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18 minutes | Aug 23, 2021
Megan O'Connor, Founder and CEO of nTh Cycle, on disruptive recycling technology--and an alternative commodity market-- for lithium-ion batteries
By 2030, there will be over 15 million tons of lithium-ion batteries ready for recycling, containing over $18bn just in the battery element cobalt. But while recycling seems like a no-brainer, current chemical-based battery recycling methods can leave a damaging and corrosive environmental footprint, not unlike extractive industry. It's a problem--but one that this week's guest is ready to solve. She is Megan O’Connor, Co-Founder and CEO of nTh cycle, a Boston-area startup that has developed a modular, electric solution to sustainably recycle lithium-ion battery materials. She holds a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Duke University and is a graduate of the second cohort of the Innovation Crossroads program at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In this episode, she discusses nTh cycle's technology, the challenge of EV battery recycling, and what may soon be the emergence of an alternative, tradable commodity market for recycled battery materials.
54 minutes | Aug 11, 2021
Turner & Townsend's John Robbins on Building Back Better in 2021...and impacts of the Biden Infrastructure Plan
Recovery from the economic impacts of covid-19 has meant supply chain bottlenecks, worker shortages and rising building costs to major cities around the world. Are these short-term supply hiccups, or longer-term threats to economic health? In this episode, John Robbins, U.S. Managing Director and North America Head of Real Estate at Turner & Townsend, which provides consultancy services to the real estate, infrastructure and natural resource sectors) shares insights from the firm's newly released 2021 International Construction Market Survey (ICMS), which provides intel on construction costs in 90 global markets. He also offers key takeaways on potential market impacts of the Biden Infrastructure Plan, which was still being debated in the U.S. Senate when the episode was recorded.
47 minutes | Jul 30, 2021
Entrepreneur Will Zell on a new kind of VC fund...plus what's disrupting U.S. manufacturing (and where)
Entrepreneur-investor Will Zell has made a mark in technology, real estate and other sectors. In 2014, he co-founded manufacturing disruptor Nikola Labs, which was a spinout from Ohio State University that scaled with the aid of venture capital, where he remained as CEO from its establishment until the third quarter of 2020. Now having transitioned out of Nikola, Mr. Zell has set his sights on disrupting venture capital itself –his firm, Zell Capital, has created an SEC-registered investment vehicle called the Access Fund, aiming to open early-stage VC investment to non-accredited investors, a category that includes 87 percent of U.S. households. In this episode, he talks about Zell Capital's vision for the Access Fund, Nikola Labs, venture capital, the future of manufacturing...and why Ohio is the place to watch for disruptive innovation in industrial robotics.
31 minutes | Jul 1, 2021
DTN's Mary Friedrichsen Tangen on the emerging golden age of precision agriculture
With tens billions of venture capital money being directed at agtech startups in recent years, how different will farming and agriculture look a decade from now? Our guest this episode is Mary Friedrichsen Tangen, Vice President of Agriculture Strategic Initiatives at DTN, the U.S. based firm that provides commodity market analysis, hyper-local weather forecasts, and agronomic insights for guiding planting, growing and harvesting operations. Mary has more than 20 years of experience in SaaS and data businesses, and her executive role at DTN connects her to the company’s more than 2 million global customers across agriculture, energy, financial and weather-sensitive industries. In addition to her decades of data and precision ag expertise, she is herself a grower, operating a farm with her family in Northwest Iowa.
50 minutes | Jun 15, 2021
Phantom Space Founder/CEO (and former SpaceX founding member) Jim Cantrell on the future of space transportation
...If you thought (as we did) that space ridesharing (a la SpaceX or BlueOrigin) was the end-all, be-all of the emerging space transportation and infrastructure sector, think again. An even newer market is emerging in the field of small-rocket launches--which offer satellite clients greater discretion over time and location--a subsector of the new space economy whose rise may be accelerated by the adoption of Ford-style assembly line dynamics. An undisputed pioneer in the field, Jim Cantrell, is the Founder/CEO of Phantom Space, a privately held developer of small-rocket launch technology. Cantrell has been involved in space engineering for decades, as a veteran of the U.S. Department of Defense Space Dynamics Laboratory, the French national space agency CNES, and, not least, as the first VP of Business Development at SpaceX, where he shepherded a young Elon Musk on a trip to the former USSR to buy disused launch equipment. We hear more about that story--and about Phantom Space's big bet on small rockets--in this episode.
27 minutes | Jun 9, 2021
Can critical infrastructure hacks be behaviorally predicted? ClearForce CEO Tom Miller explains.
Attacks on critical U.S. infrastructure, from small but potentially lethal attacks on municipal water systems to this spring's Colonial Pipeline hack, have increased in frequency and severity. Amid calls for more robust defense of critical infrastructure--and current enthusiasm for infrastructure investment overall--is current technology capable of identifying potential cyberattack liabilities days, weeks or even months before a hacker might exploit them? In this episode, we talked to Tom Miller, CEO of privately held Virginia-based security company ClearForce, which combines machine learning, compliance, and workflow automation to monitor critical supply chains and identify security threats. In addition to its operating model, ClearForce's board has a very strong U.S. ex-military presence, including former CIA and NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden (Ret.), and former National Security Advisor Gen. James Logan Jones, Jr (Ret.)
35 minutes | Jun 4, 2021
OHMConnect Co-Founder Curtis Tongue on combining energy technology with...a touch of Hollywood
California's OHMConnect has a cool take on smart energy: the company's mobile platform, which functions like a "virtual power plant," pays users to curtail electricity use during peak demand periods, incentivizing them through fun flash events held during "OHMHours." With recent initiatives including a California-wide intercity competition to find the state's "Energy Saving Superhero" and a partnership with Google to bring the platform to NEST users, OHMConnect is connecting consumer behavior patterns on mobile apps to sustainable energy usage. Earlier this spring, we spoke to Co-Founder Curtis Tongue on OHMConnect's blockbuster success as an energy/entertainment hybrid.
27 minutes | May 24, 2021
Wade Guenther of Wilshire Phoenix Funds on a solid gold market for metal ETF's
Last year's covid-related market dislocations made gold shine as the preferred "flight-to-safety" trade. This year, with vaccination rollouts proceeding in many countries and bringing economies closer to a new normal, there's still a solid case for gold (any idea why...?). Our guest this episode is Wade Guenther, Partner at Wilshire Phoenix Funds, who brought over a decade of experience in the exchange-traded fund (ETF) industry from firms like Horizon and Global X, to Wilshire, which recently rolled out a new gold ETF, WGLD, that offers an enhanced level of exposure to this all-season commodity. We discuss the case for gold in 2021...why Bitcoin's claim as the new "alt-gold" is no substitute for the real thing, and why even stable coins backed by precious metals may not give investors all the exposure they're looking for.
58 minutes | May 13, 2021
Nadeem Nauthoo, co-founder of "School of the Future" TKS, on energy technology as imagined by young people
Solutions to global issues like climate change and energy transition, and the advancement of emerging fields like quantum computing and ethical application of AI are being revolutionized as we speak...by the very young. This episode features Nadeem Nathoo, co-founder of Canada's TKS, or The Knowledge Society, a 10-month accelerator program for students around the world aged 11-17 who want to pursue disruptive innovation and exponential technologies. Beyond just radical homeschooling, TKS is like bypassing school entirely and going straight to a seed-stage startup. Participants have built radio telescopes and 3D printed rockets, developed microbe technologies and AI applications to diagnose depression and build prosthetic limbs, and developed biofuels using CRISPR. TKS has been hailed as a “School of the Future” by the World Economic Forum. We discussed the program, the challenges of post-covid education, and how young people at TKS are tackling fields like energy technology.
32 minutes | Apr 30, 2021
Silicon Valley rainmaker and TokenMaker founder Ben Way on NFT's and the emerging market for asset digitalization
Investable Universe takes a minor detour in this episode: while we've talked about tokenization and digitalization of real assets on several podcasts, this time we're talking about the realization of digital assets. That's one way of conceptualizing NFT's, non-fungible tokens. Is there a future for institutional investment in digital assets, and are NFT's purely a fad or a foretaste of the future of asset digitalization? Futurologist Ben Way is a multi-hyphenate tech entrepreneur and venture investor, as well as the CEO of Silicon Valley venture advisory the Rainmakers, acknowledged as one of the world's first tech incubators and fast-tracker of 204 companies. Rainmakers has advised the Executive Office of the President of the United States on the rollout of UTMS telecom technology, worked with the Microsoft Innovation Team on SaaS. Now, Way has launched a new company, TokenMaker, where users can create their own no-code tokens and NFT's.
39 minutes | Apr 19, 2021
Kathy Hannun, Dandelion Energy Co-Founder and longtime Google X engineer, on geothermal energy in the U.S.
Why hasn't the United States embraced the potential of geothermal energy like other countries have? This question vexed Kathy Hannun, former engineer and executive at Google X, the "moonshot" innovation lab at Alphabet. So she founded Dandelion Energy, the home geothermal startup that just received a $30 million Series B venture capital round, led by Bill Gates's Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Kathy Hannun has been recognized as one of FastCompany's Most Creative People in Business and as a Leader of Tomorrow in Albany Business Review's "40 Under 40." In this episode, she talks about the geothermal market opportunity in the U.S., how she designed a system that to surmount traditional barriers to entry for geothermal, and bringing new investors to Dandelion.
26 minutes | Apr 12, 2021
Raghu Kilambi of PowerTap Hydrogen on the emerging hydrogen (infrastructure) economy
As the global economy transitions to renewable sources, along with new applications in fuel cell batteries, in electric vehicles, and rocket fuel, the hydrogen energy market is expected to top $208 billion in value by 2027 ($130 billion just in the U.S.) with the potential to create 700,000-plus jobs, according to some market estimates. This episode's guest is Raghu Kilambi, CEO and CFO of PowerTap Hydrogen, an emerging company that partners with fueling networks to install hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. and Canada, speaking about the future of the "hydrogen economy" and the infrastructure required to store, transport, and deploy it.
45 minutes | Mar 30, 2021
Ceylon Graphite Chairman and CEO Bharat Parashar on the future of the global graphite market
Are boom times ahead for the global graphite market? An essential component in EV batteries and energy storage, in smart materials and Internet of Things applications, in water treatment in lightweight composite materials used in aerospace, and in biomedical devices, graphite has been deemed so critical to the 21st century supply chain—as a battery metal and so much else--that it has been officially designated a strategic critical mineral by the United States. In this episode, Bharat Parashar, Chairman and CEO of Ceylon Graphite, talks about the future of the commodity that his firm calls "the new oil."
35 minutes | Mar 17, 2021
Are we in a "green energy bubble?" Piva Capital's Bennett Cohen on venture capital and energy technology
A 2020 report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (cited by MIT Technology Review) found that from 2013-2019, early-stage venture capital funding in green technologies rose from $418 million to $16.1 billion – an increase of more than 3,750% during the period, or 3 times the growth rate of VC investment into artificial intelligence, which has also been identified as a critical emerging industry. Have company valuations risen too far, too fast? And what does it mean for the energy transition and for private equity and venture capital overall? This episode features Bennett Cohen, partner at San Francisco venture capital firm Piva--the energy, mobility and industrial fund backed by Malaysian state-owned oil company Petronas--on the outlook for renewable energy technologies.
33 minutes | Mar 12, 2021
Digital pioneer Sukhi Jutla on how her blockchain startup is revolutionizing the U.K.'s billion-dollar gold and diamond jewelry market
Sukhi Jutla is co-founder and COO of MarketOrders, which has developed and scaled a highly practical and relevant retail application for blockchain in the precious metals industry, connecting midstream with downstream in the U.K.’s billion-dollar market for gold and diamond jewelry. The company helps independent jewelers to access gold and diamond inputs from global suppliers quickly, efficiently and more cheaply. In 2018 she was named one of the Top 100 European Digital Pioneers by the Financial Times as well as one of the Top 10 Crypto influencers of 2020 by blockchain bank Trastra. In this episode, she talks about the MarketOrders business model, about the future blockchain, and the global supply chain for precious commodities.
38 minutes | Mar 3, 2021
Eric Wilson of Turner & Townsend on what's ahead for Texas energy infrastructure
We recorded this episode just over a week after a near-collapse of the Texas power grid following an unusual winter storm that was, in many respects, a “perfect storm” of weather, market, energy and infrastructure factors. As Texans continue to recover, five members of ERCOT, the non-profit corporation that operates the Texas power grid, have resigned. But questions remain about the nature of Texas’s energy market structure, about weatherizing the state’s energy infrastructure, and whether this winter's catastrophic freeze will bring any long-term changes to the grid. For industry perspective, we spoke with Eric Wilson, Head of Energy & Natural Resources for North America at Turner and Townsend, the global consulting firm specializing in issues of construction, cost and risk management in the real estate, infrastructure, energy and natural resource sectors.
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