Welcome to Antler Norway's "Hot Seat" series where we feature exciting founders from our portfolio to share their inspiring entrepreneurial journeys through quick fire questions.
Don't be afraid of leveraging your network or approaching talent from competing companies - you never know where the next superstar employee will come from.
— RADU ACHIHAI, CO-FOUNDER AND COO OF REPACK
In this feature, we interview Radu Achihai, co-founder and COO of RePack. RePack aims to maximize the value of second-life EV batteries by repurposing them in a streamlined, safe, and cost-effective way. By taking advantage of Norway's leading position in electric vehicles, RePack has the ambition to leverage automation, standardization, and low-cost production in order to reduce battery system costs by 70% by 2025.
Read on to learn more about what prompted Radu to start RePack, what he's discovered about himself since becoming an entrepreneur, and how to hire top talent. Check out his tips on the startup recruitment process and how to maintain a healthy working relationship with your co-founder.
What prompted you to start RePack?
There are several factors that prompted me to start RePack - including luck, opportunity, and drive. Neagu Djuvara, a Romanian historian, once described his life as a series of fortunate events, something I recognize in my own life. A year ago, I was struggling with a dissonance between my values and the work I was doing, and I felt the need to resolve that. I wanted to do more for the environment, but my job was to help companies around the world produce more oil and gas. My wife and I had our daughter around that time and I was coming to terms with the fact that while I wanted to stay in the energy business, I was working on the wrong side of the transition.
I was also about to complete an Executive MBA and was convinced that a startup, not a bigger corporation, would be the best way to put everything I had learned into practice. When I received a call from Antler, things seemed to fall into place, and I quickly decided to make the move from the oil and gas sector. Through Antler, I met my co-founder, Jørgen, and together we identified a great challenge that we turned into our business idea: transforming used EV batteries, which are generally considered waste, into high-quality products!
I've learned so many things that I could probably write a book about it. As soon as Jørgen and I teamed up, Antler asked us to create a co-founder agreement outlining how much time we could commit to our business on a daily basis, and what was important for each of us, which helps to prevent disagreement and burnout in the long run. It's obviously not always possible to stick to the agreements we made, but it really helped to set clear expectations between us. Doing this exercise I came to the realization that I don't function well on 5 hours of sleep anymore, which is the case when you're raising a toddler. This means that it's really important for me to create a schedule and prioritize rest when possible. Finally, I've learned that it's crucial to put time and effort into communicating with your co-founder.
We talk about and discuss everything that's important, and have set clear rules around the things we can and can't make a decision on or commit to before we've discussed it between us. That really helps to maintain trust. We also have a quick daily team meeting and start every week with a planning session, which ends with a review and a feedback round.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of? Why?
It must be the team we've built at RePack. We've managed to put together an impressive, tight-knit, driven, motivated, and mission-focused team. We're now signing customer contracts and building something of real value, which obviously comes down to our well-functioning team.
What would be your top recruitment advice for other founders?
Don't be afraid of leveraging your network or approaching talent from competing companies - you never know where the next superstar employee will come from. I would also highly recommend making the hiring process as structured as possible. It's a time-intensive, long, and often frustrating process and you need focus, so structure helps. Find a way to stay motivated as it won't happen in two weeks. Be clear about what you're looking for and be flexible when you find good people.
What or who inspires you?
The first person to mention is my wife - she's the hidden hero behind everything I've achieved. On top of her demanding job and having to take care of our daughter, she's always giving me her full support. I wouldn't be where I am today without her. My father has also always been a role model to me. He's this incredibly calm and intelligent man who builds others' confidence and curiosity in order to make them feel like they can solve any problem. Growing up, he used to tell me these amazing stories to spark my interest in things and focus on learning. I can still to this day remember what he talked about and this is something I've brought with me; to use storytelling and curiosity to maintain interest in others.
What role has curiosity played in your entrepreneurial journey?
I think it's crucial. I knew very little about batteries before I started RePack, but you have to learn the tools of the trade and the technical aspects of what you are building to sell it well. Curiosity is absolutely essential in that process - it makes you pick up a book and learn more.
If you had the world's attention for 30 seconds, what would you say?
I love to read so I would probably spend those 30 seconds encouraging people to read more. There's this quote I love by a physicist called Carl Sagan, "One glance at a book and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years." I often think about this quote when I'm reading and love the idea that in a few minutes I can read a beautifully distilled idea that took a bright mind hours of work to formulate and develop. So, read more and cheat your way into discovering amazing ideas!