“Converting toxic smoke into breathable air is easy to say, but very hard to achieve.”Marat Maayan
Marat Maayan is the Founder and CEO of Airovation Technologies. Developed at the Hebrew University, the company’s patented superoxide technology started out in 2013 as a solution for converting industrial smoke and toxic fumes into solid minerals and clear air. Start-Up Nation Finder Information Specialist Maor Perlov recently interviewed Marat to learn more about the Airovation story.
MAOR: What problem did you see in the world that inspired you to create your solution?
MARAT: While commanding a special unit in the Israeli Combat Engineering Corps, I learned a great deal about respiratory threats, such as smoke and other toxic gasses. I was struck by the complete absence of suitable technological solutions to the threats.
MAOR: How did you launch your company?
MARAT: My realization led me to investigate the field and launch and bootstrap Airovation. Fortunately, the Israeli Innovation Authority found our invention and vision promising enough and contributed significant funding, matched by a group of angel investors that shared my set of values. That helped kickstart our deep technology R&D.
MAOR: What obstacles did you hit along the way?
MARAT: When tackling such an operation, the challenges are endless and crises are frequent. For example, our first solution completely failed. Converting toxic smoke into breathable air is easy to say, but very hard to achieve. It is crucial to learn fast, analyze quickly, and recover from setbacks.
During our early stage testing, almost by mistake, I met Professor Yoel Sasson, from the Casali Institute for Applied Chemistry at the Hebrew University. Luckily, one of his brilliant chemistry inventions was the perfect fit for my vision. Professor Sasson and his research companion, Dr. Uri Stoin, joined my team and Sasson has been leading the chemical research and scientific aspects for the past five years. We gained an exclusive license for the invention, which was the first of several patents that we have developed since.
MAOR: What does success look like to you?
MARAT: Success, for me, is having a vision, pursuing it, and seeing it come to life. The end goal is super important, but the path to getting there is equally important. I will feel that I have made it when I see that our technology is serving humankind by positively impacting the environment and improving people’s wellbeing.
It will mean that Airovation has become a large technological company, with superior R&D capabilities, and multiple alliances and partnerships around the globe. We aim to become a leader in the world of carbon capture and mineralization.
MAOR: What help do you need to reach your goal?
MARAT: My goal of reducing emissions cannot be achieved by operating as a “lone wolf.” My approach is to always encourage collaborations, and I find that other complementary entities in this field understand the benefits of that too. It will take international collaborations and complementary capabilities to make a real impact. We are on the right track.
MAOR: What’s your secret ingredient?
MARAT: My secret ingredient, and the thing that I am most proud of, is the remarkably talented and devoted people — my co-founder, partners, consultants, employees, and friends — that made my journey theirs, and made all the difference. I am never too proud to ask for help, to lean on others’ experience and leverage their insights.
MAOR: What do you think investors and corporate executives around the world should know about Israel?
MARAT: I always say that Israel is the laboratory of the world. Innovation comes where there’s a need, a shortage, a lack. Israel suffers from a shortage of natural resources like water, energy, minerals, metals, etc. That, combined with our people’s culture of constantly dreaming of a better world, required Israelis to turn to our best available resource – imagination and brainpower. As I said, improving the world is no easy task for individuals, nor for a tiny country. But the world recognizes our passion and our abundant innovation, leading more and more countries, global corporations, and investors to reach out to collaborate, partner, and scale the “Israeli lab” and I am very proud of that.
MAOR: Speaking of what Israel has to offer, what fun or interesting activities would you recommend to international visitors?
MARAT: One of my favorite day-trips is visiting Masada, an ancient fortress on the top of a secluded cliff in the Judean Desert, right above the Dead Sea. It has a tremendous story and a lot of historical significance. The most relaxing thing is to descend from there and bathe in the Dead Sea, where the air, soil, and water are rich in minerals. The sunrises above the Dead Sea are also very calming and beautiful, so you might want to consider spending the night there, to enjoy the beauty of the morning after. As for food, the restaurant of Chef Ilan Roberg in Livnim, is a great choice for lunch (try the tasting menu), where you can also enjoy the perfect view of the Sea of Galilee.
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- PRODUCT: Carbon Capture & Mineralization Modular Unit
- TECHNOLOGY: Unique process through the In-situ generation of superoxide radical , the strongest oxidizer in nature.
- CHALLENGE: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions with an emphasis on carbon dioxide
- MAIN FEATURES: Turns carbon dioxide into valuable minerals.
- BENEFITS: Reduction of carbon dioxide pollution from industrial processes by more than 95%.
- USE CASES: Capture and conversion of carbon dioxide from steam methane reforming for hydrogen into high grade minerals, capture of volatile organic compounds from industrial emissions.
- SEEKING: International collaborations & complementary capabilities.
Maor Perlov is an Information Specialist at Start-Up Nation Central.