Today we met with Adital Ela, CEO & Founder at Criaterra
Criaterra was established with the aim of revolutionizing the manufacturing process of construction materials and introducing completely sustainable building products. The company strives to become a pioneer in developing the most cutting-edge cradle-to-cradle materials and production techniques for construction. To achieve this objective, Criaterra has developed manufacturing technologies that replace traditional kiln-firing processes and produce construction materials that are fully recyclable, offer high performance, and are practical.
The Climate Journey
Adital Ela, who graduated in industrial design from Holon Institute of Technology, developed an interest in sustainability when she realized that the conventional approach to manufacturing constructive products involved firing extracted minerals in very high temperatures. She felt strongly that a different path to the “Heat Beat Treat” agenda should be found.
Adital pursued a student exchange and internship in Germany at Eco Design's, where she participated in the international organization O2, which promoted sustainable design issues. She also explored ancient technologies in India and Sri Lanka and obtained a master's degree in sustainability design from Design Academy Eindhoven, where she created five principles for sustainable design.
Despite working as a consultant for various companies upon her return to Israel, she discovered a disparity between her vision for sustainable planning and the industry's objectives. She concluded that entrepreneurship was the best way to promote sustainability. Inspired by her research of the material and production culture of native technology she aimed to establish an industry that prioritized circularity and resource efficiency for products that would be beneficial and appropriate for the culture and standards of our days.
Criaterra's Wall Tiles
We asked Adital a series of questions.
What’s the story behind Criaterra?
As I delved deeper into the field of sustainability design, I became fascinated with the idea of using alternative construction materials and began researching products made from soil and flora. It became clear to me that this was an area where I could have a significant impact on construction, design and innovation.
Through my research, I discovered that if products were not burned at high temperatures, the minerals and other bio\geo ingredients would remain at their natural chemical structure and their inherent circularity could be preserved in a natural way. I found that there was an abundance of knowledge about alternative construction materials, but most of them were not developed to fit the commercial building standards and norms. Therefore, I teamed up with a material scientist to create building materials that could compete with the properties of concrete.
Criaterra started with developing tiles that required high design and finish, which was not easy, but allowed us to enter a market that was led by innovation. We also had to develop ecological coatings that would last in various environments and attach to unburnt minerals. This was a long and laborious process, but we did not compromise on our environmental vision. Eventually, we received a grant from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program and opened a subsidiary company in the Netherlands, and we’re starting to work with marketers from England.
At Criaterra, our focus is on creating an industry around innovative construction materials, and we are currently developing masonry blocks and claddings. Our mission is to combine advanced science and design with the amazing knowledge of the old way of construction to create circular, low carbon products.
Adital Ela, CEO and Founder, and Daphna Wiener, Chairperson Of The Board Of Directors
Where will Criaterra be in 10 years?
In the next ten years, Criaterra aims to establish tile factories on every continent, with a primary focus on local production using local materials and strategic partnerships. Our goal is to complete the standardization and development process for our Criaterra blocks, and have the first buildings constructed with them. Additionally, we aspire to secure a significant partner who can assist us in penetrating the global market, and to continue being a research and development leader for new applications based on our innovative sustainable technologies.
What are the main difficulties/barriers you are facing?
The biggest challenge that Criaterra faced since day one is funding. Despite the increasing interest in climate investments, investors tend to favor more developed technologies, leaving behind those that require significant investments in production lines to achieve significant revenues. I feel that there is a gap that needs to be bridged by new funding methodologies to support the growth of start ups that will impact significantly the climate challenges.
Can you tell us about the “Connecting Climate Entrepreneurs” Program”?
The CCE program is an international accelerator initiative by the American state department and tech giants such as Google, Amazon, GE, LinkedIn, and Microsoft. The program holds an annual competition to invest in environmentally focused ventures, with a rigorous screening process. After making it to the finals at COP, we presented alongside three other companies and were awarded an equity investment grant from Google on behalf of all partners. Additionally, we were accepted into the Google for Startups accelerator program and are also currently participating in the Third Derivative accelerator program.
What makes your team a super team?
The team's belief in their mission is what sets them apart as a super team. They are driven by a shared goal of changing production processes to create a clean and sustainable future for both the present and future generations. Their motivation comes from a desire to make a meaningful impact that transcends personal gain. They strive to achieve circular products and are committed to finding ways to work with natural resources that preserve the biosphere, rather than depleting it. This requires scientific breakthroughs that allow them to meet human needs without causing permanent damage to the environment.
I think this Churchill quote says it all: "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm” and that’s what my team has - the ability to overcome finding “ways that do not work” without losing enthusiasm until the way that works does reveal itself, and that is success.
We’re seeing a peak of interest in Climate Tech over the past couple of years, do you feel this shift?
There is a noticeable shift in the interest in Climate Tech recently. While it used to be a lonely journey, there is now more interest from investors and funds, and more ventures are emerging. However, it is still challenging to secure funding as the investment world has specific requirements for vertical, development level, and round. I believe and hope that the shift that we are seeing will allow more and more climate ventures to attract funding, grow and flourish.
If you had one tip to give to other climate tech entrepreneurs, what would it be?
If you're not prepared to commit the next decade of your life to this venture, it's best not to begin.