Great to chat with Lauren Kuntz, CEO and Co-Founder at Gaiascope, Gaiascope is dedicated to maintaining planetary balance and combating climate change! We discussed forecasts on the electric grid, energy trading market, how energy efficiency is correlated with lower carbon, ways energy usage is shifting and more! 

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James

The unedited podcast transcript is below

James McWalter

Hello today we’re speaking with Lauren Kuntz Ceo and co-founder at Gaiascope welcome to podcast Lauren Kuntz brilliant to start. Could you tell us a little bit about Gaiascope.

Lauren Kuntz

Thanks so much for having me.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, So we’re really focused on trying to help the assets that we need for a carbon free grid so things like storage renewables demand response maximize their returns so that those projects that are more. Financeable in the future moving forward and we can help accelerate our transition to a carbon free grid.

James McWalter

And what drove and what drove that initial decision to start Gaiascope. Yeah.

Lauren Kuntz

Um, yeah, So my cofounder and I came from totally different backgrounds. But I think had really seen similar Trends Happening. So I.

And very much an academic by nature and training I did my undergrad and physics mechanical engineering my ph d in climate science and had the wonderful opportunity during my education to both take a class around decarbonization and teach classes around decarbonization. And I think in that process I learned a ton about how important the grid was and how we actually had no idea how to operate a grid without Dispatchable Fossil Fuel plants on it and that we like need to fundamentally answer that question so I was. Leaving grad school with this in mind of like this is a question I really want to work on and engage with and I met up with my co-founder Jess Stiles who is a rockstar badass in energy finance and she had been basically 10 years in energy finance everything from hedge fund to. Development deals and I’d realized that like we’re seeing this interest and shift towards renewables and decarbonized assets but nobody understood the economics of them so we kind of just really synced together on those 2 learnings and we’re like hey the way that we can help figure out how to make this grid operate is to make the economics. More transparent across different timescales. So we really focused on short term to begin with.

James McWalter

And so what does that look like in terms of like a product and I guess what the you know the early product look like and where do any pivots along the way I.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, so the early product we were just like hey we’re going to be a saas company and we’re going to sell price forecasts on the electric grid. The idea being if you know what price expectations are you immediately know how to make decisions right? like that’s the clearest signal you kind of can have when you’re thinking about revenue and returns. Um, really early on. We learned we had to pivot away from that because almost everybody we spoke to was like if you’re amazing at forecasting prices. Why don’t you go trade and there was a huge skepticism so we’re like okay I mean we’re like great idea. We’re gonna go trade and we’re gonna prove this works and we’re gonna like understand your pain deeply. So we pivoted kind of within that first three months of formation just from trying to be a software platform to actually running a very small trading platform. Um so we spent about two and a half years then trading ourselves building up our models having an amazing feedback loop between. Is the model working and seeing that in returns and now are really launching a product that’s focused on giving bid decisions and optimization optimization around dispatch to decarbonize assets on the grid. Um, so kind of taking that price forecasting a step further for them as well and being like look this is how you should trade. This is how you should dispatch your asset to maximize your returns.

James McWalter

And could you speak a little bit then to exactly how it works today in terms of energy trading and you know I guess where there are ah you know you you mentioned the kind of the old world of like the peaker plant-driven model and this new world. We’re kind of going in through. And how I guess the kind of current trading regime or the current trading model that most organizations who are trading. Um what they’re missing big big topic.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, so I mean to date a lot of them. Yeah, not a small question but we’ll start with just renewables I think to date so many renewables have been under ppas for so long that they haven’t had to worry about trading in Wholesale markets. Right? They’ve basically had 0 exposure to this and so they haven’t had to build build out trading teams in house like they’re just like we just need to make sure we produce as amazing Megawatts as Possible. We don’t care about the price because we already have somebody that guaranteed a price for us. Um, and now you’re seeing the ppa value start to Fall. Um, so it’s not quite as valuable to do as it was before you’re starting to see assets that were on ppas now that contract has ended and they’re now exposed to this wholesale market risk and they’re like we don’t know necessarily How do we manage that risk we don’t know how to trade in the day ahead versus. Real time. How much our volumes that we should be sort of Guaranteeing. We’re going to deliver versus leaving open to whatever real time prices are so we really are trying to come in and help with that specific problem.

James McWalter

And it’s so interesting. You also mentioned this kind of ah you know, starting with a saas product and then the the kind of idea of building your own kind of prop trading desk about a year ago to put my kind of cards on the table I actually had a friend of mine who was a machine learning engineer and he had a very similar idea to to. Gaiascope was like okay, let’s take some you know day ahead predictions use some weather data use some fancy different kind of models specifically targeting battery storage and then use the ash somehow to kind of decarbonize the grid and when we were like chatting about it was like okay well. We could probably make a ton of money on this right? We could just trade it like if if our model you know if his predictions are better and than the average predictions that are out there and you have enough capital to deploy. You actually make serious but amount kind of money but I think the thing that we were a little bit struggling at and we we kind of immediately moved away from that and I ended up kind of going in different direction as a he. Um, with a different company but the bit we were always kind of struggling with was the kind of connection to directly nudging the industry into kind of more clean directions and so it sounds like you went through you know way more successful and like more thoughtful kind of way of kind of thinking through those problems. But yeah I guess how did that kind of process go for you.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah I mean I think I entered with a similar mindset of probably coming from academia was like how does trading help anything like you’re just sort of scraping money away from other people and the more that I’ve been involved in it the more that I see it actually is it is value. Add to the grid. Um, and it is helping decarbonize the grid in the short term long term we need physical assets on the grid that are decarbonized right? like that’s going to be the limiting factor more than whatever you can do with just purely financial trades but part of the reason that even financial traders. Like the work we’ve been doing is allowed in these markets is because we’re basically taking on risks that other people won’t take on and are helping the market in advance get a better understanding of what will happen tomorrow in reality. So if you have no idea what tomorrow is going to look like. You have to make decisions around what plants are going to be turning on at what time. Um and will I have enough generation from those plants and there’s some plants that have a very long time. It takes some to spin up and be ready to produce power and you probably if you have no idea what’s going to happen are just going to be like hey guys. Be ready all the time to produce power be running and then if it gets really windy all of a sudden you’re just like sorry wind we have to curtail you because we can’t ramp that coal plant down. But the more insight you have in advance through the day ahead market through the type of trading that we do the more understanding you can have of like hey there’s actually really a high chance. There’s going to be a lot of wind so we should 3 hours in advance turn that coal plan off so that we don’t have to curtail the wind we can take advantage of all of this really cheap power. Um, and. Because we have different return expectations than say the wind farm or the coal plant were able to bid more aggressively and get the market to look more accurate than they otherwise would they probably are going to be more conservative and they’re like well we don’t want to take on the chance. It’s not windy. Um, so we’re able to really help the market operate more efficiently through our trading and efficiency also is really strongly correlated with lower carbon.

James McWalter

Yeah I definitely take both those points I think the peaker plant point is one that I think is not really noticed in the way that it should be right? And so for the audience you have these typically coal-fired or very dirty sources of energy they tried to to get fired up on a pretty quick basis to kind of fill. Ah, peak issues within in the grid itself so that nobody loses energy and it’s just like an incredibly dirty way of doing those things and so if you can avoid it as as Lauren Kuntz was saying um, you can have this kind of huge benefit and then we’re also moving to this world where we’re starting to have thepach dispatchable, clean energy like things from so storage and batteries. And so how are you thinking about how I guess you know how different models can work across different types of energy sources and how you kind of you know judge that or are your kind of model takes in lots of less inputs and then it’s like we will predict the good price and that price is consistently beating the market itself.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, so we really focus on having good inputs that help us get a really good understanding of not just like what is a point price forecast but like what’s the confidence in that which is the other really big piece of what we do that I think is different from how other people look at these markets. But transmitting that into decisions for assets is actually very asset specific because for something like a peaker plant. They can kind of respond to prices as they wish unlike. Storage which can only respond to a price signal if it has power stored up already right? So There’s this time component in storage that makes forecasting there even more important and makes how you utilize those forecasts as well. Even more important because it’s like if you have a $9000 price by coming.

James McWalter

Right.

Lauren Kuntz

And you have an awareness of this even if prices right now were two hundred or three hundred dollars it’s worth it for you to charge so that you can discharge in that even higher price time. Um, and that’s a consideration. You don’t necessarily see in fossil type dispatchable plants. Um I think demand response similarly has that sort of time varying tradeoffs that you have to realize and it just makes everything we do about the christ forecasting and translating it into decisions even more impactful.

James McWalter

And I guess who are today are your customers and what is a process if I was let’s say one of those customer profiles of signing me up as a customer. Okay.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, so we are really focusing on storage assets and renewable assets that have basis risks that they would like help managing that’s kind of our initial use cases right now and specifically within the Texas market that’s kind of the grid that we’ve really focused on to date. And the way that we tend to interact with potential clients is we start with just a free trial process. So we engage with you. We kind of show you hey this is a simple strategy that is just for purist illustrative purposes, no bells and whistles on it. You can get an understanding in a back test of how it would have performed um and every day then for the next month we’re going to send you how that strategy would recommend trading so you can kind of see this is exactly the information I’m getting if you’re already trading yourself. You can see how is it different and we do kind of a weekly retro of like. How would our simple strategy have done really get you familiar with kind of how it’s working why it’s working the way it is assuming the trial is of interest and both parties want to keep moving forward. We then move into a pilot phase where we do kind of a 2 to four week period of. Really customizing the strategy to that client specific needs. So everybody has a different risk reward profile. Everybody has different concerns that they’re worried about so we want to actually spend the time upfront really making sure that we’re building the strategy. That’s right for them around our price forecasts. Um, doing a lot of back testing so we establish baselines how much better. Do we think it’s going to do than what they’re currently doing and from there we move into kind of phase two a pilot which is just incubation so similar to the trial. We’re sending them the trades every day the strategy would recommend. We’re not live trading them It’s just kind of but make sure all the processes are working get everybody comfortable and then final phase of the pilot would be an actual deployment so you would be trading around the recommendations of our software.

James McWalter

And what is a kind of typical you know, um excess return um standard that and and Ram charge is a very large range but you know what would you say a good pilot would look like if you know would you make a customer very happy using your your product.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah,, That’s a great question I mean I think it’s very much asset dependent and it also really depends on kind of what their baseline is like I think there’s some players where they have no idea how to manage basis risk and anything that is helping that is a win in their book. Um, and then you have other players where they already have a decently sophisticated strategy and they want to see like hey it’s only worth it if you’re making 20% plus more I think some back testing that we’ve played with have shown like the capability of five X Ah Roi on some assets. Um, but again it really depends like what are they currently doing how comfortable are they with trading everybody kind of has a different set point.

James McWalter

Um, if I x sounds good though. Um I’m sure I’m sure people are happy when they see those kind of numbers. Um, and 1 thing that again the can canadian might not kind of be familiar with is trading in the wholesale energy markets. Is a has pretty large barriers to entry so my understanding to trade in Texas which is one of the kind of you know the energy regions where this kind of trading takes place is at maybe it’s about but 7 figures about $1000000 to kind of get up and running and similar for other regions and so. As we’ve seen different kind of policy changes happen to allow more distributed energy resources allow a lot fewer or a lot more you know organizations. Yeah, even going down at community solar and like kind of approaching things like mom and-pop dispatchable energy this kind of thing. Um, one of the big barriers to entry is still the access to those wholesside markets. How how do you think about that barrier to entry. Obviously you’re filling out like some of that gap as well. But um, is it where it should be like is does it protects people from like maybe you know the the right and toot and claw nature of markets that are that are like the energy markets or. Should it be what opened up some more. So.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah that’s a really good question I mean I think we definitely struggled with this super early on as a company and even 3 years into it still can where we ended up in Texas made the strategic choice to start there largely because the. Credit requirement that you have to post is substantially lower in the Texas market than elsewhere so was one where it’s like as a family and friends round and ycy funded company like we had enough barely enough collateral that we could start doing what we’re doing um and as we’re growing. We’re starting to reach those thresholds but even now it’s still hard to kind of show that you have the required collateral to trade. Um I definitely have an understanding as to why you don’t want to just sort of have a free for all be like yeah as long as you have $10 come under these markets like at the end of the day. This isn’t just like stock market where oh it’s going up and down. It’s like if you really mess up electricity markets like you could cause blackouts like there’s severe consequences that can happen and that’s not just like an uncomfortable thing but it’s like. Losing power to hospitals like these can be really extreme consequences if the grid goes down so I understand the need to keep it somewhat protected and somewhat a barrier because you don’t just want anybody playing but at the same time you’re completely right? that these limits are somewhat arbitrary. They’re also somewhat set kind of like there’s the ability of the markets to be like well you’re a small player that we don’t like so we’ll just set a higher credit limit for you in a bigger hurdle that you have to jump over it than somebody else and to really let all of these distributed resources take advantage and give the benefit to the grid that they can provide. I do think we have to be a lot more thoughtful about how do they engage? How do we engage them safely. How do we engage them without really risking the stability of the system I think it’s a question that Ferc is constantly struggling with to be honest.

James McWalter

Yeah, absolutely so for 22 22 which was this new rule that passed a couple of years ago that kind of allows just more types of energy to be allowed onto the grid and in various ways and and I actually spoke to one of the people who wrote the the ra law one of the lawyers at Ferc. About this and I was like hey it is just like a cold message I was like I’m curious of fork 22 22 um, what’s and it was like my my email was like what are the entrepreneurial opportunities caused by Fork twenty two 22 and I a great chat to him and he was like very blut. He was like. Not for like 3 years it was like it’s going to take years just for people to really understand because again he’s like we we’ll write these rules to be more permissive of different behavior but you know as as you’re saying like you’re having all these other layers right? and all these other areas of kind of risk version because it is dealing with something that’s so fundamental like you know. The backbone of our entire civilization is electricity. Basically so um, you know for yourself and I coming from like the startup world. We’re like let’s move faster. Let’s let’s open it up. Um, but I also could understand the yeah the need to move slower in certain areas.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, for sure I Guess the one area though that still really frustrates me and like if I could wave a magic wand and get furk to change is around demand response I feel like the way right now Demand response markets are set up. Is you get rewarded for peak Shaving. So. Times when there is a lot of load on the grid if you are able to reduce your load. You can get paid for this but you can’t get paid for filling Troughs. So if you have too much renewable generation and prices are Negative. Most demand rockets are set up where you can’t take advantage of that. And so like you’re really limiting how that resource can interact and what benefit they can provide from the grid because you haven’t incentivized them properly and it’s stuff like that where like every time I see it I’m like oh come on move faster be a little more like a startup don’t be like an old school energy system. But. We’ll get there and just never I think as fast as entrepreneurs like us want.

James McWalter

Exactly but 1 of more gray hairs. But we’ll we’ll get there in the end and I guess you you could have mentioned risk a couple times and especially because you are kind of focused on Texas we you know had this kind of very famous event last year pretty much just over a year ago where and a lot of people outside of Texas heard about this as well. Where. Because of extreme weather. You had very large shutdowns in the grid. You also related to that had these incredible spikes in price which from a kind of pure economic point of view is basically what you want to see right? You want to see these large spikes in price to adjust behavior. But in the same way that everybody somewhat misunderstands surge pricing on ubers and lyfts when there was a disaster and are like oh my god this is like terrible. It’s like well you get any drivers out unless you actually pay them. You know a higher rate. Um, you know there is the I guess the economic reasoning for why an event happens. And then how you know we kind of socialize that and also how we kind of socialize the risk of associated events. How do you think about those elements because you could build a barbell strategy where it’s like we’re going to make it lose money every day until there’s a disaster and we’ll make a ton of money. But you know you you’ll be yeah, like in trouble with the public. We’ll say that.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah I mean you’ll be in trouble with trouble with the public I think you’ll also struggle to find any investors that are like truly truly okay with you losing money for 10 years straight until there’s like a 1 in 10 year winter storm event that happens. Um I think most investors aren’t okay with that ah level of risk reward. Um I think it’s it’s a challenging question because especially in Texas where you don’t have capacity markets. You don’t have kind of baseline payments that you’re making to generators that are just sitting idle most of the year but are like what’s keeping the lights on on that hottest day. Really operating. Um you end up in Texas with like needing those price spikes to incentivize enough capacity to exist there for like the biggest days that you need it and like the winterstorm is one of those right? where it’s like seeing high prices helps incentivize more people to come build. Um, but at the same time you don’t want to pass that on to consumers right? like you were hearing about some consumers getting $20000 bills where it’s like to an extent like electricity but in basic need like electricity and heat like you need it. We can’t really survive without it.

James McWalter

So bit botch right.

Lauren Kuntz

Um, so we do have various protections in place for most of the country like most people do not sign utility agreements where they’re playing the wholesale price for their electricity like you normally have a fixed rate. Maybe it varies a little bit over the day but it’s kind of a locked in you’re set up in this Contract. So I think it’s partly. Kind of making sure the right people bear the risk and being very cognizant of sort of Okay, if you are going to benefit from the risk. How are you then paying the system back at other times. How are we making sure that like the reward you’re reaping is truly in line with the benefit that you did provide.

James McWalter

That that makes absolute ton of sense and I guess it kind of brings to mind again. How the energy usage itself is shifting right? and so you obviously have this kind of massive increase in the variability of the supply right? as we’ve talked about with you know, renewables and not being the step batchable. But. Now starting to see battery storage which is somewhat but still needs. Yeah to be charged at certain points then on the demand side. You’re also having a huge amount of variability as we start to go from. You know one percent evs and so certain markets to 5 10 15 twenty thirty percent and so on and that is I think in general people are not. Outside of people directly working on this like not really prepared for how wild the change is going to be to the grid and how we kind of cope with that. How are you thinking about that in terms of like you know the opportunities or challenges for gyoscope.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah I mean I tend to view it all as an opportunity right? I think as an entrepreneur change in any form is generally an opportunity. Um, so for me I look at that I’m like this is huge potential. Um. Part of it does depend on like how do does ferk decide that these types of new loads and new assets that can be dispatchable on the load side. How are they allowed to partake in the markets. Um, but at the end of the day I’m like well that’s hundreds of thousands of batteries. On the grid that all could benefit from price forecasting and understanding their optimization around charging and discharging potentially so I view that as like a massive potential stream of clients for us the timing of it again depends on the markets and what’s set up there but it’s. It’s going to get there eventually because it has to for the grid to work for the grid to be balanced. We have to start treating these loads as dispatchable like they are um I also just in general for the grid view it as a win like storage standalone is incredibly expensive to build still. We’re starting to build more of it and that is fantastic. That is wonderful. We need it but the amount that we need right now is not going to get there so I’m like hey look people are naturally buying evs like I just purchased a Prius prime. That’s a plugin and has a battery like. Why are we not letting these partake in the market they already could help stabilize our grid they could provide more benefit to it. This is a wonderful potentially lower cost way to get a lot more storage faster to the grid.

James McWalter

And by definition are already just going dramatically affected on the demand Side. It’s just reverse reverse the flow right? like um and and the tech is all there to certain extent. You have companies like stem and so on who allow you know what they call Ev Degrade just from a pure like technical ability. Um, but it’s funny I like when I was again kind of investigating a Geiscope esque approach I was like talking to people who are doing Um, yeah software to kind of control battery when it should operate in different markets and so those services market and so on and like ah talk to multiple folks who were just like using a timer like they weren’t even like trying to predict anything they’re like. Oh you know, usually like load is like this in the day. Yeah know at the end of the day versus that. Um and I was like oh well, why? why? Why don’t you try to like actually optimize it like ass a lot that’s a lot that’s complicated. Um, and so but but like all I guess all the but buildinging blocks for this, you know, very streamlined. You know, ebbing of flowing of supply and Demand. Like are all technically in place. But as you said you know the opportunity for entrepreneurs is to actually piece them together into something that actually you know is a new stable hole.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, exactly and I think I think they’re right and I understand why they’re like this is a lot like having now spent 3 years building up our models of this system I’m like yeah, it’s hard like why I get why using just kind of a timer is a lot simpler of a first step but I do think we’re gonna see be it one company that kind of. Pulls all the pieces together are many that ultimately come together with all the pieces into a giant collaborative effort I think I think we’re going to get there I think I’m just always questioning when is the timing of it is it the next five years is the next ten is the the next twenty.

James McWalter

You absolutely and then thinking about the timing. So what’s next for geoscope over. Let’s say the next kind of 12 to 18 months. What are some milestones you’re hoping to hit.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, so we’re really excited to be onboarding our first pilots fully so that’s kind of going to be the really big focus of this next couple months is success with pilots in Texas’ ‘ market and then from air. They’re really looking to do a series a raise. So we’ve done a seed and seed prime round to date and are really excited that a series a is going to open up us for us the ability to really expand beyond Texas I think that’s kind of the big one that we’re really excited about is like there’s a lot of players beyond that one small market that we could reach so. Unlocking those other markets I think also expanding beyond kind of just sort of the storage basis risk focus that we have right now for storage and renewables. Um and starting to think more broadly about how can we help other players in this space.

James McWalter

That that makes that makes sense and you know very kind of exciting next next next year two and yeah I’d imagine you’re taking lots of data and I’m sure you don’t have to tell me the data are taken in I’m sure most ah that it’s very proprietary but are data sets that you wish were available but you’re just struggling to find. Um, yeah, this is some of the world that. But I live in my own startup. But I also like talk to tons of folks who are trying to think of new ideas and such like an opportunity with collecting data in new ways. But yeah, is it anything that comes to mind or you’re like I wish somebody would actually start collecting some of that data.

Lauren Kuntz

So There’s a good amount of data on the grid collected that we have access to as a market participant which has been phenomenal I Think honestly, my biggest pain is less like oh I wish I had this data. It’s. Generally been around like oh my God I Wish this data was cleaner and less of a pain to work with like name matching between data sets is just so Hard. There’s no consistency. It’ll even sporadically change over time and you’re like why? Why do you do this to me. Um.

James McWalter

Wreck.

Lauren Kuntz

The other thing that would help I understand why they don’t do it but would make our lives a lot easier is we get information on kind of like what generators were producing and various people’s bid information but it’s all delayed by two months so having a closer to real time understanding for some of those numbers would be really beneficial. Um, it obviously is collected. It’s delayed because you don’t want any sort of unfair competitive advantage that you can take from that and like if you are the only natural gas. Or there’s 2 natural gas plants. Let’s say in Houston and one of them is down for maintenance and you’re the other one and you know this you can suddenly ramp up the price that you’re bidding into the market and like really screw everybody over like that’s the reason that you don’t allow this data to be published as soon as it’s available. But it’s also one where it’s like it would just make it so much easier to model like we would do such a better job forecasting if we had this sooner.

James McWalter

Yeah, it’s it’s so interesting. You know, ah Isis sell datasets to quantitative hedge funds in New York and some of them were high-f frequencyquency folks and like the timing was like all all important for certain types of data. It’s like Ken you know and and those these tales at the time of like people just like building things physically closer to. Parts of Chicago where data will be announced and because you’re working with like the speed of light basically to get the data from but you know from 1 place to another and like if you can yeah you can trade a lot in the time it takes for light to move from Chicago to New York supposedly and so yeah, that it’s obviously a more extreme version. But um, once you get kind of getting into a thing that touches a market. You know. Frequency timing. Um like depth cleanliness of data like all those things are interesting and yeah I would love so I would also love somebody to build a pipe of all the different location marginal prices for the country into like a nice downloadable format or you know etl would be amazing.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, yeah I mean there’s some players out there that are trying to do that and bless their souls. Um, it is a hard job because everybody uses a slightly different format and especially with the Grid. So many of these data sources are coming from like software that was built in the eighty s. And the 90 s and has like weird conventions to how you can name things so you just see kind of like residualness in it. But yeah I mean I think easier ability to play with data is going to be a massive game changer when it comes to innovation in this space.

James McWalter

Yeah, and I guess connected. You know your background like has a kind of very strong kind of scientific basis. Um, you know you have a ph d you know you’re interested in in kind of climate one of the things that I’ve noticed as I sort of can investigate like ideas would it anything that touches a grid is that we just have not a lot of you know, traditional. Software and tech folk from yeah, the the coasts in that space and you still see a ton of you know, not even Microsoft 95 things being like shared around. Ah you know, not just the utilities but even often private companies as well. What are things that could be you know done to kind of attract more of a you know. Diversity of background and experience into people who are kind of working on the problems that affect the grid and and energy more generally, right.

Lauren Kuntz

I mean I think we are starting to see that to be honest, like I think with all the startups and interest in climate tech There’s so many young people young people in tech who don’t just want to be software programmers but want to be software programmers and something that they really feel like matters in the world and I do think. Grid and energy is a deeply interesting one and especially with all the startups that are popping up I do think there is a bigger and growing diversity of the just talent pool that’s getting drawn here. Um I do think the other one that was representation matters like. Almost all the conversations that I have are with people that don’t look like me in this space right? So decision makers in the space. Do not look like like I look um and I think that can be something that’s hard for a young person just entering this space but I do think over time that’s going to change. Um I think. Seen it start to change even in the three years that I’ve been doing this with geyascope and I’m hopeful that it’s going to continue to just progress in that direction. Um, the one last thing that I’d kind of add though is like this framing really helped me understand. Why so much of energy in the grid specifically is rooted in this like old tech mindset and utilities tend to think like hey I want to buy something and then I own it right? like I pay you to build a solar project and now it’s my project and they tend to think about software the same way they’re like build me software. Now I own it and they don’t understand like software gets updated like there’s license fees for software. So I think a little bit of just like is that mentality of how you engage and think about your expenses as a company can be very different in energy than it is in other aspects of.

James McWalter

Yeah, for those ah you know software folk who are interested in working the space but never took an accounting course like just learn Capex Op X and why utilities love Capex they as as you’re saying hate off X and software is always op X It’s just like you know and we’re just all coming you know and who.

Lauren Kuntz

Business.

James McWalter

Build software from an opx world and it’s just like no yeah, just build it and we literally have $20000000000 for capex and we have 0 like ah $12000000 for op x for the next ten years it’s it’s crazy like the disconnect. Yeah.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, yeah forger.

James McWalter

Um, and also you mentioned earlier that um you were yc company number years ago. Actually my governor and I were far our own startup. We were actually just accepted into y see early entry for for the summer batch. Um, it will be thank thank you very much. It will be public information by the time this podcast comes out. Um how how did you find that? um.

Lauren Kuntz

Congratulations. Um.

James McWalter

You know the experience and I guess like any any tips for those who are kind of going through not just YC but you know incubators and accelerators in general.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah I think we were really blown away by how much value we got out of y c um I think a huge part of it honestly was like that was the first time my co-founder and I and our first employee were all in person working 100 % of our time on this startup. Um. Jess and I we founded the company when we were living on opposite coasts. So I was in Seattle she was in New York and like we met each other like 3 times in person and then why see happen and we’re like we’re moving in together into this house in a place that neither of us live and like all we’re gonna do is like code and make this work and. Having that time together was just so important like we learned so much about each other learned so much about building a company made so much progress on the product and really got pushed by the mentors at yc to like strive for more than we thought was even like possible within a summer so I think that was like very wonderful in that regard the advice that I would give is reach out to all of the partners there and have office hours and take the initiative to get the help I think these programs have started to like really grow in size where. Scheduled touch points of a meeting every two weeks with a group. Super awesome. Super helpful. But you can get so much more if you’re just willing to kind of take that first step and be like hey I really want to talk with you. Let me book some time in your office hours and like just share with you what I’m struggling with get tons of different. Former founders views on what you should do like that’s incredibly powerful and helpful.

James McWalter

That yeah, that’s that’s very helpful. Yeah know I think I think taking that initiative in general whether you’re a part of those programs or not like I always say to people like you know if you’re interested in moving into a new industry just like cold message like 50 people like that’s that’s how I met everybody. That’s I meet everybody at the podcast. You know it’s just. Put yourself out there like I don’t want to trivialize it when you’re new to it it. It? Yeah, there is it like an emotional weight to like putting yourself out there I’ like that. But yeah, you eventually get very use of rejection and I think that’s that’s very helpful than a lot of different initiatives. Ah Forfins Shav was actually looking at your background and I notice ah something called Green Vision. Um. That you’ve you know, kind of working on and and this very kind of cool website um could tell us a little bit about Green vision.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, so green vision was like some of the very first modeling I did around the electric grid before gyoscope happened. Um I mentioned earlier on in the podcast but I spent time in grad school helping teach a class. For undergrads that was really focused on what does it take to get to a carbon-free energy system for the us so they had to think about like what do you do in transportation. What do you do in industry and how do your households use like like energy and what I kind of noticed when I was teaching this is all my students would make the choice of electrify as much as you can. And then power that electricity with a carbon-free grid and they came and would start asking me questions of like well how many solar panels do I have to build for that. How many wind farms like what does this actually take so I just started doing for fun during my ph d some really simple and modeling trying to look at like what are the levers that matter. So not looking at the economics of it but really saying if you wanted 100 % solar in the us what would it take like how much do you have to build and just started to kind of do various benchmarking around that and I kind of realized hey I built this really interesting model. My students love playing with it. Let’s try to put it out there for the rest of the world to play with as well because I think a lot of people have these issues and questions and want to know like what does the future energy system look like so the idea was to create something that’s really purely for educational purposes but just a tool that you can go play around with and fiddle with and ask okay. I think that wind and solar are the only technologies we can use and you can look at what this looks like and be like wow that’s going to be really expensive. Maybe I should include some nuclear and like start to kind of just figure out. How do you balance all of those different needs and components of our future grid. Um and kind of. Decide for yourself like what is that right? mix? How do we actually get there.

James McWalter

I yeah I love it I’ve played around a fair amount with this and I also end up put a lot of nuclear I will say it’s like like like twenty fifty numbers I was like it’s like 80% nuclear um which which I say no problem was but it might be a difficult thing to take thing to achieve um Lauren Kuntz has been great. Ah, really enjoyed it is there anything I should have asked you but.

Lauren Kuntz

Um, so we are actively looking for clients and people that are excited about being one of the first pilots with our software in Texas so anybody that is excited about that opportunity wants to learn more should absolutely reach out to us.

James McWalter

Did not.

Lauren Kuntz

at founders at http://geyoscope.com

James McWalter

So brilliant. Well and we’ll include that email in the show notes. Actually I have a couple of people in mind in arcot for you. So I’ll make those interests as well. Thank you Lauren Kuntz.

Lauren Kuntz

Yeah, thank you so much.

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