Great to chat with Apoorv Bhargava, CEO & Co-founder at Weave Grid! WeaveGrid works with utilities and electric vehicle (EV) owners to enable and accelerate the electrification of transportation! We discussed the system solutions for decarbonizing electricity and transportation, the venture ecosystem’s view on climate, utilities as regulated monopolies, aligning incentives for a comprehensive energy policy and more!
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The unedited podcast transcript is below
James McWalter: Hello today we’re speaking with Apoorv Bhargava CEO and co-founder at Weavegrid welcome to the podcast Apoorv. Thank you so much. As was to start could you tell us a little bit about Weaverid.
Apoorv Bhargava: Hey, Thanks for having me James really excited to be here. Yeah, sure So Weavegrid is working at the intersection of the most carbon intensive industries in the World. So electricity and transportation as we think about decarbonizing both of those spaces. 1 of the the most important and most interesting things rather about what’s happening is that we’re seeing this curve happen obviously in the electricity space where we’re going from Centralized possible generation to more and more renewables and we’re hoping we can accelerate that as quickly as possible at the same time we’re seeing this s curve and this transition happening in automotive in the automotive world where we’re going from. Internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles and I think the sort of genesis of the name but also the sort of resisone for this company is really that these 2 spaces are converging right in this moment they are both becoming 1 integrated system. They’re going from transportation and electricity. To electrified transportation and so what we’vegrid does is it tries to think about the systems levels problems and the system solutions that we can develop to enable that acceleration of electrobyte transportation to make sure that as more and more electric vehicles come onto the grid. The grid is ready to support them. And actually taking the really positive view. How can we leverage all these giant batteries on wheels in a way that can actually you know, almost add to the resiliency add to the value to the grid and make the grid make the grid really kind of even stronger and and more um. More valuable for all so that’s that’s what we’ve grid on we sit at that that intersection we work very closely. We’ve developed software that that helps utilities. That’s our core customer helps utilities and of course drivers who drive electric vehicles. Um, really kind of benefit from better charging and better understanding of charging.
James McWalter: So yeah, that makes a ton of sense and I guess you know sitting today in November of 2021 like absolutely yeah, you can very clearly see I think the average person on the street can see that these are apps you were at this juncture of this s curve. But I guess when you started the company a few years ago you know.
Apoorv Bhargava: And then of course better management of that charging.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, yeah know when I we started the company of cute a few years ago it was funny I was at ah was at a climate happy hour last night and somebody said you know when you started the company a few years ago I thought you were crazy and I was like that’s great I’m glad I’m glad.
James McWalter: Was was that as known or there was a different initial inspiration to start the company.
James McWalter: That that’s what you want.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, glad you thought I was crazy back then? um, but but it was. It’s funny like you know I’ve been in energy my whole career. My cofounder has been an energy and transportation is all career and I think what both of us saw was this like inevitability that was going to happen. But I think I’m um. You know and we can of course talk about my background later but like I’ve been trained both. You know, educationally, but also just workwise to think about the problem and how it affects every stakeholder and or any problem and how it affects every stakeholders and having empathy for all the stakeholders involved and I think as we thought about this rapid and impending. Growth in electrification. The question that kind of hit us was just that are people thinking about the second order effects. You know I think everybody often talks about the first order questions of are there enough charging stations are there enough batteries are there enough cars out there. All those kind of things and those are super important but our question really was philosophically like What could we as a small you know as a small startup do to accelerate decarbonization. Um, and that’s that’s our mission. You know at the end of the day like both my co-founder and I we we didn’t have like any sort of wild aspirations to go become startup ceo a startup ceo and as a startup. Ah, cto or whatever and just do that for the sake of it. We really wanted to say what can we do and what leverage can we provide to accelerate this decarbonization off our far economy and um as we thought about it. We said there’s this really important challenge that there’s very little understanding. In the whole system in in both these systems as this massive transformation happens and and actually data is really valuable in that and so if data is really valuable, then how do you build the software and the product around it to to enable understanding enable better management and and that’s. That’s the genesis of how we’ve get started. There was probably even more into that but we’ll leave it for later.
James McWalter: Well yeah I guess you know so you mentioned your co-founder. Yeah, how did that kind of initial relationship come about you know and and I guess as you’re kind of ideating on what? yeah, we’ve bridge could become and eventually did become I guess this you know random coffees you know, are you meeting socially like how did that all go.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, yeah, it’s actually funny to say that so so we were both at graduate school at Stanford I was getting my mba and my Ms. In energy and environment and resources engineering and. I had kind of come in asking a few different questions I had had a career before that working again in clean energy and and and climate related things and um, always at the intersection of technology and climate technology and and energy. But when I came into grad school my my 3 big questions were really like okay, how do we innovate better in this sector. Where does venture play a role where does other kinds of financing play a role. What’s changing rapidly on the battery side I’m I’m a chemical engineer by training so I had done a lot of research and in sort of nanomaterials and batteries and so that kind of stuff previously in another life and then you know what? what role the do tools like machine learning and so forth have. In in the space of energy and climate. How can you leverage that given that there’s so much data today which still wasn’t even ten years ago john my cofounder he had he has had sort of ah a mirror image but but different background where he had also. He was also at Stanford getting his ph d in what’s known as management science and engineering very operations, heavy energy modeling about his whole core thesis and and focus was actually on on evs. In fact, he had worked for the cto and cofounder of tesla j b strabble for many years and in fact had also been his ta when jb taught at stanford. And so I think John had seen that world and understood that look at electrification is happeninging. It’s going to be inevitable and I had seen it more from the the utility side but we both didn’t really know each other in graduate school though and so we had a mutual friend who now happens to be a vc as is the way and he was like. Hey you should. You should both connect and so I still remember our first meeting was ah was a coffee and and I keep joking with John we’ve been coffee. We’ve been dating founder dating for a 3 and a half years since then he claims were found or married at this point but you know ah that might work out. Um, but yeah, so we met for coffee started talking I think.
James McWalter: It might work out.
Apoorv Bhargava: We both understood that there were a lot of unanswered questions and I think we we realized that there were some things that were happening rightly and there were some things that people just not thinking deeply enough about and and that led to more and more coffee gates and here we are 3 and a half years on.
James McWalter: Yeah I guess like looking again kind of at where the space is right now you know we’ve seen a ton of sps in the ev space utilities are finally getting some boat internal but also some regulatorgatory pressure to actually open up. Ah you know x for 44 eight forty 1 all these kind of things have been passed.
Apoorv Bhargava: Are.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, no, you’re really knowledgeable about that. Yeah, yeah, yeah, very good.
James McWalter: And so um, so like again, it seems like now like there are a huge amount of kind of tailwinds to kind of make the speed up kind of development of the company. But what do those first couple of years look like in terms of like what initial mvp looked like the initial traction of that woman.
Apoorv Bhargava: Totally yeah I mean it’s interesting to to think back to those days and just think about different as a percentage that we spent our first year so we we met in 2018 early 2018 and we spend our basically almost our first year just doing product market fit analysis I was having this conversation again recently with someone with just said you know, but what was the technology. How did you like come out. Did you come out of lab. What did you do and I was like no no, no, we we had a technology idea we had an idea of what the tech and all the stack would look like but. But fundamentally we we were first fixated by the problem and the problem was what happens when all these vehicles come on to both the road and then the grid right at the same time and what impact does that start to create across the entire system and and again for all the stakeholders who are involved in that system’s transition. What value but also what pain do they each experience and how do we build something that works for them so we spent most of 2018 frankly, living off of that ramen that classic Robin budget and and and just spending time talking to as many potential customers partners users. But we could. We got a really, we were really fortunate to get a grant from Stanford about 50 K I used to hire some interns. We did some market research flew out to conferences John tried to finish up his ph d I think I definitely distracted him from that and so we just spent like ah almost a whole year just doing that. Literally didn’t even incorporate the company and yeah, when we when we started to really see conviction that hold on there’s something here because everyone’s seeing they’re worried they’re thinking about this. They’re not yet committed but they’re thinking about it as like okay there’s something here. There’s a negative fit.
James McWalter: So.
Apoorv Bhargava: And yeah, that’s when we started to to pull together. You know, put put together the company itself incorporated the company and started kind of developing a little bit of an Mvp showing that to customers and saying is this what you would buy would you be interested in it. How much would you pay for it like you know doing that classic kind of customer customer. The the kind of like asking customers. The right questions I guess and then just making sure that there’s validation from them. Um, ours are enterprise customers. So it’s not easy. It takes time to to build those relationships to to put yourself out there to to get that feedback and so we did a lot of that work and then. Yeah, ended up in 2019 approaching the the venture ecosystem which at that point did not view climate and especially selling to utilities did not feel that as a as a hot space so that was a that was a pretty interesting experience going through fundraising but I think we we were. You know, very fortunate and very well just very privileged that we had the opportunity to meet a bunch of venture capitalists and also I had had a brief stint in vc so so new enough of the ecosystem and raised a small round initially and then started building on our team and really building out the product.
James McWalter: Right? And then we we kind of ask forward to now and everybody the amount of Vc dollar is pouring into space is kind of extraordinary. Um, and so I’m sure fundraising now has gotten slightly more selective and easier I’d imagine.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, that’s only. Um, it’s different.. It’s definitely a lot different now. Yeah um I I think I think it’s I think it’s about time that the space gets this as somebody who’s kind of worked on both sides I mean like I think ah.
James McWalter: Um.
Apoorv Bhargava: Ah, it’s wonderful to see this amount of capital flowing and I think public markets have started to figure out first that climate esg all these all these issues are really really, really a big deal and and are going to. Be 1 of the greatest you know, kind of wealth creation opportunities. But also 1 of the greatest dollars can actually produce some of the most meaningful impact and I think as that as that realization is kind of sunk through to the private markets and private investors. Obviously that that that. And see dollars are now starting to accelerate too. So it’s been really wonderful to see that there’s still a huge concentration effect I really still think that there are a ton of amazing companies out there who are still not getting funded and there’s still ah only a small handful who are but but at least that handful is growing. So I feel grateful for that.
James McWalter: Yeah, this is an extraordinary kind of matching issue that still remains like I was talking to a vc friend yesterday and he’s a clean tech vc in New York and he’s like all I think about is like how to improve dealflow and then I talked to to tons of founders who are just like absolutely struggling to get funded at all and it is ah.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, ah grab.
James McWalter: I guess like the actual conversations just are not don’t think being ad and the signal is not being produced strong enough for I guess startups to actually know where to show right? because like if you’re not part of the game like really hard to kind of break into the game to certain extent. And then vice versa like vcs who are you know looking in theory for the Diamond and the rough founders or or startups that are just all around the world. Um, like where those people are congregating is bit of bit of opaque but as much as you want.
Apoorv Bhargava: How much do you want me to opine over here versus Okay, well here’s here’s what I’ll say I think I think having having perhaps both deployed vc dollars but also having like explored and raised from and just like. Thought deeply about the rest of the possible capital stack that could exist I think 1 of the very very very big challenges that we’re dealing with still is that in the early stage fundraising environment if you have a great idea that could be transformational from a climate impact perspective but also. Are not sure if it can grow in the ways that the Vc asset classes used to it can still be really hard to fundraise and the reality is that vc I mean we can dub whatever types of vc what we want to, but like you can call it deep Tech Climate Tech X Y Z Tech Abc tech. But the reality is like Vc has to look like a certain way and a lot of our business model and a lot of the way I had to think when we were building this company was can it fit into a model that not the the climate focus and the clean tech focus people back then can understand but also the andreessen Horowitzs could understand. Because if you can’t get them to believe in it and you can’t get them to buy that like there is something here that’s going to grow and it’s going to look like a vc return if it’s if it succeeds it’s going to look like vc returns then it’s really hard to fundraise and I think there is still that gap which is that to your point you’ve probably met a ton of climate founders who are like I’ve got a great idea I’ve got a great business. And then you’ve got vcs saying oh I Just don’t know where to go find them and and that that mismatch happens because we still lack the capital or the conviction from some vcs that these businesses could be billions of dollars and sometimes we lack the actual capital type that should fund those companies because they aren’t going to grow. In that J Curve esque way and so maybe there’s something else that that needs to fund them. It’s been a. It’s been a huge like passion project of mine to find how we how we fill that that that capital gap and yeah.
James McWalter: Yeah, it’s the you know I often talk to like other kind of climate founders and and that and I’m always like you need 2 decks right? You need like deck for the impact like of venture source and then the impact ah the deck for everybody else and like how you structure.
Apoorv Bhargava: And.
James McWalter: Your story is going to be quite different and like 1 of them has a much more tabm and business model first than the other which is about you know molecules of carbon being the sequester or whatever it may be um.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, totally.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, yep.
James McWalter: You know 1 of the other things you you mentioned is who you sell to right and the trepidation that I guess some not just vcs as we’re talking about but in general when I’ve looked at the energy space and potential ideas for myself I’ve looked at utilities and sign to utilities and it completely terrified me. Um I guess you know you you do come out of ah like a clean energy kind of approach. Um.
Apoorv Bhargava: Ah.
James McWalter: But a lot of the sales cycles for utilities I think can be multiple years Sometimes there’s not always the right incentives internally. Um, how have you found kind of selling to utilities. And yeah as as a kind of general approach for not just yourselves. But then I guess other founders in the space.
Apoorv Bhargava: Sure.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, absolutely so this is gonna this is you know if this podcast makes it to energy Twitter one day ah this is either gonna make me friends or lose me friends I don’t know. But um, the way probably both It’s fine. That’s just the life of Twitter. Ah I think I think the reality is that like. We love painting narratives of black and white and like none of those narratives making a ton of sense I I think utilities are let me let me back up before even going into utilities and who they are as stakeholders I think the electric grid is the most amazing and transformative technology. That as a society we have had the privilege to to benefit from and if we don’t see if we don’t understand that like I think we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice. The twentieth century would not have been possible. Had it not been for the fact that you can flip a switch and have access to light have access to power have access to motive force have access to all these things. Like we’ve just done so so so easily now like I mean we don’t even think about the fact that literally we’re blowing things up in the background somewhere or transmitting a bunch of power across massive power lines and bringing it to our homes like we just don’t think about it. It’s literally disappeared in the background given that I think. Transformative effect that that has had on societies and I can speak to this as a person who has seen countries without that that privilege like it is so transformational from a development perspective from an industrial perspective from everything I think of course there are going to be stakeholders whose job. It is to build and maintain that. Incredible infrastructure I think utilities I’ve done that and I’ve done that really well. So my question is as you think about the next wave of what we need to transform which is mobility what platform do I believe can give us the ability to scale that super quickly cost effectively. And do it in a way where where we can actually you know we can. We can actually like make that electrified future happen and what tools and services. Do we need to provide those people and be empathetic to the fact that you know they’ve got they’ve got Regulators who regulate them. That’s a good thing about being a Monopoly utility you have you are regulated you know and then. There’s a lot of businesses that I won’t I won’t name names but like who aren’t regulated and are basically monopolies so at least utilities are regulated monopolies and and I think that’s ah, that’s a really great thing because it means that they are constantly scrutinized and ask questions of like why are you spending these dollars what objectives are you trying to meet. And there’s a great set of stakeholder. There’s a stakeholder dynamic around that for that reason though, you know they’re prudent in the way they behave they’re they’re obviously risk averse because every decision they take if it causes the power to go out. Yeah, it’s a really big deal lives are at at Stake you know so they’re slow their risk.
James McWalter: No.
Apoorv Bhargava: Risk averse etc. That said electrification is something that they are super excited about and want to enable oh by the way transportation is 31 percent of emissions. It’s the largest form of emissions in the United states electricity is actually only 29 percent and I mean I say only but like. Reality is like that’s an amazing opportunity for utilities to both continue helping the decarbonization pathway of their own fleets on on the on the power plant site but also to actually enable the future of electrification and leverage this grid this platform that has done everything from you know, massively industrialized certain countries and. Provide really high quality power for all of us so that we can live these lives with computers and phones and all of this other stuff and now electric cars and I think to me it was about being empathetic to our customer recognizing that nobody goes to work at a utility because they want to burn a ton of coal and like. A bad person. No they want to go there because they think they’re doing a really great job helping people and helping people’s lives and there’s some really really smart people inside of utilities and so understanding what they really needed not what I think they need not what I want them to want but what they really need. And then making sure that our product actually meets those meets those needs and provides those provides those outcomes for them. It is a long sale cycle. You know you’re not wrong about that. But I think about a lot of other climate tech like there’s a lot of you know there’s a lot of development time and technology to be risking time in all these like. You know, carbon removal companies and things like that so time is time like that time can go into technology. They’re risking. It can go into product Market. Be risking. It can go into sales ultimately the question I ask myself is like do I have confidence in our technology do I have confidence in our ability to execute do i. The ability to hire an amazing team to go execute against it and do I think that sales being lengthy is something that I can continue to shrink down and and I have confidence in all those things. So um I think I think it’s a lot less risky to some extent than than hoping that like this new innovative approach to I’m just going to pick on technology Green hydrogen works. 10 years from now and then I can sell it and scale it after those 10 years like it’s it’s just as risky or probably more so.
James McWalter: That’s super interesting I mean in 1 sense, you know we’re going to elect try everything right? or some portion of the world economy over the next few decades and so the centrality of utilities and people who are managing the energy and in some sort of way becomes ever more important and I guess like 1 of the I guess the.
Apoorv Bhargava: This. Yeah.
James McWalter: And I’ve talked to maybe a dozen utilities as part of some my own kind of research on and on different ideas and I guess like the thing that I would love to see potentially morphine utilities is kind of ah a bit more of a seasonizing of the day like you know the utilities save the world right? like you are the heroes of the of the potential future to a certain extent like in the enablement of the technology. And all these other elements that are emergent right? So like Green hydrogen doesn’t work without a massively like larger more fortified grid with basically you know negative and negative solar power costs. You know, same for direct our capture same for vertical farming like a lot of these things are very very dependent on a.
Apoorv Bhargava: Are here. Yeah.
James McWalter: Yeah, a clean grid a but then also like ubiquitous cheap solar and some of the other types of renewable energy all built on you know wires that a utility at the end of the day in any sort of 30 year time horizon will still be run by utilities to a certain extent. so um so I guess like so 1 of the things I’m still trying to figure out and maybe some of this is regulation. Maybe some of this is just.
Apoorv Bhargava: Shirt. Sure.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um.
James McWalter: Pressure being brought on to bear by companies like wavegrid and so on is about like how the incentives like pledgey have to shift because the incentives in the I guess old world right were but are maybe not kind of suitable for the new world that’s kind of emergent. So how do you think about those kind of incentives. What levers could potentially have to be pulled.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, yeah I think it’s a fantastic question and and I also I think I also sometimes feel similarly ah sad that like you can’t grab the the opportunity by the horns as easily right. I mean it comes down to like what the definition of the institution is the institution that is today called the utility in America is generally about the maintenance and the upkeep off poles and wires that bring electricity to your home There are some utilities who also own power generation. Are some entities that are not utilities but are what are known as independent power producers who do ah produce power and sell into energy markets and do things like that I think every utility is asking themselves a bunch of questions of like what can we do, but ultimately it comes down to like what are they regulated and able to do. And I think there’s an intense debate going on between like for example and and this is the area we operate in. But there’s an intense debate going on is to can Monopoly utilities own and operate like the default charging stations that are required across. Like an entire service territory right? So instead of having 15 different brands of chargers where my keyring looks like I have like you know a thousand different key cards and things like that can I just have 1 experience across my entire ah entire utility service territory right. And if you if you kind of shock to the federal government. They’re talking about now creating a federal charging network and all that so like how do we simplify that. How do we make that easy. Well I think if you talk to most utilities, you’ll say yeah I want to do that I totally want to do that I have onboard but under what jurisdictional authority are they allowed to do those things right. My argument is. It’s probably the most efficient thing there’s reasons why you don’t want that to happen also but like okay like what what do we all care about and I think the problem is that we all don’t care about the same thing I care about decarbonizing as quickly as possible. Don’t care as much about the extension of Monopoly power for somebody who is already regulated as a monopoly because that’s a whole point of regulation. It is to make sure that they don’t make unfair profits and so Forth. Um, and I think like that is a different view frankly like that is 1 of my hot takes that I often have when it comes to like. You know, debating others in my field is like I don’t I don’t think that there’s that much sense to like balkanizing every part of clean energy and making it such a complex ecosystem to navigate that like we actually lose sight of why we’re doing this in the first place which is decarbonizing as damn quickly as possible.
Apoorv Bhargava: Seizing the day on every other thing from Green hydrogen to vertical farms to all of that I think again like there is a question of what can the regulated and the unregulated arm do if you are regulated. You are regulated as a monopoly because of the compact that you struck which is like I own every single customer and in order to do so. Have to like you know, not make unfair profits and here are all these opportunities to make unfair profits in some sense right? and so it’s like who you know what can the platform that the utility has with their customers with the grid itself the neutral physical platform. What can they do. To enable all these amazing technologies that will decarbonize the future and I think there are a lot of ways where you can accelerate that you can you can improve it. Some of it is cultural. You have to of course you know you’ve got to have the right people inside these institutions. Some of it is technical. So of it is simplest processes I mean seriously, there’s like antiated processes and in many institutions where you are talking about like oh I need to go get this permit this is going to take me 15 pieces of paper that have to me move from 1 department to the other because that’s just how it worked and nobody’s thought about going and upgrading that. But I think 1 gives me a lot of hope is that. There’s a big utility backed fund called energy impact partners based out of new york and a couple of other places they just raised a billion dollar fund today like the climate focus vc fund growths fund I mean that’s amazing. You know, like that is that is so cool to see that kind of capital also moving in of course a lot of it is going to be strategically aligned. So. I I totally agree with you. It’s it’s 1 of those moments where I’m like ah it would be amazing. but I but I think this kind of goes to the comprehensive this this just goes to a frustrated for mine for the last decade and a half that I’ve been working in the sector which is like we just don’t have comprehensive energy policy in this country or climate policy. And I think if we had more comprehensive policy I think then we could have the conversation of like who owns jurisdictional rights to do what and you know does a carbon price or a carbon fee or whatever you want to call it does that for example, align incentives in a certain way because it all comes back to exactly what you said which is. How do we align incentives to do the right thing right? And and I think there are there are pricebased signals. You can take there are regulatory based approaches. You can take and and the question is just like what do you need to do to to accelerate that. Um, yeah I don’t know that answer to your question I think I just too great. Ah.
James McWalter: Yeah, no, no, it’s it’s super helpful I mean I I guess kind of you know, thinking about like specific kind of paths to where we’re we’re potentially going to go over the next you know, 5 to ten years and I guess I’d love to kind of get back into. You know the the role we’ve it’s going to play in in those kind of immediate next five to 10 years but 1 of the kind of things I keep thinking about is once you start getting to thirty percent plus ev penetration for a given jurisdiction right? particularly in cities where you might not have like ah a ton of single-fami homes for people to plug in. Um, what does the Friday before long weekend but fourth fourth july weekend look like right? like do you have? ah you know queues down the road.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, yeah, yeah.
James McWalter: Um, do you have just a kind of all of a sudden like there’s going to be some weekend that’s going to be very very stressful to the average ev owner because all of a sudden. There’s just tons of evs and then you also get into ideas around like straight on the grid.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, yeah, exactly.
James McWalter: Um, maybe they’re all trying to charge at the exact same time if you all of a sudden have this massive spike in the price of electricity at like 6 p m on a Friday before fourth july weekend like what what does that mean and what is the reaction to the average consumer to and does that potentially like slow down the adoption of dvs and so you know I think often like I think having learned a bit but.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, totally.
James McWalter: We’ve grade like I think a lot about how we’ve gri can potentially like you know, help stop something like that kind of happen. So yeah’d I’d love to hear how you think yeah, weve it’s going to have that sort of impact of the next couple years
Apoorv Bhargava: Ah, hundred hundred percent. So. that’s that’s like that’s again the whole reason for starting this company. It’s it’s it is the belief that you know the the system that is electricity is incredibly powerful. It is incredibly it has just been such an amazing amazing system. Drive so much growth and so much prosperity and so forth and at the same time electrifying transportation is a very necessary thing we need to do in order to decarbonize transportation that said the grid is not ready for that many vehicles to show up tomorrow. It could be ready in 10 years question is do we have 10 years to to slowly and gently bring them online so exactly to your point if we want to grow electrification exponentially what steps do we need to take both at a planning level at a management level at a forecasting and prediction level at an intelligence level to just understand and manage. All of this growth of ah evs and really really importantly going back to the consumer. How do we ensure that this incredibly huge behavior shift that’s happening where a person goes from driving an internal combustion engine vehicle to driving an electric car. That behavior shift happens in a way which is seamless and where the customer doesn’t have to ever worry because anxiety is like you know people talk about range anxiety I think there’s charging anxiety and I think like charging anxiety kills people more kills this this thing slows down the growth way more than range anxiety does I think we’re going to. Surpass range anxiety easily in the next couple years and I think charging anxiety too will also be removed as more and more cars are capable of really fast charging but that doesn’t actually explain consumer behavior like most consumer behavior is not the fourth of july weekend and I think like. That’s the point is like actually ninety five percent of consumer behavior is something totally different and so how do we take that behavior. How do we take? The. How do we take the the implications of that behavior if that driving and charging behavior and turn that into insights analytics management. Everything for the entity. That’s managing the grid. And also enable them and other stakeholders who are trying to put out the requisite infrastructure such that when it comes to those edge cases. No 1 is ever feeling stranded or or not not ready to do what they need to do right? and so I just think I think that’s that’s like. Fundamentally the question behind wevegrid right? is like how do we enable this like this electrification transformation to not run into roadblocks and and speed bumps. Um, as as it kind of takes off and and and we think that there’s a there’s a there’s a ton of work but but like any system you got to start with just understanding things.
Apoorv Bhargava: I mean I feel like you know, um I always use the the metaphor of like you got to monitor and understand you then got to predict and then you’ve got to manage and you know I think that that applies to basically every system in the world. But but I think especially now so with electrification.
James McWalter: I Guess like in a situation where we’vegrid is deployed. You know I’m I’m an Ev driver wevegrid is deployed in my local Mo local utility like what? what? how does my experience change.
Apoorv Bhargava: Yeah, your experience looks really damn good. Ah, basically um, if you’re if you’re a customer in a utility where reprint is deployed your utility would offer you some sort of. Better rateed or a incentive or whatever and through very very very simple, um, experience through a very simple customer experience. That’s all kind of white labeled. It’s white labeled eds or it’s your utility as your auto make or whatever the stakeholders that you’re comfortable and they’re aware of we’ve could basically. Brings together those data streams that matter to us you go through a 2 step signon process takes probably a minute and then on the back end what the utility gets to see is again that analytics those insights. All of that. But for the consumer you have access to suddenly. Wide variety of charging insights understanding what you’re doing behaviorally understanding what you could be doing better and then most importantly, just setting and forgetting hikiope want to have to think about your charging again. dayto- dayto day. You just want to come home plug in your car. And the charging will be taken care of and that’s what we enable for you as a consumer of course while saving you money of course whilst getting you the the cleanest energy possible of course while doing all of those things but like we we consider that table Stakes. We consider you being fully charged. We consider you being you know, getting the greenest and cleanest. Electricity fully you know like as table stakes and I think the key thing is like we want to remove any cognitive burden that you feel as a consumer your needs always come first as a consumer that is like the thing we believe is like actually the utility needs to understand the consumer’s needs and needs to play with. What availability the consumer provides them not the other way around and I think there’s too much conversation in the energy world of like but what can the consumer give the utility. It’s like no no, no the consumer’s needs come first and then whatever is remaining goes to the grid and the utility and so forth.
James McWalter: So and so I guess then you know I let’s say I have an ev I want it fully charged in the morning because I need to call my commute. But for example, would it be something like I only charge between 2 am and 5 am because there’s actually electricity very cheap. The grid is very stable at that time and night and that would be optimized.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, yeah.
Apoorv Bhargava: Sure I think I think you would not have to think about any of that like again, my point is like we should not be asking people to make those kinds of decisions because no matter no matter how much information we provide you like you’ll never really know.
James McWalter: Everybody involved.
Apoorv Bhargava: The exact right time and the reason I say that is because those rates that you’re describing those like really cheap charging rates and so Forth. They only actually tackle a part of the system that is at risk from electrification. They’re only actually helping us take advantage of like the cheapest power prices. But it doesn’t actually start to help us understand like what risk the rest of the grid is at if everybody starts charging at 2 am and so it’s actually not beneficial for everybody to to be charging it to am it is beneficial for us to spread the charging out and so our view is like we just don’t want you to have to think about it. It will be done. It will be fully charged. It will be charged well before you need it.
James McWalter: That makes sense 1 of the things I notice about weavegrid because you mentioned white labeling and 1 of the I guess struggles I’ve had with as I’ve dug into the energy space is that a lot of the big kind of exciting companies tend to be vertically integrated.
Bhargava: And you just need to go home and plug it in.
James McWalter: And when I look across like where are the horizontal companies right? Where are the you know type of energy the Aws of energy like you know companies that service a lot of stakeholders like across the energy space. Um, and we’verid is you know a horizontal play that I think is absolutely Fascinating. Um, but I guess you know so my question is like are there other kind of. Yeah, where is there scope for more innovation. More smart people to kind of come in particularly in horizontal plays and it could be to do it. Tv It could be you know anything within clean energy. Um, because I’ve talked to tos of people who want to like get involved or coming from a software but or data background and energy is so hard to get into that like everyone just.
Apoorv Bhargava: So yeah.
James McWalter: Seems to end up. Well let’s get some assets and then let’s vertically integrate all the way up to you know some customers and kind of go up through there rather than um, building software data that actually can service a lot of different stakeholders. Yeah.
Apoorv Bhargava: Um, ah, it’s really hard but I think it’s really hard I think that’s why most people don’t do it. So so transparently the reason I think we are that way is because we just spent an immense amount of time understanding each of the stakeholders involved and. Also we’re ready to take the bet that even though the stakeholder sales our conversion cycle. Whatever you want to call it right is long. It just it’s it’s something that um we were willing to better so bet on and we were willing to bet that like we could we could get through that. How do you innovate better. How how do you create more horizontal businesses in this space. Um I think you have to look the like the constant struggle right? between vertical and horizontal is like you have to look for products or you have to build a product rather you have to look for a need that is consistent across every single um across every single stakeholder. And then once you find that need you have to build a product around that need that can easily scale horizontally but energy has not traditionally been that way like I think it is it is ah it is an industry that has been built around a lot of bespoke use cases and things like that and so I think 1 of the classic examples of this often right is like. People who try to break into energy tech and say oh like I’m going to go solve building energy efficiency and that is like the 1 where like most people go in and they’re like well there’s 1 hundred thousand buildings in the city of new york what I’m making it up and then they realize building a building b. We’re go to building 100 thousand all look entirely freaking different and it’s so hard then to build a horizontal business because what you end up saying is like actually this is just there is no consistency right? So I think but that’s not true. You just have to keep digging. You have to keep looking. You have to find. Have to find the thing that every 1 of those those entities is experience in the the same pain that every 1 of those entities experienced so I don’t know if I answer the question but what I would say is like spend time really getting to know your customer I mean that’s that’s the thing that’s just like we spent so long doing obsess less than the technology obsess more in the customer. That’s like that gives you the the patterns of like oh this could go horizontal. This could go article and I I’ll just say like again having worn an investor hat previously and and some of the angel mess against so forth that I do like I I have noticed so many people who want to pitch me on like the ai for this and the ai and the ml for that like.
James McWalter: Makes a Thomas sense.
Apoorv Bhargava: Look guys like that’s all great, but ultimately like what is the pain point you’re going to actually solve and like that that is what I want to hear.
James McWalter: Right? Like talk talk pain talk problem. Don’t talk the buzzwords which are very easy like those can always be added later. You know.
Apoorv Bhargava: Totally and I actually think like that’s the thing that tech does so well I mean like honestly our team is you know we have a ton of expertise and internal Expertise internal knowledge about utilities Policymakers I often joke like. Our stack starts at the regulator and goes all the way down to our kubernetes cluster like we have to think all the way and and but at the same time like we we like have hired some of the best and brightest people from companies like slack Google Facebook you name it like get around I mean like we have. Ah, very traditional and incredibly and I say traditional but like incredibly smart tech team and engineering team because the problems are the same and and this resonated a lot with them when we describe what we were doing because they’re like wait I get it like this is this is a data problem. Um, So yeah I think I think I Think. Tech knows how to solve these problems. It’s just you got to spend time actually getting to know your customer.
39:45.36 James McWalter: And I guess you know as you’ve kind of yeah as a role in your role a ceo right? Um I believe this is first time you’ve been ceo of a company. It’s been a few years in you’re you’re hitting again. This inflection point or you’re kind of you know the company’s doing quite well, what’s your biggest surprise as a ceo over the last few years.
Apoorv Bhargava: So. Oh.
Apoorv Bhargava: Oh that’s a good question. What has might been my biggest surprise over the last few years. Ah that it’s been doing so well I don’t know I just like I I’m like wow this worked I think you live. Live in a lot of imposter syndrome when you’re when you’re starting a company and like here we are we were 6 people pre covid and this week we’re 36 I think we’re going to like 45 or something in the end of here. Um I don’t know I think my biggest a surprise is just like ah.
James McWalter: Yeah.
Apoorv Bhargava: There’s team surprise and then there said I think there’s personal surprise I Think let me start with the personal surprise. My personal surprise is like being being deeply appreciative to just like all the mentors all the like investors friends family Whoever who has taken. So much effort to like continue to guide me keep me motivated dealt with my ups and Downs. Of course my cofounder goes in there like the ups and downs of running a company and like that has enabled me personally to grow and recognize my strengths and of course very importantly, my weaknesses I think at a team level.
James McWalter: Button.
Apoorv Bhargava: I day in day out I’m just amazed at like I’m a big big big believer in delegation and like I’m just amazed like at the capacity that individuals have to like go from day 1 saying hey I came in wanting to do this 1 x y z thing and that’s what I was told and like by day ninety they’re saying. Actually owned 3 other things and I have it under control. Don’t you worry about it and I’m just so blown away every time I see that because I’m like I didn’t even tell you to do that’s amazing. How did you figure that out and that that blows my mind every day because I think every time we’ve added even 1 person. We suddenly see this like. Exponential expansion of capabilities. That’s just like mind blowing to me when I remember myself like me and John sitting there tunneling write out a bunch of crap by ourselves everything from the powerpoint deck to the Mvp to the whatever and like here we are and I’m like like all these amazing people doing all these crazy things. So i. That that continues to all unsurpris me every day I don’t I don’t have much better for that for that answer.
James McWalter: Love love that I guess like on the imposster syndrome Piece. It is this fascinating thing I was in a room full of founders. The youngest of which was 18 the oldest of which you know in their forty s and like everyone’s like talking about you know of like to be by definition in that room like everyone thinks they’ll build a billion dollar company but then like. Also thinking in the elevator up or down like I’m just full shit like you know it know it’s just like you’re just moving between these 2 like extremes like on constant basis. Um, poor. This has been absolutely Brilliant. Oh massive This has been brilliant I Guess from finish up is there anything I should ask you about but did not.
Apoorv Bhargava: I’m full of shit. Yeah.
Bhargava: The Cognitive dissonance. Yeah. About the 1 Sorry no I Love these conversations I don’t I don’t think so I mean like here’s the thing we’re Growing. We’re hiring, please come check out our roles I think that’s great I Think for everybody who’s listening to this podcast.
James McWalter: Is there anything I should have asked you about but did not.
Apoorv Bhargava: Keep listening to amazing podcasts like this keep getting inspired by the things you hear by the people you talk to and seriously like come up with ideas reach out to people talk to people. It is so amazing I like take four to 5 calls from people that I know I’m never going to hire a week but I just talk to them because I want more people in the sector I think a market success for me is. Seeing more people in the sector of course I want this company to succeed. Of course you know I want to grow it do all that but like I just want to see so many more people come into this, you know and I think that’ll that’ll that’ll truly be what we need that is truly what we need to to make a dent and to to really go after climate change and um, yeah, like. But you know on a very personal and and selfish note go check out the jobs and we’ve read and I’m sure sure a lot of you will be good fit there.
James McWalter: And we’ll add it to the show notes. And yeah I definitely echo those sentiments. Thank you very much.
Apoorv Bhargava: Yeah, likewise. Cheers! Thanks so much James.