- Carmichael, thank you so much for joining us today.

- It's great to be here.

- This is amazing! So, you've dedicated your career to investigating in technologies that have real-world impact, whether it's solutions for renewable drinking water, wearable sensors to monitor patient health and the fight against diseases like MS. So, what do you see as the biggest opportunity for tech to solve global challenges?

- So, I think you know, by far the biggest opportunity for tech in global challenges is really just to democratize those solutions and basic needs. So, you know, in fact I've dedicated most of my career to doing this. So, what do I mean by that? You think about what the smart phone has done as a technology in bringing information and knowledge to all sorts of nooks and crannies of the world, from even to the poorest of people and democratized it. But, what about other basic needs? Like, food, water, health, mental health and physical health by the way. Heat, being warm, safe, you know, even this day in age, even having clean air. And, technology can do that. Technology can be the great equalizer that can democratize the solutions and products for all needs. And, I think this is important. And, technology can do that in a quick, efficient manner, which is another important thing.

- That's really impressive. And, in December, you were a part of a team that invested in hydrogen electric technology to build zero emission airplanes. I mean, what's next in your mind for sustainability technology? I mean, are these technologies evolving fast enough to take climate change head on and is there anything that we can and should be doing to help further these technologies?

- Yeah well, hydrogen for ... hydrogen electric for planes is really cool! We were excited to do that. But, just taking hydrogen for a second. Hydrogen by the very nature is a non-carbon-based molecule. And we know, one of the big issues with greenhouse gasses and climate is carbon, so there are lots of things you can do with hydrogen, going beyond just airplanes. So, there's lots of opportunities to do things with non-carbon-based molecules. But, if you even think about carbon-based molecules, CO2, methane, and those sorts of things, there are opportunities within those molecules as well. Think about different ways of handling these molecules, managing, manipulating carbon in positive ways by capturing it, changing it, or even using it as a critical raw material in a product that gets manufactured, where you soak up all that carbon at scale. So, let me give you an example. We have a company, Breakthrough Energy. We're you know, an investment committee called CarbonCure. So, literally in the name. And, there's a company targeted towards cement. Think about how much cement is made all around the world and the volume of cement. And then, imagine taking that carbon and using it as a raw ingredient where you actually, take something like cement, which is a huge GHG contributor, and you turn it into something that actually, soaks up a lot of the bad stuff, if you want to call it, or if you will. So, they're big areas that we've barely scratched the surface here. Transportation, electrification of the grid, building materials, agriculture, food, advanced manufacturing. I mean, even for everyday consumer products, we've barely scratched the surface to date. And, the kind of things you ask, what can we do, we need to continue to fund basic research to apply research toward making products. We need to promote collaborations between small companies and large companies all around the world. That's a big global opportunity. Governments play a huge role in this whole thing as well. Regulations and policies, you know, they can, they're there to protect people. But, they can also get in the way, so you can imagine there is a lot of things that the governments can do to accelerate the deployment. Think about in the pandemic, the importance of accelerating deployment. And, we need to just educate consumers. You know, new products are different. They could be weird different or they could be not weird different. We got to get people to embrace the newness of it, adopting things in the roll out. In fact, this is probably you know, a conference like CES becomes so important because of the overall powerful membership and the visibility.

- Yeah, I mean, this is where a lot of this kind of sets up the future. So, for you in your role at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, what do you see is the most promising areas of research, and investment, and energy, and material space that could significantly impact the consumer technology industry?

- Uh, well, there's quite a few. What are the most promising? I would say, you know, I can't help but mention food. Like, think about that from a consumer standpoint. Last time when I was at CES, when we were all in you know, in person, I remember walking around eating an Impossible burger. But you know, there are really exciting companies in all sorts of areas in food. We've got another one that we're paying attention to called Nature's Fynd, making some really interesting things around food in our portfolio. But, even things like palm oil. Palm oil, which is you know, got all sorts of implications, both in environment and in GHG. You know, we have a company called C16. So, it's exciting stuff in food, transportation, household technologies. I would say, you know, think about heating, electricity, even handling garbage in the household. I don't think people realize, but garbage dumps are huge emitters. Clothing, when you look at synthetic versus sustainability type things. Another type of basic needs. There's a tremendous amount of opportunity in these areas.

- Yeah, I mean, there's so much that we're not aware about, so it's really great to have people like you here to let us know about all of these things that we really do need to focus on.

- Yeah.

- So, have you made any investments in technologies that help us combat the coronavirus pandemic because this has all affected us so much, so we'd love to hear if there's any that you've invested in personally.

- Yeah, I mean, quite a few. So, I'd say, first let me kind of break down how we thought about it. When you think about you know, the pandemic and you think about the different areas, you want to stop people from getting infections. You want to take people who have gotten infections and understand how to treat them. And in a perfect world, you just eliminate this virus all together. Wouldn't we want that corona, you know, that COVID-19 to just go away, right? When we focus most of our time and efforts, it's really on, how do we prevent people from getting infected? And then, there's a particular, if you just simplify it a bit, most of our investments have been targeted toward, people sometimes have to walk right in the middle of where there's a high degree of risk. How do we do things more remotely? How do we, for example, we have a company called NextGen Jane that sends samples, particularly for women, samples, medical samples that can be mailed from the house in a really safer way and be kept in some ways better than if you went into the clinic to measure things. Or instead of sending actual you know, materials or fluids, you can also send information. We have a company company called Bloomer Tech that we invested in, that's centered around cardiovascular disease. Actually, this is also targeted toward women, interesting enough, where information can get transmitted. You know, you can take a topic like water, or anything you order that you know, you have to go to the super market a lot of times. And, even if things are being delivered, sometimes that can be tricky. We have companies that make products that actually develops that clean drinking water right in your household. So, there, you know, there are quite a few things that we've invested in that were good.

- That's amazing. So, as a VC, what do you look for as a startup leadership team? So, I'm obviously, a huge fan of startups and I love following these companies. And also, what qualifies them you know, to make sure that that company does succeed? Because I feel like there's specific qualities that you know, kind of overlap in a lot of these successful startups.

- Yeah, let me give you the more generic answer. Then maybe go into something that's a little more tailored toward what I do. So, of course, you know, if you're talking about a startup, you're looking for entrepreneurial spirit, good leadership skills, smart, hungry teams that are clever. I mean, these are the classic things that I think all good investors should pay attention to. For that matter, entrepreneurs should try to match up with those characteristics when they look to start stuff. But you know, I have a little something special that I do. I always look at a company and think about what the major problem in it is that it's solving. And, depending on what that problem is, there may be two or three key things that that company needs to accomplish over the next, say three years. And, I really hone in and try to figure out what those two to three things are. And then, I look at the team. A lot of the times it's just a single person or entrepreneur. And I ask myself, "Is there something unusual "and unique that she or he has within their makeup "that makes me believe they have almost "an unbelievable fit to solve that problem?" And, when I see that match with the right problem and the right technology, I know I've got something that could be a big winner. So, that's got a little more of an art to it, honestly, than a science, per se. But, it is what I do. And, when I go back and I look at my companies, I see that fit and it absolutely plays into my decision making.

- Providing access to clean drinking water is one of our biggest global challenges. Tell us about your investments in this area and how technology can help solve this problem.

- Yeah, water, water, think about when I woke up this morning and second to only to the air that I breathe, I don't think about that when I wake up. I don't think about the water that I'm drinking either. I don't have to worry about that. But amazingly, more than the majority of the world does. I'm talking about more than 50% of the world has to think carefully about the water that they're drinking. And so, we've invested in a company called Source Global. And, it's our investment in clean drinking water. It's formerly called Zero Mass Water. Makes clean delicious drinking water from sunlight and air. So, literally plucks water molecules out of the air rather than getting that water from a lake, or a stream, or a reservoir. The product that they use is something called a hydropanel. And, it's appropriately named a hydropanel because if you looked at it, it would remind you of a solar panel. I had a field of them look like a bunch of solar panels, only in this case, you're making water instead of providing electricity. It's an amazing company! And, started by a founder named Cody Friesen, who when I think about the previous question that was asked around these unusual entrepreneurs and founders that are perfectly matched, perfectly fit for the problem that they're solving, Cody is exactly it. I've been working very closely with him and his good friend for quite a few years on this. We're in 50 different countries right now with our hydropanel, which is also called Source. On every continent other than Antarctica as of last year. I don't think we've yet to be in Antarctica, but we're everywhere else. And, it's a fantastic business for clean drinking water. And there'll be some amazing things that will come out, I think this year in 2021 about it. And, I would say, it's not the only investment I've made in water, I've got a couple of others. One to point out that I won't talk about at length here is a company called Infinite Cooling, that's addressing clean water as well. This is really targeted much more for large scale, industrial applications, where you're talking a thousand times the amount of water than what we needed around the drinking side of things. But, extremely clean and close to drinkable.

- That's amazing! Well, thank you so much for joining us today! I look forward to seeing all of your future endeavors. And, congratulations on all of your success!

- Thank you so much for having me! It's been a pleasure.

- Thank you.


 

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