Startup Story: Filaret X Tehnopol Startup Incubator

Filaret, a member of the growth programme at the Tehnopol Startup Incubator, collects and recycles toxic cigarette butts into environmentally-friendly, compostable material for 3D printing, reducing waste in an innovative way.

Ines-Issa Villido and Kristina Jacqueline Leon from Filaret spoke more about how their business started and how they have been doing.

How did you come up with the idea to found a startup?  

The mission developed from the artwork of Ines, who is not only about to graduate from Tallinn University of Technology with a Master’s in Technology of Wood, Plastics & Textiles, but has also studied as a sculptor. She wanted to find a way to help tackle the problem of waste and to bring the solution closer to people.

While creating art from cigarette butts and understanding the scale of the problem they cause and the lack of any real solution to it, she realised that this was a plastic material that could be reprocessed and reused, and that the Laboratory of Polymers of Tallinn University of Technology had the conditions and support needed for research work with the material. The idea progressed smoothly from developing an innovative material to creating a startup to address the problem of waste on a larger scale.

What have been the biggest challenges/failures and the biggest wins so far? 

We have not had any failures yet, and the biggest challenge has been coping with all the aspects of our business ideas with just the two of us, learning and quickly getting things moving in every area that our work encompasses. This includes applying for patents and everything that goes with that, sorting out business partnerships, logistical aspects, the economy of waste, setting up production, attracting funds, and many other things that we have needed to learn step-by-step.

The biggest win so far came from Prototron, as that programme let us see a very good framework for business when we had only been working together for a short time, a few months, and after that various doors and opportunities have opened to us.

Why did you join Tehnopol Startup Incubator?

The Tehnopol Startup Incubator allowed us to learn more about business, but it is above all a very helpful motivating environment for developing a new set of very useful contacts. The key mentor appointed by the incubator is the person who helps businesses with the perspective of an outsider, and helps to keep them on track and focused on what is important, and this was very, very useful.

Where do you see your startup in 1 year’s time? And in 5 year’s time?

We hope that in a year’s time we will be able to build a network for collecting cigarette butts across the whole country so that a large part of the 348 tonnes of butts produced in Estonia each year will come to Filaret for reprocessing and reuse as 3D filaments.

In five years’ time we want to be reprocessing other forms of waste as well, and getting great results in global markets as a pioneer, and blazing a trail so that making 3D filaments from reprocessed waste would be the new standard in the market.

Who will be the next Estonian unicorn?  

Estonia has a great deal of potential, but the first that comes to mind is Grünfin.

What kind of books/podcasts/magazines (or top names in your field) do you follow and would recommend to other founders?

For podcasts: The Dark Money Files, How I Built This and StartUp Podcast – the first episode of StartUp Podcast covers many of the questions that we were facing when we started up as well.

For books: Steve Blank “The Startup Owner’s Manual” and Daniel Kahneman “Thinking Fast and Slow”, which certainly helps with broadening horizons and mapping out the threats that could affect our logic, and not always in a good way.

We would also recommend reading Ingvar Villido’s practical handbook “Practical Consciousness” – Ines has taken all of her father’s courses and the techniques he teaches really help keep you in balance and thinking straight, especially in stressful times when there is a lot to do and deadlines are approaching fast, which is often the case when you are creating a startup.

If you’d get a chance to meet with Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, what would you ask them? 

As an icebreaker I would ask, if they could be anything at all apart from human, then what would they be?
Actually I would like to ask what their greatest lesson has been, what is their passion and the source of the strength that drives them on, and what they found out about themselves.

Follow the work of Filaret on their website:

Startup Story series introduces the up-and-coming startups that are part of Tehnopol Startup Incubator’s growth programme and whose journey is worth keeping an eye on. Startup Stories can be found here. 

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