During her time in graduate school, Penelope Jones believed she was grappling with the isolation that often plagues doctoral students. Her area of study revolved around electrolytes, a pivotal component in batteries, and a portion of her research necessitated the programming of specialized laboratory equipment.
In a conversation with TechCrunch+, she recalled, “It was a daunting experience.” However, her perspective shifted when she engaged with industry scientists collaborating with her lab, realizing that she wasn’t alone in her struggles. “They were grappling with the very same challenges I was facing.”
Like many entrepreneurial minds, Jones and her partner, Alpha Lee, soon recognized that the obstacles they encountered presented a unique business opportunity. Together, they established Byterat, where Jones serves as the CEO and Lee as the CSO. This Software as a Service (SaaS) company aims to streamline battery research and development by automating the collection and analysis of data.
Jones elucidated, “We identified the primary bottleneck hindering the deployment of cutting-edge models for next-generation battery designs—namely, the absence of a robust data infrastructure to support the process.”
Currently, most equipment in battery labs is linked to computers running proprietary software for control and data acquisition. This fragmented setup results in disconnected components, forcing scientists and engineers to manually transfer data from each device and convert it to a common format before commencing any analysis.
Jones added, “I’ve spoken to engineers who tell me that they are spending 20% of their working week just creating plots, not even delving into in-depth modeling.”
Byterat alleviates this burden by introducing a helper application on each computer, which continuously monitors specific folders for new data files. Upon the appearance of such files, it synchronizes them with the cloud, where Byterat’s software standardizes the data into a common format and automatically conducts a series of analyses commonly used in battery labs. Additionally, the company collaborates with clients to create customized plots and reports, which remain confidential to the respective customer’s instance. In the future, Byterat plans to introduce a no-code tool, allowing anyone to create their reports.
Jones emphasized the significance of testing data, stating, “This testing data underpins many decisions, even in a business context.” A centralized data repository enables companies to avoid duplicate experiments, terminate those that aren’t progressing as intended, and make decisions “in almost real time,” rather than waiting for the team to manually generate various reports.
Having been part of Y Combinator’s winter 2023 cohort, Byterat has secured a $4 million seed round through SAFE notes, an exclusive revelation by TechCrunch+. Giant Ventures led the funding round, with participation from Y Combinator, Urban Innovation Fund, Collaborative Fund, as well as the founders of Voi and Zendesk, along with senior executives from Google.
The company is already engaged in a pilot project with BMW, and Jones disclosed that they are collaborating with several smaller manufacturers working on next-generation batteries. Byterat’s software is expected to benefit the entire value chain, from research and development to manufacturing and validation.
Byterat employs a unique pricing model, charging companies based on the total volume of data stored in the cloud, rather than per user. Jones explained, “We really consider that the value we offer these teams is tied to the volume of experiments they’re conducting and the data they’re generating, rather than the number of people in the lab.” This approach not only prevents concerns about wasteful storage use but also opens the tool to anyone within the company.
The early success of Byterat suggests the rapid maturation of the battery industry in recent years. The market has grown to a point where specialized software startups can secure substantial seed funding. While it remains uncertain whether Byterat’s software will significantly impact the development of lithium-ion batteries (or their costs), given the multitude of variables at play, its adoption by a range of companies, from small research institutions to automakers, may provide the validation it needs.