Sakti3’s Sastry on Dyson Acquisition, What’s Next for the Company

This week, Ann Arbor, MI-based battery startup, Sakti3, announced it had been acquired by Dyson, a past investor, for $90 million. Dyson, known for its high-end, sleekly designed vacuum cleaners, is interested in Sakti3’s solid-state lithium battery technology. We traded e-mails with Xconomist Ann Marie Sastry, Sakti3’s CEO and co-founder, to find out more about the deal and what’s next for the company.

Xconomy: Will Sakti3’s current staff be absorbed by Dyson? Will Dyson continue to operate an office in Ann Arbor? If so, does Dyson plan to hire additional staff?

Ann Marie Sastry: Dyson acquired us for both technology and people strengths, so we could work together on commercializing our core technology. We have a really devoted team that has been working on solid state for years together, and are excited about next steps. Our entire team received offers from Dyson to join them—and every single person accepted. We will remain in Ann Arbor and will continue building up our team here, but with a lot more support from our new engineering colleagues in the U.K.

X: What are your plans, Ann Marie? Will you take on a role at Dyson or move onto something else entirely? 

AMS: This is a hugely exciting time for us! I’m staying on, of course, now as President of Sakti3.

X: How did Sakti3’s relationship with Dyson start? Did James Dyson ever travel to Ann Arbor to meet with the company? What attracted Dyson to Sakti3 in the first place? 

AMS: James has visited us several times, to the delight of our staff. He is an amazingly successful entrepreneur, but fundamentally an engineer—one of the world’s most creative—so it has been very inspiring for everyone to interact with him directly. Dyson reached out to us because they were seeking new battery technologies to further advance their products’ performance. The fit with what we were exploring was quite natural, and we agreed that together we could accomplish great things.

X: How will Dyson incorporate Sakti3’s technology into future products? When can we anticipate a Sakti3-powered product hitting the market? 

AMS: Of course the most obvious fit would be into Dyson’s cordless vacuum technology, but that’s just the start.

X: You mentioned a few years ago that you expected the addressable consumer electronics market to be in the decabillions by 2020. Does that estimation still stand? 

AMS: We all expect these markets to be huge, and yes, that valuable.

X: Does Dyson have any plans to, as a result of the acquisition, expand into new verticals?

AMS: Dyson has not ruled anything out—it is an extraordinarily ambitious company.

X: Does Dyson do any business with the auto industry? 

AMS: Through its supplier base, Dyson does business with many segments of engineering.

X: Did being located in Michigan affect Sakti3’s fortunes, whether positively or negatively? 

AMS: Dyson has sought and partnered with suppliers and its own subsidiaries globally, so there is a healthy agnosticism about the region from which technology is sought. In general, our U.K. colleagues did find a resonance with Ann Arbor, because the company has been very active in work with universities and of course, Ann Arbor is one of the country’s great university towns.

X: Any idea where this acquisition fits on the list of top Michigan deals? It seems to me to be one of the bigger acquisitions, certainly within the state’s cleantech industry.

AMS: There have been ups and downs, of course. We think this is a win for cleantech, and brings additional expertise and capital to the region. Early on, we were named a Center of Energy Excellence and received an Michigan Economic Development Corporation grant, as an inducement to our investors to keep the business in Michigan. We feel good about that agreement, given that we stayed, and will continue grow here—and hopefully contribute some good technology to the sector.

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