have of the water quality afterwards? We do a lot of data collection here to make sure our customers have this trust that the water that we’re discharging is absolutely safe to discharge because we do full mineralization, like nothing is left. There’s a lot of R& D work that goes there.

There’s a lot of partnership work that goes there to revalidate that for our customers so that they know if they are investing in that technology, it is there for the next 10, 15 years because it meets the regulations for the future, but they don’t have to worry about any like byproduct formations. We do a lot of trust building in the market and really establishing credibility with the customers right now, which is I think the fun part of the process.

Antoine Walter: There’s a lot to unpack in that. I just want to make sure. We get the definitions right. You mentioned C4 and then you said short chain C4 is a super short chain. So that’s really the shortest chain PFAS there is.

Fajer Mushtaq: I mean, the shortest would be the C3s and C2s, like a TFA molecule, for example. That is C3, right?

We also have customers who want us to measure C2 sometimes, which gets very tricky, but we do measure that here in our labs. Ultra short chain is C3 and C2. So we also have customers who start with a C4 of course, who want to make sure there is no C3 and C2, because you start with a C4. So we also measure ultra short chain PFAS really precisely in our labs here today.

So that’s what I mean when we do broad spectra, we even do ultra short chain PFAS of course.

Antoine Walter: I’ll come back to what you implement for your customers, how you do that. And also on the no byproducts and the full mineralization, which I think those are super important aspects, but you said something about the broad spectrum and I guess that is the number one reason people would turn to Oxyle or to be fair, similar technologies than what you’re doing.

Because if you have just long chain, then maybe there is a technology for that. If you have just short chain, then maybe there’s a technology for that. But if you have the full mix with Janix and everything in between, then you need it. Can you quantify in the market how many people can say, Oh, we have just that one.

And how many people say, Ah, we’re not that sure. And maybe we should shoot at the broad range.

Fajer Mushtaq: That’s a really great question, right? Because of the market when you look at, I don’t know, like whole technology or supercritical oxidation, they do the complete spectrum as well, right? Everything is gone. So it’s, But then you also have, let’s say, electrochemical oxidation, where there are some open questions, like is the long chain becoming short chain and what is happening to the short chain?

The data there, from many aspects, be it literature data or also be it like commercial data from pilots. That is really missing for me, just to see how validated that is. So there’s a question mark there, which is also a question mark that the customers bring to us when they talk to us about electrochemical oxidation use, right?

We’re not absolutely convinced if it’s the broad spectral removal. But that is also the reason why we put so much emphasis on measuring down to C2, because you should be able to prove to the customer it is the broad spectral removal effect. course, and broad spectrum truly starts from ultra long to ultra short.

That is how we define broad spectrum and oxide. It is not just C8s becoming C5. That’s not true broad spectrum. And today what we see in the market is when it comes to, let’s say, um, absorption technologies or up concentration technologies, even viral filtration, it is selective in a way, right? So when you talk about activated carbon, great for long chain.

According to the EPA’s own website, horrible for medium and short chain. And it’s something we have tested in the labs ourselves to benchmark ourselves against those technologies. And that’s a really big. Not to even forget that you have a secondary waste problem with those technologies. It’s not a true destruction.

So even there, being selective is a really bad thing to have, because you’re not even solving the problem. So when a customer

Antoine Walter: That is one key part of the problem, because there’s PFAS removal, and there’s PFAS elimination. You do PFAS elimination, and I would totally agree with you that you’re not really solving the problem if you’re just doing removal.

Yeah. Yet the regulation will push for removal, not elimination. So you might be solving better the problem, but if the regulation doesn’t incentivize to do that, that might be a problem for you.

Fajer Mushtaq: At the end of the day, the regulation is not saying absorb and not destruct, they’re saying treat the water, meet the regulations.

Right? In the most cost effective, scalable manner and also ensure the customers can afford that technology. So regulation is not coming and saying, you can’t destroy, you have to just remove. Regulation is saying, meet the regulations that are more stricter and stricter, which is also a pitch to our customers who are absorbing, let’s say, for example, and they can’t absorb the medium and short chain.

We have to look at what the regulations are actually saying. They’re saying, let’s say, remove 100 PPT of 12 different PFAS compounds or 50 PPT in the which is even more stricter for 12 different PFAS compounds. And that’s why And if you’re doing absorption or filtration, you can’t meet those criteria with complex industrial wastewater matrix, for example, it absolutely does not scale.

It is not cost effective and they can’t meet the regulations. Then the conversation is more interesting. We destroy, okay, they don’t want to pay for destruction, but we do help them meet the regulations and a kicker for us. It’s not just that we do broad spectra PFAS removal, we do that in one of the most cost effective and scalable manner.

as well, which is why customers come to us because first you prove to them it works and then we show them the kicker of the technology, how scalable it is, how easy to modularize it is, and how low on the capex it is and opex it is for them. The energy cost is where we are really proud to show the data and prove it.

It has been validated last year in the pilots as well on customer sites, how wonderful our energy data is for this broad spectra removal. Then the question is why would someone want to absorb and filter when they don’t meet the regulations and there is a technology in the market that actually helps meet the regulations.

in a cost effective manner that they can actually afford.

Antoine Walter: Let me try to put that in my words and you tell me if I understand that. You can go for lower cost removal if you go for activated carbon or ion exchange, which is limited on some ends, not the same ends for ion exchange and for activated carbon, but it’s limited on some ends.

And then you still have a brine in the ion exchange or an activated carbon in activated carbon, which you need to burn or to treat in whatever ways. You could go to reverse osmosis, in which case you would take out everything and then you would have concentrated brine which you can still send somewhere to be burned, that works, if you burn it to the right temperatures it doesn’t even go to the air, it’s for mineralization.

But that is probably going to be prohibitively expensive. Yeah. And you’re saying there’s probably an in between which is slightly more expensive than activated carbon or ion exchange Yeah. But, enables you to remove Everything. And that’s what you do.

Fajer Mushtaq: Exactly. So we also have our customers not be burdened with personnel costs, where they have to have people on site to take care of the secondary waste, where they have to off truck this water, pay for that.

And you’re right. You’re also hearing more and more on all incinerators burn PFA at the right temperature. I was talking to a customer in the US who was saying how they have to wait for months to be able to get a slot to burn that because there are limited number of incinerators that can even burn PFA.

So that is also another burden, right? During it, we have this extra cost associated with that. So we are looking at a full life cycle of how to make a customer happy. It’s not just about a quick fix that up concentrate and then they’re storing it. How long is that sustainable, right?

Antoine Walter: Yeah, the traditional path would be to go to a cement factory, which would then burn that in the cement factory, but not to the right temperatures, which means that the PFAS, which you very carefully removed from water is now in the air.

There’s a full question of value chain in that. I’m coming back to what you said about your industrial test. And wait, before we go into that, I think we have to do some housekeeping and to bring everybody up to date with the state of the art with what you’re doing. You’re doing, how can I say that? in a super simple, probably wrong way, a catalytic oxidation.

Fajer Mushtaq: So it’s a catalytic oxidation reduction process. Yes.

Antoine Walter: So the core of your technology is your super specific catalyst, which then can be activated by almost any kind of energy.

Fajer Mushtaq: Not almost all. We are quite selective. in that we do mechanical energy sources, right? So there is a huge pool we can harness from the existing water infrastructure.

Bubbling, vibrations, the flow of the water. We design our reactors in such a manner that you can really use the flow of the water as an active energy source. It’s designed in a way that the velocity is now so turbulent in the water. There’s even cavitation in the water from that process that is really then taken up, scavenged by the catalyst.

So this catalyst takes mechanical energy. translate that into a chemical energy process, basically. For example, if you’re electrochemical oxidation, you pass electricity into electrodes, and then you have the chemical energy process. But here we’re taking much more energy efficient resources, like the bubbling in the water, the flow of the water itself, for example, to do this activation.

And the end result is the same. You have a specific energy. species of let’s say hydrated electrons hydroxyl radicals that are formed. We know how reductive in nature to hydrated electrons are. They’re really good at destabilizing the C F bond. And then we have a bunch of really oxidated species like hydroxyl radicals, CO2 radicals SO4 radicals.

So they oxidizing and reducing at the same time. But the kicker for us is we’re taking mechanical energy, which is so low in energy, as an activator, which is an amazing materials catalyst, is transforming into chemical energy. So it’s not like we’re reinventing the wheel on the chemistry, but we’re absolutely reinventing the wheel on how we activate, how we put energy to do chemical reactions.

And that’s why we have such low OPEX numbers. And that’s the way that we have proven this repeatedly, how well OPEX scales. As soon as you even go larger on the scale, how much better it’s going to scale in the favor of lowering the energy even more.

Antoine Walter: I just want to repeat that because it’s crazy. I read one of your case studies, and it was saying that your catalysis is activated by the vibrations.

I was like, I must have misread that. I came back. I re read it. No, there really, it must be a typo. And then I looked. No, indeed, you’re taking, so that means usually we are used to, if you look, for instance, at forward osmosis, they would take waste. heat in a plant and try to valorize that to recall the draw.

But you’re saying that there are much more sources of wasted energy which you can leverage, be it the bubbles, the flow, and all of that. I just want to emphasize how crazy interesting that is.

Fajer Mushtaq: That is interesting.

Antoine Walter: But only because you have that very specific catalyst, the very, very very core of Oxyle is that Catalyst.,

Fajer Mushtaq: Our technology platform is beyond that one catalyst at this point, which I’m really proud of, but that was a spark of founding Oxide, right?

So when we discovered this amazing material that we were able to activate so many different mechanical energy sources, which we love because the water industry already has those energy sources, right? So it exists in the existing infrastructure. So customers don’t have to worry about, Oh, this is a brand new tech.

We don’t even know how to enforce it. Those energy sources are existing. It’s a boss. us adding a catalyst there now. That’s where the customers find this really, really interesting. We’re not bringing in new tech that they’re not used to. We’re saying our tech will go where your tech exists today. And this lowers the capex even more.

Antoine Walter: So now that we’ve done the housekeeping, there’s one thing across all your case studies, which is one OPEX figure, which you put every time, which says you are two to six times cheaper in OPEX. Yeah. Than what?

Fajer Mushtaq: There’s actually other destruction tech. So we’re not comparing ourselves to activated carbon ion exchange resin.

It is hard to compare yourselves on the energy values to activated carbon. If you purely look at like just the water passing through activated carbon and being absorbed, what is the opex there on the energy at least, right? So we’re talking about destruction tech. out there on the market. And yes, we do say two to six times, but we also give this number where if you look at our energy values against Kivo or HAL technologies or even electrochemical oxidation technologies on the reported commercial data of some of the startups and companies out there, it is not just six times higher, it’s more than 15 times higher.

And this is coming from, first of all, the data that we have gathered from the pilots we ran last year on onsite pilots, fully in the hands of a customer. So they were collecting this data. It’s not even our data And there we were reporting between two to four kilowatt hours per meter cube of energy values, right?

And that was in the pilot scale, which was not optimized for energy at all. It was optimized for performance and giving it super flexibility to try different energy sources. It was not optimized for energy. Now, when we talk about our actual commercial product there, we are going to be even below one kilowatt hours per meter cube.

And that opens this whole other field of we’re not even 15 times lower energy. We are way, way lower, especially if you look at the Best available destruction tech on the market. So we compare ourselves to destruction tech, not to absorption and filtration. But even if you look at like reverse osmosis and nano filtration, they are in this range of one kilowatt hours a meter cube.

We are actually competing with them on energy while not creating any secondary way. So this is why we call ourselves, we are going to be the catcher. defining company when it comes to destruction tech or PFAS?

Antoine Walter: First, from an older version of me 10 years ago, I have to scream out that if you compare it to activated carbon, Switzerland did that.

They did the full comparison, what is the best to remove micropollutant at the time, ozone or activated carbon. And absolutely, like you said, in the plant, activated carbon will have much less energy use. But what Switzerland did at the time is that they looked at the full cycle of activated carbon from activation.

transport, usage, transport, reactivation or disposal. And if you take all of that, it was above ozone. So if you are yourself six times better than ozone, I would expect you to be even

six to eight times

better than activated carbon. So exactly. And then you still have a secondary waste, which you don’t have in your case.

Fajer Mushtaq: Or even the broad spectra not being removed with activated carbon as well, like short chain, ultra short chain, you can’t remove with activated carbon that well.

Antoine Walter: So now I’m 200 episodes into. That podcast and there’s one sentence which was probably the most used on that podcast which is there is no silver bullet in water so what is the limitation of your technology when would it not be a fit or what would be a drawback in some use cases

Fajer Mushtaq: we can just say we do everything in the water space with befores.

That would be very irresponsible to say. Why our numbers are so good on the OPEX, for example, is because we are not talking about super concentrated industrial waste, where you have, for example, a huge COD matrix, 10, 000 ppm or something, you know, or you have a lot of nitrates, ammonia. When you have that, your radical species, your hydrogen electrodes will also compete for that.

And many of these species are very easy to treat over PFAS, so they will always win. So we know our niche, for example, right? We know the upper limits of COD, BOD we want to handle. For example, on the concentration of PFAS, there really is no upper limit. We have proven to customers, we can start with very low PPT ranges of PFAS to all the way to like tens of PPM, for example, even hundreds of PPM, 10, 000 PPM is the last project we did.

We could show how well that worked as long as the matrix is manageable. And when I mean manageable, I don’t want the matrix to be thousands of PPM, which you would see, for example, in many industrial water matrix, there are approach to still help those customers. What kind of partnerships do we need to make sure that we have a good pretreatment where the existing COD POD, which is not so problematic can be removed by traditional methods at a low cost for them.

And then we are left with the super interesting concentrated PFAS water, which is where we come into play. Right. And this also brings the question for a startup, like, which is the low hanging fruit in the market, which kind of water do you not need as partnerships right away and where you need it.

That’s also how we prioritize. There’s some projects where we can just jump in tomorrow and we don’t need these. extensive pre treatments. And then there’s some cases that are really lucrative for us, but you need a pre treatment. So what kind of partnership do we need? Right? So be careful about that. We prioritize projects based on that as well, because what is, would be an absolute shame is to use these amazing radicals to destroy something, which is a biodegradable organic matrix.

Like that’s an absolute shame. We also educate our customers on that. We can do that, but why would you want to pay for that? But it’s an easier, better method to do that. It’s always about, you know, educating the stakeholders. In many cases, they have no idea about water treatment. So you really have to advocate for their benefit because it’s good for us.

We can do the whole thing and they’ll pay for that. But there’s a better method of treating the matrix, which is not PFAS related.

Antoine Walter: If I try to translate that, that means you become a super cool solution for the upgrade of an existing facility. Because if they already have wastewater treatments, they probably will discharge to today’s limit, which means BODC.

Np, everything is taken care of now. On top of that, they need to tackle. PFAS or another type of micropollutant, but that means the scavengers present in that matrix are limited. So you can just plug and play your solution at the back end of that.

Fajer Mushtaq: That’s exactly how we do the projects today as well. We are the last step of the treatment process, for example, for our customers, but for projects like environmental remediation use cases, like when we treat, let’s say, groundwater or when we treat really PFAS contaminated soil water, for example.

There, we just go, we plug and play, and we can do with a matrix really well. For a really complicated industrial wastewater process matrix, that’s where we say, we need a pretreatment, and we come end of the pipeline. Because you’re right, they do have something already installed. They can just discharge the water to municipalities without a pretreatment.

It doesn’t act as a roadblock for us, but we are very careful. We need to be at the end of the pipeline, and not in between there. To make the most value for our customers, basically.

Antoine Walter: This end of the pipeline, and again. Switzerland was one of the fast movers. We’re sitting in Switzerland, so it makes a lot of sense to use the Swiss example.

But one of the big topics for this end of the pipeline, when you were putting oxidation at the very end, was, yeah, right, we’re removing what we don’t want, but we’re creating stuff which we don’t know. And so that is the reason why when ozonation or advanced oxidation processes were put as a last step, the recommendation was, oh, maybe you want to put a sand filter behind that, or an MBBR or something, which would just take this biodegradable oxidation byproduct.

In your case, you even had a case where you had

Fajer Mushtaq: bromine in the water!

Antoine Walter: Bromine in the water, which oxidates to bromate. Bromate is not controlled by the regulation on wastewater, but it’s controlled by the regulation on drinking water. So if you’re discharging to something which might be drunk by someone one day, you probably want to avoid bromate and you could show that you’re not creating it.

What is the magic trick that oxidation is creating byproducts, which we don’t want, but your oxidation doesn’t?

Fajer Mushtaq: I think that’s from the municipal treatment plant case study that we ran a few years ago at a pilot. So in that particular case, that was a very interesting use case for us. That’s also why we took it is because they had tried ozone technology there and that particular wastewater plant had some industrial water coming in.

So there was a lot of bromine in there. And. We did like back-to-back studies. There was ation treatment running. Our treatment was running, customers were taking the sample to better understand which of the two oxidation treatments would form bromate. It was a no-brainer. The ozone would, it’s O three radicals, react bromine forms, BRO three bromate.

And our oxidation mechanism is really different. We have hydrated electrons. We have always radicals. We don’t have the O three radicals, for example, and. We do have a much higher oxidation power as well. What we saw in that case study from the help of customers who helped analyze the water, there was no bromate formation at all.

But ozone treatment formed a decent amount of bromate, which was in the carcinogenic levels. And one interesting thing that we think, because we don’t have the exact mechanism here, is that we probably go from bromine to bromine. Even BR2 gas, like we formed a gaseous version of that. That was a hypothesis the customer put who had their own technical team there.

And I think here, if you do a mass balance and you look at the vapor level and liquid level, you can do the mass balance and figure out where does the bromine go, but it absolutely does not form the bromate radical. And that was the. Something we were not even sure of, what do we form? So the customer took the leap of faith and helped us analyze it.

And that was really great data to have. But the reason we think that is the case is because we don’t rely on one or two kinds of radicals, like the O3 radicals or the OH radicals. Only we have a bunch of different things happening. And many of these species are very reductive, very oxidative. So it’s absolutely possible you can go from bromine to Br2 instead of ever forming bromate.

Which if you think about the chemistry of bromate formation, it’s bromine in the water and if you have O3 radicals, you will form BrO3. It’s just, and we have no ozone radicals in the process, right? So that’s one of our hypotheses, and in chemistry like this, you have to have some hypothesis going with the chemical reactions because it’s really hard to pinpoint the exact mechanism.

But what stood out was the end data. There was no bromate formation. It was good to know, and that was actually the first pilot we ever ran after one month of founding the company. So it was the first thing we ever did. So that was a good thing to know early on that we’re not making toxic byproducts.

Antoine Walter: I think that’s an interesting one because it makes sense.

I didn’t know it was the first one you ran but now it makes much more sense because you can prove a lot of stuff at that scale. Yet, when I look at the results of your pilot there, you had two good results. Nothing forces you to be so effective. The law says 80%. If you’re hitting 90 or more, good for you, but the law doesn’t require that.

So it can give the sense to an operator that, I don’t want to overpay, I’m not paid to wash water than white. And probably today, I wouldn’t see you targeting that specific niche because it’s probably not where your crowd is. So is it realization, which you did within the pilots or what’s the, what’s the story there?

Fajer Mushtaq: The first pilot we did that was a paid pilot. The customer had tried a lot of things. They were benchmarking us. It was a no brainer as a young startup to jump into a paid pilot where you get benchmark data. And. I always think as a startup in water, get to your first pilot and prove as soon as possible, especially if it’s a paid one, nothing like it.

So it was my own egoistic reason to say yes to that, even if I absolutely do not believe that was our first market segment at the point, talking just about the, the million liter per day cost. treatment capacity as a startup, you know, you’re not going to be there. That’s cannot be a first project or if you’re a first customer, unless you have a lot of revenue and capital to be able to build the infrastructure you need.

So we knew that that’s not the most attractive market segment for us today, but it was a great validation point for the technology from that perspective. We didn’t pivot from municipal. We always knew it’s not the right one. It was just the first validated project a customer was running and also willing to share the data everywhere, which they did even then we knew if we get to the market as soon as possible.

We always talked about decentralization, decentralization, decentralization from the very first day. And that is so true to this day is how we look at a product and how we really believe you can solve the problem of water. You have to decentralize as much as possible.

Antoine Walter: I think here we have to make a definition check because usually on that microphone where we’re discussing decentralization, we’re thinking on site water reuse in your basement.

So in the communal space, in B2C markets and stuff like that, that’s not what you’re discussing here. You’re saying decentralization, go at the source, industrial source of pollutions and knock it down as long as it’s in a stream, which is manageable in terms of volume and before it’s diluted with a whole soup.

Fajer Mushtaq: Exactly. That’s one way, but I have to also like add a bit of nuance here because when you do environmental remediation projects, And you have a concentrated groundwater source that is also a point source because if you don’t treat it there and you have like thousands of ppt of groundwater source that for me is still decentralization because if you don’t treat it there it becomes a drinking water of a village downstream so we also call that decentralization even if the flow rates are much larger but it is really a point source with very high concentration PFAS which you can’t even imagine you would find in the groundwater but we do find that.

So for us, the environmental remediation project, Or let’s say a soil wash project with a lot of PFAS. When I say a lot, I really mean in thousands. PPT is a very attractive use case to apply a technology and still call it decentralized.

Antoine Walter: Let’s be specific on this one because that was one of your case studies, which surprised me because it’s really not where I was expecting you.

But then I read it and I thought, yeah, that makes a ton of sense. I really missed that use case. So tell me the story of that PFAS remediation project in groundwater.

Fajer Mushtaq: This is a pilot we started last year. It was a six month long pilot. It was with one of our industrial customers and we were already doing like process water treatment for them when they brought this really interesting use case of having contaminated the groundwater, but not just PFAS, but also pesticides actually, and requiring a one solution that fits all their problems because they were using sand filters, activated carbon, a bunch of other things to remove different versions of it and not.

been able to meet their PFAS limits that they had to meet because they had Medium and Short Shield PFAS in it. And activated carbon after one or two months was getting saturated over time, so they were not able to meet the regulations. And they also had a lot of fluctuations in the incoming water. Some days they had 500, 700 PPT and some days they had thousands.

And there’s no way you have some kind of real time feedback check. So some days you can meet, some days you absolutely did not meet the regulation. So we came into this is a situation which. It felt like a tricky situation. You don’t have any idea what you’re treating. They don’t want to use a lot of different pre treatments, they just want you to do the whole thing.

And that’s basically what we did. There was a pump and treat project where we pumped the groundwater that was really contaminated. We treated it in a batch cycle with our reactor and we put it back into the groundwater table, taking samples before and after, of course. A very tightly monitored study for six months where the customers took samples every day.

They shipped the same samples to our labs as well. We checked them here, they checked them with their own labs, we validated the whole data, found really good, no matter what. which was really important for us because we were collecting a lot more data than one or two samples. We were refining our machine learning models on that data as well.

We were collecting hundreds of samples per week, for example, from that study. And what we did in the sixth month, which was really fascinating for me, for the first three months, we treated directly the groundwater, which ranged the concentration of PFAS from 500 to a few thousand ppt. And for the last three months, we treated the nanofiltration reject water.

So they also apply a nanofiltration technology on site to see which way should the customer go. And we proposed to them, can we prove to you for the next three months, we can treat that and still make it a very cost effective solution for you. And there the PFAS conservation would go up to like 7, 000 PPT, for example, so quite high.

And what we could show to them was for both of these phases of the project, our energy values were between two to four kilowatt hours per meter cube. It did not significantly vary. And this change of energy values to four. four kilowatt hours per meter cube from two from phase one was mostly because we had less water that we were collecting from the nanofiltration was not because of our own energy values.

And that was really fascinating to show that even if a customer has deployed a nanofiltration technology, which has five X concentration for them in terms of opex and catalyst use and all their price does not vary a lot. So they could be reducing the flow rates that they have to treat by a nanofiltration, for example, by 5x, for example, or if you use form fractionation by 10x, 20x, and we could treat that for them, really reduce that without absolutely going crazy with the price, for example.

And that was a really interesting case study, because not only did we show repeatedly for six months, 98, 99 percent removal every single day in a state. Also validating the lifetime of the catalyst. Also showing that we were removing the broad spectra every single day. But what was really also fascinating was, we were also removing the pesticide as well.

Of course we were. If you remove the PFAS, you also remove the pesticide. And the energy values is where the customer was like really surprised. how low the energy was consistently. And of course, in our own labs, we don’t just measure 12 PFAS compounds. We were looking for short chain, ultra short chain and measuring them and not finding them.

And that was really, really valuable data for us. And in that pilot, we also went one step ahead. We also looked at the water quality data. The question is always if you do oxidation or reduction, you could be forming a lot of different degradation byproducts, which You can’t even measure, right? Because you’re looking for 12 compounds.

What if you’re forming hundreds of others? And a common theme here is if there’s any CF by product you’re forming, that’s not good. You should not have that, but you can’t be screening for thousands of unknowns. And what we discovered was something called a CALEX test. It’s a test that the EPA was recommending they might go in that direction because if you have any CF bond, this biological assay, which is basically a thyroid response test in the end, would Pick up the signal from the CF bond being formed as a byproduct and you would see a negative response come out in the CALEX test.

So if by default you’re forming any other degradation byproduct that had CF bonds in it and your HPLC measurements can’t pick it because you don’t even know it’s there, this CALEX test would absolutely pick that. And we ran multiple of these CALEX tests. And one really cool benchmark that we have as a company is that we also benchmark that as a control against bottled water you buy from the supermarket, but you know that it has some PFAS in it, right?

And we could show that our data after treatment has less of almost a negligible thyroid response, much better than the drinking water you buy from a store, which we know maybe have PFAS. And that for me, as a founder of this company was such an amazing thing to show because we know eventually EPA, other regulators would move towards tests like that, because that is the most.

important thing. It doesn’t matter what constitution of PFAS you have, it matters is the water safe for discharge. And if a bioassay picks up a negative thyroid response to CF bond, that’s a problem. This is even us saying there is no C2, no C1, no C3 because the test would have picked it up. And we read multiple of these samples.

And for me, that was really great to show the team was the happiest I’ve seen that day because we’re better than drinking bottled water in terms of PFAS response. That was another good thing. Great thing that came out of the pilot,

Antoine Walter: you’re opening many new doors. There are two I’d like to explore the EPA.

We’ll discuss that later. I just want to mention that you have more case to this on the website. It will just cost you your email. The website is in the description. You will get access to, to the case that is, it was a good read for me. So I guess it would be a good read for other people. It gives you examples.

Not the names, which got me curious, but yeah, I understand for obvious reasons. I’m coming to what you just said. You mentioned how you use that to train your machine learning, how you are able to do analysis here, how you’re developing a bio essay, how you’re also explaining how you’re doing real time monitoring of what takes time.

And that is almost a subcategory of the PFAS market, which didn’t get in the first place. place, the attention it deserved, but which more and more, if you look at what Fred Sense is doing, if you look at what, um, Skion just invested in a company who was doing that as well, it just makes sense. If now there’s a regulation on PFAS and the only way to measure your PFAS is to do GCMS or LCMS in labs, which are accredited for that, that’s going to take weeks, if not months.

And we heard utilities a couple of weeks ago in a Congress, which was saying exactly that, that they had to insource the labs just because they can’t afford to wait two months to get a result. And now I hear that you, of course. took that up in the market and you spotted an opportunity and something where you can bring your expertise.

So what do you intend to develop with this machine learning element? I guess you don’t become a lab down the line, right? Where do you play in that sphere?

Fajer Mushtaq: That’s an excellent question. That’s one element I think we didn’t cover four years ago because that was a thought process that I had and I’m happy that after four years it’s not a thought anymore.

It’s not even something that what do we intend to develop, it’s what we’ve already developed and are deploying. You’re right. There’s one thing called treatment of PFAS water, but if you can’t monitor it, your customers don’t know what they’re paying for. And more importantly, you don’t know if you’re protecting the environment.

And for us as a company, a third reason why we wanted to develop this was also to make sure we can take guarantees for the process and charge the customers for that guarantee. And even in that same process, regulate as a feedback loop, right? The energy needs. If you have already met the discharge limits in 60 minutes that you thought you needed because incoming water had low PFAS, don’t spend more energy for 30 more minutes.

That’s the no brainer for us. And this is something we picked up on the pilot last year. And some days we had reached the discharge limit within the first 25 minutes and we were still treating for another hour and just wasting energy for the customer. So it became a no brainer. Why we started collecting all of this data to let’s start deploying this.

What we’ve developed here in a very easy manner is we take a big bunch of data, really noisy data from 10 different sensors, 12 different sensors that are doing real time monitoring of water. It doesn’t give you anything meaningful. So if you look at all the 12 different data points, it’s a bunch of noise, but there are patterns there.

And that’s exactly where machine learning comes into place.

Antoine Walter: 12 parameters like CO2, we take a lot of different pressure,

Fajer Mushtaq: oxidation, reduction, potential, for example, pH, temperature, absorbance of different things. So there’s a bunch of things there that we can do.

Antoine Walter: basic boring parameters,

Fajer Mushtaq: basic boring parameters with some modification of some sensors that we have modified with the help of our sensor partners that have developed special sensors for our exact needs.

But basically bulk values, nothing crazy is happening there. But because we have access to our own labs here, which runs hundreds of samples overnight, we do a lot of correlation. Every minute you’ll take a water sample. analyzed with HPLC because we invested so heavily in that early on. And then you start seeing beautiful patterns emerge from this noise.

It took us a few years to get to this stage. But what we have developed so far, for example, for drinking water quality or for groundwater use case application, that’s where I find this so fascinating. We can say with a 99 percent accuracy, if a customer has met the 100 ppt discharge limit, no matter what data you feed, no matter from where you get the groundwater and we’ve tested it Tested repeatedly on site in the lab spike water.

We’ve done everything 99 percent of the time. You can get a very positive reply that you have met the regulation of 100 ppt. We’re also refining it down to the 50 ppt mark, which we believe is definitely possible. We have also employed this. What happens if you have a. up concentrated water for nano filtration or foam fractionation, even there we have a 99 percent accuracy.

You have to keep refining the models, feed new data into that. But our machine learning models are quite robust for drinking water and groundwater applications. Meaning a customer would just know every single time, every minute, when they have met the 100 pb discharge limit. And this data is coming to them on the cloud platform.

It’s being monitored. And for us to know if it’s not met, we keep the treatment longer, five minutes, 10 minutes, whatever it takes. And it’s obviously a service that it’s super unique, really valuable that we do. It has a lot of things. The customers don’t have to take samples all the time and wait for weeks and months to know how well it’s going.

They get this data in real time. And secondly, they don’t pay for energy when they don’t have to. And this is another reason how we pitch it to them. How much money they will have saved. If this whole treatment was running for a month, there were days we over treated. We didn’t have to. And that’s saving that they could just give to us in terms of revenue.

And that’s all. As a company with a mission to protect the health of our water bodies forever against forever chemicals, it goes hand in hand. If you can’t monitor in real time, how can you guarantee a treatment is working? Please someone explain that to me because everyone is taking process guarantees.

How are you taking a process guarantee when you wait for weeks to know the process worked?

Antoine Walter: Okay, I need to be the devil’s advocate. You’re entirely right. That’s before I become the devil’s advocate. Now I become the devil’s advocate. A guarantee, especially when it’s given by an OEM or an EPC, is there to never be enforced.

And it’s going to be written in a way that can’t never be enforced, which means even the law sometimes goes in that direction. If you look at the micropollutants, it says you take a sample one time a month and you need to conform with the 80 percent one time a month. And if you miss the mark one, depending on the content, sometimes even two months in the year, it’s still okay.

Which means you basically have to 10 days in the year. Be sure you’re at 80 percent of all the rest of the time, everything’s flowing through, not a big deal. And you’re not saying, Oh, I need to do my job correctly and I need to ensure I’m removing everything. And yeah. I have proof that I’m, I

don’t want that.

I just want to

conform with the regulation.

Fajer Mushtaq: I mean, that’s a great question from a devil’s advocate’s perspective. But see, when I say that Auxel is going to be the cathartic defining company here, I really mean that from a long term vision perspective. There are companies who set BATs, there are companies who set a standard.

Standard and if you set a metric which you are proven and it works industry will follow and this is our approach here as well We are validating that it is possible to actually in real time model PFAS Which no one is doing if you can’t prove it No one has to do it and if you can prove it and offer this in a way that is affordable because you save them energy costs instead and they pay you for that and many early adopters have used it and deployed it, you are setting up a true standard where you are changing the game.

We’re not a big water company who is doing the status quo and just putting everything down the line. What we want to make sure is this is not So expensive that no one’s going to buy it. Then there’s no point. It is affordable. Customers can buy and enjoy this. They are early adopters and we set a BAT around that.

What this means, what it means to be doing real PFAS. It’s not a pipe dream. It is a reality and we’re bringing that to the market. It is not the product, the only product we are selling. We are doing treatment, but we know the value of that and we want to bring this to the market. And today, yes, you’re right.

You might need 10, 20 samples a year. Because you can’t do more than that because of good reasons, you said logistical reasons. But if you can do real time monitoring and there’s some customers who tried that, deployed that, gave a testimonial for that and said, that’s actually affordable. We even save money on the energy because of that.

That’s how you change the market. That’s how you start a new trend.

Antoine Walter: I think that’s the absolute point, which is still, if I’m almost cynic and I’m saying, I don’t care about removing the PFAS as long as I confirm with the regulation. Steel, just because it allows you to adjust the energy levels, just that means it’s worth it.

So you ensure that you’re doing your job 365 days a year because you really monitor everything which is happening. And on top of that, you never wash white than white. If you see that after 20 minutes of the cycle, it’s treated, then stop applying energy. That, of course, that by itself would justify the approach.

You mentioned, You are also doing removal. Now, if I challenge you on that one, I would almost say that the monitoring element might be even easier with a lot of brackets around the easier to scale because there you’re agnostic of the technology. Whoever has to remove PFAS will need monitoring. And when you follow the money and the investment in this sphere, you see that that is a thesis which is growing.

On the technology end, there will be hardcore fans of supercritical water oxidation, hardcore fans of reverse osmosis, hardcore fans of activated carbon, and there, you will have to first breach their conviction barriers, and then you might have a chance to prove your point. So, do you want to follow the two paths simultaneously, or might you at some point pivot and say, we can also do removal, but here’s the test and the monitoring and the real time aspect.

Fajer Mushtaq: It’s a great question as a founder of a company who cares about this problem as a whole. I think about this all the time, there’s an easier and faster way to get really profitable with the real time monitoring. Easier again in brackets, nothing is easy in model, right? But I know what you mean, once you’ve proven it, it’s easy to scale, right?

You can really scale this much faster than hardware. Of course you can. But the question I asked When I think about this, am I doing the absolute best with the technology we have in terms of how much impact we can make? Because if I’m still burdening my customers with activated carbon and just monitoring what’s left in the end, have they really met the regulations?

Have they really protected the environments? And have we burdened them in the secondary ways that are still burning? I think when you ask a founder who’s a founder, who’s impact driven, our answer is never going to be, let’s do the easy thing and the fast thing. Our answer is always, how can we do the right thing?

and still make it easy and scalable. And for me, these two things go hand in hand. We do the treatment. We give our customers a treatment that actually works and they can afford. And there is no secondary waste. There is no burning of this wastewater. There is no releasing a PFAS into the air for future generations.

It is really a category defining treatment on its own. And, We also give them real time monitoring and in the future, I can completely imagine that these are one track is so much more profitable. It is not just tied to the treatment anymore. We offer this as a standalone to residential complex or households to consumers in the end.

That’s a different discussion to have and a very, very important discussion to have. But for me, we need to do both things if we want to solve water because, um, the easy thing is obviously easiest thing to do, but as a founder, it’s not the right thing to do. And if my treatment was burdened with high capital, I would do the easy thing, but I know how well the treatment works and it’s coming from the customers.

How easy it is on the performance, how easy it is on the CAPEX and OPEX affordability, the implementation, the use of it, the plug and play. Why would you not want to do a BAT on the treatment itself? And forget about the real time monitoring. Some customers even ask that. Why don’t you just focus on treatment?

Because the treatment is so good. And then of course, some people ask, why don’t you do the other way around? And as a founder, I see, because both are so valuable and so easy to implement, easy, we should do both at this point. And at some point, I’m absolutely convinced that real time monitoring would be its own thing as a company that we might even have to think about just, you know, how do we just scale that?

Because that is so easy to scale to feel innovation into the treatment from that even, because I think we definitely have to treatment. There’s no point in monitoring if the treatment up front is absolutely disastrous for the customers.

Antoine Walter: I love your answer. So you gave a very good answer to a cheesy question.

Kudos for that. Before we open the EPA box, I have the last thing to share with you, which is last week, I was at the Global Water Summit in London. There was a session led by ILE Utilities. on 30 technologies or water tech companies which address micropollutants. They framed it that way, but a lot of it was around PFAS.

Then there was monitoring companies, treatment companies, and Oxide was one of the 30.

Fajer Mushtaq: It’s good to know, I didn’t know that. Thank you.

Antoine Walter: I tell you. Super interesting session. But at some point, someone from Northumbrian Water raised a question from the room and said, you know what, that’s great, but why don’t we have like one place in the world where where we would take the technologies and test all the technologies.

And then we have a clear benchmark to which that brought back for me, memories of what Switzerland did, what Germany did, what Sweden did, what Netherlands did and what France did, which already gave me a hint as to why that will never happen, because everybody will believe I’m a special snowflake. And if there’s a comparison at certain points and place on earth, that is not going to apply to me, but on the principle and the surface of things, I would find that awesome.

If you. You get to test your stuff on the same metrics, then Ana Clarity gets to test that stuff, 374 Water gets to test that stuff, Pure Affinity gets, and so forth and so on. Yeah. And then people have a clear result and then we can vary the metrics and we know, Oh, if there’s only short chain, then go for those.

If there’s all of those. That sounds awesome on the paper. I fear it will never happen. Would you think that would be a good thing if it happens? Or would you say, no, that’s just nonsense because every water matrix is different. And from your experience, you have to tune it all the time.

Fajer Mushtaq: I think if we can somehow get all the stakeholders involved to say yes to that is an absolutely amazing thing.

It gives the customer a lot of transparency, right? It also gives you as a company, the direct comparisons. There’s no guessing and to find your exact niche into defining it later, once you’re employed or deployed the station, it doesn’t work as good as a competition in terms of your own transparency, something I think we should aspire to do as founders of the company or leaders of the company.

The question is, would it ever happen? That I don’t know that you’ll have to ask other members of those companies as well. I think if you can make a really close study around that, okay, this is a use case. Let’s say we want to focus on leachate water or, you know, groundwater for this. These are the various parameters you can design a close study.

around that. You can really vary the parameters, stress tests, right? And get a lot of really awesome data. And then see for these parameters, which is perfect for this kind of leachate water, I’m the go to company. And for the other ones, it’s my nearest competition. That’s fine. But then, you know, your exact market.

From that perspective, always benchmarking, collecting data and showing data. Transparently as we do at Oxyle. I would love that. It’s just a matter of question of how many other people will join you because it needs to be a group movement and it needs to be taken in the right spirit. The spirit is to find our exact niche market where we are the best so we can focus and grow.

That’s a great mindset. If the mindset is I don’t want to feel like I’m the worst in this company, every treatment is going to be worse than the other one. in some regard. It’s just a matter of like which stakeholders will join, who will pay for it, how much will it cost, and how will we transparently show you the data.

I think as a principle it’s definitely amazing and that maybe it could actually be facilitated one day and if it happens I think definitely Oxyle is going to be participating very happily and collecting more data and then every day we are great, we’ll publish that on the website and say we are great here, come and join us.

Why not? It helps us grow. Positive answer there.

Antoine Walter: Which makes me a good segue to the EPA topic because we’ll discuss the regulation, what it changed. how it opens the market. But one of the things that EPA published along their regulation on the 4PPT of PFAS in drinking water is a recommendation of technology.

And their list of recommendation of technology is pretty simple. It’s two technologies, activated carbon and ion exchange. And as much as you understand why they do that, because Drinking water is a sensitive field. You don’t want to take a risk. So you go for the absolutely proven stuff. I would see that as the role of a body like EPA or the European Commission or this kind of levels to say at the end of the day, even if we’re not directly subsidizing, it’s going to be utilities, so public money involved, we want to have the best bank for our buck, so we probably should be the one hosting.

This kind of benchmark to know if that’s the use case, then you go for that. You go that’s and so forth and so on. Was it a surprise for you that activated carbon and exchange were pushed? And second, how do you react to that? Like, okay, they defined that it’s a 6 billion market, which flows by the window because Yeah,

Fajer Mushtaq: absolutely not surprised that that was the outcome.

Honestly, you didn’t even have to read it. You just knew that’s going to happen, right? Because otherwise there would have been a movement in the market for many years from EPA funded to understand other technologies and benchmark them because we don’t see that because it’s risk averse field and I get it public health and drinking water is quite a risk averse field, but that should not be a reason not to look for innovation and new technologies was not a surprise.

But of course, a shame when I saw that because you have access to so much money and so much research. And he’s such a trusted body that companies like Oxyle will come and benchmark ourselves to see if you like us or not. They have so much power and with great power comes a lot of responsibilities, doesn’t it?

And I think that was kind of missed from my perspective. We went with the safe, same old, same old. And if you have this, you know, long PFAS strategic roadmap, you’re researching this for years, I would have liked to see something new and not just this thing. the same. These are the two BATs. Just go with that.

Let’s be safe. What happens to the waste? What happens to the long term effects of the secondary waste? Yeah, let’s not discuss that. Let’s just do what is safe to do. And that was a bit of a shame for me, absolutely. And I just hope maybe on the EU side, somewhere, a different country maybe can take a leading role.

I think Switzerland sometimes shocks people, like as we did with the micropollutant 80 percent removal, you know, a decade ago. I think there’s a room to play for some player, which can be a bit outrageous in this field. And it’s not even outrageous. It’s just doing the right thing. benchmarking technologies, I think.

And if nothing is good, don’t implement them. Like, no one’s going to die. If you don’t like any of the new technologies, don’t use them. Use activated carbon. But at least let’s test, let’s get the data. And I feel there needs to be a champion who needs to do that. If it’s not a government agency, if it’s not even a country, maybe an independent water panel or something.

We need to have, we need to see something, I feel.

Antoine Walter: The difficulty stays with this special snowflake aspect, because Switzerland, as you said, did it with airbag. We did two series of studies, the first with activated carbon versus ozone, but also is it block activated carbon? Is it powder activated carbon?

And France did the same, the study, the first was called Ampère, the second was called Armistik, and they did a bunch of, but at the end of the day, every country redid the same study. And at the time I was selling those on generators. So to me, that was awesome. Every time they were doing a study, they needed to buy those on generator.

I was super happy, but at the bottom line, it was stupid. And I fear that that might happen again, unless the dominant power in the market, like EPA, because they were the fastest to move. would take the lead. I agree. And that’s beyond my rant leads me to my question on EPA, which is, do you sit on the wrong side of the Atlantic?

Fajer Mushtaq: I don’t think that actually at all in terms of the market, at least right in terms of the opportunity you can create. If anyone has seen the forever pollution map project, we don’t sit on the wrong side of the Atlantic here. Yes, you might sit on the wrong side of the Atlantic because we don’t have like someone like the EPA is one defining thing.

for a country, but in terms of the market and the void we see on the European side for a destruction tech for PFAS. And this is something we keep hearing from customers. Where are the European PFAS treatment companies? Everything seems to be concentrated on the other side. I think there’s a huge opportunity to make here, especially in the Benelux region, the dark region in France, Italy, the hotspots of PFAS really.

We have access to 11, 000 plus sites that are severely contaminated that we know of. Forget about the ones we don’t even know of yet. They’re severely contaminated with over a hundred PPT. So in some cases, thousands of PPT of PFAS that need immediate help. And there’s a lot of amazing traction from startups and on the US side, but they’re not going to be coming here in the next few years.

So we need our own champions here. And I’m happy that Oxfam exists. here. We’re helping wherever we can help fill this void. Any customer who is sick and tired of activated carbon ion exchange resin are burning their water, is looking for a destruction then that they can easily access is a few hours away.

We are here. So why would I want to go on the other side when there’s a void? Absolutely here from the market perspective, at least.

Antoine Walter: So that means that it’s not a big deal for you to be on this side of the Atlantic, because anyways, you wouldn’t be targeting the U. S. There are U. S. companies targeting that market.

You are very happy with European market

Fajer Mushtaq: for the time being. We never say never is never right. Our goal is to focus on the European side because of the market opportunity here, because the number of customers we are talking to and how much problems they have. But in the next four or five years, of course, course, you want to move the plunge there.

And if you want to be proven in the American market, we know they will ask you for testimonials. They’ll ask you for references. You’re a new company entering that segment. So once we have the testimonial built and we have the revenue fleet built, it’s much easier to enter that space. I don’t think it’s.

prudent jump in now when you have access to such local market, which is completely underserved. And the American companies already have the monopoly there. So I think you have to play to your strengths where there’s absolutely a market here and then jump on the other side once you have proven yourself.

Antoine Walter: But wouldn’t that be a double edged sword? Because in the same time. the American companies are going to build references in the US. And as the EPA has come with that regulation, chances are that they can build a bit faster in terms of local references. I mean, the water sector is what it is. Everybody wants to be first to be second.

So when the markets develop in Europe, they might come and say, Hey, hi, I’m a Clarity. I’m Alonia. I’m 374 water, whoever. And I have a backlog of 2030 references in the US. Maybe you should trust me a bit more than

Fajer Mushtaq: a European company, right? I love the question. Absolutely. It’s a risk you will take in that case, but we also have to see how big the American market is.

So we know of like 11, 000 sites here. We know there are access to 40, 000 different sites in the U. S. It’s a huge market there. And if you are showing repeatedly to your customers here in terms of how Your performance is better. OpEx is better. The CapEx is better. Sure, competition in the US has 20, 30 different projects, but you also might have the same number here with much better metrics.

At the end of the day, the customer wants to pay less for more. And if that’s what you’re building here, you can take the attraction there. If you believe in the superiority of your tech, That should not be a fear to dilute the resources, be here and there. You should conquer the market that’s easier to get, that’s in desperate need of help.

And your tech is so much superior anyway, so it should be fine to sell on the USPs that we offer. And I absolutely believe in that. I don’t think we should dilute our resources right now. We should really be laser focused and help the customers who are telling us we desperately need help. And just let them speak for us on the other side of the Atlantic when the time is right.

Antoine Walter: Dilute your resources. You give me the best segue. You raised money three years ago?

Fajer Mushtaq: We did a pre seed round about two years ago. Okay.

Antoine Walter: How does it look like for you? Do you target to grow like bootstrapped and profitably and so you don’t need to raise again? Or do you intend to do like a big bang? I heard you mentioned before we started recording that you’re moving to bigger facilities.

All of that obviously has a cost. Yeah. What is your goal? path to scale and how do you see the next one, two, and then long term.

Fajer Mushtaq: As a deep tech hardware company, right? You will need a lot of capital and you have to be very, very smart and how you raise that. So far, we have raised 9 million in total. And of that, about just three has been from dilutive VC funded rounds.

So we only raised one round so far, it was a pre seed round in 2022, 3 million round, the rest, 6 million. It is. And I’m absolutely proud about that, because for me, it is not about this ego match of which company raises how much, how much faster. I’m building a company that is sustainable, that is scalable, and that gives the value, the best value for the buck to every stakeholder, including my team, who all have stock in the company.

I think about every single person before, can I raise a 20 million round at the worst dilution to show I’m also a big player? That is not a ego play here. What does my company need for the next two years? How do I get that in the most responsible manner? And if I can apply for a non dilutive, no, no strength attached grant that we always get, that is real money.

We just got 2 million funding from the Swiss government two weeks ago. I take it. I would not take that and not dilute until I hit the next big milestone. We would always need to raise funding from VC fund. Pre seed alone would never cut it. It’s absolutely clear we need a siege round, a series A, maybe even a B.

I know that. We probably are looking at. two, three more rounds. It is about just spacing them out and not falling for this craze of let’s raise the next round. And there are many other water companies that have this amazing rounds they raised last year. They’re also double of age, for example, the companies you mentioned by Clarity, for example, I think they’re seven, eight years old.

We’re not even four years old yet. We are getting to that stage. So I’m not competing on that. I’m competing on. How much we need to scale as fast as possible. And in this same direction, we are looking at a seed round as we speak, we are in the middle of fundraising for our seed round, and that is only coming because we are happy with the milestones we’ve reached so far.

And once we close the seed round, we will already have the commercial product. install on a customer side, quarter three of this year. And that’s what we are raising the seed round on. That’s a milestone that I can stand behind and say in the last two years, that’s what we use that small 3 million of VC funding to do.

We took a technology from a lab to a full scale product installation with 3 million. And that’s my pitch to the VCs. If you give me more money, imagine what we’ll do with that. We take every single penny really seriously and always look for non dilutive. And that’s what I take a lot of pride in.

Antoine Walter: So that means your Series A is for when you’re commercially ready to go, so that it’s just about pushing and making it happen faster because you’ve done all your preparation work and now you’re ready, wheels on the ground, you just need a bigger engine.

Fajer Mushtaq: This year we’re raising a seat because you only raised a pre seat so far. So we are very careful with the terms. Our pre seat was 3 million. Two years ago, this year, we’re raising a seed round, eight to 10 million. And that is coming for showing how one product looks like and how do we scale that to 10, 20, 100 different products in the next few years.

And then comes a big series A in a few years, which we have time for. And that is all going to be about expansion into different geographical regions, entering U. S. hopefully, for example, with that. But also upscaling the production facilities for our catalysts that we produce ourselves. And of course, team expansion.

So really, really key things you need to do. But our seed run right now is to show we installed the first full scale product and the customer is super happy. Now we need to like produce and manufacture and scale the production in a team, ops team and sales team to deliver the next hundred reactors before we raise a series A in a few years.

We are literally raising money to say we did one, now we need to do a hundred more. So we need the money for that. It’s not just we need the money and we’ll see what happens here. We know what’s happening already.

Antoine Walter: I think we need to address your business model here. You mentioned how you are paid on the results.

So I would expect you to do a kind of treatment as a service. Is that right?

Fajer Mushtaq: We don’t just do treatment as a service. We actually install Reactors and customers pay us for the CapEx of Reactor. And here in the CapEx, we are really like on the margin. We don’t make any profit there. Like a 5 percent cross margin for safety is what we make.

We don’t want to be an expensive CapEx company. We want the customers to be able to afford this technology. It goes inside that they can own, they feel better about, they paid for something and that’s their technology installed inside. They can show to their investors, look, we paid for this, but It’s on the OPEX where we really make the revenue.

One of the elements of OPEX is absolutely correct. It’s a treatment, it’s a service where we charge them for per meter cube treated water, for example, the second pillar of course, is this real time monitoring data we provide to them on the cloud platform, which has different tiers. The basic tier is, for example, have they met the regulation or not?

In the future, there’s also other tiers going to come for a short chain, medium chain PFAS level, how they are being tracked, for example. There’s going to be many different tiers, right? Because for us, the most difficult thing to measure in real time is PFAS. But the pesticides and the pharmaceuticals in the water, we measure really, really easily with those sensors.

So we can also add those other layers for them. So they get this full data, for example. Even more importantly, if the incoming water has more pesticides one day or not from the production facility, it’s really valuable data for the customers from what we heard. So we charge them for different tier packages for the.

And because our catalyst, for example, is a consumable, this is how we see it. We replace this once a year, whatever it needs based on customer needs. It comes back to our facilities. We regenerate it, acid basic cleaning, nothing crazy needs to happen. If you see any minerals formed, which you will see after one year of use with heavy groundwater, we do acid basic cleaning.

It’s good to go to 99 percent removal efficiency in a day. And we sell that to the same customer or to a new customer. This is also faxed into our business model, catalyst replacement fee for our customers, for example.

Antoine Walter: That’s an important point because your website says you’re recycling the catalyst and I was wondering if you’re recycling, you’re taking it back and you’re putting it in a landfill under super controlled environment, but no, you’re regenerating your catalyst.

Fajer Mushtaq: We regenerate and we recycle. Recycle, what we mean is, let’s say there’s a mechanical damage after five, six years of use. It can happen we use mechanical energy as a activation source after all. What do you do with that material that’s a little bit broken? Do you just throw it away because it doesn’t have the right mechanical properties?

Because it won’t work perfectly if it’s not mechanically the same material. We know that from the test we have done. It needs to have the right modulus, for example, for being transformed, the mechanical into chemical energy. What we can do is we can dry the material, re dissolve it the way we make a fresh batch and remake a whole material and it works.

Absolutely the same way and this is what we mean by recycle like we don’t throw a single amount of that We can dry redissolve make a fresh batch so we don’t end up wasting anything We don’t necessarily save a lot more money by fully recycling it For example as part of the the thesis as a company we save every 20 on the cost which is not a lot but It makes sure that we are not wasting anything in the process.

Why waste when you can recycle, even if you save 20 percent of the cost. So we regenerate for sure, every six months, every year, depends upon what’s in the water. But the recycling would happen every few years, for example, just to make sure nothing gets thrown away.

Antoine Walter: So far, you’re blessed with Not having so many investors.

And so you can take your decisions. You’re the founder. You speak with your team. Now I’m going to take a view of if I were an investor in your company, which happily for you is not the case and happy in all the dimensions, because I would be a terrible investor. But if I was now to advise you on your long term path, I would say what seems to me the moneymaker is twofold.

The catalysts and the. all the OPEX story around the catalyst and the data as a service and all the OPEX story around that. Get rid of the stupid hardware. Who wants to do a hardware? So if I was to give you that worst and lamest piece of advice ever, I would tell you, great, for demonstration purposes, you needed to have it.

But when you scale, build your factory, produce your catalyst, because that is what you want to have in house. Build your data lake, data cloud, whatever, and keep reinforcing it. And maybe you might even be able to extrapolate more than just PFAS. But. Outsource the hardware

Fajer Mushtaq: it’s currently completely outsourced we don’t make anything on the hardware it is if a customer gives us a full scale contract we give that to a manufacturing partner who makes it and installs it so we are kind of like the middleman for that that is already happening today it’s happening happening since last year actually we will never be a hardware manufacturing company.

That would be the absolute killer if that hardware enters a balance sheet. It does not. It’s a money drain and we don’t get anything out of it. So that is a part of the puzzle that we have already kept ourselves out of. So when we talk about a revenue stream, it is really all recurring. And this is the reason also we believe how fast we can scale.

It’s also advice we also got from investors as well, of course, but it was always part of our thesis. The first time I pitched, I always said, Yeah. We don’t want to be a hardware company and investors love to like, okay, that’s a water company we can work with because hardware is not entering the balance sheet.

We don’t want that to enter a balance sheet. We don’t gain anything from that. Absolutely.

Antoine Walter: If I see your thesis, if you see the field in which you are, if I see your track record, and in the same time, you don’t want to raise money just right now, because that’s not the right point in time. I guess you must.

be getting a call every week from an investor who wants to invest. And you have to say, no,

Fajer Mushtaq: I mean, we are in the middle of active fundraising. We launched the fundraising process a few weeks ago, a month ago, and this is really exciting to see how many European investors are getting excited about water in us.

I think they are even like proper water funds that are so old and so well established. And this side of the Atlantic, it was always about like clean tech was about battery storage and CO2 removal and water was like, Oh, water. No, there’s no money in water. And that is really changing. I’ve seen this trend the last few years that people are thinking the next climate bet is water tech.

So we’re seeing that people are getting really excited about it. And it is our job to show it to them that you can make money with them because you have to always see who you’re talking to. VCs want to make a good return on that. And if your business model is driven by recurring revenue, they see the light as a tunnel.

They see that doing the right thing. They see it as a valuable resource for which wars are going to be fought in the future. And you actually make money off it. So how much of a win win is that? And how many other water techs do you see who are destroying PFAS at scale in a commercial manner, a cost effective and scalable manner?

I don’t know many of them in Europe. It makes us obviously a very good candidate and that is something we are seeing from the market, of course. And we obviously have a very clean storyline pitched. Our focus markets, how the tech works, customer testimonials, and the pipeline of customers. And what What do we want to do with this money that we want to raise?

That story is there.

Antoine Walter: That it’s clear on your end and that it’s super investable, I would absolutely believe. Now, when I was discussing with Julie Blissmillan from Acclarity, she was mentioning that she was pitching to VCs when she prepared her Series A.

Julie Bliss Mullen: I probably pitched 80 venture capitalists and I was learning a ton with every pitch how to refine my pitch, but also what I was looking for.

I learned pretty quickly if they didn’t know what PFAS was, they were off my list. Then they would have to, you know, have to educate, but not only educate, but that means that they don’t understand what we’re going through. They don’t know, they don’t know the market.

Antoine Walter: I don’t want you to blame anyone. I mean, I’m not saying they should know everything, but from an education standpoint, do you need to explain to them where you act, what you do and what’s the field?

Or are they super informed and that’s a no brainer?

Fajer Mushtaq: I mean, anyone who shoots us an email and says, let’s have a call, they have checked what Oxyle is doing and what Oxyle is about. So they already come informed. I haven’t spoken to a single investor who reached out to us or who reached out to Did not come prepared for the call.

Cause that is just bad homework. That hasn’t happened in my viewpoint. Of course, they are not chemistry experts. So you will have to explain to them what mineralization means, what the by product formation could look like, and how would you evaluate that? You might even have to educate them why long chain is easier than short chain to remove.

This is my job to educate them on, but they absolutely understand what PFAS is. They absolutely understand they’re not going anywhere tomorrow. And this is a real problem. But what I would say here is I would not shortlist. investors if they only have a water background. I think that is limiting because there are first of all not so many water investors.

But secondly, it’s limiting because I think you need to bring the knowledge of VCs who have scaled successfully different climate tech and you want to bring that knowledge to water. If you just work with water companies, right, water investors, how easy it is to scale other water companies. How many water unicorns do we know?

Absolutely. answer, right? There’s not a lot. Meaning, maybe if it’s not absolutely everything right done by the water VCs out there, it’s not a proven model. Whereas in the other climate tech segments, VCs have shown that they have brought new insights, new business models to scale climate tech companies.

So why would I not want that insight on my board to help me think a bit different on water, right?

I want Oxide to be a unicorn. I want to understand how the CO2 capture industry did that. And I want that know how in my company. And I don’t just want It’s good to have a balance there, I think.

Antoine Walter: You really want Oxyle to be unicorn?

Fajer Mushtaq: Absolutely.

Antoine Walter: I had the only unicorn in that sector on the microphone with Gradiant. And sure, it’s an exciting path, but it’s also a crazy fast paced growth, which means you have to do series pre seed, seed, series A, series B, series C, series D, and by series D, you become a unicorn. But now they have to become a decacorn.

The sky’s the limit. Yeah. Is it that path of ultra rapid growth, ultra scale, which you’re following?

Fajer Mushtaq: Absolutely. I think it starts with the passion you have as a founder, but also the team you are building technology around. Every single person here outside of this room in my company is a go getter.

Everyone believes in the business model we have. It’s scalable, it’s profitable. Everyone believes in the tech we have developed and we are benchmarked and how great it is. And they see a huge market opening up. The drivers that you need to have, the most important being the team. Without a team, there is no growth.

No company. We have an absolutely amazing team outside, 25 amazing go getters in their field. They are the experts. I know the least amount of any room I go to for any meeting, which is how I know we will be a unicorn. These people are super passionate. They have left really, really well paying jobs to join our mission, right?

As a startup, because they believe in what we are doing. And this is the reason I have the best hope that we will be this unicorn because you need the team who works 150 percent and believes in the mission to go at 10 times higher speed. We helped in a lot in less than four years of being founded. It’s But the customers think it’s what our investors are seeing as well.

How much we have done from the first idea we had four years ago to installing a full scale commercial product on the customer site and getting a huge amount of gross margin on that as a first sale we have made just in less than four years, right? So I know what we have built in just four years and what is there still to do.

And with the team that we have, I absolutely believe we can do that. We assembled an amazing management team last year. We got an amazing chief product officer, Tobias, last year, a water industry veteran, who’s a CPO now, amazing with customs, understands water in and out. We also onboarded a chief operations officer last year, Dom.

He was the chief operation officer of Climework for 12 years, right? So he has built and seen how do you build a unicorn in the CO2 capture space from the day one of it being founded and for him to leave Climework and join our mission as our CEO tells you what we are trying to build. here. We are building the unicorn in water.

I absolutely believe that because of the people who are outside of this room and the ones we are yet to hire. We hire very selectively. We have this principle of if you don’t match your values, these five values on the wall that we have, you are not going to make it work here. We work very fast. We don’t take shortcuts and the commitment to our customer is absolutely the key here.

Antoine Walter: The passion you have when you’re speaking about that is super communicative. So I can feel that and it’s very interesting on various levels to hear you say that because you’re known. to be like that powerhouse and hearing you say that when you enter a discussion with some people of your team, you’re the one doing the last, because they have all to be like specialists and experts in every other field is just a testimonial to what you’re building here, which is good news because that means we will have the occasion to do a sequel to this conversation, but not in four years, but in less time than that, because if you’re going hypergrowth, I guess there’s a lot to tell in maybe one or two years.

I know you’re Time is of value, so I don’t want to spend too much of it. It was great to have you on the microphone today. If that’s fine for you, I would switch to the rapid fire questions.

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Rapid fire questions:

Antoine Walter: What is the toughest challenge, in your opinion, for a water tech startup?

Fajer Mushtaq: Reducing time to deployment. and making a product with as much less customization you would need to scale.

Antoine Walter: What would be your best single piece of advice for the founders and managers of the about 1000 early stage startups?

Fajer Mushtaq: Build your first prototype and sell that to your first customer as soon as possible and just laser focus on that.

Antoine Walter: What’s the drop of knowledge you wish more investors know about the water sector?

Fajer Mushtaq: Absolutely on the European side that there’s a lot of money to be made. Made in water, so start investing in water.

Antoine Walter: That’s a super important one, which is, it’s not like, do that because it’s good for you, ESG. You

Fajer Mushtaq: can make more, a lot of money on it.

Antoine Walter: Exactly. What was your most unexpected partnership and what did it bring you?

Fajer Mushtaq: I mean, definitely when we got the term sheets from a lead investor for the pre seed. We were not fundraising, they just came for coffee.

We were known to have good coffee in the market. And the next day we got the term sheet. We really changed a lot of things because we were not fundraising. We raised a lot of non value to that year and absolutely changed the way we look at how do we hire, how do we fire, how do we scale, how we look at business models.

And that was really great to catalyst. We were already thinking, but a reaffirmed version from a known VC sale. Super happy that we took the term sheet and closed around super fast.

Antoine Walter: No, I understand why you insisted that I take a coffee, which was super good because apparently a magical coffee, which also, it’s

Fajer Mushtaq: good, it’s good coffee.

Antoine Walter: I, I, I feel the need to, and the urge to invest in you now. That was the coffee . Uh, super short profitability or growth,

Fajer Mushtaq: definitely growth. If you have the growth profitably comes.

Antoine Walter: What’s the next profile you’ll hire?

Fajer Mushtaq: Uh, we are looking for a chief commercial officer as we speak, so if you know anyone. Spread the word.

Antoine Walter: So if that fits your description, you know how to contact Badger, the links are in the description. You want someone here, someone abroad, someone, what’s the

Fajer Mushtaq: In the beginning, definitely someone who is in person as much as possible, few days a week, to get to know the team, to get to know the culture, touch the product with his hands or her hands, right?

And this is a role that should be very remote, a lot of travel involved, but in the beginning, definitely encourage for the first six months, be as much as possible here, so you get to know us, and then you can run the show as you want.

Antoine Walter: When you hire, For that person, are you looking for sector experience or startup experience?

Fajer Mushtaq: Definitely sector experience in the sense, like someone who’s amazing at like, let’s say commercial side of the water side. And of course, when we are hiring, we are checking their values. If these values don’t match, you know it’s not a good fit for a startup. So we don’t look for startup the other way around.

We look for experience and make sure that person has the right value and mindset, which is the side of mindset at the end.

Antoine Walter: Opening new markets or doubling down on the current ones?

Fajer Mushtaq: Definitely opening new markets. The best PFAS destruction, low cap X, low half X, scalable market for our customers.

Antoine Walter: So open new geographies, not new verticals?

Fajer Mushtaq: I think you can do both. You can even look at a geography that believe you can’t do PFAS destruction at scale and actually go there and implement the solution to help them. You can do both things if the tech works and the economics works.

Antoine Walter: What’s that tool nobody speaks about you couldn’t live without?

Fajer Mushtaq: I can’t work without my Teams. Teams is where, you know, we all coordinate every single thing, and it’s on my phone, it’s on my laptop, it’s everywhere. I can’t live without it. It guides my calendar.

Antoine Walter: It’s super interesting you say that because when I put that question on the list, I was expecting people to give me like crazy answers.

And what comes the most is Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts. And so it feels like what’s the most important nowadays to get a way to have that connection. If it’s not physical, it has to be through a tool.

Fajer Mushtaq: Exactly.

Antoine Walter: What’s the single piece of insight your ideal customer profile needs to hear right now?

Fajer Mushtaq: That if they’re looking for a scalable, sustainable, effective technology that can help them meet the PFAS regulations and give them real time monitoring data, there’s a startup called Oxyle that exists and we are ready to scale with them.

Our commercial product is already going to be launched. So just come speak to us. We have something that will fit your needs.

Antoine Walter: What are you desperately needing and want to raise an open call for right now?

Fajer Mushtaq: I think this is a great question. It comes hand in hand with the regulatory aspect, right? I think what I’m looking for is some kind of a better regulatory push when it comes to, do we have, I don’t know, a better PFAS regulation on this side of the Atlantic as well?

Do we enforce a better palliative pace? And how does that look like? Can we make it the same rule across all European countries? So there’s less ambiguity and fragmentation across the market, which will help us get there faster. It’s all about making the regulations more. Uniform, harmonious, more implementable.

And for someone like Oxyle to be benchmarked, you know, to say how great we are.

Antoine Walter: And what can and should I do for you?

Fajer Mushtaq: If you see any customer who believes BFS destruction is a horrible idea, tell them about Oxyle and we’ll change their mind in half an hour of a phone call. Please do that.

Antoine Walter: That’s a good one.

Half an hour. Ah, that’s a good benchmark.

Fajer Mushtaq: If you can’t tell someone in half an hour how badly technology works, you’re not doing it right. It should take you two minutes, actually, but

Antoine Walter: well, it’s been a pleasure to have you back on the microphone and to have it face to face brings a new dimension and a new dynamic to it.

So thanks a lot for welcoming me in your offices. If people want to follow up with you, what’s the best place to redirect them to?

Fajer Mushtaq: Our LinkedIn is quite active. There are emails. Um, you know, we reach out to every new lead that comes by email. So LinkedIn and email is always the best way.

Antoine Walter: So as always, the links are in the description.

That’s probably what you want to check out. Thanks a lot. And I have the full up with you. Rather sooner than later. Sooner this time.

Fajer Mushtaq: We’re accelerating now. Yes.

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