What’s it all about?
eScooters, eBikes, last mile solutions and all things Micro-mobility. Great to see how design thinking and innovation applies not just to technology, but to company cultures and business models. This week I talk about the challenges and opportunities for micro-mobility and mobility as a service across cities in various parts of the world, and how building an innovative company culture has helped Acton grow rapidly and globally.
About Janelle Wang:
Co-Founder and CEO of Acton, Janelle is a Designer turned Entrepreneur with 15 years of Strategic Planning, New Category Creation & Design Thinking for Fortune 500s to Start Ups, bringing breakthrough Innovation and Sustainability to reality. She is leading the charge to help shape a new, more efficient, vibrant and livable urban environment. She holds 50+ patents in micromobility and sustainability solutions. Janelle has an M.S. in Industrial Design from Purdue University.
Janelle was selected as one of “19 Influential Women In Mobility” in 2019, she was awarded Female CEO of the Year in 2016, and has been featured in WSJ, FastCompany, CNN, VOGUE, BBC, and more..
ACTON, headquartered in Silicon Valley, offers Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) solution packages from multimodal vehicles to advanced IoT to move people and goods efficiently & intelligently. ACTON partners with automakers, cities, ride-share operators, and private property owners. Together, we make our cities better places to live.
ACTON is unique in its range of mobility solutions on offer. ACTON has won numerous awards and has been featured in various media, internationally. ACTON creates excellence in riding dynamics, safety, serviceability, ease of use, design aesthetics, and sustainability. With over 100 patents, more than 100 cities globally, tens of millions of rides, ACTON is leading the way.
- Janelle Wang on LinkedIn: (61) Janelle Wang | LinkedIn
- Acton website: ACTON | Supercharging City 3.0 | California
- Acton on LinkedIn: (61) ACTON: Overview | LinkedIn
- Acton on Instagram: ACTON (@actonallday) • Instagram photos and videos
About Hyperion Cleantech Group:
Hyperion Cleantech Group is the holding company for businesses focused exclusively in cleantech talent acquisition, retention, leadership development. working with some of the most innovative cleantech companies in the world, helping to find extraordinary talent to enable their growth and success. Partnering with leading cleantech VCs, as well as directly with founders and entrepreneurs in the sector. With our clients we are transforming business and growing a strong and prosperous cleantech economy. We work across EMEA and NORAM, with teams based in the UK, Germany and the US.
Hyperion Executive Search is a retained search firm operating at Board, NED, C-Suite, VP and Heads of… level www.hyperionsearch.com
Fully Charged Recruitment is a contingent recruitment firm operating in the Mid/Senior level. www.fullychargedrecruitment.com
- Acton’s latest acquisition hints at the future of docked micromobility Acton’s latest acquisition hints at the future of docked micromobility – TechCrunch
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die: Chip Heath, Dan Heath: 8601410083830: Books: Amazon.com
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t Amazon.com: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t (Audible Audio Edition): Jim Collins, Jim Collins, HarperAudio: Audible Books & Originals
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David Hunt 0:31
Hello, I’m David Hunt, CEO and founder of Hyperion executive search and your host for the evening clean tech podcast. Hope your 2021 has got off to a good start and that you know your loved ones are safe and well. A quick update on the podcast for those who prefer to read or to revisit elements of the discussions we have will now be publishing a transcript of each episode on the leading clean tech.com website. You can access the transcript there. This week I speak to a man who’s escaped the cold of Scotland to the sunshine of San Diego and I’m very jealous about that. My guest is desmond Wheatley, the president CEO and chairman of beam global. He’s the inventor of the company’s patented EV act, product technology and several other patented clean tech solutions. He’s been with beam for over 10 years. And before that he spent a couple of decades internationally in senior executive positions and has raised over half a billion dollars to fund projects in which he was involved. Clearly, there’s lots to talk about. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Hello, and welcome to the leaders in clean tech podcast. Desmond, I’m speaking from a cold and damp Liverpool but looks I think might be a bit better in San Diego.
Desmond Wheatley 1:34
Well, it’s predictably, the sun is shining here in San Diego. But I have to tell you, David, I don’t feel too bad yourself. I went out for a run this morning. And it was 24 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a good good bit below freezing, so quite quite suited to my Scottish heritage. But it’s not always as hard as people think it is. Yeah. But yes, beautiful, clear skies and sunshine today.
David Hunt 1:54
Good stuff, a good backdrop. So yeah, good to have you on the podcast. And you’ve got aside from a good Scottish accent, you’ve got a broad and successful career. And clearly you moved to the US quite some time ago, you’ve got a good mix of experiences in your time there and your career there. I’d always like to start with giving a little bit of context. So can you share a little bit of that journey, and in particular, how you came into the solo and clean tech sector.
Desmond Wheatley 2:20
I suppose I could have been very lucky. In terms of the variety that I’ve had in my professional career, a good deal of it has been spent in the United States I came here actually is quite a young man by See, oddly enough, not not as a traditional route, or maybe the very traditional routes, not but not perhaps a more recent one. As soon as that time, I’ve been involved in a variety of different businesses, both in the United States and internationally. Look, I in many ways, I feel as though everything that I’ve done to this point in my life has trained me for this job. I ran a shipyard when I was a young man. I’ve been involved in telecommunications, security infrastructure, always with a technology banks. I’ve raised a lot of capital throughout my my professional history. And then you know, worked in different spent a lot of time in the Middle East and in other parts of the world, all of these things have combined to give me a set of experiences which are very well suited to manufacturing the kind of products that we do addressing sustainability, the move to the electrification of transportation, and then also just more sort of philosophically on a personal level. I think I haven’t been a you know, corporate polluting asshole, my life and done some things that I’m not terribly proud of. It’s wonderful to have an opportunity now to spend what I hope will be the rest of my working career, doing nothing. But you know, enriching our shareholders while doing absolutely the right things for the for the planet. And for the geopolitical circumstances, economic circumstances, and of course, environmental as well. So it’s been a great, great convergence of a lot of history. And I think, in many ways, is perfectly aligned me for this moment.
David Hunt 4:03
Yeah. It’s interesting, you and myself, and I think most people you can, there’s a huge passion for the sector. And it’s almost like a, I guess a reformed smoker tends to be the ones that’s most vociferous around. So we’ve given up all of the bad dirty stuff.
Unknown Speaker 4:23
David Hunt 4:24
I’m sure it’s a Scotsman. There’s a drama too, but Okay, so how did the join you come about to join as it was envision solar, with 10 or so years ago? So how did you sort of your career evolved into that? Was that your first step into renewables or clean energy? And how did that come about?
Desmond Wheatley 4:45
I’ve been involved in energy for some time before that. And in fact, my entree into vision solar came about as a result of relationships that I had with some of the lead investors in the in the company and those relationships that I actually developed when I was in the Middle East. I had been looking to buy a waste to energy company. And as a result of that was introduced to a Green Fund over here in the United States who had a company that did that in their portfolio. I wasn’t able to bring that transaction to fruition, but but did end up meeting these people. And then in the first quarter of 2010, they came and they asked me to come and get involved with this, what was at the time a very small company. And I frankly, wasn’t all that thrilled with it. At the time, I you know, I love the idea of renewable energy. But I wasn’t really thrilled about the idea of competing with the utility with solar power, and just didn’t seem very interesting to me. But I agreed to help. The company had just gone public through a reverse merger onto the bulletin board and I public company background and also raised a lot of capital, I agreed to help, frankly, to set it up for a future management team. But it was only after I’d been there for a little while that I thought, you know, what there’s, there’s a, there’s a seed here, properly nurtured and perhaps spirit in a different direction, we might be able to make something really interesting with this. And so that’s a series of accidents led to me still being here. And I’m very, very happy about that.
David Hunt 6:11
How often away often away, but it’s certainly I think most of our audience will know that this sort of the transition or the changes in the sector, but from now to 10 years ago, in terms of what was feasible. And when I first got into soda in 2007. Even my friends laughed at me. And I set up a business in soda that nobody thought it could possibly work anywhere. And now of course, we’re seeing that along with Windows being dominant new generation generation sources around the world, which is, which is great. I’m keen to talk, of course a lot about the big global product offering and how that’s supporting the sort of the energy mobility transitions. But before we do that rather interesting, you rebranded the company recently from envision solar to beam global and rebranding established companies never easy or without risk. What was the reasoning behind that? Well,
Desmond Wheatley 6:58
so this goes back, actually, to what I might my initial comments about, you know, not necessarily being thrilled with the business model, when I first joined the company, don’t don’t get me wrong, I love solar power. I’m very happy that there are lots of people out there who are doing that sort of utility scale. And I think that there’s no question in my mind that the world will transition to nothing but renewable energy sources, even at the grid scale. However, what was really interesting to me back then, was this intersection of clean energy and transportation. I wanted to do something really big and sort of easy to understand. I love that combination of that, but technically difficult to make it work, but really easy to understand and really big. And so the idea of working at this intersection of clean energy and transportation fascinated me. And so for many years, we were developing and selling products for the electrification of transportation that just happened to use solar as a source of power. It wasn’t that we were a solar company, we were a clean technology innovation company developing and patenting new products that use renewable sources as a source of power so that we didn’t have to connect to the grid. Unfortunately, Wall Street and our customer set, you know, just labelled us as a solar company and assumed that they knew what we did. We were not getting the sort of valuations that were that we should have been getting as a technology innovation company with a with a gigantic growth opportunity ahead of us. So before moving to beam global First of all, I love the name beam, sun beam beam of energy Beam me up Scotty but also the structural element of A gardeners we would say in Scotland, you know that being the combination of things monosyllabic, easy to remember. And a name is really about where we’re going, rather than where we’ve been. So we being global, and our tagline is clean mobility for all. We intend to seek out profitable opportunities anywhere where clean energy and transportation and intersects. And you’re right, it’s a it’s not an easy task. I mean, it was eight months of work. I hired a wonderful professional, Sandra Peterson, who runs our our marketing department knows she’s a Silicon Valley person who spent time at Apple. And I learned so much from her the lexicon, the methodology. I mean, there’s there’s a real science to this rebranding, my office was covered in pink and yellow sticky notes for a month. I mean, what’s our character? What do we intend to do with it when we grew up, and all these sorts of things. And all of that came through the funnel and finally converged on this word beam, and of course, global because although we the majority of our operations in the United States, we do export our products internationally. We certainly have global aspirations, no question about it. So I love the name. It’s been great. I think it’s been great from a wall street point of view. And it’s also been great from a customer’s point of view our salespeople Now you don’t have to spend the first 10 minutes of every phone call explaining and not trying to sell a rooftop solar installation. Yeah.
David Hunt 9:53
Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. And so that that’s expanded a little more in terms of the evolution of the business and the price. product line, as you touched on there, and immobility wasn’t really a thing in 2010, when you joined the company apart from a few hardcore pioneers, people like Chelsea Sexton, hi, Chelsea, if you’re listening in, and others, but it was, you know, it was, it seemed at that time a long time in the future as someone who clearly drives electric now, but was a petrol head for many years even after converting to renewable energies. And so can you talk a little about the evolution of the the product and and specifically about the the V arc product, which is seems to be the backbone of the company. Now, how does that come about? What exactly does it do and who for
Desmond Wheatley 10:38
one of my many failings, many of which will become apparent during this this conversation is that I’m often early to the party, where technologies are concerned, and it’s not the first time I’ve done it. So you’re absolutely right back in back in third quarter of 2011, which is when I officially took this company over having been a consultant with it for a while before then there were very few electric vehicles on the road. And I mean, in absolute numbers. No, I’m not talking about models learning like there’s some people aren’t very many electric vehicles on the road. And, and yet here, we were coming out with a product, which was designed to pioneer the rapid deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. So we’re definitely we’re a little too early to the to the party. Nevertheless, what drove it was I was absolutely convinced at the time that the electrification of transportation was going to take place and in a wholesale manner. And I’m more convinced of that than ever. Now, I might be late to the party, but the party is going to be a rip, roar, no question about it. And if you’ve built a lot of stuff, and I have you what you quickly recognise is the sort of siege mentality of traditional construction, the permitting the environmental impact studies, the digging of trenches, the pouring of concrete, the grid upgrades, pulling cables, the ecosystem of service providers have to be involved in that little wonderful people that do a great job. And for goodness sake, the built environment is 100%, dependent upon them. But that is a siege mentality in a war that requires blitzkrieg, if we’re going to be successful in the electrification of transportation. We cannot spend months and years deploying in the traditional manner, grid tied Evie, charging infrastructure, it’s just going to take far too long to get the 10s, or even hundreds of millions of publicly available Evie chargers that the world will need in the next couple of decades deployed, if we go about it in a traditional manner. So we say let’s use technology, let’s do exactly what technology should do. Let’s come up with a clean tech innovation, which does away with that construction and electrical process, because that’s where all the time and money is going. And with that we set about inventing the AVR, electric vehicle autonomous, renewable charger and autonomous is the most important word. They’re not connected to anything. It’s not connected to the utility grid. It’s not even connected to the ground, except by gravity. And because of this, we avoid all the permitting, and all the construction and all the electrical work and all the risks and other hazards and frankly, environmental impact that goes into the deployment of traditional infrastructure that was born out of my experiences, building things and waiting for permits and suffering all the risks of doing something. And it was also born out of my belief that as I say, we need this blitzkrieg mentality of we’re going to win this war, and we are going to win it. Yeah,
David Hunt 13:20
yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So where are the applications? And where are the present business models or use cases for the product.
Desmond Wheatley 13:28
So that’s the brilliant thing about that is anywhere where people Park vehicles is an opportunity for us. The wonderful thing about electric vehicles is they allow consumers like me, I’ve been driving on for 10 years now, to transition away from one of life’s horrible things to do, which is go somewhere like a gas station, petrol station, and stand around while you pump a carcinogenic and volatile liquid into a steel box under your children’s bottoms. I mean, that’s a horrible thing. Nobody would go to a petrol station where it not for the petrol, right, something we’ve all become used to. But it’s one of those horrible things that any of us do. Electric Vehicles allow you to move away from that you can no fuel where you were already going to make a special trip somewhere. And so whether that’s at work, or at the shopping mall, or the cinema or a restaurant or at home, in some small instances, that’s being overplayed, much less often base charging that people think it will be but you know if you’re wherever you’re going, so our product is designed to fit inside a standard legal sized parking space, any standard legal sized parking space, as long as it can see the sky. We don’t even need brilliant sunshine like we often get here in San Diego. The fact is that we get enough light energy even on cloudy days to generate a significant amount of electricity which we can use to power vehicles. The business model at the moment is that we largely sell to two second segments. Government fleets definitely a big part of our business and that we’re getting we’re gonna see a lot of growth in that in 2021 here with the new administration, United States and the general move towards electrification amongst fleets And then the other one is workplace charging. So we provide Evie charging infrastructure for lots of corporations who are providing that workplace charging for their employees both because it’s the right thing to do, but also because they get to kind of that reduction in carbon in the commute against their their total carbon contribution. So it makes good economic sense for them as well. In the future, we’ll see a lot more deployment of the product in more public top off type environments. So municipal top office is a great application, as you go about time and having lunch or going to the library or whatever else, you pick up an hour of charging, and it really a couple of those stops, you get all the fuel you need every day. Yeah. So that’s, that’s the model at the moment.
David Hunt 15:37
Okay. Okay. You touched on something there. And, again, I think we touched this when we spoke previously, that the US is a world leader in many, many things. And aside from the last four years, most of them are pretty good things. And but the US lags behind the uptake of electric vehicles and the related infrastructure compared to certainly for Europe and Scandinavia. And indeed, in the grid infrastructure, generally, which I know is a bugbear of yours. So how, how do you see that changing? Or what do you see is behind perhaps the lagging, what is otherwise a sort of a leader in clean technology?
Desmond Wheatley 16:12
So first of all, let me say this, I am an immigrant to the United States. It’s my adopted home. I do not look through rose coloured glasses when I when I look at the United States or think about it, but I will say that I love the country. And I think he’s done a great deal of good, but with with with a lot of imperfection. And the last four years to me have been filled with sadness. And a great deal of that sadness has been about the loss of leadership that the United States has had globally. You know, we should be that shining city on the hill. And and we have not been for like last four years in many areas. I’m hopeful that we can return to that note, specifically what you brought up the electrification of transportation. Yes, it’s been a tragedy that we’ve lost four years of opportunity, where we could have been the greatest leaders, you know, there was a time when Detroit led the world from a from a vehicle point of view. There’s no reason why that can’t happen. Again, it should happen. We have the capital, we have the innovation, we have a society which in general welcomes the putting of work of capital into innovation, and, and a government which is which is often in, you know, in favour of that sort of thing to have wasted four years as a tragedy. Nevertheless, it’s not too late. I think there’s a great opportunity here for the US to to having rejoined Paris, and to know really grasp this electrification of transportation thing. And I think what the great promise about this is that at the moment, government tailwinds are very much in our favour. Obviously, we’ve got most nations in the world now announcing the ban of sales of internal combustion engine vehicles sometime in the next couple of decades. And states like California uncontroversially, in my view, joining with that, yeah. But what’s going to happen is, the consumer is going to get hold of this electric vehicles or gadgets on wheels, consumers love gadgets, they’ll go to any lengths to have them. I’ve worked in very poor parts of the world where people are cooking over open fires, but have a television set in hot with them. So gadgets are very important people. So these are gadgets for the first time on wheels, once the mighty us and then global consumer gets behind electric vehicles, the aspirations of governments and the tailwinds of governments will, will disappear into the midst, and then there’ll be a panic to get the infrastructure out there and to get the adoption. And I think the US can lead that because of course, the US consumer for good, for better or for worse, is the most powerful force in the global economy. Yeah, yeah,
David Hunt 18:38
we’ve certainly seen and it has been for some time. And I think that’s what a lot of the traditional automotive OEMs are struggling is that the new car is in iPad on wheels, as opposed to a piece of machinery here by and large, and certainly proves that with the with, with not just with the car, but obviously with literally an iPad in the front of the car. It is a device, as you say, and I think that could drive things a lot, if you excuse the pun, and interestingly going to your product in particular in terms of it not being grid tied. And something else that I think we’ve discussed previously and is apparent is the the state of the grid in the US. infrastructure is extremely poor, which clearly needs to be addressed in a number of ways. But potentially, that’s an opportunity for for the AVR product where you don’t need to be grid tied.
Desmond Wheatley 19:26
I think the grid vulnerability is probably one of the greatest vulnerabilities that faces this nation today. And and like so many things that haven’t gone wrong yet. There’s a sort of an assumption that because it hasn’t gone wrong, it won’t go wrong in the future. Now it does go wrong. frequently. Of course, we have blackouts and brownouts and those sometimes are weather related. Sometimes those are capacity related. The second of those two things capacity is definitely an area that’s not receiving enough attention. Ilan musk recently, I think, said that we needed something like double the capacity on the grid, but perhaps overstating a little bit, but nevertheless, he’s absolutely on track with us. And this is not a uniquely American problem, the simple fact is that the global grid lacks sufficient capacity to supply all the electricity that the electrification of transportation will require. And then beyond that, the centralised vulnerability of the way grids are put together where we rely on large centralised generation facilities, and then transmission and distribution infrastructure to get the electricity over vast distances to load. It’s just a very clunky and risky way of having any type of infrastructure deployed, particularly your your fueling infrastructure. So it’s absolutely imperative that a we come up with ways of deploying capacity that doesn’t rely on new charge new new generation plants and transmission and distribution because they just take too long and longer longer effective to get done. And then we need to come up with sources of power which are invulnerable to these sort of centralised failure points. So that means locally generated and stored electricity. And of course, I have a vested interest in this. That’s the that’s the business that we’re in. That’s what our products do. But beyond my own interest, I mean, I’ve actually written a piece about this called the grid pandemic, and how it will make COVID look like a sideshow. Frankly, this idea that strategically, we need to have a much more robust supply of electricity, mostly locally generated and stored so that you don’t have centralised failure points, you’ve got millions of small, much, much more like the internet, frankly, the way the internet’s put together. terribly important. I’ll just say this. The United States has a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This is a you know, something that the government maintains to ensure that we never run out of diesel or gasoline, there is no strategic electric reserve. We see this every time we have blackouts and brownouts know, when we have our entire fueling infrastructure, our entire transportation sector reliant upon this input this fuel source, which has no reserve at all, that’s just a folly from a business point of view. But we have to imagine that our adversaries know this, too. We know the Russians have been in the grid we know the Chinese have been in the grid hacked into I mean, we know that the Iranians elections are good. And God knows what sort of psychopathic white supremacist terrorists we’ve got in our own shores that know how to take it down. We got to do a better job as we become more and more reliant on electricity. And we’re more reliant on electricity than we’ve ever been any time in our history. And yet we have more failures on the grid than we’ve ever had any time in our history.
David Hunt 22:26
Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. And we’ll point out a quick scan of the docket of the white paper you mentioned, and I’ll put a link to on the episode page for for this podcast. It is a massive factor. And so many of our clients at Hyperion, so many of the guests I have on the on the podcast are all playing their part in some way, shape, or form. In creating this, as you say, sort of more of an internet type of decentralised energy capability, particularly electricity. Obviously, heating is another issue. And there are other technology, but certainly around electrification of heat, electrification of transportation, there’s a massive demand coming. And like I said, I think sometimes it’s more luck than judgement that there hasn’t been some bigger catastrophes, not just in the US, but but elsewhere in terms of grid stability, no question about that. So lots, lots lots to be done there. And going back to yourself and personal perspective. So you you obviously as we touched on, we’re a seasoned business professional, you’d raise money, you’d worked for corporates, you’d worked for smaller companies before you joined, be more envision as it was at the time? What have been the biggest personal challenges you faced in the last 10 years as you grow and evolve this business?
Desmond Wheatley 23:33
Well, I think that might depend on who you ask, if you if you asked my wife and children, they would say the biggest personal challenges have been my absenteeism from from domestic things. I’ve certainly been, I’ve been very, very involved in this. And for two reasons, it’s that’s been necessary. But also because I do love it, I feel it’s very important what we’re doing. You know, sometimes people advised me to take more time off and, and asked me, you know, what, why don’t I take it a bit more easy? And the simple answer is because this is very important. Forget remuneration, forget profit, forgetting what we’re doing is very, very important. And I just I don’t have the goal to look at myself in the mirror and say that I’m going to, you know, take my foot off the accelerator pedal here. It’s too important. Certainly, from a point of view of growing the business, I would say that the biggest impediment to our growth has been has been ignorance, frankly, and I have a sign in the in the sales office, where our salespeople sit here that says ignorance is your only competition. And what I mean by that is that, you know, this is the this the electrification of transportation is a brand new sector, there are no experts, I’m often introduced as an expert. And the first thing I tell people is, look, there’s no there is no history, there’s no empirical data, I can’t I can’t tell you how things have been or even our I can only sort of try to forecast how things will be. So the lack of understanding of the industry in general electric vehicles and electrification and then on top of that, we’ve layered a whole new set lack of understanding, because we’re using an entirely new way to power the infrastructure, people are very used to connecting things to the grid, just as they’re used to going to the gas station. And we’re saying you don’t need to go to the gas station. And first of all, you don’t even need to connect to the grid. That’s a, that’s a giant leap of acceptance for people to make for and as we know, human beings hard to change their habits, even when they’re doing things which are bad for themselves, and you show them something good, very hard to get them to change their habits. So that’s been the biggest impediment to our, to our advancement without a doubt, ignorance, lack of understanding. And especially when we were underfunded as we were, in the early years, we I elected to put all of our finite financial resources into Product Development and Engineering, and not into marketing and sales and pitching the story and all that sort of stuff. And I got some flack for that, frankly. But I’m a I’m a grinder, I’m an operation guy, I’m not a transactionally motivated person. And I felt that that was the right appropriate evolution. Now we are much better funded, and we are starting to invest more in sales and marketing and public relations and getting the message out. And that’s starting to bear bear fruit. But it is frustrating when when you know the right path. And when it’s clear and obvious. And when you have a hard time leading people that getting that horse to drink, right, you can get it to the water, but it’s hard to get him to drink. And I find that very frustrating.
David Hunt 26:21
Yeah, yeah. Internally andechs Naboo. has been in California been a an advantage as opposed to other places you could have been.
Desmond Wheatley 26:30
It carries its advantages and disadvantages. California is a great state. It’s very forward thinking in many ways. And then and then incredibly backwards in other ways, too. I mean, you still have the death penalty here. You know, mediaeval practices in this state full of tree huggers. It’s this sort of incredible combination of things. But look, the truth is California environmentally, while we’re terrible polluters and consumers and everything else like that, from a policy point of view, California leads the charge in the United States, California, remember, introduced catalytic converters back in the 70s. Everybody said that that would be the end of the automotive industry in the United States. Now the whole world uses catalytic converters. No, California leads in the electrification of transportation United States, and there are those who say that that will be the end of the automotive sector, far from it. It’s a fantastic Renaissance, a new era. So this is a great place to be. You get great talent here. It’s not hard to recruit the best talent to come in, you know, live in San Diego. And I’m proud of the things that California does. Do we pay more taxes? Yes. Do we have a higher compliance environment? Yes. Are those things good? Well, more taxes are good, as long as they’re not wasted. More compliance is good, as long as it’s actually improving things. So I support it and try and make things better and dwell less on the on the inefficiencies and the things that a lot of people like to complain about.
David Hunt 27:49
Yeah, certainly one of the more European states, in in those sort of areas of mindset, as you touched on,
Desmond Wheatley 27:55
it’s the fifth largest in a sovereign state, economic state in the world, people can get that often, you know, if we were separated from the United States, this would still be, you know, the fifth largest country in the world from an economic point of view. So they say as as, as goes things in California, so goes the rest of United States. And frankly, so goes the rest of the world in many areas as well.
David Hunt 28:13
Yeah, yeah. No, going back to something, you know, we touched on and again, it’s very early days, but as looking at a broader view and the impact of the new Biden administration or radiosity, making the executive orders to reverse it, or go back into the climate, to the Paris agreements and other things. But, you know, looking into the, I guess, the crystal ball and to an extent, and try not to just be the the eternal optimist, as we all are in this industry, but it was sort of a more balanced view, how do you see the next few years with the Clean Energy mobility transitions in the US now that we have this new administration?
Desmond Wheatley 28:42
Well, we’re certainly going to see a massive increase in spending. And that’s a really good thing I you know, the numbers I’ve seen coming out of Washington show me spending on the area that I’m most interested in the electrification of transportation and clean energy, more spending per annum for the next decade than we’ve seen in the entire last decade. So you know, you’re talking about just a paradigm shift in spending. It’s also superficially important that we’ve got leadership that says these things are important and that believes in things like climate change and believes in science and facts and the truth and all these other, you know, things that shouldn’t be in question that that superficially very important, and sometimes the superficial is important, because that’s what leads the consumer along. And as I’ve said earlier, during our conversation, I think at the end of the day, the mighty consumer will be who leads the greatest change in this space. Biden is of course going to have lots of challenges are very narrow, you know, majority independence in the Senate, only from his vice president casting the, you know, the deciding vote. And so, in many ways, his amount of his time he has a history of working across the aisle. He will not get the radical things done that some of us would like to see or and some of it he won’t get some of the radical things that we don’t want to see done either. This is not going to turn out To a socialist country, so far from it, it’s unimaginable. You know, these are this is just fear mongering. But so he’s going to have a challenge, we will not make the progress that we need to make. From a from a broader climate point of view. And worryingly, I don’t think we make the progress that we need to make from a global competitiveness point of view. But forget that there are other other people, the Chinese in particular, who are pushing forward very quickly with electrification of transportation, battery developments, clean energy developments, they don’t have to muck around with all this silliness, like worrying about what the voters wants. They just get it done. And that’s all very well, but I do not want to wake up in a world in 10 or 20 years time, we’re still scrapping over the last few lumps of coal and drops of oil. And our competitors have zero all packs where energy is concerned, because they’ve invested in the infrastructure to get zero op x energy programmes running, that’s not a good place for the for the United States. And I don’t believe it’s a good place for the world. Either. We need to lead. And so I worry that we won’t get enough done. In the meantime, what do you do? Well, you fight your own battle, and you have the impact that you can you impact the circle around you, you do everything that you can, and then you just, you know, you can’t really worry about whether or not the rest of it is going to fall into place.
David Hunt 31:13
Control the controllables I think it’s interesting, you touched on that because again, I think there’s a huge collective sigh of relief that we do have now this reliance back on science and facts, and this jumping back into the Paris Agreement and trying to think of a decent analogy. It’s almost like if you’ve not eaten for three days, and you cracker is the best meal that you’ve ever had, it’s kind of like almost it’s it’s actually not enough, it just feels that way, because of the where you’ve come from, I guess, to some extent, and I think there is a danger, I should say that we kind of clap our hands and celebrate a little bit of, of this new administration. But we know that there is such a big job to be done in the US and globally to get to where we need to be. And I think it’s important, I should say, we don’t take the foot off the pedal or stop pushing.
Desmond Wheatley 31:53
No, each of us has to recognise this as the very serious situation that it is. And each of us has to impact in whatever way we can the circle around us. I’ve dedicated my life professionally to it, but also try to you know, walk the walk and the way I live too. And, you know, I think we’ve all got to do that. We can’t just say, well, is Biden going to get it done? No, I don’t think he is, therefore I’m going to give up. You know, I had this discussion with somebody actually about the Second World War, where they were telling me that it’s pointless to try and do anything about the environment because it’s too late. And I said, it’s funny. That’s what people said to Churchill and 39 and 40, we can’t win this war. So we should sign a pact with the Nazis. And he said, I’d rather lose fighting on the right side, then then then then given to the wrong side. And that’s partly why I look at this too. If we lose this battle, I’m gonna go down fighting, and I go down fighting on the right side. And I encourage everybody else to join me in that.
David Hunt 32:50
Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. reminds me a little bit of and again, the comment you made before about sort of spending time away from family when I was talking to Christopher nuga, who’s a client of ours, and I was on the podcast some time ago, who’s the CEO of Evie box, which Evie charging infrastructure company and they’re about to float. But much earlier in their evolution. He said it was getting out of a car park, you know, in a shopping mall in the Netherlands. And his children were sent dead white, why is there all this, you know, pollution? Why are we breathing in this horrible stuff? What are you doing about it? And he said, that’s something that continually drives when I think we all have those versions, obviously have a young family myself, and it’s certainly one of the things that drives me forward is the fact that, you know, sometimes they go into school and walk into school, choking on on fumes that alone the climate impacts to you, obviously, absolutely. The each and every one of us has to do what we can control the controllables Do what you can and push the agenda as hard as possible. And I guess that leads on a little bit to your role or to being global. We touched a little bit on what you see changing potentially in the US and elsewhere. But what are your plans for growth? We touched on international internationalisation at the beginning of the conversation, where do you see the company being in the next few years?
Desmond Wheatley 34:06
David, just to touch on the last point, before I come to that to where we’re going to go. I’m going to say something which I’ve said before controversially, and I get into trouble for saying that sometimes, but I’m going to say anyway, the the airborne pollution causes more than 7 million deaths a year globally. Most of it from transportation. that’s a that’s a holocaust a year. Think about that. A Holocaust a year. Now the Holocaust was perpetrated by a bunch of crackpots and psychopaths who we were able to unseat this Holocaust A Year is coming about through greed and complacency. And in my view, it’s worse because we’re all involved in it. So when that man’s children said to him, Daddy, what are you doing about it? We all need to be looking ourselves in the mirror and saying what are we doing about our role in this Holocaust a year that’s taking place it’s not funny. It’s not immaterial, it’s a bloody serious thing that we and it’s only because each of us feels that our contribution is so small. And because we’re complacent and because many people are greedy and making a lot of money out of it, but this is continuing. So I’m very, very serious about it. And that doesn’t lead into into into our growth plans. Were very ambitious. As I mentioned, we intend to play anywhere, the intersection of clean energy and transportation takes place. So what you’re going to see first of all, is you’re going to see a very dramatic increase in my belief in the sale of our products, because the demand for rapidly deployed electric vehicle charging infrastructure is going to kick into gear in a huge way, just this year, we’ll have the introduction of the Ford F 150, the most popular vehicle United States top selling pickup truck for 42 years, all electric, it’s impossible for me to imagine that consumers will go to a dealership and select a diesel or gasoline pickup truck f150, after they’ve driven the electric one that does not 60 in three seconds, never needs to go to the gas station and needs basically no maintenance. So there’s gonna be a massive increase in the demand for charging infrastructure. But you will also see us looking, I’m inquisitive, I’m looking for opportunities to grow non in organically, as well as organically. So you’ll see us looking at other places where we can play in the electrification of transportation. And we’re uniquely able to play in some areas very well, because we’ve got this infrastructure thing licked. So if you talk to the operators of autonomous car companies, if you talk to the operators of car sharing, ride sharing, infrastructure is the single biggest hurdle to their growth. It’s not the technology, it’s not the ability to get it done. It’s the lack of infrastructure. And because we can deploy rapidly at scale, anywhere we can see the sky, that means we can provide that one thing that everybody else feels hard. The one thing that technology is not improving it we’ve got that licked. And so you’ll see us playing in a lot of other areas. They’re both through inorganic and organic
David Hunt 37:01
growth. Okay, as you do that might become increasingly a topic of conversation as I speak to founders, both on the podcast and again, clients who’ve been through the startup, many of whom have now come through to fairly sizable exits, as the oil majors and others are starting to, to play and throw their money around a little bit. But it seems that the scaling is much tougher than the startup. And I know you obviously clearly an older company, not not not traditionally a startup, but still a sort of company relatively early in its evolution. Again, what do you see as perhaps some of the challenges or, and opportunities that you’re going to face as you scale and to try and meet the demand? Because, as you say that the demand is going to be enormous. And of course, there’s more than one company can cope with that, or more than one company can cope with? That said, there’s a huge business opportunity. How do you scale and what challenges and what opportunities that throw up for you?
Desmond Wheatley 37:52
Well, the first thing to recognise is that no matter what we do, we want to stretch the tip of the tip of the iceberg of demand. And that’s a great place to be when you’re growing a public company that sells products, right, which is the demand is essentially limitless in any in any realistic sense for the next couple of years, next couple of decades, right? As I said, 10s, or even hundreds of millions of publicly available Evie charging points will be required, we have the fastest deployed most scalable solution out there. Now what we have done is we’ve been very careful to create what we’ve considered to be to use an American term or sort of cookie cutter herbal factory environment here. So developed, the initial development of the technology was very difficult, it’s actually much more complex than than it looks on the outside. And that’s a deliberate part of our strategy too. I love really complex things which are easy, like your iPhone, right? Probably one of the most complicated things anybody’s ever touched on yet your granny can can handle it. Okay, I love that our products like that very complex, but it’s very easy for people to use and to deploy. Similarly, the factory environment that we’ve created, a lot of our thinking is about making not just increasing our efficiencies here at a factory, but how are we just gonna build a cookie cutter this because we’re going to need 10 or 15 more of these factories across the US. And then in Europe, which will be the largest Evie market in the world, and then in Asia as well. So it’s important to have something that’s repeatable. Once you’ve got all that licked, it comes down to the same thing that everybody’s up against, which is human resources. And so what we tried to do is create an environment that people want to work in. This is a meritocracy, that I’m very proud of the wonderfully diverse team that we have here. I’m pretty much the only sort of white middle aged man and the executive team rest are all women and others. And then we’ve got every race creed sexuality, goodness knows what you come here to the most magnificently diverse place, but a meritocracy. We don’t we don’t hire a people based on the diversity. We hire them based on their merit. We just seek out merit places that I think others ignore. Yeah, so the human factor will be the biggest challenge. But the great thing is we’re doing something that everybody is very proud of, everybody’s very excited by and so from a recruiting point of view, you know, if I if I’m recruiting someone who has similar similar skill sets, and I’m in an environment like in San Diego, where the defence is a big part of the you know, the Have the economy here. And I’m so honoured that you want to turn people into bacon, or do you want to save the planet? That’s our offering, come and join us. It’s the early stages of a fantastic, huge movement. And you can be tremendously proud of what you’re doing. Yes, I will overcome that the greatest challenge of all, which will be to have the finest human beings helping us move this battle forward.