Christoph Birkl, co-founder and CEO of Brill Power

Photo of Christoph Birkl

Christoph is co-founder and CEO of Brill Power, a spin-out company of Oxford University. Brill Power has developed game-changing battery control technology, which can increase the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries by up to 60%. Brill Power is an early-stage, pre-revenue company with four full-time employees. Christoph has a DPhil in Engineering Science (Pembroke College).

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

As an engineer, I have always been fascinated by the concept of generating energy from renewable sources like solar and wind power. I came to realise that energy storage is really the limiting factor for a truly clean and sustainable energy system, which is why I studied energy storage and conversion technologies like hydrogen fuel cells and lithium ion batteries. The corporate world has never really appealed to me and I always toyed with the thought of turning my own ideas into a business. I was lucky enough to end up in a brilliant research group, led by David Howey, where I met two of my co-founders Adrien Bizeray and Damien Frost. Together we came up with the technology that forms the core of Brill Power’s new battery system solution.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Brill Power Logo

Doing what I love and making an impact on the things that matter to me.

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?

When we presented the idea at the Global Humanitarian Technology Conference in San Jose, USA in 2014 and received lots of interest and requests for our technology.

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?

Perseverance, self-motivation and being willing to work hard. It is going to be tough and there will be times when there doesn’t seem to be much hope for your company. You have to be willing and able to push through these rough times to make your company a success.

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?

Being part of creating an organisation and a technology that can truly make a difference.

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?

Elon Musk. He is able to make people believe in technology that seemed out of reach for commercialization.

If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?

Has he ever doubted the success of Tesla or Space X and if so, what made him carry on?

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?

The biggest lesson I have learned, which is particularly important for an engineer, is never assume you know what people want. No matter how inspired you are to create the perfect product, first go out there and find out what your customers think should be the perfect product.

How have you funded your ideas?

With a mixture of grants, awards and convertible loans.

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?

Innovate UK grants for early stage businesses and with focus on energy and electric transport have been particularly helpful.

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?

We retain close ties to our former research group and have built a network of advisers and potential investors, which has been very useful. Oxford attracts great talent and we expect that to work out to our advantage for our first hires. Disadvantages include high property and rent prices and a limited amount of suitable office and lab space.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?

To the Entrepreneurship Centre at Saïd Business School. These guys have been super supportive of Brill Power from the very start.

Any last words of advice?

Stay motivated, keep calm and carry on.