Aquila cofounders

Investment notes: Aquila

Date Published:
June 29, 2023

We are thrilled to announce our latest investment in Aquila, a true representation of what we consider wild hearts, with a captivating vision to revolutionise the renewable energy industry. Aquila's technology aims to use light-beams to transport energy across the globe wirelessly - a concept that could make it possible for countries like Australia to become renewable superpowers.

We're proud to lead the $3M seed round alongside existing investors, Outset Ventures and Startmate, and new investors, Icehouse Ventures, Possible Ventures, Phase One Ventures, and a few relevant angels. This investment is a testament to our belief in Aquila's team and their ability to create meaningful change in the world.

The problem

By 2050, most of our energy will be generated by solar photovoltaics but during the wrong time for it to be valuable locally—in the middle of the day. 

Aquila aims to transport the energy from the place of generation (at midday in the Northern Territory) across the globe to somewhere else where it is highly valued (like at dinner time in Los Angeles).

On the consumption side, transport and industry are increasingly electrified but energy storage is the main technical hurdle to full electrification.

Aquila’s central idea is that lasers are becoming cheaper faster than batteries, with cost dropping at about 60% with every doubling of production, and dynamic, wireless power supply could remove the need for bulky, expensive batteries to electrify the future.

Riding the solar and laser cost curves, co-founders Will Jeremijenko and Nelson Smith plan to offer an alternative to support worldwide electrification: long-range wireless energy grids, using high-powered lasers, computer vision, and wavelength-specific photovoltaics.

Nelson (L) and Will (R), co-founders of Aquila
Wild hearts, with wild ambitions

We met Will Jeremijenko when he applied for Foundry, our flagship deep-tech founder program and competition. He came in close second in the competition, which he will not let us forget. Aquila then went through Startmate (W22) while housed at Auckland's Outset Ventures. Speed is a leading indicator of potential: in under 6 months with only 75k, the team built a wireless drone-charging prototype, negotiated and incorporated Rocket Lab IP, and developed a commercial path forward.

A year of data taught us that Will learns incredibly quickly and deeply, is relentlessly resourceful, and balances ambition and humility with care. He consulted on solar cells to save for Aquila, then poured his life savings in. He up and moved to Auckland to build, where he's been couch-surfing to make the most of early investment.

The yin to Will’s yang is Nelson Smith, an end-to-end mechatronics-first engineer. He’s built entire Electron rockets and a host of other networked systems at Rocket Lab, managed IoT systems support at Teknique, and developed computer vision systems at ControlVision—the elements needed to bring Aquila’s tech to life.

A commercial path forward to a true moonshot

Ultimately, Aquila aims to become a global energy beaming grid. In that case, they would be the most valuable piece of the energy value chain. The two surrounding pieces—generation and retailing—have become increasingly competitive and economically unattractive over time. It's a beautiful vision but a long, risky, and difficult one.

In the medium term, Will and Nelson intend to progressively de-risk the product by building long-range laser charging technology to service progressively larger, farther and faster electric vehicles, from drones to UAVs to aircraft to satellites

In the near future, they will test the early stages of this commercial hypothesis by finding pilot customers for whom long-range wireless charging is a major uplift. They will also build their MVP and continue to engage regulators on the necessary safety elements of their technology.

We are excited to begin this journey with Will and Nelson at Aquila.