Great to chat with Jules Brenner, Founder of Zeus Power, Zeus Power is changing the way facilities add EV charging! We discussed optimizing building installations for EV fleets, the sales cycle in the public sector compared to the private, retrofits, EV infrastructure development policy and more!

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James

The unedited podcast transcript is below

James McWalter

Hello today we’re speaking with Jules Brenner co-founder at Zeus Power Welcome with podcast, great to start. Could you tell us a little bit about a Zeus Power?

Jules Brenner

Ah, show you how many James. Yeah, absolutely so Zeus Power creates energy solutions for the modern industrial real estate facility. We focus on first creating electric vehicle charging products for the trucks and the fleets that house. Their vehicles in those facilities and really focusing on that next wave of energy where the predominant load of the building is the electric vehicle charging systems.

James McWalter

And so you’re saying those kind of industrial type type buildings. Are we talking about? you know like an Amazon warehouse. Are we talking about? you know a supermarket that might have trucks kind of going in the back something else.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely more of the Amazon warehouse think ah, it could be a private fleet. It could be a government fleet where they house like city vehicles street sweepers and different vehicles and spec lighting poles all the way to a you know. Ah, kind of a smaller enterprise fleet that has Chevy bolts for their employees. Um, anywhere where you’d have like a fleet and lots of older vehicles as well.

James McWalter

So that makes sense and what drove the initial decision to start Zeus.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, um, it was kind of interesting I was in the industry I was working at a company called exos trucks that was working on the the sales side and we looked a lot at you know installations and deployments of multiple chargers and trucks. And I started just looking at how complex it was to spec out charging systems for a lot of the buildings. You not only had to find excess power in 1 of the buildings but you also had to then go and make sure that the you know the building is really speced and ready for. Lots of chargers at scale and started to think that you know not only are most buildings going to tap out maybe at 5 chargers maximum. But the way that and a lot of the trucking industry procures vehicles is very exponential versus say in like the public charging space. Um, they typically will sit on the sidelines with any new technology whether it’s hydrogen and biofuels et cetera for maybe an extended period of time and then once they like something they tend to ramp pretty quickly with some pretty big orders so really wanted to be able to think about when some of that stuff happens for the. What currently is nascent electric truck industry. How are we going to be able to keep up and you know from there we started doing more research looking into charging systems and came up with the idea of produce.

James McWalter

And you said we there? Um I believe you have a cofounder and would love to hear you know the kind of how you 2 met.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, absolutely yeah, my co-founder Austin Hunt we actually grew up like 10 minutes down the road from each other in Brooklyn New York we went to high school together went to college together in college we created a school’s first baha racing team basically building. A team to put together a du buggy for school competition from scratch raise money from the school and built the team over course about six months of a team still has stood stay but Austin and I really like working with each other and after you know college we. Separated for a bit. He stayed in the northeast you worked at a few different companies some startups all the way from doing kind of powerpoint product to commercialization. You worked at some aerospace companies and had internships at Spacex and a variety of other. Prominent aerospace firms and um, you know he kind of is the more technical side of everything even though we both have mechanical engineering degrees and his focus is very much on electro mechanical solutions.

James McWalter

And and so you know you had obviously this amazing kind of basis of a long-term relationship with each other but you know we we all have people we grew up with but we don’t always necessarily want to start companies with them in my own case I Even at one point started a company. My brother I wouldn’t say that was the the most successful thing but you know definitely the person I know best in the world and so these things have you know pros and cons how how were you kind of communicating with each other to say Okay, actually we want to start something together.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, it was interesting. Um I think Austin was um, getting to a point of his life where he wanted to get in really early into something he was working at a company that was more like series b stage but he was there through some of the early fundraising rounds and. Think we just kept in touch and when I started to you know census kind of desires to to branch out almost on his own I was kind of thinking about you know, a lot of the growth in the electric truck industry and was managed to to kind of convince him over a course of a few months to come join on. So. I think it worked that well he certainly has a lot of skills that are complementary to mine and I think we create a a very moral round the team.

James McWalter

And absolutely I I think like the you know the the founder fish for this space is like super strong which you two as as a founding team and I guess then so you know you had this idea coming out of your experience at exos trucks. You know you have cofounder with ah. Technical abilities that you have this kind of long-term relationship building things together. Um, and so I know you’re kind of currently working on. You know, designing and and kind of going through some iteration on the Mvp could you speak to what that process is like today.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, absolutely so you know we really wanted to focus first and foremost on a strong kind of customer fit before even getting too far along with the Mvp you know this is probably the fourth or fifth hardware startup that I’ve personally.

Jules Brenner

Either either joined early or in this case co-founded and we’ve seen this mistake over and over again. Austin certainly seen it in his engineering experience. So when we started doing that we first figured out like who could be our initial first customers and started taking a very. Kind of collaborative team approach with them like we have some government fleet managers that will very likely be that first early deployments and we try to speak to them every you know for few weeks as we do this and literally show them everything we have and get inputs as we go through and think of it as we’re custom making them a solution. And setting Kpis for it as we go as well. So that’s been really important and helpful in our in our general goal and you know putting together the Mvp. We really wanted to focus on what’s the you know literally the minimal viable product for um. You know this? So we we focused on a more toned down version of the commercialized solution in terms of both cost and functionality with the thought that the key features that kind of alleviate the largest pain points would be focused on first. And um, you know Austin’s built a team on his side of various professionals in the charging sector power electronics, mechanical design etc. Um to make sure that this is a robust product that is really geared towards the um commercial mission critical flut applications.

James McWalter

And so those design partners that sounds like are kind of running or have ownership of governmental fleets. How did you find those and and get them to agree to chash. You know every few weeks.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yes, so those? um, those government ah customers like um was actually fairly easy. We really didn’t spend too much time frankly, most of the relationships that I had from my time in industry were with private f athletes and we called the ones on you pretty early on and you know learned a lot. But. Government fleets have been very progressive with um electrification and just clean energy on their yards. Um, you know we pretty much went found a ah list on some of the local agencies of the fleet managers reached out and and started conversations. A lot of the government mandates are really really soon versus private fleets and they’re ordering like you know we were literally ons site with ah a government fleet yesterday and you know it’s pretty bad I mean they were telling us how there is ah 1 of their fleet yards is actually housed in an old. It was a horse barn and the it’s It’s so old that you can see two truth marks on some of the walls from the old horses. But the infrastructure is very weak and I think that’s why they’re most receptive to this kind of stuff.

James McWalter

Yeah, and whenever I kind of talk to people who are starting founding startups and they’re like oh you know I really struggle to find people to help you know, give feedback on the product and it’s like if you can’t find design partners to even talk to you now like you might not be painful enough a problem and so I think it’s like so. You know it’s it’s great to hear that how easy it is because if you find people who are just like loving jumping on a phone call with you to talk about the scale of the problem then there’s definitely something to be solved here. There’s definitely you know a potential solution that you know that smart startup folks can kind of work on and so okay, so the. You have these you know design partners you’re talking to on a regular basis. Amazing. You’re getting you know, physically on site seeing seeing horse barns and and other kind of issues. Um I guess from here like what’s the kind of next mostones in terms of getting you know some sort of Mvp to service those type of customers right.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, absolutely so we are currently in the pretty much supply chain kind of ordering phase of our Mvp. So. It’s designed. We’re focused on ordering parts as the parts come in. We’ll begin to assemble. And then you know at that point start to firm up the exact details of where we want this thing to go first and you know and this kind of stuff should happen pretty quickly next maybe 3 to six months or so and you know to whatever extent possible. We’re also focused on. Really, you know we refining in a lot of the um you know products core like software features so we have ah a sauce kind of very basic software layer that we initially and have for the fleets and dialing that in and then you know we take the data from that pilot or the course of. Subsequent 3 to the six months and feed that back so that we can have a better pilot number 2 as more of a kind of focus on the key features that we need to succeed and then over time as we build the. And these case studies if you will. We can then start to take it to larger and larger customers even like the landlords of some of the private fleets themselves that have you know been more proactive and want to install chargers maybe earlier when the vehicles are on site.

James McWalter

And just so I can fully understand like the use case. Let’s say I’m like 1 of your target customers and everything goes well the the kind of current direction. You know as you’re kind of going through these pilots and the development of the technology all goes well for me, let’s say I want to be onboarded as your customer you know in 6 to 18 months. Um, what would that experience be like and both through the onboarding and then once everything is set up like how would I guess my life change and for the positive.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, absolutely yeah, so you know a few things so I’ll maybe talk to you about the experience. We heard about yesterday with ah that government fleet manager now. Um you know this gentleman he is very you know aware of some of the challenges of just. You know, installing more than even 1 charger in his facility. That’s pretty much where he taps out and you know for their experience if you know they didn’t use ah a Zeus unit. They would literally have to redo their whole electrical room as he was telling us yesterday and and modernize everything and then also pretty much tear up a bunch of concrete on their yard to to get. You know some solutions in that you know they might not eventually scale. You know they’ll install 5 chargers. But then once the the building taps out and they need more later down the line they have to redo it so it’s kind of a messy experience but you know with Zeus it’s very much like just the typical installation of a charger. You know we help you with like. Permitting process to you know start the the application you know once all of it’s approved. You know we’re working through the surveying where this thing is going to sit how it’s function once the unit arrives the site. It’s installed by certified electrician and then after that we help tune in the. Le management software to the vehicles that you have which is just a simple onboarding process and I would definitely say that you know it’s a um, it’s it’s a much kind of cleaner installation because you’re going to save on and only the cost. But most importantly, the time and headache.

Jules Brenner

Of all the other electrical system upgrades which tend to take the whole charging installation process from being maybe six months to you know a year plus

James McWalter

And that that makes sense and the and I guess why? Why do these things take so long. Um, you know is it you mentioned permitting is that like a large component that’s kind of outside the control of both your customers and yourselves is it. Getting the components is it something else like what? what are the reasons for why this is such a kind of long process relative to you know? um, like ah for example, if if you wanted to ah like yeah build ah build a you know an outbuilding as part of an industrial park. You know you could probably do that in a few months right relative to this which which takes ah quite a.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, so so there’s a few things to consider so you know the first thing is that the amount of power that chargers in general are pulling is multiples more than what a building is rated for you know one statistic I can give you about 50

James McWalter

But longer.

Jules Brenner

Tesla supercharr type stations that would basically be for kind of semi truck level draw as much power as a whole empire state building peak load and it’s it’s quite a bit of ask for a yeah old 1920 s you know horse barw.

James McWalter

Right.

Jules Brenner

Right? So You know if you think about kind of what you need to do just from the electrical equipment perspective. That’s not only a big kind of logistical mess. But it’s also a huge capital capital planning allocation that a utility needs to take on plus. Actually all you know applying and installing all the different components transformer substation upgrades et Cetera Um, those things really add a lot of time permitting isn’t too bad I mean it depends on the State. Some are more backloggged than others but it’s kind of you know everyone really has to go through it. It just doesn’t. Um, I just get elongated.. It’s pretty substantially once other equipment gets in often. The thing that happens is that you you tend to really run into what we used to see at Exos which is that you would go down the kind of sales chain. You would get a happy fleet. Everyone would. You know, be working towards the goal of an installation of a certain amount of units and then you know once they start talking with their landlords about you know whether or not who pays for what that turns into like a whole lengthy negotiation and further ads time. So It’s It’s a really big hassle versus if you just install the unit that had. What you need built into it and that thing was as movable as a charger unit will get and just needed to do permanent. Not everything else.

James McWalter

And that definitely makes sense and so I guess then you know know this is obviously very kind of early days but 1 of the kind of challenges that some hardware startups have is you know is this something that I’m selling the hardware and you know it’s not offgraded very often. And I just have a single point of sale with a customer versus things where you have hardware kind of connected to other solutions services software and so on or there something more like a kind of long-term relationship with the customer. It is a long-term revenue stream. How are you thinking in these early days about kind of. The potential monetization of zoos.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, good question I think that’s ah in general, it’s a tough issue for a lot of hardware companies hardware tends to be a much lower margin you know sale and then adding that into you needing a lot of sales time to get it done a more highly technical sale and usually rank day sale. Doesn’t tend to a very cash flow and positive business and you know we’ve thought about that a lot we really didn’t want to end up in this situation where it was tough to scale and then also we didn’t like what we saw in the industry about having this kind of you versus mean type attitude towards a customer. You know we’ve talked to. Ah, variety of different fleets and in general just like talked huge hotel chains that have installed will take thousands of charge points and they would kind of complain that you know the more units that they put out the higher their saas fees grow but the you know their value isn’t increasing anyway, it’s just similar kind of cost tacking on and on for. Essentially charger and energy dashboards. So you know, kind of thinking about that. We really wanted to be able to create a set of products and kind of revenue streams that better align interests. So we have you know our typical revenue from the oem charger sale. So the margins on there are pretty in line. What what? a typical oe yeah would sell their unit for that 40 to 50% gross and then from there you know once we are installed in the building we use this kind of hardware aspect as essentially a moat right? to not have our software. Um, you know, switched out like what might end up happening to some of the other charter oems and you know we encourage the stickiness that the customer there and then we work on the 2 software layers so we have a kind of software layer that’s focused directly on our customer which is in most cases, the Landlord. Sometimes the fleets on their building so they are technically the servers that customer as well. But essentially that software package just focuses on using the batteries that are in the Zeus unit as a literally an energy storage unit for the time that the vehicles are not charging. If you think about a lot of fleets vehicles are actually not using them throughout the day that often is much more so that the battery is sitting around and you can use it all the different benefits that already exist in energy storage today including peak shaving to help you save on utility bills um resiliency to give you. Ah, peace of mind knowing that there is power on sight at all times in some bit capacity especially when you go all electric and then also create random streams to things like wholesal where how sound markets where you’re essentially by low sell high with some of the energy and you know we create our kind of higher.

Jules Brenner

Grow A margin revenue stream from that package. Um and really just try to focus on being more of like a partner with our landlord where we yes we charge for that software. But we also make sure that that creates value to them so that it isn’t just the of and our money. Kind sort Sas fees are growing and I don’t know what extra I’m getting every time it happens kind of thing and then towards the fleets themselves. It’s just the standard fleet management software so they have all your data and you know again know the software side. It’s typically higher gross margins as well.

James McWalter

Yeah, on the kind of bouncing the pricing incentive piece I think is really key. Um, you know you generated their bulk discounts for a reason right? at the enterprise level unless you’re getting some big value ads right? And so. Maybe there’s elements of compliance. Maybe you know there are these other kind of buckets that people can add to an enterprise plan but you definitely if you’re just kind of linearly going up in cost. You’re eventually going to have pushback from enterprises where it’s like why am I getting charged you know per unit. You know 10000? Yeah and I’m buying 10000 units and a smaller company is basically getting a better deal for because they have fewer units and and but our period of price is the same. So I think definitely kind of taking into that concern into account um is is going to be quite powerful as you were kind of looking to kind of differentiate down the road the other piece as you’re took on chatting there. So. Think I’ve mentioned the podcast before that one of the ideas that I explored in the past for startup for myself was some sort of pure software solution that enabled yeah the better. Um, kind of monetization of distributed energy assets specifically batteries but others as well. You know how could you kind of aggregate batteries. That are already connected to grid and somehow in a way that kind of plays with wholesale energy markets and I was talking to a few folks about this at the time the thing we kept coming back to was how how can we make sure that we continue to have access to those physical assets because what would stop you know the owners and. Of the batteries themselves are not the owners of batteries. But the manufacturers of the batteries themselves from having their own software layer sitting on top of those and because they own the physical asset in the value chain. They seem to have yeah the ability to block out other software that’s trying to reach down into the physical asset and so I guess. You have a kind of similar kind of thought process around why the but owning the physical asset and the development of physical asset is so important.

Jules Brenner

Yeah,, that’s that’s ah, that’s a very good point. Yeah I think owning the um you know, physical asset allows you to be better protected. Um you know or or other from the from the oems lens like from Missou lens allows you to be better protected. In a world where there are just a lot of different software platforms that help manage charging systems. Potentially even battery systems. There’s a variety of laws coming out with compliance at Ocp for charging Systems. So I Really see that if you are just a pure like software play In. Kind of control Hardware. You might have a really tough time growing. Um I’ve been in that space before and I’ve just seen it. It’s ah it’s a pretty like tough equation sometimes to manage in terms of customer acquisition cost versus you know what people are willing to pay and to that point earlier about like the the both pricing on Enterprise. The funny thing is the way that the incentives are aligned in the industry right now like we had so many customers that are really just telling us I wish I was paying 0 and you know they honestly mean it like they are to a point where they are just about to ask the charger oems to just shut off their software. Let them use it as what they call a dumb charger.

Jules Brenner

Um, so if something doesn’t change there I mean I don’t know that they’ll get around it but they are certainly feeling like they’re being forced. So um, you know, thinking about like you know how do we ourselves like you know, bring in a battery on site that is you know essentially. Ah, smaller version of what you might get like from an energy storage application and something that we purchase direct so we have full control over how that is used but we are you know, not being very like closed off about this kind of like very Aes or instead trying to be open with the customer and saying. You know now that you have this asset on site. Let’s work together to get the maximum monetization the ah roi on it and roi is a big word. It can mean just the insurance resiliency which doesn’t have an immediate cash number but you know helps out if there is a problem.

James McWalter

Yeah, so.

Jules Brenner

Um, but I think that’s really important you have to look at this industry much more through the lens of property technology than you do automotive technology if you’re going to stand out in you know 2022 and frankly, be profitable.

James McWalter

Um, and you mentioned the the kind of customer segments at the beginning that you’re mostly targeted on is more of the public sector and they seem to be the those who are you know have the greatest need are moving the fastest and I guess like my intuition would be that That’s generally. Not really the Case. So If you’re trying to sell to public entities. The sales cycles can be quite long often. It could be hard to get to the right decision maker and so on whereas you know more typical corporate clients tend to move faster. But obviously if they’re very big corporates. Those can also move quite slowly. Um. I Guess how how are you thinking about that kind of sales cycle aspect and why is this industry or this particular segment so different compared to the typical you know public sector moves very slowly model.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, good good questions. So you know a few things you know when we think about like who is the ideal customer that buys today I mean the ideal customer is going to be someone that is either the landlord or the feet of an industrial facility that is older and has less capacity. Right? And that could you know that could vary the older the building the more likely they are going to tap out. Maybe even at that first charter and if that’s the case as soon as they go to do some sort of utility study could even be with ah another charger company. They’re going to find out pretty quickly that. Need to do something and when they start pricing out what it costs to do you know all the station upgrades and the building upgrades then they get turned off to the idea sometimes so those those um parties tend to move a bit faster in general but when it comes to government agencies. It’s actually interesting because with. Fleets. They’re not that hard to find um you know they’re mostly the the information’s online and very minimal effort. Um I used to sell to private fleets and I’ll just tell you it’s frankly, been harder um with private fleets than with ah government fleets. Um, government fleets. Also they look at it a lot more through an esg lens than a like fleet manager at a private fleet. Usually the board of a company of a private fleet maybe has some esu mandates. But by the time it hits the fleet managers deaths. They really don’t care that much. So. Um, that’s a big part of it government agencies also usually find themselves with a lot more cash towards this stuff. So while maybe the sales cycles can be slower. They actually have more spending power and they actually have to spend it so you know there’s always some politician that comes out with some new. Idea for how they can clean up the roads and usually gets implemented. You know in fairly short order. Um, but sometimes you’re right, you know it can take a little bit of time the approach that we have always recommended to people is to say you know think about your yard. Not in the lens of you electrified 3 out of 50 vehicles think about it in more the lens of what would happen if you electrified whatever your goal is let’s say 30 out of 50 and maybe the other ones are bioiesel or hydrogen or something or cng. Um, what would the. You know, equipment needed look like what would the cost of your utility bill. Be call your utility try to figure it out and look at it from that lens and then ask them the other important question which is what’s the timing on all this and we would talk to a lot of utilities and you know they would tell us this kind of jokingly where fleets would call them and say I need.

Jules Brenner

All the existing power in this location and I need it in a few months and a lot of them would you know they just kind of say no we get give a few years so when you know some of that stuff you tend to move much faster and and I do think that a lot of the government agencies are a bit closer to their utilities and. Thereby it moves a little more smoothly but um, a lot of them do have you know lots of vehicles on order I mean we were with one yesterday and you know they have like I think they said 15 ford e lightnings and you know so street sweepers and all sorts of stuff coming in at the end of this year going into the end of next year we slow that down a little bit in terms of supply chain. But those vehicles are coming and with the permitting process and even you start to think all that through you’re about right there in terms of when you want to start procuring these things.

James McWalter

Mostly we’ve been kind of talking about retrofits you know the the horse barns of the world and and that kind of thing. Um, but how do you think about like new builds you know would real estate developers generally be. You know, potentially interesting segment to focus on in the future as they’re thinking about New New Bill commercial and industrial um to make sure that they have the right charging infrastructure from the beginning. Um, and before thinking about where you know the heavy automotive industry is going.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, absolutely yeah, the um, you know we definitely recommend with early builds that you you know you plan twice and you try to also you know, future proof to whatever extent possible. Um I can’t tell you how many different companies I used to talk to that would basically take advantage of every single rebate and grant at a point in time, especially those like really big franchise hotel chains and find themselves in the situation where they. You know install chargers of different brands some that are wi-fi connected. Some are not and then at some point they start to realize we should probably start to really standardize the asset and figure out 1 central place to track them and find themselves then in a position where. You know it gets kind of messy. So I think it’s really important to think about a standardized process for your facilities somewhat early I understand that most will probably not go to 1 technology in total. But definitely you know, keep the batch to a very small limited amount. And you know to whatever extent, you do have the ability to install early from fresh concrete. Um, you’re going to keep your total cost down. Um, but more importantly, you’ll be able to plan for things like footprint right? You don’t want to stick chargers in the front of parking spots and have vehicles have to park. You know three feet from the curb. You also want to be thinking about to whatever step possible how you can use the um, the battery systems to better. You know manage the building. It’s it’s kind of interesting like if you think about the way a lot of like the let’s say office park charges are installed. They’ll be closer to the building and they’ll also be thinner profile chargers just because closer the building means less electrical cost thinner profile because you don’t want to cover up the whole building to a point where you can’t see chargers if you start thinking about like batteries as part of that. Um, you know if you don’t plan electrical lines early. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where batteries start to take up a big part of your front facade as well too. So early planning is really really important and it’s also cheaper.

James McWalter

And then you know thinking kind of on about broader spectrum. The changes at the policy level and so we had the federal infrastructure bill that passed last year. There were multiple billions of dollars set aside for ev infrastructure development. Um, it’s still I guess a little bit unclear to me about the exact kind of deployment structure of that money. But how do you think about either the existing incentives like what was passed last year or things that could potentially kind of emerge in the future and about how that affects how you’re approaching. You know the deployment of your early product.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, good question I think the um you know it’s It’s very exciting to see that amount of dollars flow in from the federal level I think you know most even you know. Cities now are are adopting their own programs and spending their own money but the federal level should create a lot of opportunities for us to you know, not only find just on government website opportunities for bid. But most importantly, I think what it’s doing is it’s bringing into the light um a lot of grid issues. This kind of chooses electrical infrastructure. Um, and as you start to think more about that you start to really start to weigh whether you want equipment upgrades that maybe give you more capacity but still force the utility to work hard to produce lotss of energy or whether you want the um you know battery systems. Part of the equation that should make it easier for the utilities to generate energy and store them in the batteries prior to use. But I do think that the you know Overall the federal will has been a um, a strong sign for acceleration in the industry and it’s certainly kind of woken up a lot of the fleets to. Um, the opportunity of taking advantage of incentives now a lot of them. You know they maybe were thinking of going electric but they were going to stall closer until the um you know date mandates and now with the money coming out over a limited time here. They.

Jules Brenner

Um, accelerated a lot of their plans.

James McWalter

And then thinking about the team and and kind of as you were kind of building out the team and the company culture over the next few years you know one of the things I found in myself is every kind of new venture thing you know company that I start. The culture is often a either. Ah, reflection in some way of kind of my my past experiences at other organizations or other companies that I’ve involved in so either I’m embracing certain aspects of those other companies and trying to you know, incorporate those in what I’m working on now or I’m kind of reacting against them and saying okay you know that that company was great, but. Had this particular part of their culture or part of what it was to work there that I just absolutely do not want to have at my new company. Um, you know for yourself having you know, worked at a few companies worked at companies that have you know also been part of the kind of ev and electrification space. What are the kind of elements that you’re like okay. These are the things that I really want to bring in and and then still is the culture of ah you know of Zeus versus other areas where it’s like I absolutely do not want to bring those into this new company.

Jules Brenner

So yeah, that’s um, good. Good question. Well I think ah you know a few things some of my past roles and companies I think we’ve worked on some you know products that were kind of similar like some proptex some electroomechanical hardware and I think with those you typically. You know you’ll need your engineering team of course. Um, but most importantly, a lot of those companies they had strong like mission driven values and I think you know with trucking it’s a um, you know in general fleets and all that they they are a small portion of a total transportation. Pi but they are disproportionate part of the actual emissions side. So I think having a culture of people focused on you know, alignment on decarbonization is something that’s important to us. Um, but also a culture focused on strong engineering and. You know, active conversations with customers early is is key as well too. Um I’ve been in companies where you know we’ve cut corners and early stage engineer and design and I think that has certainly come to haunt us later and I think when you’re making a you know a missioncritical product. Like a charging system or energy system for a charge for a vehicle application. You want to do it right? You don’t want a call from a fleet you know someday telling you that they can’t um, operate that day because the chargers are out or something like that which is unfortunately becoming an all too common issue. And the um public charging sector these days. So I think you know those are really important I think really also focusing on you know, a very kind of systematic approach to the growth is is vital to we don’t want to make a product just for. Sake of it so we’ve really focused on identifying customers of pain points today instead of just adding out and looking at the broader market of who will certainly feel this pain in a year or 2 and we want to make sure you know that also really ends up being a kind of. Ah, right? recipe of culture and Zeus.

James McWalter

I yeah I love that um and I think it’s great that you’re already kind of being so kind of thoughtful about those elements as you kind of build out the company. Um Jules Brenner  I’ve really enjoyed the conversation. Um, before we finish off is there anything I should have asked you about but did not.

Jules Brenner

First yeah I think um, you know 1 question that we get a lot is you know, kind of why or maybe 2 questions. Why are we not using kind of those like public charging systems at truck yards and fleet yards and we get this a lot and I think.

Jules Brenner

Few things, the fleet trucking industry is probably about Five To Ten Years delayed behind public charging. Um, you know if you just look at a lot of the even most progressive fleets out there I mean you know like the government agencies they got about you know until the maybe end of this year or so until they start seeing. First batch of vehicles and um and that’s the most progressive on private fleets or some or maybe have you know, been testing a few and this is you know fleets that own hundreds and thousands so you know we’re still early days but it accelerates quickly just based on those purchasing habits I mentioned earlier. Um, but the other thing that we get asked a lot is like you know once the industry catches up. Why are people not just going to use you know a typical non-battery powered public charging station in your application and you know we always encourage people to think about that a the amount of power draw from. A power draww need from a truck or a piece of any heavy machinery is often much larger than what a public charger is typically built for but the just the software and the form factor are very different right? 1 ne’s going permissional critical application. 1 ne’s going to a. You know, kind of more discretionary retail type play and then really important to you also make sure you know you’re kind of thinking about how the landlords of these facilities are going to care about this because that’s a very different um relationship. Typically you’re going to put the charger in and the fleet side. Um, when time of use is low to not existent and you want to make sure that the direct customer the landlord is happy. So I think a lot of you know, just understanding a bit more. The market landscape is is really important to understanding us from a timing perspective. Um, but then to the second and final point we get asked a lot like you know. What is exactly your kind of differentiation. We try to segment ourselves and you know there’s charging. We think of it as like permanent charging and a non-permanent charging non permanent being those chargers built for like construction sites. Um, and then we’re in the permanent charging side and then when you segment.

Jules Brenner

You know who does industrial focus charging units. There are not that many players out there. But when you start digging in further as to who actually puts batteries in a lot of the ones who use batteries they’re just sticking in in a big iso container. Which is not a form factor that a lot of fleets have told us they like it usually takes a whole parking spot and does not look like a charger so you know we are the only industrial focused battery supported charging system out there that we’ve seen that actually looks like a charger and comes with all the typical software tools that you’d expect. The fleets and the landlords and I think it’s a um, it’s really important that we you know consider that in the lens of the industry because things like batteries will likely be mandated at some point if not highly encouraged by Utilities. So We definitely you know want to help. Continue to help find customers that you know like this stuff and if anyone is you know curious to talk to us further about it. We are always happy to chat.

James McWalter

So brilliant and we’ll include those contact details in the show notes. Thank you Jules Brenner  has great.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, absolutely appreciate you having me James take care now.

Title: EV Charging Infrastructure for Fleets – E97

Great to chat with Jules Brenner, Founder of Zeus Power, Zeus Power is changing the way facilities add EV charging! We discussed optimizing building installations for EV fleets, the sales cycle in the public sector compared to the private, retrofits, EV infrastructure development policy and more!

https://carbotnic.com/zeuspower

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

Remember, If you want to support the podcast please rate and review 5 stars on  Apple, Thanks so much! 

James

The unedited podcast transcript is below

James McWalter

Hello today we’re speaking with Jules Brenner co-founder at Zeus Power Welcome with podcast, great to start. Could you tell us a little bit about a Zeus Power?

Jules Brenner

Ah, show you how many James. Yeah, absolutely so Zeus Power creates energy solutions for the modern industrial real estate facility. We focus on first creating electric vehicle charging products for the trucks and the fleets that house. Their vehicles in those facilities and really focusing on that next wave of energy where the predominant load of the building is the electric vehicle charging systems.

James McWalter

And so you’re saying those kind of industrial type type buildings. Are we talking about? you know like an Amazon warehouse. Are we talking about? you know a supermarket that might have trucks kind of going in the back something else.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely more of the Amazon warehouse think ah, it could be a private fleet. It could be a government fleet where they house like city vehicles street sweepers and different vehicles and spec lighting poles all the way to a you know. Ah, kind of a smaller enterprise fleet that has Chevy bolts for their employees. Um, anywhere where you’d have like a fleet and lots of older vehicles as well.

James McWalter

So that makes sense and what drove the initial decision to start Zeus.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, um, it was kind of interesting I was in the industry I was working at a company called exos trucks that was working on the the sales side and we looked a lot at you know installations and deployments of multiple chargers and trucks. And I started just looking at how complex it was to spec out charging systems for a lot of the buildings. You not only had to find excess power in 1 of the buildings but you also had to then go and make sure that the you know the building is really speced and ready for. Lots of chargers at scale and started to think that you know not only are most buildings going to tap out maybe at 5 chargers maximum. But the way that and a lot of the trucking industry procures vehicles is very exponential versus say in like the public charging space. Um, they typically will sit on the sidelines with any new technology whether it’s hydrogen and biofuels et cetera for maybe an extended period of time and then once they like something they tend to ramp pretty quickly with some pretty big orders so really wanted to be able to think about when some of that stuff happens for the. What currently is nascent electric truck industry. How are we going to be able to keep up and you know from there we started doing more research looking into charging systems and came up with the idea of produce.

James McWalter

And you said we there? Um I believe you have a cofounder and would love to hear you know the kind of how you 2 met.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, absolutely yeah, my co-founder Austin Hunt we actually grew up like 10 minutes down the road from each other in Brooklyn New York we went to high school together went to college together in college we created a school’s first baha racing team basically building. A team to put together a du buggy for school competition from scratch raise money from the school and built the team over course about six months of a team still has stood stay but Austin and I really like working with each other and after you know college we. Separated for a bit. He stayed in the northeast you worked at a few different companies some startups all the way from doing kind of powerpoint product to commercialization. You worked at some aerospace companies and had internships at Spacex and a variety of other. Prominent aerospace firms and um, you know he kind of is the more technical side of everything even though we both have mechanical engineering degrees and his focus is very much on electro mechanical solutions.

James McWalter

And and so you know you had obviously this amazing kind of basis of a long-term relationship with each other but you know we we all have people we grew up with but we don’t always necessarily want to start companies with them in my own case I Even at one point started a company. My brother I wouldn’t say that was the the most successful thing but you know definitely the person I know best in the world and so these things have you know pros and cons how how were you kind of communicating with each other to say Okay, actually we want to start something together.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, it was interesting. Um I think Austin was um, getting to a point of his life where he wanted to get in really early into something he was working at a company that was more like series b stage but he was there through some of the early fundraising rounds and. Think we just kept in touch and when I started to you know census kind of desires to to branch out almost on his own I was kind of thinking about you know, a lot of the growth in the electric truck industry and was managed to to kind of convince him over a course of a few months to come join on. So. I think it worked that well he certainly has a lot of skills that are complementary to mine and I think we create a a very moral round the team.

James McWalter

And absolutely I I think like the you know the the founder fish for this space is like super strong which you two as as a founding team and I guess then so you know you had this idea coming out of your experience at exos trucks. You know you have cofounder with ah. Technical abilities that you have this kind of long-term relationship building things together. Um, and so I know you’re kind of currently working on. You know, designing and and kind of going through some iteration on the Mvp could you speak to what that process is like today.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, absolutely so you know we really wanted to focus first and foremost on a strong kind of customer fit before even getting too far along with the Mvp you know this is probably the fourth or fifth hardware startup that I’ve personally.

Jules Brenner

Either either joined early or in this case co-founded and we’ve seen this mistake over and over again. Austin certainly seen it in his engineering experience. So when we started doing that we first figured out like who could be our initial first customers and started taking a very. Kind of collaborative team approach with them like we have some government fleet managers that will very likely be that first early deployments and we try to speak to them every you know for few weeks as we do this and literally show them everything we have and get inputs as we go through and think of it as we’re custom making them a solution. And setting Kpis for it as we go as well. So that’s been really important and helpful in our in our general goal and you know putting together the Mvp. We really wanted to focus on what’s the you know literally the minimal viable product for um. You know this? So we we focused on a more toned down version of the commercialized solution in terms of both cost and functionality with the thought that the key features that kind of alleviate the largest pain points would be focused on first. And um, you know Austin’s built a team on his side of various professionals in the charging sector power electronics, mechanical design etc. Um to make sure that this is a robust product that is really geared towards the um commercial mission critical flut applications.

James McWalter

And so those design partners that sounds like are kind of running or have ownership of governmental fleets. How did you find those and and get them to agree to chash. You know every few weeks.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yes, so those? um, those government ah customers like um was actually fairly easy. We really didn’t spend too much time frankly, most of the relationships that I had from my time in industry were with private f athletes and we called the ones on you pretty early on and you know learned a lot. But. Government fleets have been very progressive with um electrification and just clean energy on their yards. Um, you know we pretty much went found a ah list on some of the local agencies of the fleet managers reached out and and started conversations. A lot of the government mandates are really really soon versus private fleets and they’re ordering like you know we were literally ons site with ah a government fleet yesterday and you know it’s pretty bad I mean they were telling us how there is ah 1 of their fleet yards is actually housed in an old. It was a horse barn and the it’s It’s so old that you can see two truth marks on some of the walls from the old horses. But the infrastructure is very weak and I think that’s why they’re most receptive to this kind of stuff.

James McWalter

Yeah, and whenever I kind of talk to people who are starting founding startups and they’re like oh you know I really struggle to find people to help you know, give feedback on the product and it’s like if you can’t find design partners to even talk to you now like you might not be painful enough a problem and so I think it’s like so. You know it’s it’s great to hear that how easy it is because if you find people who are just like loving jumping on a phone call with you to talk about the scale of the problem then there’s definitely something to be solved here. There’s definitely you know a potential solution that you know that smart startup folks can kind of work on and so okay, so the. You have these you know design partners you’re talking to on a regular basis. Amazing. You’re getting you know, physically on site seeing seeing horse barns and and other kind of issues. Um I guess from here like what’s the kind of next mostones in terms of getting you know some sort of Mvp to service those type of customers right.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, absolutely so we are currently in the pretty much supply chain kind of ordering phase of our Mvp. So. It’s designed. We’re focused on ordering parts as the parts come in. We’ll begin to assemble. And then you know at that point start to firm up the exact details of where we want this thing to go first and you know and this kind of stuff should happen pretty quickly next maybe 3 to six months or so and you know to whatever extent possible. We’re also focused on. Really, you know we refining in a lot of the um you know products core like software features so we have ah a sauce kind of very basic software layer that we initially and have for the fleets and dialing that in and then you know we take the data from that pilot or the course of. Subsequent 3 to the six months and feed that back so that we can have a better pilot number 2 as more of a kind of focus on the key features that we need to succeed and then over time as we build the. And these case studies if you will. We can then start to take it to larger and larger customers even like the landlords of some of the private fleets themselves that have you know been more proactive and want to install chargers maybe earlier when the vehicles are on site.

James McWalter

And just so I can fully understand like the use case. Let’s say I’m like 1 of your target customers and everything goes well the the kind of current direction. You know as you’re kind of going through these pilots and the development of the technology all goes well for me, let’s say I want to be onboarded as your customer you know in 6 to 18 months. Um, what would that experience be like and both through the onboarding and then once everything is set up like how would I guess my life change and for the positive.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, absolutely yeah, so you know a few things so I’ll maybe talk to you about the experience. We heard about yesterday with ah that government fleet manager now. Um you know this gentleman he is very you know aware of some of the challenges of just. You know, installing more than even 1 charger in his facility. That’s pretty much where he taps out and you know for their experience if you know they didn’t use ah a Zeus unit. They would literally have to redo their whole electrical room as he was telling us yesterday and and modernize everything and then also pretty much tear up a bunch of concrete on their yard to to get. You know some solutions in that you know they might not eventually scale. You know they’ll install 5 chargers. But then once the the building taps out and they need more later down the line they have to redo it so it’s kind of a messy experience but you know with Zeus it’s very much like just the typical installation of a charger. You know we help you with like. Permitting process to you know start the the application you know once all of it’s approved. You know we’re working through the surveying where this thing is going to sit how it’s function once the unit arrives the site. It’s installed by certified electrician and then after that we help tune in the. Le management software to the vehicles that you have which is just a simple onboarding process and I would definitely say that you know it’s a um, it’s it’s a much kind of cleaner installation because you’re going to save on and only the cost. But most importantly, the time and headache.

Jules Brenner

Of all the other electrical system upgrades which tend to take the whole charging installation process from being maybe six months to you know a year plus

James McWalter

And that that makes sense and the and I guess why? Why do these things take so long. Um, you know is it you mentioned permitting is that like a large component that’s kind of outside the control of both your customers and yourselves is it. Getting the components is it something else like what? what are the reasons for why this is such a kind of long process relative to you know? um, like ah for example, if if you wanted to ah like yeah build ah build a you know an outbuilding as part of an industrial park. You know you could probably do that in a few months right relative to this which which takes ah quite a.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, so so there’s a few things to consider so you know the first thing is that the amount of power that chargers in general are pulling is multiples more than what a building is rated for you know one statistic I can give you about 50

James McWalter

But longer.

Jules Brenner

Tesla supercharr type stations that would basically be for kind of semi truck level draw as much power as a whole empire state building peak load and it’s it’s quite a bit of ask for a yeah old 1920 s you know horse barw.

James McWalter

Right.

Jules Brenner

Right? So You know if you think about kind of what you need to do just from the electrical equipment perspective. That’s not only a big kind of logistical mess. But it’s also a huge capital capital planning allocation that a utility needs to take on plus. Actually all you know applying and installing all the different components transformer substation upgrades et Cetera Um, those things really add a lot of time permitting isn’t too bad I mean it depends on the State. Some are more backloggged than others but it’s kind of you know everyone really has to go through it. It just doesn’t. Um, I just get elongated.. It’s pretty substantially once other equipment gets in often. The thing that happens is that you you tend to really run into what we used to see at Exos which is that you would go down the kind of sales chain. You would get a happy fleet. Everyone would. You know, be working towards the goal of an installation of a certain amount of units and then you know once they start talking with their landlords about you know whether or not who pays for what that turns into like a whole lengthy negotiation and further ads time. So It’s It’s a really big hassle versus if you just install the unit that had. What you need built into it and that thing was as movable as a charger unit will get and just needed to do permanent. Not everything else.

James McWalter

And that definitely makes sense and so I guess then you know know this is obviously very kind of early days but 1 of the kind of challenges that some hardware startups have is you know is this something that I’m selling the hardware and you know it’s not offgraded very often. And I just have a single point of sale with a customer versus things where you have hardware kind of connected to other solutions services software and so on or there something more like a kind of long-term relationship with the customer. It is a long-term revenue stream. How are you thinking in these early days about kind of. The potential monetization of zoos.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, good question I think that’s ah in general, it’s a tough issue for a lot of hardware companies hardware tends to be a much lower margin you know sale and then adding that into you needing a lot of sales time to get it done a more highly technical sale and usually rank day sale. Doesn’t tend to a very cash flow and positive business and you know we’ve thought about that a lot we really didn’t want to end up in this situation where it was tough to scale and then also we didn’t like what we saw in the industry about having this kind of you versus mean type attitude towards a customer. You know we’ve talked to. Ah, variety of different fleets and in general just like talked huge hotel chains that have installed will take thousands of charge points and they would kind of complain that you know the more units that they put out the higher their saas fees grow but the you know their value isn’t increasing anyway, it’s just similar kind of cost tacking on and on for. Essentially charger and energy dashboards. So you know, kind of thinking about that. We really wanted to be able to create a set of products and kind of revenue streams that better align interests. So we have you know our typical revenue from the oem charger sale. So the margins on there are pretty in line. What what? a typical oe yeah would sell their unit for that 40 to 50% gross and then from there you know once we are installed in the building we use this kind of hardware aspect as essentially a moat right? to not have our software. Um, you know, switched out like what might end up happening to some of the other charter oems and you know we encourage the stickiness that the customer there and then we work on the 2 software layers so we have a kind of software layer that’s focused directly on our customer which is in most cases, the Landlord. Sometimes the fleets on their building so they are technically the servers that customer as well. But essentially that software package just focuses on using the batteries that are in the Zeus unit as a literally an energy storage unit for the time that the vehicles are not charging. If you think about a lot of fleets vehicles are actually not using them throughout the day that often is much more so that the battery is sitting around and you can use it all the different benefits that already exist in energy storage today including peak shaving to help you save on utility bills um resiliency to give you. Ah, peace of mind knowing that there is power on sight at all times in some bit capacity especially when you go all electric and then also create random streams to things like wholesal where how sound markets where you’re essentially by low sell high with some of the energy and you know we create our kind of higher.

Jules Brenner

Grow A margin revenue stream from that package. Um and really just try to focus on being more of like a partner with our landlord where we yes we charge for that software. But we also make sure that that creates value to them so that it isn’t just the of and our money. Kind sort Sas fees are growing and I don’t know what extra I’m getting every time it happens kind of thing and then towards the fleets themselves. It’s just the standard fleet management software so they have all your data and you know again know the software side. It’s typically higher gross margins as well.

James McWalter

Yeah, on the kind of bouncing the pricing incentive piece I think is really key. Um, you know you generated their bulk discounts for a reason right? at the enterprise level unless you’re getting some big value ads right? And so. Maybe there’s elements of compliance. Maybe you know there are these other kind of buckets that people can add to an enterprise plan but you definitely if you’re just kind of linearly going up in cost. You’re eventually going to have pushback from enterprises where it’s like why am I getting charged you know per unit. You know 10000? Yeah and I’m buying 10000 units and a smaller company is basically getting a better deal for because they have fewer units and and but our period of price is the same. So I think definitely kind of taking into that concern into account um is is going to be quite powerful as you were kind of looking to kind of differentiate down the road the other piece as you’re took on chatting there. So. Think I’ve mentioned the podcast before that one of the ideas that I explored in the past for startup for myself was some sort of pure software solution that enabled yeah the better. Um, kind of monetization of distributed energy assets specifically batteries but others as well. You know how could you kind of aggregate batteries. That are already connected to grid and somehow in a way that kind of plays with wholesale energy markets and I was talking to a few folks about this at the time the thing we kept coming back to was how how can we make sure that we continue to have access to those physical assets because what would stop you know the owners and. Of the batteries themselves are not the owners of batteries. But the manufacturers of the batteries themselves from having their own software layer sitting on top of those and because they own the physical asset in the value chain. They seem to have yeah the ability to block out other software that’s trying to reach down into the physical asset and so I guess. You have a kind of similar kind of thought process around why the but owning the physical asset and the development of physical asset is so important.

Jules Brenner

Yeah,, that’s that’s ah, that’s a very good point. Yeah I think owning the um you know, physical asset allows you to be better protected. Um you know or or other from the from the oems lens like from Missou lens allows you to be better protected. In a world where there are just a lot of different software platforms that help manage charging systems. Potentially even battery systems. There’s a variety of laws coming out with compliance at Ocp for charging Systems. So I Really see that if you are just a pure like software play In. Kind of control Hardware. You might have a really tough time growing. Um I’ve been in that space before and I’ve just seen it. It’s ah it’s a pretty like tough equation sometimes to manage in terms of customer acquisition cost versus you know what people are willing to pay and to that point earlier about like the the both pricing on Enterprise. The funny thing is the way that the incentives are aligned in the industry right now like we had so many customers that are really just telling us I wish I was paying 0 and you know they honestly mean it like they are to a point where they are just about to ask the charger oems to just shut off their software. Let them use it as what they call a dumb charger.

Jules Brenner

Um, so if something doesn’t change there I mean I don’t know that they’ll get around it but they are certainly feeling like they’re being forced. So um, you know, thinking about like you know how do we ourselves like you know, bring in a battery on site that is you know essentially. Ah, smaller version of what you might get like from an energy storage application and something that we purchase direct so we have full control over how that is used but we are you know, not being very like closed off about this kind of like very Aes or instead trying to be open with the customer and saying. You know now that you have this asset on site. Let’s work together to get the maximum monetization the ah roi on it and roi is a big word. It can mean just the insurance resiliency which doesn’t have an immediate cash number but you know helps out if there is a problem.

James McWalter

Yeah, so.

Jules Brenner

Um, but I think that’s really important you have to look at this industry much more through the lens of property technology than you do automotive technology if you’re going to stand out in you know 2022 and frankly, be profitable.

James McWalter

Um, and you mentioned the the kind of customer segments at the beginning that you’re mostly targeted on is more of the public sector and they seem to be the those who are you know have the greatest need are moving the fastest and I guess like my intuition would be that That’s generally. Not really the Case. So If you’re trying to sell to public entities. The sales cycles can be quite long often. It could be hard to get to the right decision maker and so on whereas you know more typical corporate clients tend to move faster. But obviously if they’re very big corporates. Those can also move quite slowly. Um. I Guess how how are you thinking about that kind of sales cycle aspect and why is this industry or this particular segment so different compared to the typical you know public sector moves very slowly model.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, good good questions. So you know a few things you know when we think about like who is the ideal customer that buys today I mean the ideal customer is going to be someone that is either the landlord or the feet of an industrial facility that is older and has less capacity. Right? And that could you know that could vary the older the building the more likely they are going to tap out. Maybe even at that first charter and if that’s the case as soon as they go to do some sort of utility study could even be with ah another charger company. They’re going to find out pretty quickly that. Need to do something and when they start pricing out what it costs to do you know all the station upgrades and the building upgrades then they get turned off to the idea sometimes so those those um parties tend to move a bit faster in general but when it comes to government agencies. It’s actually interesting because with. Fleets. They’re not that hard to find um you know they’re mostly the the information’s online and very minimal effort. Um I used to sell to private fleets and I’ll just tell you it’s frankly, been harder um with private fleets than with ah government fleets. Um, government fleets. Also they look at it a lot more through an esg lens than a like fleet manager at a private fleet. Usually the board of a company of a private fleet maybe has some esu mandates. But by the time it hits the fleet managers deaths. They really don’t care that much. So. Um, that’s a big part of it government agencies also usually find themselves with a lot more cash towards this stuff. So while maybe the sales cycles can be slower. They actually have more spending power and they actually have to spend it so you know there’s always some politician that comes out with some new. Idea for how they can clean up the roads and usually gets implemented. You know in fairly short order. Um, but sometimes you’re right, you know it can take a little bit of time the approach that we have always recommended to people is to say you know think about your yard. Not in the lens of you electrified 3 out of 50 vehicles think about it in more the lens of what would happen if you electrified whatever your goal is let’s say 30 out of 50 and maybe the other ones are bioiesel or hydrogen or something or cng. Um, what would the. You know, equipment needed look like what would the cost of your utility bill. Be call your utility try to figure it out and look at it from that lens and then ask them the other important question which is what’s the timing on all this and we would talk to a lot of utilities and you know they would tell us this kind of jokingly where fleets would call them and say I need.

Jules Brenner

All the existing power in this location and I need it in a few months and a lot of them would you know they just kind of say no we get give a few years so when you know some of that stuff you tend to move much faster and and I do think that a lot of the government agencies are a bit closer to their utilities and. Thereby it moves a little more smoothly but um, a lot of them do have you know lots of vehicles on order I mean we were with one yesterday and you know they have like I think they said 15 ford e lightnings and you know so street sweepers and all sorts of stuff coming in at the end of this year going into the end of next year we slow that down a little bit in terms of supply chain. But those vehicles are coming and with the permitting process and even you start to think all that through you’re about right there in terms of when you want to start procuring these things.

James McWalter

Mostly we’ve been kind of talking about retrofits you know the the horse barns of the world and and that kind of thing. Um, but how do you think about like new builds you know would real estate developers generally be. You know, potentially interesting segment to focus on in the future as they’re thinking about New New Bill commercial and industrial um to make sure that they have the right charging infrastructure from the beginning. Um, and before thinking about where you know the heavy automotive industry is going.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, absolutely yeah, the um, you know we definitely recommend with early builds that you you know you plan twice and you try to also you know, future proof to whatever extent possible. Um I can’t tell you how many different companies I used to talk to that would basically take advantage of every single rebate and grant at a point in time, especially those like really big franchise hotel chains and find themselves in the situation where they. You know install chargers of different brands some that are wi-fi connected. Some are not and then at some point they start to realize we should probably start to really standardize the asset and figure out 1 central place to track them and find themselves then in a position where. You know it gets kind of messy. So I think it’s really important to think about a standardized process for your facilities somewhat early I understand that most will probably not go to 1 technology in total. But definitely you know, keep the batch to a very small limited amount. And you know to whatever extent, you do have the ability to install early from fresh concrete. Um, you’re going to keep your total cost down. Um, but more importantly, you’ll be able to plan for things like footprint right? You don’t want to stick chargers in the front of parking spots and have vehicles have to park. You know three feet from the curb. You also want to be thinking about to whatever step possible how you can use the um, the battery systems to better. You know manage the building. It’s it’s kind of interesting like if you think about the way a lot of like the let’s say office park charges are installed. They’ll be closer to the building and they’ll also be thinner profile chargers just because closer the building means less electrical cost thinner profile because you don’t want to cover up the whole building to a point where you can’t see chargers if you start thinking about like batteries as part of that. Um, you know if you don’t plan electrical lines early. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where batteries start to take up a big part of your front facade as well too. So early planning is really really important and it’s also cheaper.

James McWalter

And then you know thinking kind of on about broader spectrum. The changes at the policy level and so we had the federal infrastructure bill that passed last year. There were multiple billions of dollars set aside for ev infrastructure development. Um, it’s still I guess a little bit unclear to me about the exact kind of deployment structure of that money. But how do you think about either the existing incentives like what was passed last year or things that could potentially kind of emerge in the future and about how that affects how you’re approaching. You know the deployment of your early product.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, yeah, good question I think the um you know it’s It’s very exciting to see that amount of dollars flow in from the federal level I think you know most even you know. Cities now are are adopting their own programs and spending their own money but the federal level should create a lot of opportunities for us to you know, not only find just on government website opportunities for bid. But most importantly, I think what it’s doing is it’s bringing into the light um a lot of grid issues. This kind of chooses electrical infrastructure. Um, and as you start to think more about that you start to really start to weigh whether you want equipment upgrades that maybe give you more capacity but still force the utility to work hard to produce lotss of energy or whether you want the um you know battery systems. Part of the equation that should make it easier for the utilities to generate energy and store them in the batteries prior to use. But I do think that the you know Overall the federal will has been a um, a strong sign for acceleration in the industry and it’s certainly kind of woken up a lot of the fleets to. Um, the opportunity of taking advantage of incentives now a lot of them. You know they maybe were thinking of going electric but they were going to stall closer until the um you know date mandates and now with the money coming out over a limited time here. They.

Jules Brenner

Um, accelerated a lot of their plans.

James McWalter

And then thinking about the team and and kind of as you were kind of building out the team and the company culture over the next few years you know one of the things I found in myself is every kind of new venture thing you know company that I start. The culture is often a either. Ah, reflection in some way of kind of my my past experiences at other organizations or other companies that I’ve involved in so either I’m embracing certain aspects of those other companies and trying to you know, incorporate those in what I’m working on now or I’m kind of reacting against them and saying okay you know that that company was great, but. Had this particular part of their culture or part of what it was to work there that I just absolutely do not want to have at my new company. Um, you know for yourself having you know, worked at a few companies worked at companies that have you know also been part of the kind of ev and electrification space. What are the kind of elements that you’re like okay. These are the things that I really want to bring in and and then still is the culture of ah you know of Zeus versus other areas where it’s like I absolutely do not want to bring those into this new company.

Jules Brenner

So yeah, that’s um, good. Good question. Well I think ah you know a few things some of my past roles and companies I think we’ve worked on some you know products that were kind of similar like some proptex some electroomechanical hardware and I think with those you typically. You know you’ll need your engineering team of course. Um, but most importantly, a lot of those companies they had strong like mission driven values and I think you know with trucking it’s a um, you know in general fleets and all that they they are a small portion of a total transportation. Pi but they are disproportionate part of the actual emissions side. So I think having a culture of people focused on you know, alignment on decarbonization is something that’s important to us. Um, but also a culture focused on strong engineering and. You know, active conversations with customers early is is key as well too. Um I’ve been in companies where you know we’ve cut corners and early stage engineer and design and I think that has certainly come to haunt us later and I think when you’re making a you know a missioncritical product. Like a charging system or energy system for a charge for a vehicle application. You want to do it right? You don’t want a call from a fleet you know someday telling you that they can’t um, operate that day because the chargers are out or something like that which is unfortunately becoming an all too common issue. And the um public charging sector these days. So I think you know those are really important I think really also focusing on you know, a very kind of systematic approach to the growth is is vital to we don’t want to make a product just for. Sake of it so we’ve really focused on identifying customers of pain points today instead of just adding out and looking at the broader market of who will certainly feel this pain in a year or 2 and we want to make sure you know that also really ends up being a kind of. Ah, right? recipe of culture and Zeus.

James McWalter

I yeah I love that um and I think it’s great that you’re already kind of being so kind of thoughtful about those elements as you kind of build out the company. Um Jules Brenner  I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.

Thank you Jules Brenner  has great.

Jules Brenner

Yeah, absolutely appreciate you having me James take care now.

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