The Wisconsin River Business Angels (WRBA) celebrate closing on their 5th investment, Blue Line Battery, in collaboration with other Wisconsin investment groups.
WRBA chair Leon Ostrowski was recently interviewed about Blue Line Battery and why Central Wisconsin’s only angel investing group chose to invest with them now. Read his thoughts below:
How does Blue Line Battery fit into the current state of lithium-ion battery technology?
Lithium ion technology is the newest, hottest form of motivating vehicles. It’s very popular because of Elon Musk and Tesla, which is made for personal use, and they’re talking about trucking use. Blue Line Battery makes that technology available to forklift operators in the United States. This is the latest technology. It really works, the battery life is longer than ever before, and the productivity is really improved as a result.
How does Blue Line Battery offer state-of-the-art lithium-ion technology to its customers?
This is a very important part of the investment we are making. We don’t believe that a small company like Blue Line that is just starting out has the capital or resources to stay on top of the technology to be a leader in its invention. That comes from the lithium ion battery producers. What Blue Line is doing is taking the best of that technology and adapting it into their platform which fits into forklift trucks. They have the technology to monitor the performance of that battery over time so they know when it needs to be charged, how well it’s doing, etc. They have really built a state-of-the-art dashboard that allows them to monitor all aspects of the batteries as they drive forklifts. Not only do Blue Line’s customers get high performance batteries for their forklifts, they get a partner behind the scenes helping them to monitor and optimize performance.
Why are you investing in Blue Line now?
We have been watching Blue Line for 2 or 3 years. They presented at the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest and had not yet developed a steady revenue stream, but were adapting lithium ion battery technology to forklift trucks. Recently they have begun to have more orders and sales, and have identified some of the right people to build their organization. So, they’re building their organization and management team, and they’re also starting to get sales, and the industry is very excited about them, with demand for their batteries. When we start seeing those things we see there is the potential for a future, long-term investment. We invested with them now because we see sales starting to take off and realize that the greenness of our world depends on the continued development and application of battery technology to motivate vehicles.
Where are some of the needs you see to offer them through our mentoring role?
Some of our investors recognized that Blue Line needs some financial control information and realized they were able to provide that kind of guidance along with their capital investments. One major area we are helping them is financial statements. We want to see all the financial statements. Most of the people at Blue Line can put together profit and loss statements, but they have problems with cashflow, balance sheets, and projections, as well as how they will be useful in the future and guide the budgeting, tracking and application of manpower to support the company. We are also helping them make sure they are approaching all of their projects with focus, which is the role of the controller, because there are always more ideas to follow! It is important to capture all those ideas for future consideration, but it is equally, and probably more, important not to dilute strategic focus with too many of them and stay on track with what has been started until the new ideas have been validated. This is playing out well with Blue Line as they stay focused on their current strategies, but also consider starting new divisions.
What do you see as the future of the company and why are we excited about Blue Line?
There are 2 major divisions that I see developing. The first is the current division which focuses on sales of batteries using superior technology to replace what their customers are currently using, which are typically lead acid batteries. These customers certainly see a positive return from purchasing these batteries, but it is a significant initial investment due to their considerable expense, often as much as $10,000 or more. For other forklift operators who may not have as deep pockets, Blue Line is considering a new division focused on leasing batteries so that they may get “power by the hour”. This possibility is currently being studied and analyzed for profitability as it focuses on a very different kind of customer with different needs, that may include, for example, smaller companies, of which there are many, who wish to lease lithium ion batteries rather than buy them to help their forklifts produce more profitable value than the cost of the battery lease.
Blue Line has impressive and proven leadership at its helm. Did this affect your decision to invest with the company at this time?
One other major point to mention is that it is true Blue Line is a leader from the product standpoint, but we also wanted a leader from the LEADER standpoint. One of the things we look at right on the frontend of any new investment is the management team, and if we don’t feel comfortable with those individuals we will walk away. We feel very comfortable with Blue Line’s leadership! The CEO is recognized as a major leader; he was named one of 2021’s 30 under 30 by Forbes Magazine. We think this individual has a lot of staying power and is building great support for the organization through his management team.
To learn more about Blue Line Battery visit their website: https://bluelinebattery.com/
The Blue Line Battery investment may be closed at this point, but if you would like to join the Wisconsin River Business Angels and be at the forefront of learning about more exciting companies like this for investment, learn more about joining here: www.midwestwealthventures.com