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Start-up wired for success

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Eighteen months ago MacDonald discovered a small Austrian firm developing a non-invasive way of removing copper cores from telco and power cables. “They were looking for someone with an international contact book to commercialise the technology,” he says. “We fitted the bill.”

The patented system uses manholes to access the cables – so no digging up roads – and pumps a biodegradable fluid into the casing, freeing the wire from its jacket so it can be easily dragged out, and the fibre optic cable pulled through. This could mean huge savings for big telecoms looking to overhaul their networks.

“Typically a crew in a city centre might be able to dig 40m a day,” says MacDonald. “We can do 400m a day with the same labour force. It’s much less expensive, requires no land rights and it’s environmentally cleaner: the retrieved copper only uses 15 per cent of the energy used in mining fresh copper.”

Kabel-X licenses this technology from the Austrian outfit, holding the patents in 110 countries. There’s not even any competition to speak of: “No one else is doing this, and because our patent is so robust, no other companies can even inject a fluid into a cable for the purpose of removing the core without an infringement.”

But MacDonald is slightly cagey on his predicted revenue. Why? “No one would believe us,” he says. “We don’t want our investors to think we’ve lost our minds.

“The market is huge. There is two billion metres of cabling in the world. Even if we get just 0.2 per cent of the business (and we’ll probably get more like three per cent) turnover and growth will be stratospheric.”

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