In the past year, everyone has become fluent in discussing whether you should wear a mask, the infection risks of the coronavirus, and what arrangements could be introduced for ensuring a safe return to work. Among these discussions, the Flemish startup Breezo, providing a probiotic solution to improve air quality, has thrived and looks to the future with great optimism. “We want to become the reference in indoor air quality”, explains its co-founder, Niko Lecluyse. Below you’ll find the rest of the story.
Tell us about Breezo:
Breezo is improving indoor environments by misting our probiotics. In doing so, we create airborne nanoparticles loaded with probiotics. People say that if it’s in the air, it’s everywhere, and that’s especially true for our probiotic particles, which can reach places that traditional cleaning, or physical cleaning, can’t reach.
Moreover, it is not just another filtering system: we actually treat the environment.
Each time these particles reach a surface, they begin to colonize and multiply, creating a probiotic layer above the surface. This protective layer does not allow other pathogens (such as allergens, viruses, etc.) to multiply.
In the end, this helps to recreate a balanced environment. We sometimes call it a “bio-balanced environment”; because, by spraying about 1 million probiotics per second, we recreate the balance that one would find in a forest, for example.
Hence Breezo’s motto – “We empower your comfort by bringing nature back into your life.”
The diversity of bacteria in a mechanically ventilated office, or any interior space, has nothing to do with what you would find in nature. And this can cause discomfort for its occupants, or even illness.
We treat five recurring problems: pathogens, fungi and yeasts, bad smells, allergens and we increase the diversity of bacteria to create a healthy environment. It’s actually the same as taking probiotics as a dietary supplement – but we’re cleaning your building, not your body.
These five problems are the root cause of what we call ‘sick building syndrome’, with symptoms such as a runny nose, redeyes, or a dry throat. They reduce the efficiency of your workforce and can ultimately cost you a lot of money.
So we’re working both on the comfort of your coworkers and their efficiency.
You had pretty good timing launching your product before the pandemic. But as you mentioned in a previous article, Covid wasn’t the trigger (since Breezo was launched in 2018). So what was the real trigger? What made you aware of the problem and prompted you to solve it with a probiotic solution?
For the past twenty to thirty years, we have been focused primarily on the energy sector; and we had only one goal in mind – to reduce energy costs. The idea was to isolate everything so as not to make any losses. But then we realized that without a ventilation system, people would get sick. They developed allergies, had headaches,… Realizing that was Breezo’s starting point. Then we wanted to recreate the most natural environment possible. We didn’t want a filtering system, we didn’t want chemicals. Our solution only contains natural products.
The coronavirus then had a significant impact on the development of our company. At the marketing level, we couldn’t have done any better – people’s interest in air quality grew, and the solution we offered them suddenly seemed much more concrete. Before the pandemic, our prospective customers were struggling to understand the usefulness of an invisible problem. Today, everything has changed.
But on the other hand, as many sectors closed their doors, they weren’t encouraged to invest in new solutions – which meant fewer customers.
But what we’re seeing now is that people are slowly starting to invest again, and they’re very interested in sustainable solutions. So that’s positive for us.
What are the health benefits of Breezo?
The risk of infection is reduced by 50%. We’re not just tackling the “sick building syndrome”, we’re also making interactions safer.
In addition, our solution can be combined with traditional disinfection services to ease people’s minds; if this can reassure those who are used to traditional services. Of course, at the end of the day, we aim to advance the use of probiotics everywhere, but an intermediate solution is possible by then: it’s not one or the other at the moment.
What sets you apart from the competition?
Well, first and foremost, we are providing treatment, not a filtering system.
Moreover, we are not killing anything, we are simply rebalancing the environment. Many other solutions are now very proud to say that they’re killing 99% of pathogens. But then again, do you want your children to be in a semi-sterile environment for about eight hours a day? What does that do to their immune system?
Also, every time you bring an external pathogen inside, it has a free space to multiply, because everything else has already been killed. So as far as we’re concerned, these types of products aren’t an optimal solution. We prefer to ensure a balanced environment that is as close as possible to natural areas.
You have recently been selected to participate in the Birdhouse Accelerator Program (congratulations!). Can you share some details about the process and your next steps?
As a participant in the Birdhouse Accelerator Program, you benefit from Belfius’s funding, extensive expertise, and diversified training, and finally, greater visibility, by entering their solid network. We are currently in the middle of the program, and it has been quite successful.
Then, in terms of our next steps, we are looking to secure additional funding.
At the end of the year, we’re planning a funding round for VCs and Business Angels to really accelerate. A lot is going on in the probiotics world, so we need to pick up the pace to stay ahead of the competition.
Where do you see Breezo in the next 5 years?
We would like Breezo to become a reference; not only as a probiotic solution for offices but as the industry standard for indoor air quality.
Within 5 years, we should be able to convince people that bio-balancing is essential to their well-being. And in addition, as our business plan described, we should normally cover most of Europe and North America by then.
Finally, what would you like to share with our members (e.g.: advice, upcoming events, good news, or general message)?
As a property owner or developer (or anyone involved in real estate, really!) try to think outside the box.
Working from Belgium gives us a definite advantage as it is the ‘Valhalla’ of biotechnology. Our customers know that behind our solution is a strong scientific background. And maybe that’s where the missing link is. Everywhere in the world, the environment is currently unhealthy. It gives us huge leverage for existing initiatives (against burnout, stress, for a healthier diet, etc.). If you add a healthier building to these initiatives, this can weigh heavily on the balance, not only in terms of our health and general well-being but also in terms of cooperation and efficiency.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Probiotics solutions have been tested, proven, and have been used in Japan for decades. So open your eyes and don’t be afraid to try it!
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