Blue Line Battery: A Wisconsin unicorn in the making

By Anna Lardinois

Startup Storyteller

The mythic unicorn- a privately held startup valued at over $1 billion. This rare creature may soon be among us.

Blue Line Battery, founded in 2015, produces lithium-ion batteries for the industrial market. The wildly popular batteries are notably safer and cheaper to use. And the innovative product is making big waves in an industry slow to embrace new designs.

The man at the helm of the rapidly growing company, founder Dustin Herte, won’t confirm industry insider talk that the company is on the verge of unicorn status. But he won’t deny it, either.

The revenue generating company raised a $3.1 million seed round in March. When pressed, CEO Herte acknowledged, “as Phil (Fonfara, the company’s Head of Growth) said, 24 to 36 months is totally reasonable for (Blue Line) being a unicorn.” Beyond that, he will not speculate on the company’s financial future.

For now, Herte wants people to focus on what got the company into the limelight: the superior battery and the great team behind it.

According to Herte, of the batteries in use today, “90% of them are lead acid, but it’s a very old technology. It’s very inefficient, and these systems are going to be phased out.” Blue Line chose lithium-ion, rather than lead acid, for their batteries. As a result, “they’re way more efficient and they charge very quickly. So, they use about 25% less electricity just because they don’t get hot when they charge,” he said.

The quick-charging batteries are also safer to use in the field. Herte describes the typical forklift operator swapping out batteries from a battery rack when a recharge is needed. Blue Line batteries charge so quickly, an operator can charge the battery while on a scheduled break, avoiding the problems that arise in battery swapping, like lifting injuries and warehouse accidents caused by batteries falling out of forklifts.

Not only are Blue Line batteries safer and more efficient, but the patent pending design of the battery also allows it to be easily serviced in the field. 

Herte, a MSOE alumnus, began working with batteries when he launched an electric bike company, Odyssey Trikes. He quickly grew dissatisfied with the performance of the batteries available to him and began to explore other power options. Before long he discovered he could build something better than anything on the market. “There is a better way to approach it, he said. “I want this thing to be buildable, serviceable, scalable, and reliable. This,” he continued, gesturing toward the Blue Line Battery next to him, “is what we landed on.”

Herte emphasized that Blue Line’s rapid growth is not just attributed to the battery, its staff is also a key component of the company’s success.  “Almost everybody in our company is under 30. We are younger than our peer group by probably 20 years everywhere else. What has gotten us to the position where we’re getting taken very seriously is we’re really good at listening and we’re really good at acknowledging we’ve done something incorrectly. We are the first group to say, ‘okay, we’re ready to listen to you and tell us what we can improve.’ And that was the first couple of years of the company. And today we’re making a killer product. But it was because we listened.”

Blue Line is currently developing a battery management system for their customers to track battery use, charging opportunities and other performance indicators. Future plans include exploration into stationary energy storage and solar energy.

With talk of unicorn status swirling around the company, all eyes will be on Blue Line Battery this year. To follow the continued rise of this Beloit-based company, connect with them here.

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