Total Blackout Smart Windows – E81

Great to chat with Ameen Saafir, CEO & Co-Founder at Tynt Technologies, Tynt is developing the next generation of smart windows, based on proprietary reversible metal electrodeposition technology! We discussed the fun and challenge of commercializing new technologies, finding the right startup partnerships, how cleantech homes are more comfortable homes, advice on raising capital and more!

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Thanks so much! 

James

The unedited podcast transcript is below

James McWalter

Hello today we’re speaking with Amin Saafir CEO and co-founder at Tynt technologies welcome to podcast I mean great I suppose to start could you tell us a little bit about Tynt technologies.

Ameen Saafir 

Um, thanks James thanks for having me.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, so Tynt Technologies we’re making smart windows these are windows that will go in your home push a button and they go from a clear state to a completely dark opaque privacy state. The reason that we’re doing this is essentially to save Energy. You can save up to 30% of your. Energy costs while increasing comfort in your home like.

James McWalter

And I guess what drove the initial decision to start tynt least.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, so I guess to get to there I have to tell you a little bit about where I started right? So my background’s a material science I studied that at Stanford with a guy named Mike Mcgee for my master’s degree. We were working on oleds back then I went and worked on oleds for about 8 years and then about ten years ago I started thinking about sustainability and climate and how it can make a bigger impact on the world. A lot of people with my background were going into things like solar batteries and other types of energy storage and I saw smart windows as an opportunity to take everything I learned in. Flat panel displays and how to make them and scale them up and do something that was you know good for the environment. So I joined a company called Kestol they’re now called Hao I spent 8 years there was ultimately our chief engineer responsible for scaling up that technology and about a year and a half ago I got a call from Professor Mcgee my old professor saying hey I’ve got this new technology. We’ve been developing. It’s in the smart windows space. But it’s fundamentally completely different than what you’ve been working on and everything else out there. We help us figure out what to do with this and then you know we spent a couple months going back and forth and. You know I ultimately flew out to boulder from California saw it in person for the first time and was like okay, let’s start this company right? It just was clearly the the leap in technology that’s needed to really bring this technology on this product to the mass market and really have the environmental impact that. You could potentially realize from smart windows.

James McWalter

And in that I guess that basically 10 year time period like how has that technology changed right? What what was the I guess state of the art ten ten years ago compared to what tint is doing today. So.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, so but the first company to really hit the market was a company called Vue originally called soladyme they recently they’re not publicly traded and they have a technology that’s based on we call it electrochroic it’s based on 2 oxide materials that when they. Absorb or des absorb lithium. They change colors and so every other smart window company out there today uses some version of that technology whether it’s sage blast what we did at Choestsol and others and the differentiator between those different companies. Is essentially the way that material is applied and the way it’s processed so the advancement that we had at choeststerol was instead of using you know, big vacuum chambers to sputter to deposit these materials. Everything was processed out of solution right? and that was my expert expertise was how to solution process things on. Big piece of glass. So that’s how that wasn’t fit for me and there’s other companies out there now that are doing different processing techniques. But they’re all using these metal oxide films. What tint does is fundamentally different in that we actually have a electrolyte material that’s based on a polymer and there’s metal ions inside. And those metal ions when you apply a voltage to the window. So when you apply charge to the window. It actually creates creates a metal film inside the window on a piece of glass that metal then blocks the light directly and a couple of the fundamental advantages. This technology 1 were able to achieve complete. Total blackout privacy. The other technology only gets down to about 1% transmission in the dark state and the other is that our color is completely neutral just based on the metals that we’ve chosen. So it’s a leap in the technology as opposed to. And evolution in the technology. It’s like comparing oled to lcd. It’s really fundamentally different. Although at the end of the day we’re still all making smart windows.

James McWalter

And and so when you were kind of having those conversations which are now now cofounder you know you’d been at the previous company for 8 years I’ve in my career been out of a company for exactly that amount of time as well. You have all those deep relationships. You know how it all works. You know, taking that leap into you know a startup world. You know that’s quite a. Very early start of world is quite quick to leap and so what was kind of your thought thought process that this is yeah your next kind of step in your career who.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, you know I’ve always wanted to start like a hard tech company I’ve started a couple of you know app companies and I started something in college that didn’t go very far but um, you know so it was always a thought that I might do this at some point. Um. Frankly to be totally honest here. I was always a little bit you know afraid of the fundraising part right? It seems very daunting that you have to go out and raise eight and a half million dollars to get something started. Um and and again my first conversations with Mike where I’m absolutely not going to do this man I just spent 8 years scaling up a technology and building a factory and delivering product and you know why would I want to start over and again when I when I saw it it was just it was so compelling. You know that in order to really have the impact on the world that you want have you have to have something people want you have to be able to deliver it. At scale you have to be able to deliver it at low cost and the first time I saw it again having seen all these other technologies. It was like oh man this is it. You know we’ve got to do this regardless of like I might want to go work for Apple and just like collect the paycheck for the next ten years or retire like this is what I have to do and you know we. We we got started I picked up my family and moved from California here to boulder to to make this happen and it was just again such a compelling technology and a way to really achieve the impact that we want to achieve with with smart windows. Yeah.

James McWalter

Yeah, absolutely love that you know taking those kind of big bets when you see that you know massive upside that massive opportunity right? I think is is like so so many founding relationships have been based on that where somebody has made this advance and maybe you know. Want to bring in other skillsets. Yeah, the business side or whatever it may be to kind of figure out those kind of next steps and so you know when you um, you know it’s 1 thing I guess you seeing something very very cool in the lab right? But yeah, typical kind of next step is like some sort of kind of plan for commercialization. Um, what was it that kind of process and thought process like right.

Ameen Saafir 

Right? Yeah, and so there’s 2 parts of that right? There’s the technical side which is getting the the technology from something in the lab to something that can be a product and again I had a lot of experience with that and that was why professor mcgee called me. Ultimately you know. Did it in oleds did it in smart windows and so we felt like bringing me out to the team really helped kind of mitigate that risk right? If anyone’s going to be able to figure out how to do this I felt like I could bring that to the table. The other side of it was you know, do people want this version of the technology and. professor mcgee had done a great job over the four or five years developing this cultivating relationships with different companies in the industry and again a lot of people had the same reaction that I did where they’ve seen everything right because they’re already interested in smart windows and I can’t really name a lot of these companies but they’re well-known companies and. When they saw his technology they’re like oh wow like this is fundamentally different. It’s a game-changer again being able to give the blackout which is really big, especially for residential and some other applications. Um the low cost the easy processibility of it have a neutral color. So. It was clear to me when I came in that while we were starting from scratch. He’d done a great job as a professor of not just pushing the technology but starting you know to to grow some of those roots into the market and make some of those relationships so when I came in you know it’s kind of like the ball is already in the air and I just had to you know dunk it through the hoop right? so. Um, you know meetings already set up with some of these big companies. We had our pick between several to you know, kind of have our first partnership with and he laid a lot of groundwork for that.

James McWalter

And so what? what are those kind of early partners like where is I guess tynts kind of today in terms of distribution.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, so we’re you know we’re still early right? We’re still developing the technology. We don’t have a product yet. We have signed ah a joint development agreement with ah with a major player in the industry and along with that a plan to commercialize with them. So we have someone that’s going to help us bring our technology to market and we’re working very closely with them again. This is a you know multi-billion dollar company that has been looking at these technologies for a very long time and and so that’s that’s kind of our first kind of foray into the market is to jointly. Release a product with this company unfortunately can’t share their name today but we’ll be able to do that you know in the coming months here.

James McWalter

Yeah, it’s kind of this i’ talked to a few people who are working on everything from you zero carbon cement to other materials and there’s this kind of decision to be had around kind of self-branding versus you know, relying the distribution of existing kind of partnerships right? So you know vertically integrating to try to.

Ameen Saafir 

And then.

James McWalter

Got all the way to to delivery and and own the relationship with the person literally installing the window you know at the out of somebody’s home or at an office building. Whatever it may be Um, how do you think about? you know the tradeoffs between those different kind of approaches. You know Partnerships licensing versus kind of full vertical integration all the way down to the install cloud.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, what I like about the partnership approach especially in windows. So there’s a trust factor here right? So it’s not like you know buying a smart watch or even a cell phone where you know this thing breaks in a year to okay you know you’re out. You know a few hundred bucks you know you’re installing this in your home you expect it to last you know. 2030 years and so going to market with a partner who’s got a trusted name that people recognize I think really helps with that. It. Also it raises the bar for us. We know we’re going to have to meet these requirements that they’ve had for you know, many decades and so there’s a big advantage there we think in terms of the trust factor getting into people’s homes. Um, the the downside of that is that you know obviously you’re you’re sharing margins there. You’re sharing revenue with this other company and so we’ve actually developed a a way to go to market while we start with a partner that helps us get to market and then we branch out on our own when the time is right? and so. Deal is structured to enable us to do that. They’re very supportive in that that you know the first product first product lines will be with them and then the way the market segmented that that will be certainly you know one one product with them and then there’s a different product line that would be a tint product or whatever you know trade name. We come up with between now and then but something that we do. Go to market with and again I think the advantage there is once you’ve built that trust now you can capture more of the value. A big part of again. Why I’m doing this is is the energy management the energy impact and and I firmly believe that that should start with the window if you look at the most efficient way to heat your home. It’s with energy from the sun.

James McWalter

Right.

Ameen Saafir 

And the most efficient way to cool your home is to block out that energy from the sun when you don’t need the light and so you start with the window letting in the right amount of light to heat your home or keep your home cool then you let your thermostat you let your smart vents and you let your lights. Kind of makeup for what’s needed in terms of heating cooling and lighting and so the only way you can really manage that and own that relationship is if you’re delivering that product to the customer right? It’s hard to do that If You’re a component supplier. Um you know through a window company and so ultimately, that’s what we’re looking at doing is we want to help manage energy manage comfort in the home. And do that by selling the product to the customer.

James McWalter

Yeah I guess one thought that comes to mind is you know the toad addressable market. It’s like everything we do to cover our windows today right? like you know shutters blinds you know all these different things are because we don’t have ah like an easier off- the-shellf way to have that you know ability to kind of adjust the light that comes in in and a. Windows. You know, yeah and want to think about like windows themselves and like you know the the kind of evolution. You know we had single paned glass. We. We started having um you know double pain. Maybe a few decades ago now we’re kind of triple glazed etc. Um I guess why has there been like so. Little I guess innovation in the last hundred years and and you know this is like the first I guess big leap forward since you know double glazing right.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, um, that’s that’s a good question and it’s a great opportunity for us and I think it really comes down to like selling windows is a really good business right? You know there’s five hundred Million Square feet of of windows or 130000000

James McWalter

The great.

Ameen Saafir 

Windows that get sold every year between the us and europe and it’s a great business and people don’t expect innovation from their window right? They really just want to be able to see outside energy efficiencies only really become important residentially in the last decade or so and people still don’t want to pay too much for it. So a lot of the innovation that you’re seeing today. Even you know you mentioned triple glazing there’s vacuum insulated glass. You now have this transparent solar it really is towards increasing energy efficiency and and we’re in that that game too. But we think the comfort aspect of light management really sets us apart there. But yeah, a lot of these companies. Also that dominate this space are they’re very big and they’re very conservative and they’re happy with where they are right? and so a lot of the conversations we have are you know this is a great technology but it might cannibalize some other solution we have out there right? And so. There’s sort of the innovators dilemma there right? where it’s just it’s been slow. The market hasn’t really asked for it. People don’t really know what’s possible. You know if you look at science fiction though you look at I mean go back to kimmer. It was the first or second ironman where you know they wake up on the overlooking the the coast in Malibu and the the windows are dark and then they you know. Jarvis ah clears the window. So the sun comes in and you got the news like that’s the future right? But someone’s got to actually do that and it’s not coming from. You know the window companies. It’s going to come from either startups like us or maybe other technology companies you know display companies and things like that.

James McWalter

Yeah I think in general people working on these kind of large scale replacements of the existing built and built world have done a we’ve collected. We’ve done a bad job of describing how much better that future could potentially be right? You know I’ve this kind of line that like you know often we say it’s It’s basically now but a few more solar panels on the roof.

Ameen Saafir 

With.

James McWalter

But it’s like no like a electrified home is just like genuinely just like a massive advancement over what we’ve had before you know when you have like you know, passive home heating when you have you know electrified kitchen when you have like yeah like what tint is building. You actually have a lifestyle that is just categorically better than what we have today and I think you know we. People working on these projects working on these products need to do a you know a collective better job of like just showing how much better that life is. It’s not just sustainability is important but it’s actually just the lifestyle is also dramatically better as well.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, it is about you know for us. The mission is about sustainability but the value add to the customer is about making your life better making your life more comfortable right? and having that right amount of light come in when you need it and you know never having glare. You know, always having lots of natural light. You think about people that. Build these homes with big windows and then they put window treatments over him and they just leave them closed because it’s just too much effort to go and and and open them every day right? because they’re going to get glare at six thirty and so they just leave it closed and so actually enjoying your home enjoying your view and and and having comfort we think is a big. You know a selling point to to homeowners.

James McWalter

Yeah, and just on the kind of full blackout is and like that alone honest like it’s very exciting to Me. You know my wife um has a you know strong positive obsession with like sleep hygiene that now has kind of hit me and so you know if we do not have complete blackout lines where we’re staying like we have our eye masks and all that kind of thing. And it genuinely had on like a massive improvement in you know health and well-being and you know you think about so many times you’ll say in a hotel health doess are usually all right? but like Airbnbs Etc. We’re just like a very very faint. You know sheet basically over over a window and you know you have a street lamp right outside and you’re basically you know trying to fall asleep in like.

Ameen Saafir 

Huge.

James McWalter

Bright Light and just it’s very difficult to do so and so the ability to add a but you know at a click just eliminate that as as a problem I think is massive. Yeah.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah I mean you look at the other side of that right? which is naturally waking up with the sun instead of an alarm clock. So your alarm can now be letting the sunlight come into your room right? You can set it to. Clear the windows at six thirty in the morning if that’s what you want, but that’s the best way you know from a health and wellness standpoint to wake up and and really as you said you know regulating regulating that circadian rhythm and health that’s another big point that we think will willll be attractive for for homeowners.

James McWalter

Yeah I literally have a lamp right over there if I saw my bed that is a light lamp to wake up in the morning for that Very reason. Um because we don’t have that other yeah tint is not available for for where we are yet. Um, and I guess you know in terms of the like obviously tint is like this premiere product that is doing like things and. Nothing else is doing.. How do you think about the kind of the production side from a expense point of View. You know you can obviously charge premieer you know premium prices. Um, but you know also you want to kind of get to scale and how do you think about that balance.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, um, and and again one of the things that I learned in my previous role is people are willing to spend a lot for these features right? and so we we could charge a ton of money for this, you know, kind of like you know putting a Tv in your wall if if we wanted to do that. But again ultimately with the target towards. Impact and sustainability. You’ve got to get the cost down to a point where everyone can afford this and that’s really the ultimate goal is we want to be you know, competitive with if you look at your your average window that you go buy from you know home depo lows or from your contractor. Add some decent window treatments and then a slight premium on top of that. And that premium that you pay you’re going to get back an energy savings right? So long term we really want this to cost about the same as a window plus window treatments and again one of the things that attracted to me to this version of the technology is that it really is a very simple technology. It’s very low cost to manufacture. It’s um, about an order of magnitude cheaper than anything else out there in terms of the manufacturing projected manufacturing cost. So it’s it. Yeah.

James McWalter

Yeah, and what about I guess you know combining it with other types of you know windows. So like we we mentioned you know double glazing etc. Um, you know and and and these other kind of types of technology from.

Ameen Saafir 

This.

James McWalter

You know to additional kind of heating attributes and so on is is it possible to kind of you know, mix and match those different attributes.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, absolutely you know we we can absolutely combine this with double and triple glazing. There’s some other technologies that are coming out or in development like I mentioned vacuum insulated glass and we have Aero Gelels and we’re also looking at like how we might be able to combine with those technologies. For us if I think about the ultimate window. It is something that darkens and and and enlightens dynamically but also has very very high insulation. So taking our you know what’s what’s special bot tint and then combining that with something like a vacuum insulated glass a triple glazing. An arrow gelel and then you get the ability to now change the way we design homes and give people what I think they ultimately want which is lots and lots of glass right? You want to have this you know, expansive views but not have to take an energy hit for it right? and not have too much light in your home when you don’t want it and. And we’ve got some other ideas about you know you could your whole roof could be glass and you know you could start start star gazes at night and then when the sun comes up you can darken it and have that insulation that you need so absolutely looking at how we can combine with these other energy saving technologies to create like the ultimate window for the home.

James McWalter

And then in terms of let’s say you know if you’re trying to get tint to every you know every let’s say every window in the United States every window in the world right? takes takes a while and then that’s yeah, ah, this wonderful kind of big big challenge and when I was looking at a bit of research and department energy mentioned that dynamic windows. Ah, you have the potential to reduce us greenhouse gases by up to 4% Annually which seemed very very high. Um, you know, relative to me kind of going in and you know at first glance, um, but a lot of the problem when we’re trying to kind of replace these elements of the home is that these things last a long time as you mentioned you know like your windows should last you know I guess five 1015 years about depending on where you are and so somebody just installed. You know, regular windows yesterday they may not be a potential customer for for quite a while. Um, how do you think about you know ways or levers that could be used to kind of accelerate the replacement cycle of you know, traditional windows with technologies like yours.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah I think you got 2 routes there 1 is through you know legislation right? Credits things like that just like we did for solar and we do for evs that could be a potential route but ultimately in terms of things that we can control. Um, it’s developing a solution that would be an aftermarket retrofit type of solution that would get added on to an existing window and so again, what’s really exciting about this technology. Another thing is that you know it’s it’s a low temperature process. We can make these devices on plastic films and ultimately you know, deliver something that looks like getting your car window stinted. But getting your house windows tinted and then having them be electrified right? So the the challenge with that part is that the energy savings isn’t quite as great as replacing the window but the comfort aspect and all of all of those value propositions that the homeowner wants you can still achieve that we’re still. Um, trying to figure out the best way to deliver better energy savings in ah, a aftermarket retrofit solution. But that’s certainly something we think about a lot right? If you think about again those you know one ah 20000000 windows sold every year between us and Europe there’s 10000000000 existing windows.

James McWalter

Right.

Ameen Saafir 

Right? And if you can figure out how to access that then that’s an enormous opportunity right? So yeah, we’re we’re thinking about that. That’s a little bit down the line. Um, but there there are ways to get us there.

James McWalter

And yeah I really like having those 2 tracks because obviously it’s great when you know policy or credits or whatever it may be gives you that you know tailwind for your business. But I think often in in climate tech or companies working on these kind of sustainable solutions are sometimes overdpendent on that and I think where you can you know be the owners for your own destiny and like.

Ameen Saafir 

Right.

James McWalter

Develop a product that fits the world as it is not the world that you know hopefully a lobbyist will will sort out in 2 years um I think you know is incredibly kind of powerful and I guess you know it sounds like we’re mostly talking about the residential side. How do you think about residential versus commercial and you know how those products might compare to.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah I get that question a lot. Um, so I think a lot of people may be surprised to know that the volume of glass going into residential and the volume of glass going in commercial in the us at least on a yearly basis are nearly identical. It’s about five hundred Million Square feet of glass going into both. Um. So from an overall opportunity I think they’re they’re they’re equal in size. What I’ve seen again in in my own experience here is that the commercial market is really challenging to sell into for a number of reasons one. They’re very cost consciouscious right? So if you look at a lot of. Projects that have been done today. They’ve been done for Let’s just say much less than the company selling the glass would like to sell it for for for smart windows um two you have a lot of stakeholders involved in a commercial project. You’ve got someone financing it. You’ve got someone who’s a developer you’ve got your general contract. You’ve got your property manager. You’ve got the person who’s actually going to end up occupying the building and you’ve got to get all these people to sign off on spending a little bit of extra money to get this this technology into the building and then finally probably the most challenging for a startup like us is that to get into a good project with the types of revenue and margins that you want. You really got to be about 3 to 4 years ahead of when the building gets built when you’re in the planning and the budgeting stage right? So it’s a very very long sales cycle or you get stuck coming in in the last six to twelve months and then it’s basically whatever we can afford for this technology. So if I contrast that to to residential again. Um. Similar amounts of glass being delivered. You’ve got to just convince the homeowner. Ultimately, right to to put this technology and there is certainly you know an an early adopter part of the curve that’s willing to spend a lot more to kind of help you get your technology. Scaled up and mature enough and to get the cost out and and hit the rest of the market and then the sales cycle could be much shorter. This can be something that is a decision you make today and within three weeks you’ve got the windows and they’re going into your house so all of those things we think are more compelling about residential and then the final anecdote I’ll share. Is I’ve been working on some manner of smart windows for 10 years whenever people ask me, you know what? I do for a living and I tell them what I do a hundred percent of the response 100% of the time is when can I get that in my house. No one ever says.

James McWalter

So right.

Ameen Saafir 

That would be really cool in my office or it would be really nice to see that in the airport or the hospital. It’s like when can I get that in my house and maybe 10% of the people say when can I get that in my car because that’s kind of a cool idea as well and we’re thinking about that for for evs. There’s another way to help save in terms of range and cooling and things like that. But. But people want this type of technology in their home and I believe that tint is the first thing that people will see that they’ll be willing to spend money on a put in their home.

James McWalter

Yeah I think yeah, that makes a ton of sense. You know when I think about like commercial buildings. The people who have to actually operate within the building. It’s just different to the people building the building right? and so you know you have basically the owner and the operator are are different like that the owner intended are different. The home. It’s like I’m going to live in it I have to experience this every day you know for multiple decades potentially and so you know you you really care and often it’s a lot of the reason why a lot of people trying to you know disrupt homebuiling struggle because there’s you know so much. Ah.

Ameen Saafir 

Right.

James McWalter

You know customization that occurs at various parts right? But I guess when you’re you’re dealing with like a specific surface you’ specific material that is kind of open to like infinite customization like glass you can actually like adapt within the existing kind of home building structure in a way that still has that like high level of impact. So.

Ameen Saafir 

That’s right, Yeah, it’s important to us to be able to as you said operate within that existing structure and deliver a product that doesn’t need for example, special wiring or you know a high voltage electricity to come out but it’s something that can just be installed in the same opening as a regular window. And be self-powered and that’s something that we’re working on as Well. So be something to be very easy to install whether it’s in a new building or again to replace your existing windows. It’s very important if you’re going to access that that residential market.

James McWalter

So and I guess like people have become very used to you know voice automated assistance like Siri and alexa to say you know turn on music and so on and and people have started kind of fitting out you know, lower the blinds and and these other kind of elements. Um is that like a eventual plan as well. So you have that kind of connected to that automated home. So.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, absolutely I think you have to have that we just got asked that question by someone yesterday and it’s like is it going to be a light switch. Is it going to be. You know an app is it going to be Alexa and I said yes, it’s going to be all of those things that it has to be all of those things right? So you hit that.

James McWalter

Everything.

Ameen Saafir 

And on the head you got to deliver that type of functionality people are going to expect that.

James McWalter

And you recently raised some capital. Um, what? what are you? you know I think you mentioned earlier 8000000 or so so what? what is the kind of plan for the deployment of that capital.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, so that that money is going directly towards building our first prototype window and we’re doing that in conjunction with this mysterious partner that we talked about and so yeah, but so everything has gone towards we have a new facility here in boulder.

James McWalter

Church.

Ameen Saafir 

Um, we’ve got 12 people on the team now and everyone is just working towards scaling up the technology from you know, something in the lab that was about a four inch size to something that’ll look more like ah about a two foot size window to really demonstrate what this might look like at scale. Some of the challenges with integrating not just our device but integrating as you you mentioned into that dual pane. We call igu and into the window and so it’s it’s making that leap from a cool technology in the lab to a product prototype and then that next round of funding within finance. Getting that thing to market scaling you know building the factory scaling it up and starting to sell product.

James McWalter

And and when you were kind of building out your team like who are you know what are the kinds of people that you’re kind of looking to to kind of add that value at this stage of the company. Yeah.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah I really I really put a lot of emphasis on all all manners of diversity in the team and so there’s there’s kind of the obvious stuff in terms of you know, ethnic and and gender diversity but also in terms of the academic background and some of the professional background. So. You know if you’re to look at our team and look at the the list of degrees. You know you don’t have more than maybe 2 people with the same degree and the same background and I found in my career that that really helps with diverse perspectives when it comes to solving some of these technical problems right? You’ve got someone with a. Ah, biology background and someone with a chemical engineering background and an electrical engineering background and you know if you get all those people in a room. Someone’s going to have the perspective to help you figure out the best way to get through. You know, whatever challenge this is and you know I’ve seen teams built where you’ve got you know 5 or 6 people who all. Have the same degree and we’re all from the same research group and things like that and it’s like well you you all are trained the same and you’re all going to think about problems the same way and so I feel like you you get much better results and you’ve got a little bit more diversity different perspectives across the table. So if you look across our team I think you’ll see you’ll see all of that. Um, and we’re really proud of the the team that we’ve built so far.

James McWalter

Yeah I love that kind of concept. So yeah I come from a liberal Arts background Philosophy Ph D track type thing and I love being in technical spaces and a lot of the the kind of concepts that we would cover in like logic of philosophy and like even like you know doing analysis on English Texts and all this kind of thing.

Ameen Saafir 

Um, first.

James McWalter

Surprising a number of that will come up not directly but indirectly in conversations when you’re trying to you know plan and a sprint or whatever it may be and like having that kind of cross-pollination of approaches I think can really Add. Um and you know and I’m always learning as well, right? You know when people are coming from a very specific you know Cs or you know machine learning background or whatever it may be.. It’s absolutely Fascinating. Kind of also he see how their brains Function. So um, and then I guess you know as part of that kind of raising that funding. You know you’re out there pitching you said earlier that you’re a little bit. Yeah, maybe I don’t want to start a startup because the the pitching side is something that you you.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, absolutely it is fascinating.

Ameen Saafir 

It’s scary.

James McWalter

Yeah, it’s scary and so yeah, what would that process like um and yeah, any any I guess advice I’m actually right now I’m raising funding for something else right now. So I’m like deep in it myself and so yeah I’d love to hear your kind of process and any advice you might have.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, getting through the other side man I think um, it’s like any big hard scary thing you do in life. You just got to take the first step you know and I think and also you’ve got to really want to do it. You know because it’s hard. It’s it’s really hard. It’s exhausting. It’s going to take longer than you like. Um, it just is and everyone will tell you that no matter how quick it’s seemed on the outside like it’s exhausting and so you know it was it was taking that first step and for us that was um, talking to people that I knew and just getting their feedback on like is this something that I should be doing with the next you know 101520 years of my life. Um, and then as we started talking more and more you know those same people were like well if you’re going to raise the money I’d like to participate you know and so started with the angel investors and um, you know a couple really good friends of mine wrote some really nice checks I got to say that I’m very fortunate to have friends. Ah, that I do to help me get started and another mentor of mine. She was also very instrumental and you know helping us kind of craft the story put in a little bit of money and and and move it forward and so um, as you start talking to the friends and family and then they start introducing you to people and you just start doing it more. Start getting more and more comfortable with you know the version of the story that you’re going to tell and who you are and what you’re going to put forward and start getting that momentum and it just over the course of you know four or five six months we just started getting more and more and then by the time it came to talk to venture capitalists. It wasn’t so scary anymore.

James McWalter

Right.

Ameen Saafir 

It was like look. We’ve already got um you know one and a half million dollars in commitments from angel investors you know from all over the place and we know we’ve got something here and so then it was just about being you know, true to who we are and um, and and who I am and what we’re trying to do and so. Yeah, that that whole process though it it took a good Let’s see it was about eight months from the time we had our first conversation until we closed that seed round and again it was a very successful round for what we were trying to do but it was it was ah it was a lot it was eight months right smack dab in the middle of the pandemic.

James McWalter

It rides.

Ameen Saafir 

Think that was an additional challenge. You think about the product we have right? No one could see our product right? I couldn’t bring people to a lab and show them and and ultimately the the 2 lead investors we got did take that trip. Um, you know before they before they signed the term sheet and and came to see us but they were the only two people that came to see us and they got very deep in the process and. And I can’t help but wonder you know what that might have been like if we were able to do a more typical roadshow and bring our technology around and let people you know touch it and hold it. But in any case I would say um you know to people that are thinking about taking that journey. It’s a lot of hard work. Um. But if you’re passionate about it just go for it. You know, put one foot in front of the other get some good advisors around you that can really tell it to you like it is right? give you good feedback and and help you get moving but you got to get that first one 2 3 people to believe in you and and put there. Their their name on the dot of line on the check and and then go from there once you get those first 2 or 3 and then gets a lot easier everyone after that.

James McWalter

Yeah, and I would add to that expect a hundred noses to 200 noses to 300 nos it’s just you know it’s the nature and a lot of lot lot lot of the Nos are just being no responses. You know it’s just the nature of the space.

Ameen Saafir 

Oh yeah for sure. Yeah, yeah, I think we pitched. Um we we pitched 65 people I think half of those were angels. We pitched about 35 vc funds and got yeses out of 3 of them. So we we did really well is as hard as those 30 something nos were you know we did really well. But yeah, you get used to hearing no in 32 Nos and 32 different ways right? and again not to mention all the people that never even returned the email or the call or anything those are only. The ones we actually got in the front door of right? So there’s probably another and I know lost track of how many people we reached out to that just you know weren’t interested in taking a call. So.

James McWalter

Yeah, and that’s such an interesting point on covid. Um, yeah, my my general kind of bias because most of what I’ve ever worked on has been like software and database was that you know covid is actually this was this fascinating time to raise money and it was like this great leveler and so people I knew all around the world who wouldn’t typically have access to you know. Silicon Valley like investors was like oh everybody’s just the other end of ah like a Zoom call or whatever it may be but absolutely if you have any sort of hardware and like you know, especially if they are kind of familiar with the kind of status quo you know, overly ah poorly colored glass like alternatives and and all this kind of thing being able to show them that you know. What you have sitting in in the lab is like so powerful and I think it’s also similar to some of the other companies you’ve talked. We’ve talked to you know materials companies working on you know, algae replacements for plastics and so on like you really want to say show them. It’s like oh this feels the same as.

Ameen Saafir 

Right.

James McWalter

Plastic coming in your box today. But it’s made of algae and like is not going to have that same negative effect on the planet or whatever it may be so.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah,, that’s right and I think again ultimately the people that are interested enough. They’ll they’ll they’ll go make that trip right? and and they’ll figure it out but you know you can’t help but wonder if there was someone who was maybe on the fence if they had sought and they really got it. You know immediately as opposed to like trying to imagine it through slides. But. Anyway, we’re happy with where we are um and you know we’ll see what happens with the next round and hopefully we can do a little bit more traveling but let’s see what happens when the time comes.

James McWalter

Yeah, and and I was looking in your background. Um, you’re involved in you know a bo as advisoror or kind of with a couple different organizations like 12 and silicon climate and so on ah, can you tell us a bit about that and I guess your kind of general review on this is a you know community trying to solve problems and and ways we can potentially improve it.

Ameen Saafir 

Yeah, so silicon climate is interesting. This was a couple of my buddies from Stanford and you know we started this and ultimately I think we were too early and so our thesis was basically that there’s lots of entrepreneurs out there that are trying to.

James McWalter

Ah roll. Okay.

Ameen Saafir 

Fight climate change. There’s a lot of people out there with money and they can’t find each other right and so we kind of wanted to sit in the middle and and make those connections happen and we found that to be challenging and again we started this I think about six years ago what we ended up actually doing was turning into sort of a nonprofit accelerator and so we just served as advisors for these companies that would apply 12 was one of them. That’s how we met them and so we would help them. You know with go-to-market strategies fundraising strategies building out their team. All the typical things you’d get from an accelerator. Um, but you know we we couldn’t give them any money because we didn’t have a bunch of money but we spent a lot of time with them and so myself and kind of my my very close friends. We’ve been really passionate about this problem for a while and now we fast forward 6 years it’s great to see so much money and energy. Going into solving this problem and I think the the rest of the world has finally caught up to what we’ve seen which is that this is ah this is the biggest problem of our generation and our smartest people need to be working on these problems and they are going to need the funding to do that to get us out of this mess right? And so. That’s all that all started most of those advisor ships that I’ve done were through silicon climate. So they’re all as you see they’re they’re mostly people that were trying to you know 12 there was nanohydrophobics in there. It’s company called suntap in there that are you know, just trying to improve the world through their own innovations.

James McWalter

I and I guess if you know let’s say I’m somebody who looks at your career and I’m say okay that that seems pretty cool I’d I’d love to kind of get to where I mean is today. Um, any advice you’d give to that person starting out you know, maybe they’re coming out of high school. Maybe they’re coming out ah of college.

Ameen Saafir 

Um, wow um I think the thing that I did that I’m very um, proud of looking back is I wasn’t afraid to take risks and I think that’s the case if you want to be successful on anything right is like you got to be you got to be willing to take risk and I look at like. You know, leaving the south side of Chicago to go to California you know at 17 and go to college that was a big one you know and um and then my first job after grad school I went to South Korea and I worked for samsulung for 2 years you know and um and I you know I went to Santa Barbara and I worked for Dupont and. Couldve stayed there forever. You know it was. It was a great job with with good salary and then it was like no I want to do something bigger. Um, and then I moved to the bay area and started this a ipad thing and then came back and and worked for cannestro and now you know moving again here to Colorado and start tint and I think all of the successes that I’ve had has really been about. You know, not being afraid of the risk part of it and we talked about this a few minutes ago overcoming that fear around fundraising that was the big risk to me but like you just have to do it and and move forward and you know not be afraid to take a different path right? A lot of not a lot of people. Come out of grad school and go straight overseas to work for you know, a big korean electronics company. Um, and so I think you know doing those things that set you apart a little bit make you appear unique on paper and my reality of meeting people is those people tend to be pretty unique, right? The people that I met. Overseas are some of the most interesting people I know you know to this day. So I think you know not being afraid to take risk and really just follow your passion.

James McWalter

Yeah I completely echo that you know if I look up back at my career and similar jumping around to to what you defined across multiple countries and so on and I still think I didn’t take enough risks right? You know like I still spent multiple years in some companies and had a great old time. But um, you know I’m only my of late thirty s now and. Look back at like yeah, could it could ah could have been even riskier and so it’s definitely what I tell 50 people in their twenty s who I’m kind of you know mentoring or or giving advice to is like you know,? whatever you want to do um like you know you got to try to create some opportunities for yourself and the only way to do that is like take a chance and it might not work out. But. You know you’re young, you’ve got lots of you got lots of bites to cherry right? when you’re you know in your mid 20 s so.

Ameen Saafir 

That’s right, you’re so on. That’s right, right? So my I was I was going I like telling a story when I was trying to decide do I go to Korea and work for Samsung or do I go work for am b and Sunnyvale right? and. Ultimately, it came down to I like to tell stories you know at parties and things like that I’m like man I’m going to have so many great stories that start with oh this one time when I was in Korea and like that was the thing that got me on that plane you know it’s like all right this is going to be this unique interesting experience that I’ll stay with me for the rest of my life and.

Ameen Saafir 

Probably be good for my career and all those things were true. So yeah, you got you got to take that risk whenever it might be doesn’t mean moving over you know, halfway around the world but taking risk I think is is the way to um, achieve the most that you can to realize your your biggest potential.

James McWalter

But I mean it’s been great, Really enjoyed the conversation. Um, is there anything I should have asked you about but did not.

Ameen Saafir 

Ah let’s see. Um I think you probably could have asked about you know what? we plan to do next in terms of fundraising. So I know we just closed ah around in August but we’re already we’re making so much progress right now both on the commercial side and the technical side that we’re going to be. Looking to kick off our series a rays in and the next couple of months here. We’re still buttoning a couple things up, but that’s gonna be the next big thing that we’re working on this year so definitely looking forward to taking that next step and you know putting myself out there all over again and trying to get us capitalized move forward.

James McWalter

Okay.

James McWalter

And maybe a bit of a road show this time now that you know thankfully.

Ameen Saafir 

I certainly hope so man I certainly we were talking about that this morning you know we’ve got some great demos planned here for people to come by and see us and so we’ll be announcing that relatively soon. But thanks James thanks for for having me this has been fantastic.

James McWalter

Thank you

Sustainable Plastic from Seaweed – E70

Great to chat with Julia Marsh, Co-Founder & CEO at Sway, a company that is building a plastic-free future with the regenerative power of seaweed! We discussed the carbon sequestration power of seaweed, the negative environmental impacts of single-use plastics, how to alleviate guilt for the shopper, the reality of compostable products and more! 

https://carbotnic.com/sway

Download Podcast Here: https://plinkhq.com/i/1518148418

Remember, If you want to support the podcast there are two amazing ways!

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Thanks so much! 

James

The unedited podcast transcript is below

James McWalter: Hello today We’re speaking with Julia Marsh:   cofounder and CEO of SWAY. Welcome to podcast Julia!   brilliant I suppose to start could you tell us a little bit about sway.

Julia Marsh:     Hi James nice to be here. Absolutely so sway is tackling 1 of the biggest challenges facing our planet which is the plastic crisis which directly feeds into the climate crisis and how we’re doing this is utilizing this beautiful regenerative material which is seaweed. And creating ah replacements for packaging that are compostable that turn into healthy soil while simultaneously replenishing Ocean ecosystems I’m really excited to dive in with you.

James McWalter: And yeah, absolutely and so what drove that kind of initial decision to yeah, you know, basically use seaweed to develop a plastic substitute.

Julia Marsh:     Well a little background I’m a designer by trade and really looked at the plastic problem as a design challenge and I thought let’s look at every single. Alternative to plastics and specifically thin film plastics because they’re the most difficult to replace they gum up recycling machines. Um, they’re very difficult to find ah reusable solutions for wrappers and chip bags and and poly bags et Cetera. And let’s find the best possible alternatives and then improve them further and what I was seeing is that bioplastics have this immense potential but they are costly. They’re incompatible with existing infrastructure and they’re dependent on resources like corn and sugarcane. Which actually don’t make the planet a better place or are really necessary as a food crop. So let’s push beyond the existing you know limitations of bioplastics and find something better and that’s what led me to seaweed.

James McWalter: And so those kind of existing limitations. Um, you know you say they gum up to works and I guess I haven’t heard too many use cases of those other kind of alternatives who are using those or is that much of a market today. Um, and yeah, what what does that space look like.

Julia Marsh:     Yeah man, the Bioplastics market is enormous. Um, mostly you see bioplastics either used in rigid applications like cups and utensils. Maybe you go to a sweet green or an adjacent company and you’ll see that the. Fork is labeled as being compostable the other most common use case is for things like maybe the grocery store you know produce bag that green bag that’s labeled as being compostable when you order clothing online. Maybe it comes in a poly bag like 1 of those. Thin film bags sometimes and they go straight into the garbage. Yeah maybe the amazon mailer would be a great candidate for where you might want to use bioplastics and then all food packaging really struggles to find compostable replacements.

James McWalter: That that goes straight into the gar garbage every time right now.

Julia Marsh:     And these are the primary interest areas for me more so than the Rigid ones because there’s yeah, there’s very few solutions that can do it right.

James McWalter: And so you kind of came upon seaweed I suppose What are the kind of what was that journey like to find seaweed as a potential solution for the problem.

Julia Marsh:     So I became enraptured with this idea of regeneration. It’s like an age-old practice. It’s nothing new but increasingly brands and activists are focusing on the idea of regeneration that we can restore and replenish life on earth. And integrating that into new systems and products and so I wanted to understand what are the most powerful regenerative source materials on the planet and how can I integrate that into a new material a replacement for plastic packaging and so when you do that.

James McWalter: Sure.

Julia Marsh:     Kind of survey you land on trees you see mushrooms and you see algae and you get micro algae and Macro Algae and I grew up next to the ocean so immediately I’m into seaweed I understand generally how ocean ecosystems work and I knew there was some beautiful poetry of taking something. From the ocean and helping the ocean live and thrive by creating this new material.

James McWalter: Absolutely and I guess when you’re kind of going through that survey and you’re looking at mushrooms you’re looking at you know clium out of trees and and so on like what was that process where you talking to academics where you kind of talking to people within supply chain. Yeah I’d love to hear a little bit about how you research that.

Julia Marsh:     Yeah, 1 of the beautiful things about this industry is everyone’s so friendly and wants to talk about the work that they’re doing because it’s so dependent on collaboration. So whenever I would reach out to either. Yes, academics in the space material libraries like the folks at material connection in New York or just reaching out to the heads of these companies themselves. They’re more than willing to share what their journey was like what the stumbling moments were and what I might need to do in my position as a designer kind of entering this space to be successful.

James McWalter: And yeah I found that as well and I’ve mentioned a few times in the podcast that because these people are so friendly. Um, mainly because we’re just trying to get more people to work on these problems. Um, that people you know there’s a bit of vulnerability involved. But.

Julia Marsh:     Right.

James McWalter: You know having ah guess a little bit of an impetus to kind of reach out cold sometimes to people on Twitter or linkedin um, you know very rarely. You’ll you’ll never may never say never but you’re very rarely you get like a negative reaction. Um, you might just not get ignored but a lot of the time you will have people from pretty big companies say yeah I’d love to have a.

Julia Marsh:     Absolutely and I feel that oftentimes there’s this misconception that you need to be a materials engineer or you need to be a scientist to enter the climate space and that was not the case for me as ah at all outside of maybe.

James McWalter: Twenty minute chat.

Julia Marsh:     Leaving my ego at the door and acknowledging when I Definitely don’t know things and am underqualified to fully understand me to the chemistry but you know there’s a role that everyone has to play in the climate crisis and designers are especially well equipped to make these impossible. More novel futures visible for people and make them Attractive. So actually I was welcomed into these conversations because folks kind of recognize that.

James McWalter: Yeah, and actually if you go to this way website and we’ll link it in the in the show notes. Um I was very much struck by like the design aesthetic of the of the website. No absolutely and and and mainly because like when I think or the average purse I think thinks about like raw materials.

Julia Marsh:     Ah.

James McWalter: Um, and there’s just something to be I suppose ignored or in the background or something not thought of you know we have a disposable culture in many of these particularly around like single use plastics and so in general the people who are creating those don’t really want to like yeah highlight them right? as ah as a use because they just wanted those things that disappear and for people to forget about.

Julia Marsh:     Right.

James McWalter: The negative environmental impacts of those things and so I think you know I’ve seen a couple companies ah you know again? what what I think you’re doing from design point of view is really interesting. Um, but a few who are trying to like put make them make things look nice make things look you know like fascinating make things make people more curious about the actual things that go into.

Julia Marsh:     And.

James McWalter: You know as so as the the things we buy every day.

Julia Marsh:     It’s a wonderful design opportunity because all of a sudden especially during Covid when we’ve all been receiving so many packages to our homes and we’re inviting all these materials into our house for a brand to say to their customer. We care about you. We realize that.

James McWalter: But right? okay.

Julia Marsh:     You’re inviting these materials into your home. We’ve gone the extra mile and chosen a material that actually creates life that actually employs you know in our case in Sway’s case employs coastal communities and. Sequesters carbon and regenerates ocean health and encourages biodiversity. Oh and it’s going to turn into healthy soil at the end of its life what you’ve done all of a sudden is not just created a beautiful sort of tool to alleviate guilt for the for the shopper. But you’ve also enabled them to become a part of the climate movement and materials like plastics these basic building blocks of modern society are I think 1 of the best opportunities we have to do that to to make people feel like oh hey I can be It’s it’s not this inaccessible thing I can be a part of it too and I feel really good about myself.

James McWalter: Yeah, absolutely and I guess so you’ve kind of identified like seaweed. Um, what was that kind of initial you know Mvp or like starting to develop that mvp and what does that process look like.

Julia Marsh:     That was me in my kitchen mixing up seaweed extracts with various sort of plant-based additives and making really really horrible. Smelly films they were. They were ugly um, they curled up they smelled bad.

Julia Marsh:     I very quickly realized that I needed to bring in material engineers. It’s quite obvious in retrospect um and we partnered up with ah the usda as well as folks at the Berkeley school of Green chemistry to create more advanced prototypes.

And as we constantly constantly iterated we were able to get a really beautiful crystal clear film. That’s Odorless. It’s stronger than Ldpe. It’s got amazing heat ceiling Properties. You can adapt the opacity etc so it actually was quite a quick evolution of bringing in the right talent. Unfortunately I can’t go into too much detail because we’re currently filing a provisional patent for the formulation. Um, but yeah, it was. It was really quite ah, a beautiful and and rapid process going from.

Julia Marsh:     This ugly ugly film to something that’s perfectly clear and really high performance.

James McWalter: But I think like I think like that time spent in the kitchen right? I’m sure was invaluable right? because even though you know some very well-qualified people in a lab. You know it’s ah it’s definitely a more sophisticated process. It’s pretty similar process right? We’re trying to heat up things and cool down things and move things from different types of vessels.

Julia Marsh:     Right.

James McWalter: I Think especially you know I’m also coming from like a non-technical point of view and like starting technical companies like getting into the weeds like on my side. Yeah trying to do some coding and your side like in the kitchen you know, stirring some pots I think these are really important because you have to be able to engage with the with the technical team that you’re building and and I think like I Absolutely yeah, think that it duffly stands to companies and and. And to non-technical founders to get their you know Roltra sleeves at at times.

Julia Marsh:     I definitely empathize and admire that the skill set needed to do it Professionally yeah.

James McWalter: Um, so those 2 organizations you mentioned were they like looking for people and wanting to kind of work on these type of things or did you kind of reach out to them.

Julia Marsh:     Yeah, the the wonderful thing about especially the Usda is that they’re set up to help facilitate american investments in new materials or specifically the usda offices in Albany. Looking you know there are adjacent companies to ourselves who have gone through that program including Mango materials which is a ph a company and corramat which creates ah a corn-based foam.

James McWalter: Um, and so you know so seaweed you have this kind of formulation. You’re developing what are its kind of the pros and cons of it versus let’s say conventional. Um, you know film plastic.

Julia Marsh:     Right? So the wonderful thing about seaweed is that it is extremely abundant. It grows on every coastline in the world. 24 7 3 hundred and 65 days a year there’s seven million square kilometers. Seaweed growing today which is roughly equivalent to the size of the Amazon reed forest I think that’s a nice comparison and they’re roughly equivalent in their environmental contribution to the earth as well seaweed sequesters an insane amount of carbon some papers from harvard say seaweed can sequester up to 20 times more carbon.

Julia Marsh:     And per acre than trees. Um, but they also do all these beautiful ecosystem services. They encourage biodiversity by creating habitats for hundreds of species. They mitigate the effects of ocean acidification actually reversing the effects of climate change the more cwed plant. Healthier the ocean or the quality of the ocean will be. They are ecosystem architects as Well. They they help combat um erosion and they’re this amazing source of employment for coastal communities that have maybe been affected by overfishing or by climate Change. Seaweed itself is just the definition of a regenerative resource. It’s doing all this work. Um Fray of charge while also being wildly abundant and growing more quickly than land-based crops so seed grows twenty to 30 times faster than corner sugar cane and you don’t need land.

James McWalter: Right.

Julia Marsh:     You don’t need fresh water. You don’t need pesticides you just plant it and it grows So it’s a fantastic resource compared with the Fossil Fuel industry.

James McWalter: And in terms of let’s say the different types of seaweed. Um, you know some are I’m sure like more you know evolved to work within tropical waters versus Colder waters etc. Um is there particular types of seaweed that work. Best for the kind of process you’re building out.

Julia Marsh:     Ah, right. There are so we primarily work with 3 different species of seaweed and we’re always working to expand the the varieties of seaweed that we can work with. We never want to be too dependent on 1 species. We want wherever possible to encourage the diversification of ah farming practices. Because that creates a healthier ocean. There are beautiful regenerative ocean farms popping up all over the world. We primarily work with farms based in North and south america and yeah, you have. Well over ten thousand species of seaweed to choose from. So we’re just scratching the surface of what might be possible with with seaweed bile palmers.

James McWalter: And so let’s say once it kind of goes through this you know this process that you’re building out. That’s you know the core to your Ip and we have let’s say you know a conventional plastic film and and the sway plastic. Yeah, the seaweed-based film. Um, how do they so differ you know would somebody notice to the eye like what what does that kind of comparison look like so.

Julia Marsh:     Yeah, so visually. Our film looks basically identical to a traditional piece of plastic which can be a beautiful benefit because for instance, If. Ah, cosmetics company wants to sell their extremely gorgeous products. They want the customer to be able to see the the product in the bag and maybe if it was opaque or had some sort of tint that would be a hindrance to purchase. However, we’ve learned actually that customers respond or shoppers respond really? well. The material when it looks like it’s made from seaweed So when it’s tinted green or it has a texture because it gives a little bit of I Guess Social clout or there’s like a social reward for saying I’ve chosen a better material look at me, you know.

James McWalter: No absolutely it that that social pressure piece I think is something that is definitely underwede in a lot of climate startups trying to think through go-to markets. You know we.

Julia Marsh:     Letter.

James McWalter: You know we’re we’re human beings We We express things through what we wear and how we you know what we buy and all those kind of things and because so many things are now just like a pure kind of emar Ecommerce Play. Um, like. People don’t if they’re not getting the social like kudos right of having the book up on the wall or whatever it may be um I think sometimes we struggled and so I I think that makes a ton of sense in terms of having something that you know has the the look and feel of seaweed more so than conventional plastics.

Julia Marsh:     Right? It’s like it’s a great design Opportunity. There are so many different colors and textures that we can play with utilizing. What’s naturally found in different types of seaweeds and then in addition to that we’re looking at the different messaging that we can use to make again. Make people feel really great about this choice whether that’s being able to track exactly where this seaweed bag came from maybe the farmer who grew the seaweed that was used to make the bag again kind of reaffirming that connection between the person and the material they’re using or. Humans and nature and then also really assuring them that this is not some attempt at greenwashing that we’ve gone through the necessary actions to get this material properly tested and that it is in fact, home compostable such that you could mix it in with food scraps in your backyard compost. And it’s going to turn into healthy soil.

James McWalter: Yeah, that was actually the next question because we have you know, definitely on the production side. You know see we is this kind of net sequester of carbon relative definitely relative to petrochemicals going into pastek and then on the disposal side as you mentioned it’s this kind of home compostable. Um I guess 1 of the things with with any sort of kind of material science.

Julia Marsh:     Um, as a.

James McWalter: You know the the more composable It is the more I just open it is to ah degradation through the supply chain and and so how do you think about that balance I.

Julia Marsh:     Right? Man it’s such a fine line to walk. Yeah, so we are constantly treading this line and trying to find what are the absolute best applications for this material where it’s okay that when it’s exposed to heat. And moisture. It’s going to degrade very quickly. We found that retail bags and poly bags are a great first starting place. So that’s why we’re focused on working with brands like Target walmart and cbs to help replace the retail bag and we’re also focused on working with Apparel brands to find really great. Yeah partners who want their customers to engage with plastic- free packaging. Um, so that’s that’s a focus at the moment. The the degradation timeline is quite quickly right now and so we’re also constantly improving the formulation so that it can withstand higher humidity. And temperatures while in shipment but that when it does enter a compost environment. It’s going to degrade extremely quickly.

James McWalter: Yeah I could imagine this kind of a wedge of potential products that could be wrapped right in the in in the sway material and you you start at the at the area. That’s you know pretty high turnover. You know, used very rapidly and then over time as the formulation gets you know more stable. Um, from degradation point of View. You can kind of move into that like that that larger wedge of like every product in the world kind of thing eventually there you go.

Julia Marsh:     Exactly every product in the world. It’s an ecosystem we never would claim to be the Silver bullet or the 1 answer there are so many cool materials out there in new systems. A lot of the best climate solutions are just related to efficiency and and common sense.

James McWalter: And.

Julia Marsh:     So wherever we we make the most sense that’s where we want to deploy ourselves.

James McWalter: Understood and I guess yeah 1 of the as was difficulties with new materials is there’s typically a pretty sophisticated and well-established supply chain to move that material through so you know from constructing plastic to its molding.

Julia Marsh:     The.

James McWalter: And then being delivered on ships to you know the manufacturer and all those kind of things. How do you think about? let’s say fitting in versus disrupting parts of that supply chain to I suppose that have the greatest impact. So.

Julia Marsh:     Right? We want to create the lowest lift transition to using our material. We want to make it extremely easy for brands to work with us and that means we’ve designed our material to plug into existing plastic infrastructure and plastic. Companies a lot of them really are dying. They’re itching to bring in more sustainable materials that are compatible with their machinery plastic production is a well- oiled process. It’s ah that was a nice little pun I inserted there the actual you know? ah. Production of plastics from from pellet to film is quite efficient and and can be very low energy and there’s actually a path to decarbonizing that process. What’s missing is the material itself is not. Good for the planet at either end of life and so that’s how we kind of fill out this system um to be eventually fully decarbonized as well as fully regenerative.

James McWalter: That’s interesting. So you mentioned both the brands. But then also the I guess the plastic Manufacturers themselves and so are you you talking to? both? are you interested in potentially licensing to the plastics or working with brands who have more maybe of a vertically integrated model. How do you think about those kind of tradeoffs.

Julia Marsh:     Yeah, at least to start. We’re just again focused on getting our material in the hands of brands and and in the hands of shoppers because we really want to get that data back about how people interact with the material are they Composting. It does any of this seaweed Story Resonate. Um. So to begin with. We’re going to be working with contract Manufacturers in the future. It may be the case that we do vertically integrate and either we work directly more directly with seaweed farms to refine and extract the useful parts of that seaweed or we produce our own um resin that can be distributed to plastic Manufacturers and that’s sort of a ah. To be determined decision.

James McWalter: Absolutely and I just what are those kind of next you know next 1224 months time you know Milestones that you’re hoping to can reach.

Julia Marsh:     We’re focused on pilots we we were the winners at the Beyond the bag challenge which is how we’ve come to. Thank you really amazing experience. It was sponsored by ideo closed loop and then the consortium to reinvent the bag which included Target walmart cbs and a number of other global retailers.

James McWalter: Congrats.

Julia Marsh:     So what? that’s enabled us to do is really understand in ah in a micro level what these brands need us to achieve in order to adopt our material so over the course of the next couple of years. We’ll be working for pilots with those folks and then we’ll also be launching smaller scale pilots with apparel and cosmetic companies. And then the other big thing is we always constantly want to be achieving the highest level of certification. Not just related to the compostability of the material but also the nutrient quality of the material this idea that we could actually add again benefit to. Soil when the material decomposes and how well the the source material is certified as important as well. So there are all these emerging standards around ocean forestry that we’re really excited to hit partake in such as. This sort of fsc certified equivalent for ocean forests called the asc msc seaweed standard and expanding fair trade practices for the seaweed industry which is like very quickly growing so those are 2 focus areas I would say.

James McWalter: On that latter point. So what are the other kind of use cases for seaweed and I guess is there enough supply on the seaweed side. You know if were more and more different types of use cases are now turning to seaweed that we need to see a massive ramp up. You know the Amazon size you know area. Do we need. More than that. How do you think about that.

Julia Marsh:     So currently seaweed is primarily used in food or as a thickening agent in different pharmaceuticals or cosmetic products. There is more than enough seaweed seaweed is not the issue. Challenge in the bottleneck that we’ll run into is the processing capacity of those yeah existing seaweed processors so we will eventually you know at least in our current projections in about five years we’ll need to see growth with our current network. Expanding the capacity of yeah processing the seaweed but there’s quite a lot of ocean and the main limitation is yeah, not the seaweed.

James McWalter: No. Yeah, it’s interesting because you mentioned the carbon sequestration power of seaweed and I know there are a few companies who are looking at just seaweed as a pure carbon sequester so grow a ton of seaweed cut it allow it to sink to the bottom of the ocean. Hopefully it’ll stay there for at least a few decades and that’s a potential method. You know.

Julia Marsh:     Here. And.

James McWalter: But that’s to be honest I think that’s the big question right? It’s like we don’t we know so little about you know what happens you know below a mile below the surface that you know do these things kind of stay down there. Um, and so it is interesting where you have a number of people kind of re-looking at something that you know people have been using for.

Julia Marsh:     Is it.

James McWalter: 10000 years for different types of materials in these kind of new ways to combat you know the the climate crisis.

Julia Marsh:     Yeah,, there’s wonderful opportunities eventually for us to develop simile systems or to partner with farms that are trying to build out you know Kelp or seaweed related carbon Offset Programs. Science is constantly evolving and of course we would also want to focus on the farmer themselves benefiting from that um system. So It’s something we’re keeping our eye On. We’re also want to maximize the amount of carbon sequestered by our material itself and. Creating the best pathway for it to actually be composted so that we’re not sending it to landfill and further contributing to other sorts of emissions. Um, but something cool that I didn’t mention before is that when our material goes to landfill if it does it emits and these are based on our just our initial projections. But it is. It’s projected to emit eighty eight percent less C O 2 equivalent emissions in a landfill than paper which is something I thought was so wonderful and unexpected because you know whenever we’re considering any of these replacements for plastics 1 way that plastic does win is in the C O 2 equivalent emissions.

James McWalter: Right? It just stays there forever right? And so it it never actually goes into the atmosphere.

Julia Marsh:     In landfill? Um, so yeah, right? So that was 1 kind of great if you’re comparing paper to seaweed we win in that category.

James McWalter: Yeah, that’s fascinating and and super interesting and I guess you know there is this kind of balance between um, yeah, personal and I guess institutional or or commercial behavior around where the material ends up going right? And so.

Julia Marsh:     Um, ah.

James McWalter: Yeah, there’s a lot of cool companies, comassing companies and so on and so we also have to I guess Collectively have a lever around changing behavior to actually you know.

Julia Marsh:     You have.

James McWalter: Put it into the compost or learn about how to kind of dispose properly of these things as we kind of add materials that just don’t go into a landfill or shouldn’t be going just into a landfill and.

Julia Marsh:     Yeah, it shouldn’t feel at least composting behavior shouldn’t feel alien or like an exclusive process someone in a city can compost. You know in their own home with ah with a bucket and a carbon filter. It’s actually. Ah, quite easy to do and the wonderful thing about it is we divert. Yeah, all this food from landfill and all those additional carbon equivalent emissions and there is increasing compost infrastructure. It’s sort of an inevitability. You know, recycling infrastructure’s only really been around since the Seventy s compost infrastructure is. Inevitably going to scale and be more accessible to more people.

James McWalter: And you mentioned a bit earlier about you know during Covid we got used to a lot of packages of various types showing up at the home and besides that you also have this kind of um, you know because of fears of cleanliness and so on people I think got very used to or begin more positively. Came to more positively view disposables of of various types right? kind of a health point of view. How do you think about that like is that going to be something that’ll take a little while to go back to what have been before which was like a kind of ah a move towards us disposables. Um, and yeah, how do you think Covid I guess changes The space.

Julia Marsh:     A.

Julia Marsh:     That’s an interesting question I think more than anything we are programmed to desire convenience and who can blame us and I think that what. Solution We’ve developed represents is a pathway to still provide a very convenient solution to the shopper. Not necessarily asking folks like yourself or anyone else to do anything wildly outside of the ordinary but to engage with composting behavior and. Make it as easy as possible for you to do the right thing just by swapping out the material and I think that’s a great opportunity that brands have like I was mentioning before that brands have this great opportunity to enable guilt free shopping by by subbing out their plastic packaging. Um. But I don’t think it’s impossible that we might return to the milkman and always have you know, reusable packaging for our bottles and and our bags I think that’s entirely feasible.

James McWalter: Yeah, and I guess I goes into this concept of circular economy nearly by definition circular economies become more localized right? because the transit is such like ah becomes a larger factor the more circular the the economy I guess and so if you can make that transport piece tighter.

Julia Marsh:     The earth.

James McWalter: Um, especially if it’s going back to the same place from where it began. Um, you have this kind of you know your like scalability kind of reverses in these interesting ways.

Julia Marsh:     Right? Yeah and I think just another piece because you hinted at it when we talk about circular systems or closed-loop systems so often we focus on mechanical recycling and I think oftentimes we we forget about biological recycling and that’s what compost infrastructure represents.

James McWalter: And.

Julia Marsh:     Opportunity to feed into other aspects of the regenerative movement by creating healthy soil more nutrient-rich soil which is responsible for like all life on earth.

James McWalter: Absolutely yeah I guess I guess even the way I was describing. It was very much a literal circle right? like the same thing starts an end in the same place and with a few different kind of steps but it’s definitely something much more akin to you know, rebuilding an ecosystem of sorts right? where you have tons and tons of inputs and tons ons of outputs become inputs.

Julia Marsh:     As a.

James McWalter: And basically ah like an interweb of yeah things like ah, any ecosystem whether you know it’s a field in the west of Ireland or the rainforest or like you know, ah seaweed off the coast of Carmel Um, you know, ah like yeah right? So like if you look at those like all the inputs and outputs are constantly kind of like interacting at each other.

Julia Marsh:     Right.

Julia Marsh:     Isn’t it.

James McWalter: And I guess I also fall into that kind of engineering mindset of a circle being a circle and not a lot else outside of it. Yeah.

Julia Marsh:     It’s a multi-ringed Venn Diagram Probably I love solutions for the climate crisis that tackle multiple issues at the same time and what I love about our solution in particular and many of the emerging sort of benevolent materials in the space is that. We’re addressing not just the climate crisis not just the plastic problem. But also all these social injustices that have emerged as a result of the climate crisis and so the more we can find solutions that democratize access to benevolent materials I Just think that the more we bring it humanity into the conversation. Which again is also very often overlooked.

James McWalter: Absolutely and you mentioned kind of going through some of these certifying kind of processes and I guess 1 of the difficulties that the average consumer has I guess is figuring out what all these potential labelings or you know is fair trade. Okay anymore we don’t know anymore you know like all these kind of things.

James McWalter: Um, how do you think about like the balance of give oversupplying information to a consumer who often are making a relatively snap judgment and really at the end often. The consumer just is like is this the guilt-free decision or not right. And so I myself couldn’t go back and forth. But yeah I’d love to hear your thoughts On. Um yeah, labeling and of packaging and things like that. So.

Julia Marsh:     Well specifically with packaging and specifically with compostables. There are some very frequent yeah confusing labels that make it really difficult for someone to do the right thing if something says it’s 1 hundred percent compostable that does not mean that it’ll degrade in your backyard. And it doesn’t mean that it’s made only from plants. It just means that it’s industrially compostable and composting is binary. It’s either 1 hundred percent or it’s not at all so saying it’s 1 hundred percent compostable is not a further like reassurance. Um, and I think. Yeah, oftentimes the materials that we’re interacting with that are available to us that are labeled as being compostable are only part biobase. They’re not even 1 hundred percent dependent on plants. They can still have petroleum-based binding agents integrated in them which means you’re not actually breaking free from plastics or the fossil fuel industry. Um. There’s also yeah, this opportunity to yeah, better label the actual time span that a material might degrade in ideal conditions. So increasingly I’d like to see labeling that very quickly tells the shopper without them having to think too much about it. This is going to decompose in 4 to 6 weeks. It’s. Ah, carbon-neutral or its carbon Negative. It’s made from x y and z materials. In our case, seaweed and plants. Um, and maybe even if they do care it was it was you know, cultivated or produced under fair trade conditions and those are the four major. Points I would look out for although we can we can add more the more information I generally think the better.

James McWalter: Sure on just that um and so I guess you know if I think about ah the more people and we talked about this little bit at the very beginning but like you know we want more people working on these problems while more people doing interesting things often. It is there are these barriers. Entry both real and often perceived right? We talked about you know this perception. You need to be scientists or this perception that you need to yeah have worked in the industry for 30 years or whatever it may be um, let’s say you know I was a next or there was a person who’s like the next generation analog of you know what? you’re what you’ve been doing over the last few years.

Julia Marsh:     Um, here.

James McWalter: And what’s kind of advice. You tell that person get started.

Julia Marsh:     I would say that the network that you have available to you multiplies so quickly as soon as folks learn you’re trying to make the planet a better place from a practical. Perspective. So I think the more practically grounded and the more intersectional your solution is the more likely folks are to help you and the biggest thing that I learned early on which I hinted at earlier was i. Need to to become very good at admitting when I did not know something or fully understand something that humility made it much easier for me to learn and to bring in the right people to help and then the other thing I would recommend is that you bring in talents which really well complement yourself. So. I’m a designer I love to make beautiful objects I love to communicate stories. But I don’t necessarily have a granular understanding of seaweed chemistry. So I brought in the talent and the skill set as quickly as possible to round out my own skillset. Have 2 amazing co-founders who complement me very well. My co-founder Matt has a background in sustainable Development. He’s worked with public and private companies expanding their triple bottom line has a really robust sense of what needs to go into a lifecycle assessment my other co-founder leland mashmere was the former chief brand officer at Giboni he’s built. Global brands. He understands executive leadership. He understands how to you know, build a massive company that’s going have massive scale. So I’m really thankful for those skillets and I could go through the whole team but we won’t do that now.

35:32.79   James McWalter: And yeah, no, and it’s great. It’s great to to kind of mention those cofounders you know it’s it’s so such an interesting kind of set of relationships and how those develop over the years and you know all the best companies like have really strong like early relationships and and that kind of trust that kind of goes from there. Um.

Julia Marsh:     Over.

James McWalter: I mean it is you know I guess the thing that I find ah people which kind of touches upon your your previous point. Um that I find catches people up is that either people you know don’t talk enough about what they’re thinking right? or are talk so much. They don’t listen.

James McWalter: Right? And like these are 2 kinds of spectrums are 2 2 side of the same spectrum I guess and so on on the first point which I get your man like like I tell people all the time if you have an idea like just tell tell people about it just hey I have ah you know do you know anybody who knows anything about seaweed.

Julia Marsh:     Um, yeah, that happened. Um, let a.

James McWalter: It’s like oh you know my cousin Susan like has ah you know she was ah a Ph.D. in seaweed like in Norway or whatever maybe and like all of a sudden you have that connection and if you keep it to yourself or um, yeah, you don’t get there but equally on the other side I think like asking those questions like.

Julia Marsh:     Ah, address.

James McWalter: You know when you actually then get into the room with the expert. It’s just asking questions. It’s like really you know you can give your 1 minute spiel or your 1-minute pitch and so on. But I always find that it’s so helpful to just like go in and you know be but well prepared with like the 5 questions like you would love to have answers with and like. If you knew the answers those they would move you 1 Step forward to like having a real product or a real company.

Julia Marsh:     Yep, absolutely and then walking away from that conversation saying or maybe understanding what ah you know the 3 things that this person I’ve just met really loves to do and would be willing to continue helping me with and having this. Network of advisors that you can just immediately call on is really really helpful because building a business especially in the climate space can be very isolating sometimes and I drive so much comfort from yeah, connecting with other founders and yeah and with another climate. Enthusiasts and cried, enthusiasts. It makes you feel a lot less alone.

James McWalter: It just on the kind of aloneness then I guess do you think kind of climate is lonelier than some of these other spaces or how do you think about that.

Julia Marsh:     Well I don’t know because I I guess I can’t compare it to anything else. No I think that it I misspoke The challenge is so great and the potential and the urgency of these solutions is so great that it can feel at times Like. You’re you know, working on a never-ending problem so seeking out these kinds of friends and and and advisors yeah can help you feel less alone in the fight against the climate crisis.

James McWalter: Right.

James McWalter: Yeah I guess that’s why I think you know you mentioned this earlier but like why people are so friendly. It’s like I think you go through this process of like oh no like semi despair. That’s just too big for 1 person and then it’s like oh I literally need everybody I need competitors.

Julia Marsh:     Ah, right.

James McWalter: Right? Like you know I need at every point like we need 20 million people like changing their lives like tomorrow to work on some of these things just have a chance of um, you know something close to success and so yeah, go on. Yeah.

Julia Marsh:     Um, is a. Oh It’s yeah, it’s very freeing actually that I can approach most if not all of our competitors and say hey let’s be friends you want to figure this out together. Um, but that’s overall been the theme. Especially in the seaweed space. But I imagine throughout the climate space as well.

James McWalter: No absolutely and I was working on a kind of agtech idea like a year year and a half ago and I just contacted every ah competitor in the space and like ninety percent of them got on a call me I was like I’m competing with you you know? and so on I ended up not working on that idea too much longer, but it was fascinating how yeah open people were because.

Julia Marsh:     Enter.

James McWalter: Pretty much everyone was like all right? We just you know even if we become a billion dollar company. We need a hundred more just to to like tackle the problem Julia Marsh:   does but absolutely brilliant I suppose before we finish off is there anything I should have asked you about but did not.

Julia Marsh:     Right? This is.

Julia Marsh:     Oh boy? Well, we are hiring currently. So if anyone listening happens to know an incredible Ph.D. Biopolymer scientist. We’re looking for a very senior role to help.

James McWalter: Bright.

Julia Marsh:     Expand our engineering team and we’re hiring actively at this moment. So our job descriptions are listed at our website Swayfuturecom/careers would be the biggest help.

James McWalter: Absolutely and we’ll post that link on the show notes as well. Julia Marsh:   Thank you so much has been brilliant.

Julia Marsh:     I Really appreciate it. Great to meet you and great to have this conversation.

Plastic in Concrete?! – E65

Great to chat with Sebastian Sajoux, CEO at Arqlite, a recycling technology company developing high-efficiency materials, made from 100% recycled plastic! We discussed how they create Smart gravel from hard to recycle plastic, how a focus on local solutions avoids CO2 emissions for concrete, regulations to remove the plastics from the environment, the need for government incentives to speed up the process to help the environment and more! 

https://carbotnic.com/arqlite

Download Podcast Here: https://plinkhq.com/i/1518148418

Remember, If you want to support the podcast there are two amazing ways!

  1. Subscribe to the Carbotnic patreon  
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Thanks so much! 

James

Decarbonizing Cement – E56

Great to chat with Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Co-Founder and CEO at Carbon Re, Carbon Re’s mission is to enable the decarbonization of foundation industries, starting with cement! We discussed cement supply chains, their carbon emissions, fuel efficiency, scaling of alternative fuels, the drivers for users and investors to cut carbon emissions and more!

https://carbotnic.com/carbonre

Download Podcast Here: https://plinkhq.com/i/1518148418

Biomass for the Circular Economy – E52

Great to chat with Petri Tolonen CEO of CH-Bioforce Oy, a company converting biomass like wood into high-value materials and replace fossil fuel raw materials in textiles and packaging! We discussed the unique process for processing biomass they developed, how they are scaling their production, why technology licensing is an interesting and underutilised business model for startups, the importance of government support to kickstart the circular economy and more! 

Biomass for the Circular Economy – E51

Download Podcast Here: https://plinkhq.com/i/1518148418

Replacing Plastic with AirCarbon – E50

Great to chat with Mark Herrema, cofounder and CEO of Newlight Technologies, a biotechnology company producing advanced sustainable materials! We discussed how they use naturally occurring microorganisms to eat greenhouse gases and produce a material called AirCarbon which can replace many uses for plastics, their 18 year journey to build such a disruptive technology, how the investing landscape for climattech has changed over the last few years and more!

Wonder in Waste -E20

Really interesting to get into compostable plastics with Tony Bova,  CEO and founder of Mobius, a startup developing compostable plastics. We discussed how plastic use goes up with regenerative farming which makes compostable plastics an essential part of a sustainable food system, how plastics fit into circular economy, the careful consideration they gave the plastics value chain when deciding their go to market strategy, what universities can do to encourage more startups, how he balanced starting a startup with finishing a PHD and more!

Materials, AI, and Decarbonization – E1

Great chat with Greg Mulholland, CEO and Co-founder of Citrine Informatics as AI Platform for materials development. We discussed what the early days of Citrine looked like, how they powered through some low times, the massive opportunity of applying machine learning to applied materials science, whether cleantech was becoming mainstream for VCs, how data regulation like GDPR compares to regulation in the materials space, how MBAs can be a form of identity, whether we will see explicit geo-engineering and the potential of superconductors generating future noble prizes and more.

Here is the audio. Some excerpts lightly edited:

MCWALTER: What have you learned as most about hiring and retaining like high quality talent?

MULHOLLAND: The most important thing, I think, is that we’ve been really intentional about our culture from the beginning… A core part of our culture is willingness and ability to give feedback…  and we make it a point to lift each other up. And and I think those characteristics have really led to our success and retention because, people want to feel valued and they do on our team.

and…

MCWALTER: It appears to me that VCs are chronically underrating cleantech; as Citrine recently raised a Series B, would you agree? 

MULHOLLAND: I think less and less, especially since Sequoia, I think sort of notably, announced that they believed that clean tech was the future and a really important investment thesis. All of a sudden, so much attention turned to our space. I would say we’re one aspect of being able to make the world more sustainable place, but I wouldn’t even characterise (Citrine) as pure clean tech. We certainly have some enterprise software bones about us.

You know, honestly, my experience talking to venture investors is that they understand that the world is changing and needs to be a cleaner, greener place. And there’s really no dispute about that. I think a lot of people have gathered that a lot of investors don’t spend a lot of time in that space. And so, often when raising our series A, but even occasionally in our series B, I had to explain to a venture investor controlling hundreds of millions of dollars or more, that the chemicals industry and the materials industry is actually a huge industry. And like, you know, sometimes it gets reactions “Oh, isn’t that a niche?” And it’s like, no, it’s actually, you know, a double digit percent of the global economy. And they’re like, “Well, I know what BSF and Dow and DuPont and 3M”. And then I list off another dozen or 20. And they’re like, “Well, I haven’t heard of half of those”. I’m like, well, all of them do more than $10 billion a year in revenue. And then I say and then there are the ones that do only a billion dollars a year in revenue and you can just see their eyes go wide because they don’t live in that space.

and…

MCWALTER:  how does your kind of approach and model of the world in terms of decarbonisation differ from the proponents of the green new deal and similar approaches?

MULHOLLAND:I don’t know they differ in the long term view to your point. I mean, look, I I want everything to be recyclable, biodegradable, and green in every possible way from from cradle to grave, and entirely circular. From a policy perspective, I think a lot of people just sort of collapse clean tech into one idea. And clean tech isn’t one idea. I mean, you’ve got everything from power generation, which is on a lot of people’s minds. And I think the green new deal is a big component of power generation generation infrastructure behind it. And we don’t touch that, you know, I, I would love that for the grid to run entirely on solar, and maybe we’ll help invent new solar panels. 

At the same time, you know, I think there are a lot of regulators who had been asked to think about new materials and chemicals in the environment that don’t have full context on how things came to be, and how things might progress over time, in the shadow of certain regulations. And I think one that’s really interesting is you know, every once in a while, and particularly just before COVID, the European Commission and the European Union, were talking about banning plastics. And it’s like, well, okay, but here’s, here’s the thing. Almost everything has plastic in it. I mean, even the clothes we are wearing, have some synthetic materials in them, which sort of described succinctly are plastic in some way or another. And so this idea that we can, with enough government force and enough effort, rapidly remove certain types of materials from our world, is just nonsense. But I totally agree with the incentives and the pressure behind it. And so, you know, our approach is to say, look, because of regulatory pressure, consumer preference, the state of the world and so many other things we’re headed on inexorable march towards sustainability. In 100 years, the world’s either more sustainable place, or it’s roughly gone. And, in my view, tools like Citrine’s are simply an accelerant on our ability to make progress against those goals

and… 

MCWALTER: Thinking about like Elon Musk’s various ventures, which will have the longest lasting positive effects ?

MULHOLLAND: I just think Tesla is incredibly exciting short term. They’ve totally turned heads and changed minds with respect to electric cars. I actually think SpaceX is going to have a longer term impact though, because democratising access to space, whether it be for satellites or travel is going to really, really transform how the world approaches things. And you can already see the price pressure of SpaceX changing the dynamics of the space industry, which I think yields enormous opportunities regardless of what types of cars we’re driving.

and…

MCWALTER: Was there anything that I should have asked you about but did not?

MULHOLLAND: I have I think we’re getting close to some real interesting breakthroughs in superconduction. I don’t think we’re going to have commercializable room temperatures superconduction anytime soon but I do think there’s some really cool technology coming around how we control power and how we are able to flex the grid. As we as we learn more about how to control the electromagnetic spectrum around us, I think we’re going to develop new exciting products, but also a more efficient world. And fom a materials perspective, that’s something I’m really excited about, and it’s still fundamental, but I think it’ll be transformational when the time comes. Probably years away but but still transformational.

Learned alot from Greg!