I make no apology for starting the year back talking about batteries. EnerVenue caught my eye recently after a $12m seed round, but whilst they are a very young company, their technology has been used for many years, mainly in space! They now have a way to make their technology cost competitive and not so astronomical in cost (see what I did there?). Getting energy storage right, at all scales and for various use-cases is vital to a successful energy and mobility solution. Take a listen to where EnerVenue fit into that transition.
About Jorg Heinemann:
Jorg Heinemann joined EnerVenue as CEO when the company launched in 2020. Previously, Jorg led strategy and operations for Primus Power, a long-duration energy storage provider. Prior to entering the battery sector, he led SunPower’s billion-dollar global power plant business unit, helping build out more than 2000 MW of solar power plants. Earlier in his career, Jorg served as an Executive Partner at Accenture, where he led business transformation programs at tech companies including Apple, HP, and Intuit. Outside of work, Jorg is an avid cyclist. He lives in the Bay Area, where EnerVenue is headquartered.
EnerVenue builds simple, safe, and maintenance-free energy storage for the clean energy revolution – based on technology proven over decades in extreme conditions, now scaled for large renewable energy integration applications. EnerVenue’s batteries, which are based on technology used successfully for decades in outer space use cases, deliver a zero maintenance and lower cost alternative to lithium-ion for large-scale stationary energy storage, even in the most challenging climates. The company was founded by Dr. Yi Cui, a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University.
- Jorg Heinemann on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jorgheinemann/
- EnerVenue Website: https://enervenue.com/
- EnerVenue on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EnerVenueInc
- EnerVenue on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/enervenue/
- Ten lessons for a post pandemic world: Fareed Zakaria – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lessons-Post-Pandemic-World-Fareed-Zakaria/dp/0241491657
- How to scale a Cleantech Business (six peaks of value creation)- Webinar with Nick Bradley and David Hunt – Register here http://scaleup.vip/cleantech
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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 leading clean tech podcast. Firstly, let me wish you all a very happy and successful New Year. That’s hope that 2021 sees us move on from the lockdowns and challenges we will face in 2020. As some of you will know aside from my role hi Karen and as host of this podcast I also mentor for several cleantech accelerators such as plug and play. helping clean tech founders and entrepreneurs to move from startup to scallop is something I’m very passionate about. And with this in mind, I recently teamed up with scallop expert Nick Bradley to offer a free of charge webinar, which will be hosting on the seventh of February at 5pm GMT. And it’s simply called How to scale a clean tech business. I hope if you are a founder or an entrepreneur, you’ll be able to join me there. I’ll ask for details of the events and how to register on the episode page for this podcast that leaves and clean tech.com. Moving back to today and talking to FinTech startups, I’m joined by Joel kinnaman, CEO of nnu. Really excited to start with the MCs Ultra Durable ultra flexible energy storage for which their grid scale applications. dog is an experienced executive in the renewable energy industry with a background including leading roles at solar heavyweight some power, and more recently at flow battery company Primus power before moving on to any venue. I hope you enjoyed the episode. And welcome to the leaders in clean tech podcast York. It’s great to have you with us. I hope you managed some downtime over the holiday season.
Jorg Heinemann 1:59
I did indeed Yeah, despite COVID thanks very much pleased to be here, David.
David Hunt 2:05
So there’s loads to get through and being a real battery nerd. I’m really keen to get into the venue, technology. But traditional on the podcast, if we can start with a little bit of your backstory, what led you from a successful career in consulting? Firstly, I guess to clean energy and then into lithium, early stage energy storage startup. So can you just give us a flavour of that journey for you? Yeah, you
Jorg Heinemann 2:30
I spent about 20 years with Accenture including six and what I call my dream job, basically running a p&l within the high tech practice of, of Accenture. And I was looking for something new, I wanted to do something that had more of an impact on the planet. So I started a sustainability consulting practice within Accenture. And in in the context of trying to sell some consulting work, I actually got sold on taking a job to go work for Tom Werner over at SunPower. took that and that led to a bunch of different roles, including leading the global power plants business and the the EPC, the engineering, procurement, construction of solar power plants and the operation of those for several years and a huge amount of cost reduction work. I was here for years, and then decided I wanted a new challenge and was looking for, for something, something different either grid edge or batteries and ended up sinking my teeth into batteries. And that’s where I’ve been ever since a few different companies and now within our venue, which I’m looking forward to telling you about.
David Hunt 3:40
Okay. Okay. So how have you found that transition from, you know, from from Accenture, which is both consultants, and also clearly a global entity through some kind of, of course, it’s still a large enough concern itself, sort of that transition, I guess, from corporate to startup and from consulting through to being perhaps a little more hands on, so to speak, in terms of no business, which actually is constructing and developing assets of their own. Yeah, it’s
Jorg Heinemann 4:11
funny you asked, that brings back and memory when, when I first began my new role at SunPower, I think I think people have different impressions of consulting, I remember sitting down with the CEO, and he’s, he’s asking me, well, so that’s your first non consulting role. You’re not sure what we should talk about here. Have you ever run a staff meeting? I think I’m gonna be okay. That kind of consulting. I did it at Accenture really was large scale programmes. So it was it was building and implementing things, big deals, big system implementations, that kind of thing. So it’s much much more operational and there was an element of strategy to it, but very little of that. Let me give you advice, Mr. client, it was more. Let’s figure out how to get this done. together. So I’m a kind of a big change leader kind of by, by nature and by background of that of Accenture. And I’ve carried that with me through the, through some power and certainly through the the multiple startups I’ve worked with since.
David Hunt 5:15
Yeah, yeah. And I think that is one of the challenges that most people thought or many people at least think that consulting is purely strategic and advisory, and you don’t necessarily be hands too dirty, which clearly isn’t always the case. And under that sometimes impacts on people as they do, as you’ve been through sort of been hired into roles where you are making that transition. But that sediment Of course, there are differences between consultants in between an operational entity and of course, between the size and scale of companies that you’ve worked for, what have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in that career transition.
Jorg Heinemann 5:49
I think the the biggest lesson is a little bit of a double edged sword in consulting, the way to survive and thrive is by making an impact immediately and always and delivering well in excess of the crazy high fees that the customer is paying for, for our services. And that drives a sense of urgency and so on, you know, moving to the other side, it’s great. So, you know, not just, you know, giving advice, I’m not a guest in people’s homes, but it’s easy to push too hard and too fast. And I had to, I had to learn to dial that back a bit in certain situations, because the, you know, the desire to get something done this quarter no matter what. And there could be, you know, dead bodies in the way from that careful about it. So balancing the long term with the the need for for near term impact, I think is a bit of a constant lesson for for folks that are wired, like myself.
David Hunt 6:48
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Of course, it is incredibly important to have that drive and the ability to get stuff done in any kind of startup environment. But like you say, you can, you can break through too many eggs if you’re not careful about that. So it seems that we both got into solar at similar times, back into sort of 2008 2009. And at that time, I clearly had a lot of optimism that solar could and would be able to significantly reduce costs and massively scaling capacity, which of course, it’s done, but I didn’t think the storage would be a limiting factor. But what we’ve seen recently, the rise of batteries over the last 567 years in various forms of energy storage has been extraordinary. So where does any venue fit into the energy storage picture? What’s the technology? And what are the use cases that perhaps are in your sweet spot?
Jorg Heinemann 7:37
Yeah, we so we use a technology called nickel hydrogen, which or metal hydrogen, which is something that’s actually a very old technology. It’s been around since the 80s and 90s. And when you and I entered the what I’ll call the first clean tech way back in Oh, 809 timeframe, I think the the world believed that solar and storage would, you know, with blossom roughly at the same rate, because it’s logical storage captures the intermittency and, you know, the two combined, let’s have a far broader range of use cases. And I think what we saw is, storage really didn’t take hold in that first decades, to anywhere near the extent we anticipated. Solar, on the other hand, went way beyond anyone’s expectations, then in about 2017 suddenly be based on electrical vehicle adoption and the massive amounts of batteries that had come online, lithium ion became bankable, almost overnight, meaning the industry looked around and said, Okay, this new technology called lithium ion batteries is actually older and mature. And we think we can trust it, let’s go put it into projects. And we’ll finance it with low interest rates. But it was really the only, you know, only storage technology that’s seen no mass market pickup. Since then. Our technology is different ask around for about 30 or 40 years. It was conceived originally in the late 1980s. And intended for satellites. And it was needed, you know, and if you think about a satellite, or something like the International Space Station, or the Hubble Space Telescope, those are applications where the battery basically has to last forever. So it can’t, can’t be replaced. There’s no maintenance in outer space, or if it is it’s a spacewalk. It’s crazy expensive. Temperatures get super super hot, they get super, super cold. So it requires a fundamentally different type of battery than the ones we’re used to with lithium ions or our cell phones, they degrade our electric cars, we think about replacing them loose, replacing the battery packs eventually etc. In contrast, our battery and arrangers battery is designed to do 30,000 cycles. 30,000 causes three a day for 30 years. So that’s it’s basically forever and it’s been demonstrated in These aerospace applications over decades. Trouble is it was crazy expensive. So back in Oh 809 as people were thinking about, hey, what battery can we use for a pair with renewables? You know, my view is people just drove right past nickel hydrogen, they said, Okay, well, noisy kilowatt hour, forget about it. Not to mention the fact that the the people who had worked on this and conceived it and, you know, brought it to life, and most of them long since retired. So folks at companies like shaft and Eagle picture, you know, they they weren’t around anymore. So it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that our founder, professor at Stanford, and his research institute, took a fresh look at batteries and thought about, well, what what really would be a fundamentally good battery technology to pair with renewables. And they concluded while probably nickel hydrogen for a number of different reasons, then they quickly figured out Oh, whoops, it looks like this isn’t a new thing, this has been done. The issue, they recognise the cost challenge, and then and then decided, well, there’s probably a better way to do it with lower cost materials. And that’s what we’re doing. Now the in by lower cost, I mean, orders of magnitude lower, we can match the capital cost learning curves of lithium ion, even the crazy, most aggressive ones that came out just a month ago, we believe we can match and continue to beat them. And and the really cool thing is that with these lower cost materials, I thought for sure, when I signed on, we would be trading, lower performance for lower cost or trading some performance for cost. What we’re finding dead is that the new materials are actually significantly outperforming the legacy materials we’re replacing. So not only are we getting massively lower cost, but we’re getting higher performance out of these batteries,
David Hunt 11:51
who and that’s I think it’s an interesting point where people do point to newer technologies and always want to invent something new. But there have been some amazing, she say technologies, which have kind of just sat in super nice environments and not really been public enough where people have been able to pick them back up. I mean, we will know that surgery itself and you’re back here that Bell Labs back in sort of early 50s was was when that first came to the fore and was almost again doormen offering some real niche applications for many years. And then lithium iron, you know, it’s been around for many years also. But I think that’s the key element really, is to look into that technology. But I’m guessing when you talk about, you know, technology that’s already experienced curve cost reductions, we will know lithium ions had many advantages, because it has been able to scale so massively, and through consumer electronics and of course, electric vehicles that’s really driven that but you’ve been able to reduce your costs through a choice of new materials, but happy but also I’m guessing that given your point around temperature differences, there’s a lot less battery management that you might need with with your battery.
Jorg Heinemann 13:02
Yeah, that’s right. So our battery is fundamentally different in a number of ways. First of all, it is a much, much simpler design it uses. So it’s really more of a simple assembly process. It doesn’t require the same level of capital investment in fabs and things and, and sophisticated fabrication and assembly that you would find for lithium ion battery. It’s used by use cases earlier, it’s it’s heavier, it’s designed for stationary applications. Ironically, the battery that initially was conceived for outer space is probably the last thing you’d send in outer space today. If you want this thing parked on the ground, it’s fairly energy dense, but it’s it’s heavy, you wouldn’t want to tow it behind your car, the power of the car carried around in your handbag to power your phone. But it’s great for stationary applications. pretty broad range. So solar plus storage is ideal and plus storage. But pretty much anything that that you want to do that stationary, we can do. It’s got a nice broad range of power capabilities where you can charge it fast, and discharge it slowly or charge it slowly and discharged at fast kind of whatever you’d like to do, as as many times as you want. And so the kind of the combination of simplicity and low cost materials allows us to rapidly scale up on the manufacturing side and achieve cost curves because as you can imagine we’re you know, we’re a new entrant trying to go up against companies like BYD, Samsung, etc. who’ve been at this for decades and been throwing billions of capital at electric vehicle batteries. So we need some advantages. The other advantage we have is our you know our capabilities are uniquely different. So the maintenance cost on this thing as you point out is essentially zero there’s no and M cost. It’s an instal on forget battery, there’s no augmentation, there’s no you know, no replacing it when it wears out or oversizing it to plan for degradation. You don’t you don’t need to do that. The chemistry just simply works differently. And then we can I don’t we can sit in a hot desert without air conditioning, super cold temperatures without worrying about heaters. So the the ancillary costs associated with auxiliary loads like Heating, Air conditioning, etc. Aren’t no higher net. And then finally there’s no there’s no thermal suppression or fire suppression that that’s required because the chemistry is inherently much, much safer. And there’s a risk of causing a fire or a thermal runaway situation like you’ve tried to walk a mile?
David Hunt 15:44
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you’ve addressed a lot of points there, which traditionally, people are only when you start to get into the sector realise that these are all very important factors that have to be sort of costed in and taking into consideration when you are deploying this sort of energy storage asset. But there’s a risk, I guess, from what you’ve said there. And it’s something that came up in a podcast recently about enormous like being too good to be true and worry or threat that people may not necessarily take you seriously. Or there’s always an element of scepticism, because they’re always used with clean technologies. How are you addressing that? Or is that something you’ve come across?
Jorg Heinemann 16:20
You mean scepticism in the sense of how are we going to scale up and deliver on the plan that I’ve outlined?
David Hunt 16:28
Sorry to interrupt so move around? No, it really a maintenance free? Is it really that robust across different technologies, all those factors, which clearly do add the cost and complexity to traditional storage assets?
Jorg Heinemann 16:41
Yeah, certainly. And I think that’s where we’re, we’re finding our advantage in taking technology that has been proven for decades and I in aerospace is, is what’s working. So we’re not we’re not inventing a new chemistry that chemistry is existed. It’s been demonstrated on the the ISS and the Hubble Space Telescope now for decades. And all we’re doing basically is cost reducing that so that that gives us a huge advantage. There was no maintenance for these batteries for 30 years, while not outerspace, in fact, the There was a recent SpaceX mission this last summer that finally replaced the original nickel hydrogen batteries in the ISS after I think it was 30 plus years of operation. So we’ve got that proof point. And in, in an industry that’s extraordinarily risky versus energy is having that that decades, you know, multiple decades worth of data is hugely impactful. Now, what are the challenges, it’s okay, prove to me we can scale but that’s a question of sitting down and looking at the simplicity of the device and what it takes to stack the other cells together, and so forth, and CLM. And it’s pretty obvious that what we’re doing is quite, quite simple. And, and with the backing that we have, where we think we’ve got a very, very good plan and approach and strategy on how to deliver this.
David Hunt 18:07
I think we know that the technological improvements clearly have a critical mass of the business models and business case scenarios around storage, where do you stack the revenue streams and in order to to justify or to maximise the asset and get your return? Again, I’ve actually pointed stationary storage for that particular functions within stationary storage that your technology is better. Let’s watch for that sort of super fast responses, or how is it at sort of slightly longer duration for holding that charge?
Jorg Heinemann 18:40
Yeah, so it’s, it’s good for the for all of the above. And my belief on what’s happening in the industry is where we’re evolving in our understanding of batteries and how we’re using them. And that’s influencing the use cases. And I think that’s largely driven based on cost. So if we look at a few years, say roughly five years, I remember back in my some power days, we did a lot of modelling about stores. This is when the average cost of storage was in the $1,000 per kilowatt hour range. And we modelled that with one hour worth of storage, pair that with decent solar resource and you could add some good Home Energy Management and you could cover about 90% of the power needs for a home in a sunny place like California. That’s what it was with just one hour side we saw then, you know, you’re so later. A lot of use cases arise where there’s peak shaving going on demand, charge reduction, some other value stacking, etc. But again, it’s focused on how do you capitalise and, and squeeze the most amount of profit out of this super expensive resource being battery storage, as costs have come down and started to talk about longer and longer duration applications because we can afford them now. And and now we’re entering a range where we’ve got within 100 year old electric power industry that’s been based on decades and decades and decades of Central Station generation, then pushing those electrons over a distribution network and then having those consumed at a point of variable load. And that’s what thinking in terms of, oh, I’ve got, I’ve got baseload power, I’ve got peak power, I’m going to dispatch X number of megawatts for a number of hours, 23456 hours. here in California, we talked about the duck curve, from a certain point of time in the afternoon, how do we solve that, oh, we need four hours for the storage, or we need five hours, or maybe we need six hours. And then some companies now are talking about how do I get weeks and weeks worth of storage to arrive me through seasons where there’s no coverage? What, what I believe is happening is because you know that that old utility base framework, this central station power network that’s based on hours of peak at, you know, at a certain at a certain power is replaced through the amenda batteries at all parts of the network. So we’ve got now we’ve got batteries at the grid edge. Paired with solar for distributed generation, we’ve got batteries in the distribution network to buffer congestion. We’ve got batteries paired with all forms of generation, at the at the point of generation, that turns the grid upside down, that changes the paradigm completely of how the grid operated. And we’re at the very beginning of that. Well, that’s, you know, that’s cool. for everybody. It’s cool for the planet, it means, you know, we can have renewable power every where we can have it as baseload. What does it mean for batteries, I think it means that the quote unquote duration doesn’t really matter in the sense that it used to previously. Instead, we want a battery that can be charged pretty quickly, kind of like my cell phone, kind of like mount Ed battery, to say within an hour, maybe two hours, maybe four hours when the power is available. So when the sun is shining, when the winds blowing, or what have you, or when I read access, hydro, you name it, and then dispatched when I need it fast, slow, over days, or hours, or within minutes, potentially. And yeah, that’s similar to what we expect from our lithium ion batteries, where if I’ve got a power, I expect to charge it quickly. And then I can use that power, drop it all at once or metre it out over days or weeks even. That’s what our battery does. So it’s it’s really a battery technology for the future. It’s not bound to traditional use cases. super flexible for the future. So I’m not, we’re not constrained by number of cycles, because it’s 30,000, which is essentially forever. I can, you know, apply it in a solar plus storage once a day cycling application now. And then as the world evolves, as we move to this grid of the future, I can change that use case, I can move the cycling five times a day if I want, and the batteries are fine, and the warranty is still fine. And and I know that I’m going to be safe and solid with this super reliable maintenance free battery. They’ll do whatever I needed to.
David Hunt 23:16
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Awesome. So we know that sort of 2020 clean tech investments actually held up remarkably well under the circumstances. But But clearly, fundraising is rarely easy. And you’ve recently closed a 12 million seed investment. how challenging was that? And what plans if you haven’t been able to disclose do you have for for round a or for further growth of the business?
Jorg Heinemann 23:42
It was, how do I have to be careful, it was shockingly easy, I would say a lot of that was based on the legwork and the technological advances done by our founders, etc. But the belief and confidence in our technology by those who have taken a close look at it has made it really really easy to get the funding we need, as you might suspect in the hardware world. $12 million, as big as it sounds for a seed round does not get us very far. In the the investors that we have are in it for the long haul, they’ve already committed to the next round. We’re working on the details of that as we speak, but it’s, you know, we’ve got the backing that we need. And it’s it feels really good having, you know, walked around the valley over a long time now for you know, seeking money for for startups. This is a totally different situation. And it’s really, really fun.
David Hunt 24:41
It’s great to see that. Yeah, let’s just say a few years back anything outside of lithium ion was often given shortchanged by by investors, but it’s great to see that that’s evolving and changing, as you say, sort of 12 million in itself isn’t a huge amount when you’ve got something which is potentially quite capitalism intense, but where does that go? What’s your projection the next year or so in terms of being able to scale both the business and also the size of battery pack length, or you know, the capacity of the batteries you have in, either in pilot projects or in commercial projects?
Jorg Heinemann 25:15
Yeah, so what we’ve done with our business plan essentially is front end load the risk, beginning with the technology risk, and and then back end load the spin. So, over the last six months, we’ve gone from early stage prototypes that we’ve had in operation now for a little bit over a year, to what we call our alpha vessels, vessels, the equivalent of a of a battery pack and, and lithium ion terms. And we now have a number of these that we’ve built. And they are performing well ahead of specifications, at frankly, a shockingly high rate given how early on these things are. So we’re really confident that the technology risk, the you know, what there was a bit is essentially in the rearview mirror. Now about manufacturing engineering and manufacturing risk. we’ve, we’ve ordered a pilot line of tooling, which we’re in the process of installing in our Fremont facility where we have an r&d pilot line that we’re building, we’re going to ramp that up over the coming roughly six months or so we have pilot projects lined up, that we’ll be implementing in those in those proceed in a succession of sizes. So we’re starting quite small, and then megawatt scale after that, and then it quickly grows beyond that. And then parallel, we’re negotiating, basically, large scale manufacturing capacity and low cost locations. So think of, you know, basically a copy exactly what we’re doing in Fremont, but put that in a place, it’s a lower cost and align with the right supply chain and so forth. Yeah,
David Hunt 26:49
yeah, yeah, I guess sort of an extension of that, we look at the current world situation where there’s a backdrop of a rapidly accelerating clean energy mobility transition, which is great, but also still, clearly, we’re in, hopefully, the end stages of a global pandemic. And clearly there are going to be some depressed economies in various parts of the world for a little while. What do you see as the sort of key market challenges for for any venue pedal and also perhaps for renewable battery companies generally in the next couple of years?
Jorg Heinemann 27:19
Yeah, this is another one where it’s better to be lucky than good. I think. The pandemic hit us at probably the perfect time to be an r&d phase battery startup. It allowed us to do things like attract top tier talent that otherwise would not have been available. We got a great deal on our facility in Fremont, California, and the traffic in reaching that place that you’re reaching the lab and now the manufacturing line setup is wonderful. And frankly, not having to worry about, you know, rapidly commercialising something that that we were still developing was all good timing, I think we’re going to see in 2021, hear us emerge out of that and things returned back to normal or at least a new normal, and will be able to get back on aeroplanes again and do the global expansion or have the international footprint that will be required at the cost points that we need, you know, pretty easily saved by the back half of the year. So the timing is probably close to perfect for us purely by coincidence. And well, we’ll see how it unfolds. But for now, it’s good. I also think that the, you know, likely improvement of relations between the US and China is also going to help not just us but other companies that are likely to have deep relationships with China and their capability, both from a customer standpoint and manufacturing standpoint. Yeah, yeah.
David Hunt 28:48
I think people vastly underestimate the importance of a little bit of luck and good timing, for any startup.
Jorg Heinemann 28:58
David Hunt 29:02
perhaps a bit of an extension on that now that you say you’ve you, it was good timing for you to be in that early stage of development. But again, some people might disagree with this. But I’ve always found from my own experiences, and from the many founders out here and consider friends, that startup is relatively easy compared to scalar. Where do you see the biggest growth challenges and opportunities for you as you now move from that sort of phase of startup into a scalar type of operation? Well,
Jorg Heinemann 29:29
it takes in the battery space, in my view, it takes six things to be successful. The first is having a good technology. One that simple and elegant. We clearly have that second is a strong customer value proposition so the economics makes sense and the unique capabilities of our technology matters to the customer and we have that then it takes a few more things. First of all, it takes a scale manufacturing capability most likely through A partner, it’s not something we want to grow organically, we need to get ourselves bundled in with the, you know, an inverter, OEM and work process working on that. Then we need captive customer demand, so that we can basically accelerate the bankability curve and move from, say, kilowatt hours to megawatt hour to gigawatt hours very quickly without having to go through years and years of organic sales growth. And then finally, customer financing. Again, to overcome that, that bankability hurdle and deal with having to demonstrate decade’s worth of successful succession of growing projects to reach. Those last four things are things that we’re able to get through the investors that we have. So each of our lead investors, each of our, each of our investors, is able to bring elements of those items to the table with us. And that’s kind of that’s the lens that they applied. When they decided to move forward with that. So we’re getting far more than just money, we’re getting a significant amount of strategic leverage, which in my view, is crucial to doing what we’re trying to do here, which is go, you know, go making a big impact in an industry that already has a bunch of heavyweights in it. We know, the scale phase we need, we need those advantages that I just described, or it would be really, really tough. It’ll still be hard, but it’s, it’s very doable, given the backing, and the advantages to overcome those items.
David Hunt 31:32
Yeah, yeah. So again, I think it’s something that comes up quite often in the conversations that I have is around, clearly all money is good to an extent, but there’s good money hidden bad money to an extent also, and it’s having the right partners, having the right investors that are not just patient, but really understand your business and bring more than cash to the table. Definitely. This is something touching back on where we started conversation a little bit about your range of experiences over your career in terms of the types and sizes of company and company culture, of course, is critical to the success of any business and in particular startup. And it’s been particularly difficult, I think, in the last year or so for companies to create and nurture a company’s culture, given the circumstances, given there’s been so much remote work in and online in telecommunications, and that, you know, you’ve scaled the business a little over over that period of time, what have been the, I guess, the learnings and things that you’ve done, or you thought they’ve done perfectly well, and perhaps some learnings where perhaps didn’t go quite so well, in terms of nurturing that culture as you build the business?
Jorg Heinemann 32:33
Yeah, the boy in the last year, I think with COVID, has been particularly tough from a culture standpoint, in some ways, so the you know, the biggest thing I think that’s hard to replicate, despite all the zoom calls, and, you know, we’re actually able to work in person and Fremont to a large degree, but it’s still people in offices and sitting on their, you know, at their computers on on zoom meetings, and that sort of thing, that that human interaction, just being able to sit down and have casual conversations in the hallway and formally or over lunch and not have a, basically a ticking clock saying we better, we better separate here and get back to where I actually used within five minutes. That’s hard, it’s sorely missed. And we’re really looking forward to that turning as we exit this pandemic. On the other hand, the fundamental principles of operating with transparency of of setting clear goals of having a business plan, it’s, you know, front end loads, the risk back end loads, the spend of that gets broken down into quarterly objectives and holding folks accountable to those. So that the fundamental blocking and tackling that kind of works across industries, anywhere from, you know, my consulting days to, though what I think Tom Werner did really well at SunPower. That, you know, that can be applied regardless of whether you’re sitting behind a zoom screen or not. Yeah, you know, I guess ironically, with my consulting days, at Accenture, we didn’t have a headquarters, this is back 20 years ago, and most of our work, at least internally was remote. I had an office, I never went to it, I spent my time at my client site or, or working remotely. So in a lot of ways, what we’re doing what we’re learning now globally to do is something that I grew up with, and it’s, and we’re applying that and, you know, making sure that everyone in the company knows how what they’re doing relates to our success, and ultimately, our customer success and our investor success. And keeping clear simple goals in front of us and keeping everyone focused on on moving us forward. That’s a universal, it’s been around forever. And, you know, whether without COVID it survives.
David Hunt 34:50
Yeah, no, sir. I think you touched on transparency and and again, everybody having a very clear communication of what is expected of them and where the what the company’s mission is and where you’re going on. And again, it’s easy sometimes to be destructive that when you’re starting a company, because there were that many hats that you’re wearing, and everything’s moving so fast, but making sure that that clarity and that transparency is there is critical to culture. And I think that’s going to be one of the challenges moving forward. Because I think as you’ve said, there’s so much that we’ve learned from the last year from remote working and so many benefits that can have in terms of access to talent, for example, when we’re placing people on an incredibly sort of disparate scale, and not necessarily having people relocate this optimism, like once done or setting up four times. That’s the sort of benefit you’ve touched on already, perhaps some of the lower costs because of access to places where you don’t necessarily need to be in the middle of a city centre, you don’t necessarily need to have the same foot plan, particularly for office space, I think there’s a lot that’s going to come from the last year that will take for it to blend into a new way of working. are we interested to see just how that pans out? Yeah, I
Jorg Heinemann 35:59
definitely agree with that. Although I boy, I sure am looking forward to getting back on a plane and going out and meet with folks over dinner in our proto thing. And there’s, there’s there’s a level of bonding that is just not possible, or I think are extraordinarily difficult to do over zoom over, you know, video conferencing, etc.
David Hunt 36:17
Yeah, no, absolutely. And the conferences, I think of one of those eight from, from our perspective, we attend, usually would attend many global conferences, where we meet our clients and others and actually see those those conversations in the corner over coffee or over a glass of wine at the end of an appointment is very difficult, I should say, to to replicate. And there’s a lot of work in collaboration. And a lot of Yeah, some of those sort of hearts described conversations just sparked something positive that comes from I think you said something is being missed. And hopefully we can all get to SPI and energy storage, North America and intersolar and various other places, and start to rekindle some of those friendships face to face.
Jorg Heinemann 37:02
David Hunt 37:04
Like that longer. That happened, I should say, fingers crossed later this year. So we get to head direction. New York’s been great to spend some time with you really appreciate your insights. So far, we tend to conclude by looking at some of the things that have inspired you in your journey, whether that’s books or podcasts, or thought leaders or any other go to sources that have perhaps inspired you along the way, and maybe something you return to you from time to time when when the going gets a bit tough.
Jorg Heinemann 37:31
Yeah, you know, I’ve got a few come to mind. The first is my dad, my father, who was a physicist, and started a solar company shortly after we moved here from Germany, back in the 1970s. And actually was my first job was writing billing software for this is back in the Carter administration days, you know, solar thermal applications, same same model, third party financing, tax, equity, structure, all that stuff. But for for commercial solar thermal applications, so that got my start, you can say that my Accenture days were a detour from the family business for 20 years. And and then, you know, inspiration is tough is so many sources, I guess I’d put you know, Bill Gates is one of the I admire him and listen to a lot of what he has to say, being a billionaire who’s not a jerk is pretty thoughtful, I find that what he’s doing is really inspiring it just kind of across the board. And then these days, I’m reading a lot about what life is going to be like post COVID Fareed Zakaria, his book sticks in my mind, I think it’s 10 lessons for a post COVID world or something like that. Which, you know, because we were talking about this earlier, what’s what will live what will work life be like after that will our lives be like, and in that book, he did, he does describes a lot of things around how the world has bounced back from prior pandemics and points. And we’re social beings, for example, and you know, this video conferencing stuff, it’s it’s basically emotionally draining. You lose social, you spend social capital in a virtual chat, like the one we’re in, as opposed to being face to face with people, whether we like it or not, that will build social capital. And so we are going to be drawn as humans to get back together in, in person and, you know, cities will, will thrive again, and so on, which is there’s a bunch of other good stuff in it. But that’s one of the sticking in my mind is where are we headed? As a planet as a workforce, as a society as we exit this pandemic? And I think it’s really interesting to see the different views on that. Yeah,
David Hunt 39:49
yeah. Now see, I’ll make this point of sharing a link to that. So again, at the on the podcast page, or the episode page on the website, we’ll send links to any venue and Justin websites, social media channels, etc will add a link to, to the book you mentioned there, which sounds a certain essential read as we all start to plan the next stages of our businesses, but in the meantime, great spend time with you. And we will certainly keep an eye on your transition and hope to see and hear my full review in the coming years.