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Building a Circular Economy: Jan Pannenbäcker’s Work with Metaloop


Startuprad.io Cover Interview | Building a Circular Economy: Jan Pannenbäcker’s Work with Metaloop
Cover Interview Metaloop - Picture via Pexel

Executive Summary

In this episode of Startuprad.io, host Jörn "Joe" Menninger interviews Jan Pannenbäcker, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Metaloop. Jan shares his journey from winning a social impact award and facing early financial challenges to founding Metaloop, a startup digitalizing the scrap metal industry. Jan discusses his transitions from planning a composting plant to running a successful sustainable clothing business, Goodwear. He highlights Metaloop's role in modernizing scrap metal transactions, navigating global markets, and adhering to EU recycling regulations. Despite industry pushback, Metaloop thrives by partnering with large industrial players and handling unique projects like airplane and power generator scrappage.


"You grow up in a privileged world, in privileged land. You have opportunities and, that also means you have responsibilities."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

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"Building a Business from Scratch": "what are the concrete steps to actually build up a business? What are the concrete steps, you know, to acquire the first customers? To do marketing, you know, to build up a community, like, these these type of things."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

Introduction

Welcome back to Startuprad.io! In today’s episode, we have a fascinating conversation lined up with Jan Pannenbäcker, the Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Metaloop. Our host, Joe Menninger, dives deep into Jan’s inspiring journey—from his early days in northern Germany and university studies in Graz, Austria, to his entrepreneurial ventures and impactful work with social businesses worldwide.


Jan shares how his early passion for social entrepreneurship led him to projects in Greece and Albania before launching Goodwear, a successful sustainable clothing business in Berlin. We explore his travels through Latin America and his dedication to creating social profits in developing countries, working with organizations like UNOS Social Business.


In the heart of our discussion, Jan uncovers the innovative creation of Metaloop, a groundbreaking startup bringing transparency and digitalization to the scrap metal industry. Learn how Metaloop navigates the challenges and opportunities of the circular economy, as well as its pivotal role in large-scale industrial projects and compliance with EU recycling regulations.


Stick around as we discuss their funding journey, their open-door policy for new talent, and their evolving business model that’s revolutionizing the way scrap metal is traded globally. You won’t want to miss this episode packed with insights and inspiration for every entrepreneur and sustainability enthusiast out there.


Let’s get started!



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Empowering Social Startups: "And that was a super interesting time because, that this organization attracted super talented people. Right? So there were a lot of, like, Ivy League people, in the organization that, you know, came with these, these amazingly designed Excel finance sheets and and then kind of work on a very kind of, you know, in developing countries, like, with a with a knowledge set that these usually have no access to whatsoever."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

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Empowering Artisans: "So how can we get that to make it a very exclusive thing to to have very good designers work on their designs, and then they have super high premium, carpets presented in in Paris at Big Fairs and so Joe and then generate profits kinda for that local regions, which would allow to actually, you know, build businesses and then, you know, yeah, let, like, whole ecosystem is developed."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

Questions Discussed in the Interview

  1. Early Entrepreneurial Journey: What lessons did Jan Pannenbäcker learn from winning the social impact award and attempting to establish a composting plant in Greece?

  2. Sustainable Fashion: How did Jan's experience with Goodwear, a sustainable clothing business, shape his approach to entrepreneurship and sustainability?

  3. Shift to Social Business: What were the key takeaways from Jan’s time as a social business consultant in Albania and his work with UNOS Social Business?

  4. Startup Founding: How did Jan Pannenbäcker’s early life and travels in Latin America influence his decision to co-found Metaloop?

  5. Metaloop's Business Model: Can you elaborate on Metaloop's revenue model, and how does being a merchant of record benefit their operations?

  6. Market Challenges: What were some of the criticisms Metaloop faced in its early days for trying to digitize the scrap metal industry, and how did Jan and his co-founder address them?

  7. Industry Impact: How has Metaloop managed to work with large industrial players and integrate longer term contracts and software solutions into the scrap metal industry?

  8. Environmental and Economic Factors: In what ways do EU regulations around recycling impact Metaloop’s business, and what challenges do they face navigating various environmental legislations?

  9. International Operations: How does the profitability of transporting high-value scrap metals like steel between continents affect Metaloop's business strategy and global operations?

  10. Future Directions: Considering the over €20,000,000 raised by Metaloop, what are the potential future funding opportunities, and how might Metaloop expand its market presence?


Discovering the Inefficiencies in the Scrap Metal Market: "Even though it's a commodity market, how, yeah. Let's say, how how undeveloped that market and how inefficient it is."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

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"Sustainability Heroes of Our Time": "So actually, you know, the the scrap dealers would also have to be, have the potential to be called the the sustainability heroes of our, of our time."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

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The Economics of Global Shipping Traffic: "Oftentimes, you have, like, empty containers. So that means kind of the freight from Europe to Asia, is, you know, at times, it always changes."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

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"We bring kind of large volume to the end consumers of the, of the scrap metal, which allows us to get better pricing conditions, which we can also partially forward to our, to our sellers."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

The Founder

Jan Pannenbäcker (https://www.linkedin.com/in/janpannenbaecker/), our guest today on Startuprad.io, is the Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Metaloop. Originating from a picturesque region in northern Germany, Jan embarked on a journey fueled by a passion for social entrepreneurship and environmental management. His educational pursuit took him to university in Graz, Austria, after recognizing the limited opportunities available in his hometown. Early in his career, he won the Social Impact Award from the Viennese University and Impact Hubs network, an accolade that encouraged him to persevere despite financial limitations. Jan's diverse experiences, from starting a composting plant in Greece to running a successful sustainable clothing business named Goodwear, highlight his innovative approach and dedication to creating impactful, sustainable businesses.


Jan’s ventures didn't stop with Goodwear; he further honed his expertise working as a social business consultant in Albania and with UNOS Social Business, co-founded by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus. His travels through Latin America offered rich, varied insights into social entrepreneurship, ultimately leading him back to Austria where he co-founded Metaloop with Alexander Schlick. Metaloop aims to revolutionize the scrap metal industry by bringing digital transparency and efficiency, addressing a global market with a distinct focus on environmental sustainability and economic viability. Their innovative approach, marked by partnerships with large industrial players, strategic financing, and sophisticated logistics services, is setting new benchmarks in scrap metal recycling and sustainability.


The Complications of a Fragmented Market: "It's a bit of a hassle for us in each country that we are operative in. We kind of have to check, okay, what is the environmental legislation here? You know, you have to get the permits. You have to kind of do, oftentimes, the reporting. It's, let's say, from a market perspective, it's a bit annoying."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

The Startup

Metaloop (https://www.metaloop.com/), co-founded by Jan Pannenbäcker and Alexander Schlick, has made significant strides in the traditionally opaque and fragmented scrap metal industry by bringing digital transparency and efficiency to the forefront. With an impressive capital raising of over €20,000,000, Metaloop has attracted a broad spectrum of investors interested in their innovative approach to the market. This substantial funding has enabled them to scale their operations and carve out a niche working with large industrial players in the automotive and electronics sectors. Their business model includes acting as a merchant of record, ensuring material passes through their balance sheet, and offering value-added services such as financing options. This approach not only facilitates smoother transactions but also allows them to maintain a level of control and oversight uncommon in the industry.


What sets Metaloop apart from its competition is their commitment to digitalizing an industry long resistant to change. They began with the simple yet revolutionary step of publishing scrap metal prices and have since evolved to offer a comprehensive web shop for scrap metal transactions, complete with software solutions for industrial clients. Their transparency initiatives faced initial resistance, but by educating the market and proving the value of their platform, they have turned skeptics into clients. Metaloop's ability to manage and control the scrap metal flow for large-scale projects, such as dismantling Airbus planes and decommissioning power generators, underscores their operational prowess and adaptability. Furthermore, their focus on the circular economy and compliance with EU recycling regulations solidifies their role as a forward-thinking leader committed to sustainable practices in a global market.


Global Energy Costs: "I don't spend too much time on the on the regulation topic because it's, you know, we have to deal with whatever it is."— Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop

Venture Capital Funding

They raised more than 18 M US$ up to Series A. Investors including Statkraft Ventures, FJ Labs, First Mark, and Silence VC. Adding an EU funding brings the total to more than 20 M Euros. None the less Jan is open for a discussion with new potential investors. You can reach out to him via LinkedIn or let us introduce him to you.



Hiring!

Metaloop is hiring. You can learn more about he open postions here: https://careers.metaloop.com/



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The Interviewer

This interview was conducted by Jörn “Joe” Menninger, startup scout, founder, and host of Startuprad.io. Reach out to him:

 

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Automated Transcript

Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:00:02]:

And welcome, everybody. This is Joe from start up rate dot Joe, your StartupRadio podcast, YouTube blog, and Internet radio station on the German Austrian and Swiss StartupRadio scene. Today, I do have a guest who is cofounder of a startup in Austria, but he's originally from the very north of Germany. That's why I welcome him with a traditional. How are you doing, Jan?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:00:32]:

I'm great. Sunny day in Austria. Thanks. How are you?


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:00:35]:

It for for there there are not a lot of people who are watching the full form video here, but we may tell our audience the the you 10,000 that are listening to this interview, that the the the background looked at at first sight. I thought, is he in Bali? Because there's a lot of green a lot of natural wood, nice paste.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:00:57]:

Yeah. I mean, that that's, that's our office. That's our office in, in Graz, Austria.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:01:02]:

You have to do something to bring people to the office. For everybody who's listening to this, I'm sorry. I sound a little bit like I have a code. It's hay fever season, and it's all over me. Really sorry about that. As we already teased, you are from the very north of Germany, Ost Holstein, actually a place I just spent a nice vacation. Can you tell us a little bit how you grew up there and ended up at a university in Austria?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:01:33]:

Well, I mean yeah. So very originally, I'm actually from Essen, from, from Northern Australia, but only spent my kind of first 2, 3 years there. And, yeah, then grew up in in, small and beautiful, which is, which is in, a bit north of Hamburg. Yeah. I mean, it's a it's a the flatland, a lot of lakes, also the sea the Baltic Sea is very close. It's a let's say, it's it's a it's a nice area to to grow up in, but then kind of after high school, kind of the the options are very limited. There's there's not much to do, and people are kind of, a lot of my friends were were fleeing to the, to the bigger


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:02:20]:

cities. Hamburg made with natural, goal there. Right?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:02:24]:

Yeah. Hamburg is kind of, like, 80 kilometers away, and and that's kind of the the natural, first first step for many.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:02:32]:

Mhmm. I see. And and and then how you did end up at the university in Graz in Austria?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:02:41]:

Yeah. I mean, that's that's actually, a bit of a, of a longer story. I always had these kind of, this interest in, doing something good for the, for the society in general. I mean, it sounds like big words, but, it's already how I grew up that's kind of with, you know, some you know, you grow up in a in a privileged world, in privileged privileged land. You have opportunities and, that also means you have responsibilities. That's that's a bit kind of the mindset that I grew up with. And, at the same time, I was always fascinated by the, yeah, by the StartupRadio stories from the from the entrepreneurs, the the school dropouts that big the build the the huge, unicorn companies and, yeah. It's in the beginning, these worlds didn't fit together for me, so it's like because social entrepreneurship wasn't a thing at that time when when I was still in school and kind of either you had the the NGO side, kind of the, you know, donation driven driven, doing good, or you had kind of, the the, you know, super capitalist, high growth stories, only only profit driven.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:04:01]:

That was kind of the at least my thinking, at that time when I when I left school. And then yeah. I I like I spent some time in in Latin America just to travel kind of. I saw that's the that's the that's the first and maybe last opportunity to spend 7 months in a row, at a place without a plan, and, that's what I did at that time. Learned some Spanish, and then was thinking, okay. What what can I do? And was kind of constantly, thinking about what the next steps are. And,


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:04:35]:

Sorry. I I I tend to get a little bit sidetracked from time to time, but, you spent some time in South America, can you tell us a few beautiful places that are kind of flying under the radar you would recommend people to visit?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:04:53]:

Sure. I mean, it's it's kinda it's it's a long time ago. Yeah. I'm not sure if it's if it's still the, same time today. Same same thing today. We started actually in, in Costa Rica. And then I spent, I think, 2 months in Panama. In Panama, I think in the north, there's a there's a there's an island called, Bocas del Toro, if I if I remember correctly.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:05:20]:

And I think it only cost me a $140 to do my, scuba diving license. I think they the driving school said at that time it's the 2nd cheapest place in the world to do scuba diving, and it was amazingly beautiful and kind of like what you imagine a Caribbean island to be like. And at the same time, you know, being backpacking tourists, super limited budget. I think I like, for the for the 7 months, I spent the only €3,000, in total, including flights back and forth. So, and I didn't work, during that time. So I was on a very low budget and, some lessons actually that I learned from the StartupRadio, without knowing. Nevertheless, so so Boca del Toro, really nice. And another, recommendation is really the the inland of, Argentina.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:06:14]:

Yeah. So we we actually hitchhike from the from the border of, like, Argentina, Bolivia down to the very, very south in, Patagonia? Patagonia. Yeah. Ushuaia, kind of the the, I think, the furthest south city that exists. And that's that's amazingly beautiful, kind of the I I really like it. And even though I'm a vegetarian, they have I enjoyed some meat during that time, and it was and and it's amazingly good.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:06:42]:

Okay. That one can keep going.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:06:46]:

Yeah. I okay. So so where do we so how I how I got actually to to Graz. Right? That was that was the story. Right? So, yeah. Basically, I I then said, okay. Let's let me study something that is, kind of both, you know, doing good and also entrepreneurial. So I started, studying, energy and environmental management or something, like that.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:07:12]:

And then yeah. Wasn't really interested in the studies. It it was and and yeah. I I recognized kind of in my first semester that I need to I need to start doing because this is like, I had enough of school and I always wanted to to do stuff and kind of yeah. And that's that's what what actually got me going. I just said, okay. You know, let's let's start building a business. I had a I had a I had a, yeah, let's say family home that we that we were visiting regularly in, in Greece.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:07:49]:

And, yeah. Then I I I said, okay. I mean, I show up the story Joe a bit. But in the end, I I started to build a composting, site there, or I was in the process of doing so. In the end, I didn't do it. But this is kind of what I like, the concept that I built, during that time, the business plan, and so that was kind of in my first semesters at, at university. And, you know, then, you know, things things develop from there. Yeah.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:08:19]:

I won the social impact award that kind of was, then, launched at that time from the from the Viennese University, and the and the Impact Hubs network. And that encouraged me as a as a quite young student, kind of, to keep on going on the track even though I, you know, I didn't have a lot. Yeah. So, I just tried to do one step after another and be kind of, you know, Joe out there, expose myself, and, you know, try to try to get real learning experiences.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:09:01]:

I see. I was always wondering how you ended up in Greece with the, with the, the the the the composting plant, but now I do have an idea. According to what we talked before, the the the the composting plant in Greece, did did you shut it down or did you sell it?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:09:26]:

No. Actually, it it, it was it was never realized. I mean, I, you know, I kind of I I got that to to concept stage, and then I said, alright. You know, either it's, you know, it can only fly if I actually go to Greece. So then I said, okay, you know, let's let's give it a try. I went I had kind of set 1 year to go there and try to to implement it. You know, met with, local stakeholders and, you know, in the end, I realized it's kind of it's too much dependent on, on, you know, political will, because it's it's kind of in the in the waste regime of the municipality, and kind of you need to get them on board, and then you have kind of the whole political game of, you know, getting majorities and and say, okay. That's kind of that's too much.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:10:14]:

And then also kind of, you know, non Greek speaking. And, I said, yeah. Let I'm not I'm not gonna I'm not gonna kinda further push here because they also said, you know, it's like, you know, we need to wait, and it's like, yeah. No. I I'm not I'm not coming here just to wait. So I said, okay. I I need to do something that kind of where I'm more, you know, I can be more self effective. And, yeah, started to, to actually build a drop shipping business for, for organic fashion and, move to Berlin for that.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:10:50]:

Yeah. And by the way, that was all still while doing my studies. Joe so I was kind of, like, back and forth and, yeah, didn't finish my studies at that time. Only after then 2 years in in Berlin, I finally said, okay. You know, I I still wanna at least have the bachelor, degree, so that have, something in my pocket that people can relate to and say, okay. That is a he achieved some sense. So, yeah, that that's, that's the story.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:11:20]:

Talking about drop shipping here. You do you did tell me it's called Goodwear, but, I'm not necessarily want to go into too much detail. Sustainable clothing is a really, really great idea and appreciate that you did it. But there's a lot of people out there on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and so on and so forth who are trying to make you believe that drop shipping, you just need to set up a website and business is going fine. The same with the guys at the vending machine who first put in the money and then then, 5 minutes later, turn on the video camera and take it out and tell you what a great business this list even though they make their money, just with the people who follow them and buy their courses. Can you tell us a tiny bit about the reality of dropshipping here?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:12:08]:

Yeah. I mean, that that that was in a completely different time. I mean, that was kinda select when was it? In, like, 2,000 11 or so? So it's like, this didn't exist. Right? So that was I'm not even sure. That was at this like, before I had the first iPhone. Right? So there wasn't even Insta. There is, like well, there was Insta, but just kind of to make photos to have the retro filter for photos, if you remember that. But, kind of, there were certainly not the people, kind of, making business models out of courses, at least not on Insta.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:12:42]:

And, I mean, in the reality, we just what we actually did was we we were Menninger, sustainable clothing of clothing that was produced already in larger volumes, but originally kind of meant to be used for merchandise. Right? So that was, kind of like that use how, like, for the for music merchandise and, like, all these type of things. Usually, you had kind of prints on that, and we said, okay. You know, let's just to to to get it going, yeah. I mean, that's perfectly fine. That that was what I was wearing at that time. It's just kind of, like, just simple, like, plain color, stuff. And, it was very it was very cheap compared to, to other sustainable tolling that you were buying at that time.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:13:29]:

Right? So where you had kind of, like, t shirts from from €80, €90 onwards, and that's still, being a student just didn't fit the budget. So that that was a kind of completely different time when you didn't have a market for that. I mean, now you get, you you get a, like, organic cotton, in kind of in h and h and m. Right? So, that wasn't that wasn't the case at that time. It was very niche y, and there was actually, someone that was providing that and it was possible kind of to do drop shipping. And we we, yeah, just kind of iterated on building a low risk, business model at that time just to kind of practice entrepreneurship in a way. Right? To see, okay, how does it actually, you know, what are the concrete steps to actually build up a business? What are the concrete steps, you know, to acquire the first customers? To do marketing, you know, to build up a community, like, these these type of things. Yeah? It's like, it it wasn't a, a gigantic business at at all.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:14:30]:

Right? But but still, kind of, you know, it was profitable and it and it just worked. And that that was kind of, for me, the beauty at that time. I wanted to get something going and just figure it out, you know? How does it work and to put the different pieces together that you need in the business to, to make something work. And by the way, I did that with my brother at that time, so it was also it was also a fun, family business.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:14:57]:

I see. I see. The the the the the the only question I have is you said it was, the the the organic clothing was kind of the base for getting merge to turn it into merchandise, get prints on and whatever. Did you get any. Any client, any customer, any band, any product that we would recognize today?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:15:26]:

No. I mean no. No. No. So this is kind of that's not we so, so our clients were kind of a b to c. Right? So, but I was saying kind of the because we didn't we didn't produce it ourselves. Right? We bought some that was already on stock somewhere else, but meant to be used for, for merchandise. Right? So kind of the the that's why they were already producing it and were kind of, like, had already economics of scale and could provide it at relatively cheap prices, especially in wholesale.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:15:59]:

But, yeah. So this is kind of we just tweaked it and said, okay, you know, let's let's try if we if we can place that as a more in the in the b to c market.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:16:11]:

Mhmm. I see. I see. And then at one point, you, you then went from there. There was another very interesting jump when we talked before. He told me that you've been a then a social business consultant in Albania, and then somehow you went back to Austria. So it was Greece, Berlin, Albania, Austria.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:16:35]:

Yes. So Berlin. Yeah. Joe, I mean, in the meantime, like, like, somehow, like, in between there, I I kind of, like, finished my studies. And then, yeah, that that was it actually had been really interesting because, that organization is called UNOS Social Business. UNOS had been, kind of one of my, my idols and influences. Who he he's the guy that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2,006, with the with the Grameen Bank, kind of the concepts of the, microlending in, in Bangladesh originally. And then, kind of what he invented was a social business, kind of the idea of, you know, a business not, solely focused to generate monetary profits, but a business that is kind of focused on generating, social profits.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:17:30]:

Right? So that can be environmental or social. So that kind of that would be business orientated. So, also profit orientated, but these profits would be used to generate more impact. Yeah? So that's that's kind of the the, the idea and concept of, of Muhammad Yunus. And, Unosocial Business then was an organization that he cofounded together with, with, Saskia Bryson from, was a a BCG consultant, before. And what they did is they went to developing countries. They have different organizations in, I don't know, Uganda, Haiti, several places, and one of them being Albania. And what they did there is kind of they helped to to, incubate startups, we would say.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:18:21]:

Right? So it's kind of like a y c, but for kind of social orientated startups. And that was a super interesting time because, that this organization attracted super talented people. Right? So there were a lot of, like, Ivy League people, in the organization that, you know, came with these, these amazingly designed Excel finance sheets and and then kind of work on a very kind of, you know, in developing countries, like, with a with a knowledge set that these usually have no access to whatsoever. So we were helping kind of, like, local StartupRadio get off the ground. Right? So kind of applying, like, let's say, very elaborated skills, experience, and also network. They these organization, they they, you know, they receive donations from, you know, USAID. They're from, like, Richard Branson. That's kind of the, the network.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:19:24]:

And then kind of translating that to, you know, Albanian women knitting, what's it called? Carpets. Yeah? And then kind of, like, say, okay. So how do you get that from these very fine artisanal created, products, which they sell on local markets have very little value capture, even though it's kind of it's a very good, you know, it's it's a very good product. And then we were kind of helping. Okay. So how can we get that to make it a very exclusive thing to to have very good designers work on their designs, and then they have super high premium, carpets presented in in Paris at Big Fairs and so Joe and then generate profits kinda for that local regions, which would allow to actually, you know, build businesses and then, you know, yeah, let, like, whole ecosystem is developed. Right? So that that's kind of that was contest and context, and it was super inspiring for me to to work with the people and actually see what what impact can be generated. And, yeah.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:20:34]:

I mean, to the day, that's, it has been a real great experience, and I'm I'm very thankful for it.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:20:42]:

I can totally understand that. Not only, through helping people, but also to be able to travel and to network globally. That is something I also really cherish, that you also can do, for example, in consulting. Very, very good thing to do. Let us Joe get into, we talking for 20 minutes already. Let us Joe get into the loop, because I I do believe most people shoot it for this company, by the way, the fastest growing, company according to Feet in Austria in 2022, 2023, and 2024 in a joint award of Statista and Financial Times. You've been in the top 3. Congratulations, by the way.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:21:30]:

And now tell us, how to set up a site like this? Just a bathroom. We are on Instagram, and you're an influencer. Yeah.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:21:39]:

Yeah. It's actually it's it's, you know, it's not that Instagram gloomy as it, as it might sound. Actually, so as you


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:21:47]:

It is. But that's


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:21:48]:

from my from my


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:21:49]:

Instagram versus reality. Right?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:21:51]:

Yeah. So no. So actually, I had no touch point with with metals or kind of, let's say, the the physical world really, whatsoever. But at the same time, I I always was fascinated by kind of, you know, what what the Internet, allows you to do. And I met my now cofounder of yeah. That was it's kind of like 8 years ago from now. Alexander Schlick, who I met in in in Vienna. And he was, or still is owner of a scrapyard in in in Graz.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:22:25]:

Yeah? And so he was working in that so before, I mean, he also university, then, finance in Asia, and then came back kind of to to work in the, in the family owned scrapyard. Worked there, 5 years or Joe, and then said, yeah. I mean, this is, you know, I'm, like, I have scrap metal here. Everything I do, I sell to 1, big bigger scrap dealer, and, that that can't be it. Yeah? So and this is then kind of how he got into the market and and discover, you know, going to to to, international fairs for the market and just like how the how relationship driven that market is and kind of, even though it's a it's a commodity market, how, yeah. Let's say, how how undeveloped that market and how inefficient it is. Yeah? And, yeah. So at that at that time, we met and said, okay.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:23:23]:

Here's a here's a potential. For me, it was kind of only the tick boxes. Okay. That's so it's recycling. We can do something that makes sense, something sustainable. And at the same time, it's a kind of it's a it's a market that has been untapped, from from digitalization, so Internet is doesn't play any Joe, in that industry, and at the same time, it's it's a it's a $600,000,000,000 industry. So that was the, kind of that was the initial starting point. I said, okay.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:23:51]:

You know, let's let's digitalize that. That was the, the first idea. And then we started actually with publishing scrap metal prices, something that is sounds sounds very easy. I mean, it is relatively easy to do, but it's also, something that that nobody did at that time. And that's great for commodity market.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:24:15]:

Transparent. You, helped in, getting information out there. Was that was that about right?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:24:26]:

Yeah. So in the Menninger, kind of, the we had the idea. Okay. Because we we StartupRadio with that, problem set from the, kind of from the scrap dealer perspective. And you have kind of you have always a supply constrained market. So you kind of you always want to have more material because that allows you to do more business. That's kind of the the initial idea. So then, what we actually did is we we, developed a web shop where people could sell a scrap metal.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:24:52]:

Right? So basically, they could sell scrap metal to us. We will publish prices. And then, obviously, the people come from all the regions and that kind of the next step was already okay. So let's not only do everything to Graz, kind of to that original scrap yard from my cofounder, But, you know, let's do it, to all the other, cities in the in in the DACH region as well. And then, kind of, we bootstrap that. And in this process, you know, you publish scrap metal prices. And publishing scrap metal prices is something that is that is new to this industry, and that is I mean, I just wanted to want to underline that. In a commodity market, they are usually very known for being very efficient markets.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:25:37]:

You say even commoditized. Right? So things are commoditized, which means you have a very efficient market. You usually have, exchanges where material are traded. You have you have several prices per seconds that are somewhat, accessible, and that that's not the case for for scrap metal. And we we have the situation that, you know, the people in the industry would say, would would call, are you crazy? You kind of you're educating the market. The people then know what the value of the material is, and you're destroying the market. Are you crazy doing that? And that's probably also one of the reasons why the why the scrap dealer is, has the image in the in the in the society, that that he mostly he, very little cheese, has. So yeah.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:26:28]:

And and then, I mean, it got to that point that even the the association was saying, you know, can we accuse them of, how's it called in English? Of publishing false information in the market. Yeah? Because they are publishing prices and kind of that's that's that's destroying the market. And, we had a we had a leaked, document from the, from a from an, association meeting. It says, no. Unfortunately, we cannot sue them because it's, the the prices are real and it's it's not illegal. So so, yeah. That that's kind of that has been the the the dynamics in the market. And, I mean, long story short, we are not kind of supplying to the scrap dealers that much anymore.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:27:20]:

We are not running the I mean, you still run the web shop, but it's kind of only a very small one digit percentage of our volumes. What we now


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:27:28]:

most association still mad at you?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:27:32]:

I don't know. There has never been, like, an official dialogue on that. It's, I just found, an an anecdote that is, that's kind of, like, metaphorical for the for the situation in the in the in the industry. And that I mean, at the same time, kind of the metal is the material that can be recycled at endless times. Right? So it's kind of it's a perfect material for the circular economy. And because it has a the value is so high, it's also the the circular economy that works the best. Yeah? So you I mean, you see also in the developing countries, the first informal job is is kind of the, is the waste pickers. Right? The guys that that pick up the aluminum, the the iron from the streets.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:28:18]:

Yeah? And that make


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:28:19]:

Return to cans here in Germany.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:28:21]:

Yeah. And, I mean, now it's called circular economy, but it but it's the that's kind of the the circular economy that has always been working, or working the best if you compare it to plastics or paper, or so where you have, where the value of the material is much lower and the economic incentive is not is not there, and that's, like, or not comparatively as high, as with the other materials. So actually, you know, the the scrap dealers would also have to be, have the potential to be called the the sustainability heroes of our, of our time. Right? But that's not at all kind of the the association of the the the imagination that we have when we when we think about this, this group of, entrepreneurs. Yeah. Nevertheless, long story short, so now, we actually deal with, kind of, mostly with, very large industrial players. Right? So automotive sector, electronic sector, like these type of of, yeah, large volume producers that produce kind of scrap on an ongoing basis. We we contract them with, with with longer term contracts.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:29:31]:

We know we help them to, first of all, increase their revenues. So kind of get more money for the scrap metal. But we also provide them with software that gives them, control about what's going on with the scrap metal. Yeah. Because that that's still something that's ongoing where it's hard to control because you have, like, changing volumes. You have always a time changing prices. You have, different materials, and then you have different locations, often time in different countries. And that's something that makes very hard, to manage and to control, And that's why we help them with, with software that we provide to them.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:30:05]:

And then kind of in the back, we have build a, a platform that allows us to understand, okay, where's the demand for what type of material? Yeah. So that's steel mills, that's, that's foundries, and all over Europe, Asia, some in Americas. And then what we do is kind of matchmaking and the actual settlement of the transaction. Yeah. So make sure material travels straight from the seller, from the manufacturer to the recycler. So the one that that remelds the material and kind of creates value out of it. Yeah. I would I


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:30:39]:

would be interested. You've been talking about circular economy here. I was wondering how large are the circles? Meaning, does it make economical sense to ship all the stuff around in Europe, all around certain parts of Asia, all around North America, Or are there certain shipments even going from one continent to another because it's economically viable?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:31:03]:

Yeah. I mean, that that very much depends on the material itself, and also on the economic situations in the different, in the different, parts. Yeah. So, I mean, first of all, think about, like, one truck. Joe when I say one truck, it's roughly 25 tons. And then if you have, like, 25 tons of iron, that's maybe has a value of, like €30,000, let's say. No. It's actually it's a bit less.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:31:32]:

But nevertheless, if you compare it to, if you compare it to to copper, which is now at, above €10,000 per ton, you are already at a quarter million €1,000,000 in value per truck. Yeah? And then, if you compare kind of the the transport costs, so just from an economical standpoint, there is not so much of a difference if you if you transport it kind of from, let's say, France to Poland, or if you if you transport it from, you know, France to South Korea. So just to because the a lot of the sea containers, right, that come from Asia that, you know, ship us all the nice products, the the TVs, the computers, the BYDs. Now, so so, you know, they come like like fully utilized, huge, vessels and back, they are not so utilized. Right? So oftentimes, you have, like, empty containers. So that means kind of the freight from Europe to Asia, is, you know, at times, it always changes. Right? And then you have kind of Suez Canal being blocked and, like, all these type of things. So it's not always the same, but, you know, it maybe cost 2 and a half €1,000 to to ship a container there.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:32:51]:

And then if if this if the if the freight from, let's say, France and Poland, what I said, is also gonna be around 1,500. So it's maybe €1,000 different, and then if you if you take that in relation to the to the value of the, of the good, it's not not such a high, impact. Yeah? So Mhmm. If there's a lot of economic growth, you know, if there's like, you know, the Indian economy now coming up, building a lot of infrastructure, building a lot of, you know, maybe grids, batteries, container terminals, like, all these things need metal. Yeah. So if there's generally more GDP growth, they have higher demand for materials. They pay higher prices. That's kind of the the general game in in world trade that's going on.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:33:45]:

For our American audience, 25 metric tons is around £50,000 because all the people are asking, metric system. I hate that. I hate that. How much is that? Anyway, that is already interesting because you you've been saying you work with, that's something we've already, hammered out Before we discussed, you work with certain manufacturers to really get their scrap. You you're not buying it basically from junk yards anymore. You buy it from the people who produce it, have steady contracts, and then have on the other side, for example, meals, that really do use it on a regular basis. So let's say there are some really stable circles evolved there. But on the other hand, you it did have, 2 spectacular pieces that that you actually scrapped, you told me.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:34:42]:

2 Airbus planes from the Belgian government, by the way, that's a picture that ended up on your LinkedIn profile. Right? And a power generator from the, atomic power plant in Mulheim, Karelis, but one that did not get any radiation.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:34:58]:

Yeah. I mean, that's the, that's also the the beauty of the scrap metal world. You kind of, let's say, you you you get to see a lot of things, that usually don't hit the, you know, come to, to block public. And yeah. I mean, funny enough, we have a lot of, we have a lot of businesses that, reach us and say, hey. I have something here to, that that needs to, you know, be demolished, that needs to be scrapped, and I need a price for it. Yeah. And since there is, kind of the normal way for that is I have some I have something that has to Joe.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:35:37]:

I I go for a or I Google for a local scrap dealer or a demolition company, and ask for a quote. Right? So that's the and then you ask, for 3 quotes, and that's how you kind of have the idea of I have a fair market, statement. And now, kinda, we also come into the equation and that's over regionally. So kind of not only the regional offering, but, you know, okay. Let's also ask METALU. And then we also give an offer. Yeah? And, the good thing is kind of we have kind of more direct ways, and we bring kind of large volume to the, to the end consumers of the, of the scrap metal, which allows us to get better pricing conditions, which we can also partially forward to our, to our sellers. Yeah? But this is this way, we kind of we get some some really interesting inbound, requests for, for for quotes.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:36:32]:

And, yeah, one of them had been to Airbus planes actually at, at Brussels Airport. And, yeah, it it turned out in the end, it was the Belgium government plans that used to fly, then they had huge issues. And at some point, they couldn't fly anymore. When we scrap them, the engines and so on were already gone. So there was kind of this, like, process process of, okay, what can we resell as parts, actually? Right? So that, you know, the engines are the the most valuable part, but I think they even had the seats taken out and, all these things. But, yeah. Then I saw these these planes there. We already ordered a photograph there because we said, okay, that's that's gonna be a good opportunity to take some nice pictures.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:37:17]:

And I was just quickly thinking, okay. Am I gonna now, like, actually climb on that plane to, like, to take the picture and said, okay. That's a once in a life opportunity I've, like, now or never. And then I said, yeah. Okay. You know, this was like


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:37:29]:

fit my next trivia question. How did you get up there?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:37:32]:

Yeah. Actually, I found a letter somewhere, and then I actually also I I put on my suit. I had a I thought, okay. Maybe I take my suit or not. And then, yeah, I just like on the place there, I just got changed and said, okay, let's climb up there. It wasn't because it's quite high up actually. Right? So let's see. It was a bit scary that but yeah, if you kind of stay right at the top, then you kind of you don't slip down.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:37:57]:

And I said, okay. You know, let's, let's let's do it. And then they were already because the runway is actually direct next to it. It was kind of it was on a, let's say, airplane parking lot next to the, next to the runway. You saw the the plates already always taken off next to me, and that already got some attention from the from the airport where then the the officials were taking photos and asking whether it's, like, it's all correct. What's going on there? Yeah.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:38:28]:

Okay. I see. We we already in Brussels. Mark, talking about market dynamics. Do you foresee any changes in the EU regulations around recycling impacting your business model and your markets?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:38:45]:

Yeah. Joe, I mean, in general, the unfortunately, it it's this market is not harmonized in the EU. Right? So it's it's a bit of a hassle for us in each country that we are operative in. We kind of have to check, okay, what is the environmental legislation here? You know, you have to get the permits. You have to kind of do, oftentimes, the reporting. It's, let's say, from a market perspective, it's a bit annoying. I mean, of course, it helps us kind of to to build up entry barriers, but, yeah, would appreciate rather appreciate if if we didn't have them, and we would have actually one unified market in that, yeah, in the in the waste regime as well. Changes, I mean, there's there's a there are a lot of talks of, kind of, regulating exports of, of waste from from EU.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:39:34]:

The EU says, okay, I mean, meth and scrap is actually defined as a waste, even though it's it's considered as a as a resource now by everyone. So, yeah. There are a lot of talks of actually banning exports. So far, it's it's, it's not happening. Might be a smart thing to do because, I mean, in the end, everybody knows it. We don't have raw materials, and we don't I mean, we we need it. We need to recycle it. At the same time, you know, Europe is also not, in all the cases, very, very competitive.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:40:09]:

So just just banning it also doesn't, maybe maybe doesn't cut it because in the end, you still need the smelters that still need to be able to pay the energy bill, which is also very high in Europe, and then, to produce a commodity in the end that also is being exported in some cases. So, yeah. It's it's a it's a complicated topic, not that easy. And, I mean, in the end for us, you know, we just we have to deal with whatever comes. So so it's the I don't spend too much time on the on the regulation topic because it's, you know, we have to deal with whatever it is. We wanna build up, a global impact company, so it's it's not gonna, you know, it's not gonna have too much impact. Yeah. I know Joe we can deal with with whatever outcome it's gonna be.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:40:59]:

We are agile. We don't have kind of any physical assets that are being effective. So, you know, we if needed, we can, you know, stay in the region. We can move out of the region, and have kind of, like, separate business units. We we can adopt.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:41:17]:

I was wondering, revenue streams. I do understand you make money from logistics, transporting the stuff, helping to organize transporting because my understanding is you're asset light company. You don't own any of the, inventory. You don't own any of the StartupRadio. And you don't own any of the, logistics entities, that ship or drive or do something or even fly these over. I was wondering what are like your your may your primary revenue streams? Do you make most money from the fees, from the financing, or logistics? Because you support your clients in all 3 of them.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:42:00]:

Yeah. So, I mean, for us, these are all, let's say, indirect revenue streams. So our business model is actually is a is a merchant of record business model. So that means we come we become actually contractual partners, both to the sellers as to the buyers. So, you know, the the material also goes through our balance sheet. And then so to the sellers, we usually quote, you know, picked up. So kind of we pay let's say, we pay them a 100 picked up at their place, and then we, you know, we sell it somewhere where we where we get a bit more than a 100. Let's say, so we get a we get a 110 somewhere else or a 105, yeah, delivered to another place.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:42:42]:

And then kind of with that with that delta, we have to pay, we have to pay the the transport. We have to pay, financing because usually, I mean, we give our buyers option whether they pay directly or whether they pay after 30 days, after 60 days. And of course, that means we are kinda we are financing them and that that also costs something. So, that's but it's in the end, it's all priced into the into the price of the product itself for the material.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:43:13]:

I see. How since you guys don't do a lot of physical work, I would say there's, not necessarily a hard limit to your scalability.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:43:31]:

Yeah. Joe, I mean, yes. In generally, yes. The what what's limiting our scalability is actually basically our execution capability. Yeah. Joe, I mean and and that's actually one of the biggest challenges because you have so many opportunities popping up. Right? You can Joe, like, there's so much thing that things that come on your desk, like, emails that you get off kind of, like, when you dive more into here or there, it's like and there's kind of so many connecting things, or let's say, things that are, let's say, close to what we do. And at the same time, you really have to have kind of the the the bigger goal in mind.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:44:11]:

And, the question is really what to focus on, because at the end of the day, the the day has only 24 hours. We only have something like 60 people, and we we only have a limited, capital reserves. So this is where you kind of you have more of an allocation problem on, you know, what what do you spend time on, and what do you what do you where do you invest the, the capital. And then and that's kind of the the biggest limitation to the scalability, in my opinion, to really, that can only do one step after the another. Yeah. But just from the kind of from our business model, you know, we don't have any physical yards or trucks or anything. So this is like, we are quite, quite agile. At the same time, of course, you have network effects.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:45:01]:

Right? So, you know, you you build up relationships with your sellers, with the buyers, a huge usually, you know, larger companies. So, you know, once you get deeper in there, it'll it opens up more opportunities and, you know, you have, yeah, you have network effects from, let's say, intensifying that, these relationships and, doing more of of of what we're already doing. So that's, not not necessarily a limitation, but kind of, you know, it suggests to go deeper in there and and it kind of helps you to build network effects and also entry barriers.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:45:38]:

I did I would have a lot more question, but I'm already teasing you for more than 45 minutes straight recording time already. Really thankful for that. Thank you very much. I would like to close with, the 2 standard question. Question number 1, future funding. You just raised a, the largest European investment for steel scrap, €16,000,000 in a series a funding altogether. You raised, more than €18,000,000 according to Crunchbase, but you told me there's also some EU money involved. So it's rather more on the €20,000,000 side.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:46:20]:

Would you guys be open to talk to new investors getting into the the, into your investor crowd like StartupRadio Ventures, FJ Labs, Firstmark from New York, and Cylance VC.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:46:34]:

Yeah. So at that time, it was that that was probably the headline from, like, some steel related publication. But, yeah, it was actually, I think, the largest European, funding round for, for any, like, recycling, or let's say, software or Internet related recycling business. So it's even larger. And that's actually very sad because, I mean, first of all, like, 60,000,000 is also not that much. And, Europe is kind of, these claims to be at the forefront of, let's say, recycling and, and climate tech. So good news in the meantime. I think, SILIP, they they raised, 55,000,000 series a for battery recycling.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:47:21]:

So finally, we have, that that we also see progress there. Back to your question. Yeah. I mean, we are still focused on and and and hats down on, you know, actually executing with the, with the funding that we received. But, yes, we are also we are also, let's say, not not yet planning, also not considering, but, you know, we have a gigantic market. We have still, let's say, a lot to tackle and to figure out. And, so, yeah, we are considering to, to raise more further, for further on as well.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:48:01]:

Well, every every investor interested and listening to this down here in the show notes, wherever you're listening to this, wherever you're watching this, there will be a link to your LinkedIn profile, and people can reach out to you. And to the second or last question, of course, as always, are you looking for talented people?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:48:22]:

Yes. Of course. Always.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:48:24]:

Always. I I suggest we just link down here your career website, which you may have to share with me soon. And then we should be totally fine and everybody can look up all the jobs you have on offer because people are listening to this interview for the next few years, and I don't think we should discuss, single positions there. Mhmm. Sounds good?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:48:51]:

Sounds good. Thank you very much for the invite, John.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:48:55]:

How do you say goodbye in in cards?


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:48:58]:

Baba.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:48:59]:

Baba? Great. Okay. With with a papa, I'll leave you to to the rest of your work day. Thank you very much, Jan. It was pleasure having you as guest.


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:49:09]:

Thanks, Joe. It's been, really


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:49:12]:

fun. Have a


Jan Pannenbäcker | Co-CEO and Co-Founder Metaloop [00:49:12]:

good day.


Jörn "Joe" Menninger [00:49:13]:

Have a good day. Bye bye. Bye.



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