UNM Rainforest Innovations

Pajarito Powder, a local startup commercializing technologies developed at the University of New Mexico, has secured a new investor as part of their Series B investment round. The Belgium-based company, Bekaert, specializes in steel wire transformation and coating technologies.

Visit Pajarito Powder’s website to learn more: https://pajaritopowder.com/

See Meagan Nichols’ September 1 article, “First Hyundai, now a Belgium powerhouse, Pajarito Powder lands latest global investor,” on the New Mexico Inno website, reposted below and linked here: https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/inno/stories/news/2022/09/01/bekaert-pajarito-powder-investment-series-b.html?utm_source=st&utm_medium=en&utm_campaign=BN&utm_content=aq&ana=e_aq_BN&j=28919376&senddate=2022-09-01

First Hyundai, now a Belgium powerhouse, Pajarito Powder lands latest global investor

By Meagan Nichols

September 1, 2022

Albuquerque-based fuel cell catalyst maker Pajarito Powder has again caught the attention of a global player, this time out of Belgium.

Bekaert, which specializes in steel wire and coating technologies, has contributed to the startup’s Series B investment round. It’s the same fund that Hyundai Motor Co. made an investment in last year.

Steel from Bekaert is used to reinforce everything from tires to concrete. Its products can also be used for electrolyzers — and that’s where Pajarito Powder LLC comes in.

Electrolyzers extract “green” hydrogen from water and are a key component in Pajarito Powder’s mission to create more cost-effective catalysts for fuel cells that could be used to power everything from trucks to trains to cargo ships.

“We’re delighted to have Bekaert as an equity partner,” Thomas Stephenson, Pajarito Powder’s chairman and CEO, told Albuquerque Business First via a Google Meet call from Korea. “Inge Schildermans (VP of fiber technologies) from Bekaert will be joining our board of managers. To add her expertise and experience to our already very strong oversight team … is something that we’re particularly excited to gain.”

Founded in 1880, Bekaert (Euronext Brussels: BEKB) has more than 27,000 employees across the world with €5.9 billion in combined revenue, according to its website.

“We are committed to innovation and the scale-up of components and equipment that will make the vision of a global hydrogen economy a near-term reality, and we see Pajarito Powder as a key part of that reality,” Schildermans said in a news release.

Stephenson declined to disclose the amount of Bekaert’s investment, but he called it “comparable” to Hyundai’s and said this was a “follow on from the first closing in the Series B.”

The Series B had a total offering target of $12.6 million. Pajarito Powder raised about $9.4 million of that figure in 2021 — Hyundai was part of that round. At the time, that left a little more than $3.2 million to go, according to a Form D filed by Pajarito Powder with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on June 16, 2021.

As the push to combat climate change intensifies globally, and the Ukraine war shines a brighter light on energy security, Stephenson sees the Bekaert investment as a piece of the larger hydrogen movement.

“In order to meet these [energy] goals, you have to have certain critical materials. … For a company like us whose goal is to allow our customers to utilize those precious metals more effectively and efficiently — and ultimately, as a result of that — reduce the amount of Iridium or platinum that’s necessary in either [an] electrolyzer or in a fuel cell, that becomes a pretty critical piece of solving the equation,” he said.

They plan to continue to solve that equation from New Mexico.

Over the past year, the company has nearly doubled its employee count. They now have more than 20 people on staff and Stephenson expects the growth to continue, though, at a slightly slower pace. He said they recently went through the process to qualify for New Mexico’s Job Training Incentive Program, which will help support those efforts.

Physical growth also remains on the horizon for Pajarito Powder. Currently located at 3600 Osuna Road NE, suite 309, the company is set to expand into a facility at 5555 Mcleod NE. The address was disclosed in February as part of Albuquerque Development Commission documents tied to Local Economic Development Act incentives.

As for the timeframe, Stephenson said it was “in process.” The exact date is still to be determined, but he is hopeful they will be in the space within the next year.

“We’re not immune to some of the delays that have occurred with particular lead times associated with supply chains,” he said. “Some of the products and items that we need to order are taking longer than we’d like.”

But with the race for clean energy — especially around hydrogen — heating up, once that facility is move-in ready, that will allow the company to increase its manufacturing capacity to meet demand, Stephenson said.

One of the other big things Pajarito Powder will watch in the coming year is whether New Mexico could become a designated “hydrogen hub” by the U.S. Department of Energy. It was announced in February that New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming had formed a coalition to jointly seek federal funding.

While that bid is out of Pajarito Powder’s control, Stephenson said they will do everything they can to support that initiative.

Regardless of whether New Mexico lands an official hydrogen hub label, Stephenson still believes the state can build a strong reputation in that sector.

“We have this amazing history with technology in New Mexico,” he said. “And certainly, for our purposes, we’re very excited to have licensed technology from Los Alamos, from [University of New Mexico], and to be building a company that’s based in New Mexico. … I think we’re a piece of that [hydrogen] puzzle and excited to be part of that as we try to build that opportunity in New Mexico.”

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