founder

Phuc Labs Co-founder Phuc Thien Truong Is Improving E-waste Recycling

Introduction

What do metal ore and smartphones have in common? They both have small amounts of rare metals inside. But smartphones — along with most other electronics — end up in the trash with those rare metals still inside. More than 50 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) are thrown out worldwide every year, most of it containing metal that can be reused. 

That’s where Phuc Labs comes in. The company has developed a patented artificial intelligence and robotic technology that can pick out and sort precious metals from e-waste. We spoke with the company’s co-founder and Head of Business Phuc Thien Truong about how this technology can be used now and in the future. 

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What inspired you to take the leap and start Phuc Labs?

Phuc Thien Truong

The fact that our machine vision sorting system is such a departure from existing analog separation methods got me very excited about our potential. Our unique approach and focus on recycling critical metals used to power our clean energy future makes the venture exciting and worthwhile.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Phuc Thien Truong

My partner shares the same first and last name as me. It is a fun story of how we got together. With my focus on the business side and his expertise with software and product, it’s a formidable combination. As for the other teammates, there was a previous personal, school, or work connection. Our tech and purpose sealed the deal with folks coming on our team. Hopefully, those factors will allow us to recruit the best talent to grow the company.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What learnings from your previous startup experience have helped you grow Phuc Labs?

Phuc Thien Truong

As a startup veteran, I can leverage the professional network I’ve built to target future partners, customers, and investors. Reducing typical startup mistakes, such as wasting time and resources on non-strategic projects, is also essential. Setting goals and staying focused is critical.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How is Phuc Labs transforming the e-waste industry?

Phuc Thien Truong

We are bringing a new approach to recovering target metals in e-waste. Our solution is a very efficient processing technology that is digital-at-the-core. We aim to prove that Vision Valve has a lower processing cost per hour than other methods, lower overall opex, higher system value, and higher uptime.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What are the milestones that you want to achieve with this raise?

Phuc Thien Truong

Our goal with this raise is to scale our system so that it can process more materials and, therefore, deliver higher concentrations of target metals, resulting in increased revenue. A more extensive system means more revenue. Our lab-scale, single valve system can process nearly 100 lbs. of materials daily. If we can scale the system to 60 or 80 valves, we can process about 7,000 lbs. of materials. This requires hiring top-tier hardware and software engineers. We plan on deploying at more sites with feedstock. We will also file more patents to protect our intellectual property. 

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

As you think about the business five to 10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Phuc Thien Truong

In five to 10 years, we intend to deploy our portable Vision Valve facilities (processing nodes) all over the world directly close to feedstock. In doing so, we will be a crucial player that efficiently recovers critical materials and puts them back into the clean energy supply chain. Our technology will make supply chains more resilient in the countries where we are doing business. And since we see everything that goes through our system, the data intelligence will be of value as financial markets can trade off that intelligence.

We look forward to seeing where Phuc Thien Troung and his team take the company. Phuc Labs is currently raising on Republic.

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About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.

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