Startup Bettery sets out to change consumer battery business

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A rendering of a Bettery kiosk, which will accept dead batteries of all varieties, recycling the single-use batteries and recharging the chargeable ones.  It will also dispense fully charged Bettery batteries for reuse.
Courtesy Bettery Inc.

A rendering of a Bettery kiosk, which will accept dead batteries of all varieties, recycling the single-use batteries and recharging the chargeable ones.  It will also dispense fully charged Bettery batteries for reuse. 

Bettery Inc., a Portland startup with a roster of experienced executives and advisers, is aiming to change consumer behavior and green up the electronics battery business, all with a tricked-out vending machine.

Started by experienced technology entrepreneur Charlie Kawasaki, Bettery will make use of newer, better rechargeable battery technology —technology that for whatever reason isn't taking hold in the marketplace.

"People could recharge at home but they don't," Kawasaki said.

The U.S. household battery market — AAs, AAAs and the like — is worth $3.5 billion and 99 percent of those sold can only be used once and often end up in landfills because they're difficult to recycle.

In the first quarter of next year, Bettery, working with with rechargeable battery manufacturers, will roll out a pilot program with a few key Northwest partners. The goal will be to determine whether a convenient kiosk — with competitively priced rechargeable batteries that can be returned when they run out of juice and exchanged for fresh ones — can lure consumers to adopt the greener, rechargeable technology.

Kawasaki and his team have raised $357,641 in early capital from private investors to see the company through the pilot phase. Bettery is also getting an investment in the form of branding work and launch expertise from Wieden+Kennedy.

Nick Barham, global director of the W+K Tomorrow division, said Bettery's work fit in with his group's focus on new technology and sustainability.

"We just really like the way (Kawasaki) was talking about his business venture," Barham said. "It felt like a really radical and useful idea that we ought to be involved with."

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