Founded in 2020, FibreCoat GmbH is an industrial materials startup headquartered in Aachen. They have developed a unique process for creating thermoplastic-coated fibers for composites and aluminum-coated fibers for shielding applications, offering a range of valuable industrial properties.
Coated fibers from FibreCoat have numerous use cases across construction, government, aerospace, smart textiles, electric vehicles (EVs), water filtration, industrial sensors, renewable energy, maritime structures, and oil and gas infrastructure. FibreCoat’s cost-efficient process significantly enhances the affordability of these industrial fibers.
“We started this journey with the aim to make high-performance materials affordable,” said Edgar Haustov, Head of Business Development and Sales at FibreCoat. “These kinds of coated fibers are not new to the market. However, the application of those materials was only limited to very few high-priced applications. Now, these fibers can be used more broadly.”
While this drastic reduction in cost is transforming the materials industry, FibreCoat isn’t seeking to be fully disruptive.
“We aren’t reinventing the wheel,” said Yanick Schlesinger, Head of Operations at FibreCoat. “We integrate our coating technology into existing fiber manufacturing processes, adding value to the end product. This add-on approach maintains high production speeds and low production costs.”
Before participating in German Accelerator, the FibreCoat team had already filed multiple patents for their coating technologies. In October 2021, they successfully closed their seed round funding worth US$3 million, and in 2022, they secured some of their first large-volume deals with early customers in Germany.
Choosing to Expand to Japan
Prior to joining the Japan Market Discovery program, the FibreCoat team was already investigating and putting resources to developing in the Japanese market.
“The commitment to the Japanese market was already there in 2021,” said Haustov. “The German Accelerator program was then an additional benefit to the internationalization process.”
FibreCoat was drawn to the Japanese market because of the country’s strong automotive and plastics industries. The FibreCoat team also found Japan attractive because of its openness to new innovations and technologies.
“It’s one of the markets where we definitely see an advantage for both customers and the product,” said Schlesinger.
The FibreCoat team had heard of German Accelerator from other founders in the German startup ecosystem, and the experiences they heard of the startup accelerator program were overwhelmingly positive.
“We were already active in Japan, and we saw lots of potential there, so we wanted to strengthen our existing relationships and explore new opportunities there,” said Schlesinger. “With all of the mentoring sessions and cultural trainings, the program seemed to be the perfect fit for us.
“We were already active in Japan, and we saw lots of potential there, so we wanted to strengthen our existing relationships and explore new opportunities there. With all of the mentoring sessions and cultural trainings, the program seemed to be the perfect fit for us.”
Yanick Schlesinger, Head of Operations at FibreCoat
The Fukuoka Drift That Leads FibreCoat to Its First Customer
During their participation in the German Accelerator program, FibreCoat fully immersed themselves in Fukuoka’s thriving startup ecosystem. Despite its smaller size compared to Tokyo, Fukuoka boasts a strong and tightly networked technology sector. This experience proved instrumental in FibreCoat’s journey, as they secured their first customer in Japan with the assistance of contacts made in Fukuoka.
Fukuoka’s startup ecosystem is driven by Startup City Fukuoka, a government initiative dedicated to supporting both local and foreign startups. The establishment of Global Startup Centre (GSC), staffed with English-speaking professionals assisting startups with visa applications and logistics, further enhances Fukuoka’s reputation as a prominent startup hub in Japan.
“It’s sometimes very difficult for a German startup to find customers in Japan, especially if your track record isn’t yet that strong in the market,” said Haustov. “So for us, this was a huge milestone.”
Overall, the FibreCoat team found Fukuoka to be very supportive of entrepreneurs and startups, including those from overseas. This support, coupled with the initiatives driven by Startup City Fukuoka and the establishment of the Global Startup Centre, provides a conducive environment for international startups like FibreCoat to succeed and expand their presence in Japan.
“It’s a good place to go if you’re looking to expand to Japan and build a team there,” said Haustov. “Fukuoka has a lot of talented candidates to hire because the local government is doing a great job encouraging people to work for startups and have an entrepreneurial mindset.”
German Accelerator’s Role in Supercharging FibreCoat’s International Expansion
Coming from Germany, the biggest hurdle the FibreCoat team faced was learning and understanding the Japanese approach to business culture and decision making.
“Everything is a little bit slower, and you really need to pay attention to the details in each conversation,” said Haustov. “German Accelerator really helped us understand why things are done in certain ways in Japan. The program showed us how to really succeed and build long-lasting relationships with our new target customers.”
“German Accelerator really helped us understand why things are done in certain ways in Japan. The program showed us how to really succeed and build long-lasting relationships with our new target customers.”
Edgar Haustov, Head of Business Development and Sales at FibreCoat
During the Japan Market Discovery program, the FibreCoat team learned a lot about the norms of Japanese business culture, differences in sales and marketing, and other social dos and don’ts.
“One important thing we learned was to be very concrete and specific when communicating with Japanese partners and potential customers,” said Haustov. “Deliver your message in a clear and focused manner so that no one is confused.”
Schlesinger agreed, reiterating that doing business in Japan is all about long-term trust.
“You can read and learn and get tips on how to do business in Japan, but in the long term it’s about building relationships,” said Schlesinger. “You need to connect with people personally, and that’s the same as everywhere in the world.”
“The program showed us that there was interest in our product from multiple mentors and potential customers in Japan,” said Haustov. “That reassured us that we were on the right track and that we should continue to expand and put resources into the Japanese market.”
The Future of FibreCoat
Now that they’ve completed the program and secured their first customer in Japan, FibreCoat is expanding their production network and is in talks with additional partners and prospects. They’re also looking forward to working with German Accelerator again.
“We’ve had a great experience with the Japan Market Discovery program,” said Haustov. “The mentoring sessions in this first program helped us build the right strategy and perfect timing to scale up our international expansion. As soon as we have some proofs-of-concept with more customers, we’ll definitely be joining the Japan Market Access program and target the Japanese market even more than we do today.”
According to Schlesinger, FibreCoat’s decision to participate in another German Accelerator program was an easy one.
“I can’t emphasize enough that the organization of the program is very well done, very professional and on point,” said Schlesinger. “If you have questions, they help you right away, and you always have direct access to the startup mentors. You even get pushed to keep up your contact with the German Accelerator network. Overall, it is a very well-designed program.”