“Scaling Clean" is an insightful podcast for cleantech CEOs, investors and the people who advise them. Each show, host Mike Casey brings you a deeper look into the minds of influential leaders working to create a new clean economy.
Episode 27: Sean Kelly
Over the last 2 years of interviewing clean energy CEO’s, Sean Kelly is our first with the background as a veteran energy trader. In fact, Sean has traded or managed traders for over 7 different companies in his career
I brought Sean on the latest episode to speak about his background in energy trading and how that helped equip him for his role as co-founder and CEO of @Amperon for the last 6 years. He describes Amperon as “the forecasting company for the energy transition.”
Sean had some unique things to share. Here are his B3P’s (Big 3 Points):
11:31 - The clean economy sector is where everything is headed – it’s not the “clean economy” sector anymore, just the economy. Once someone starts working in this sector, it’s hard to move elsewhere because this is a good spot to be.
18:39 - To be a great CEO means to inspire the right talent, bring them into your workplace and be a leader who demonstrates good leadership.
29:53 - If you want to keep a high level of performance as CEO, it’s important to take care of yourself. Spend time with your family and focus on both physical and mental well-being. Release any stress outside of work so you can start each day on a good note.
Episode 26: Mahesh Konduru
On Scaling Clean, we have the pleasure of interviewing people with a variety of backgrounds. One less-represented experience on our podcast are PhD-ers turned CEOs.
That’s why I’m excited to talk to Mahesh Konduru, who is the former CEO and now board chair of ProSep, a global energy services company focused on water treatment and chemical efficiency.
Mahesh's company is private equity financed, with operations and subsidiaries in four regions around the world. He's also CEO of Momentum Technologies, a company that processes critical minerals and metals into high-purity materials with a heavy initial focus on recycling lithium batteries.
If you’re short on time, here's an overview of our conversation:
5:22 – It’s tempting to rush through team building in the fast paced, hectic environment of a startup. But doing so puts your team and company at a disadvantage. Take the time to understand the capabilities and aspirations of employees before settling into a rapid, task-completion mindset.
14:56 – The role of a CEO at a company that’s scaling technology from proof of concept to commercial is a different kind of role than a CEO at an established company.
At an early stage, you’re primarily focused on proof of concept and the path to commercialization, making your responsibilities:
1. Always make sure there is enough cash. Always.
2. Set the culture.
3. Be comfortable with risk taking.
Once the company has reached profitability, the CEO’s focus shifts more to goal setting and talent retention.
18:14 - Match the ambition of your company with the addressable market you're seeking. If the addressable market is huge, keep your ambitions huge as well. If you don't set the ambition, the capital will not follow.
24:23 - CEOs ‘inheriting’ a new team – rather than creating one, as a startup – have a particular challenge in gaining the trust of their new employees. One unconventional way to build a strong team is job shadowing – literally. Spend a day watching your employees in action to understand the full scope of their responsibilities and observe the ways your leadership could make their jobs easier.
Episode 25: Paige Carratturo
Cleantechers, welcome back to Scaling Clean. The podcast that gathers company-building and management tips from the most accomplished leaders in cleantech.
I don’t know about you, but everywhere I go, and everyone I hear from in cleantech leadership is wrestling with the same thing: Where to find talent in a tight labor market. At Tigercomm, we’re having clients ask us to build their corporate communications partly to support recruitment, which is a relatively recent development.
Our guest today is someone with 20 years’ experience solving that problem, much of it for clean economy companies. And as someone running a company that’s also looking for talent, I’m really looking forward to talking with Paige Carratturo, the San Francisco-based co-founder of Sea Change, which describes itself as “a talent venture company.” I suspect that if anyone can give clean economy leaders useful advice on handling this super-tight labor market, it’s Paige. I also think that the way Paige’s shop pursues its mission will equip her with some longer-term insights into what work environments and interview processes are best suited for today’s talent pool.
14:55 – To stay current on the talent pool, a leader needs to be regularly talking to potential candidates. Communicate with your team regularly about market conditions, spend time with your customers, and attend industry events. Don’t be afraid to lean on recruiters to get a detailed understanding of the talent market that comes from speaking with candidates daily.
16:50 - The ‘cool’ factor isn’t enough to draw in cleantech talent anymore. Top talent most values a healthy work culture, the flexibility to follow their passion at work and be able to affect huge issues like climate change, and strong company missions that align with their values.
18:50 - To be a successful recruiter, communicate with your candidates as you would a customer - transparency and clarity about the interview process makes candidates feel prioritized. Each person at your company who talks to a candidate should have a different goal for the conversation to ultimately make a hire based on data, not just gut feelings.
Episode 24: Hala Ballouz
Cleantechers, welcome back to Scaling Clean. This is the podcast that gathers company building and management tips from the most accomplished leaders in clean tech. Today we talk with Hala Ballouz, who has spent the last 15 years growing Electric Power Engineers, EPE as it's known among developers, from a consultancy of 10 staff to a national presence of over 200 grid connection experts. Hala is actually the CEO of two companies, EPE and ENER-i.AI.
She's also led both GridNEXT and the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Alliance. In her current role, she helps developers connect to the increasingly complex power grid through both consulting services and SaaS offerings.
3:38 - Slow down. Take the time to find what you are genuinely passionate about. Then, once you’re there, never say no to new opportunities.
7:30 - Grow your company by delivering the impossible. Build an organization with a handful of people that understand the grid from every aspect: distribution, transmission, generation…everything.
13:44 - Look for people who are motivated to drive on their own. You want your hiring to be aligned with your approach to drive business growth. You want to deliver quality and relevance before you think about the revenue component of things. Invest in the future, not just the present.
Episode 23: Tom Starrs PT. II
This is Part II with the brilliant Tom Starrs. Tom’s interview was rich with information on cleantech government affairs and communications, so we decided to split this episode in two parts.
2:11 - We need to scale up renewables to make it a larger portion of our electricity supply, but to do so, we need a new grid model and new technologies such as battery storage and transmission enhancements.
19:04 - There have been missteps in managing the solar supply chain issue. While we’ve aimed to reduce dependence on imported solar panels from China, the transition takes time, and we still need materials from China in the short term.
24:01 - The most important barrier to the clean energy transition is transmission. We need to aggressively pursue new transmission policy that deals with streamlining the siting and permitting of new high voltage transmission lines across the country, in combination with new transmission tech, including grid enhancing tech. This needs to be deployed in existing transmission quarters but also new ones.
Episode 22: Tom Starrs PT. I
Today we're interviewing somebody who has not only been a CEO, he's also advised other CEOs on marketing and public affairs, something he continues to do for his present employer, EDP Renewables.
And Tom Starrs is our precedent-setting guest for a reason. While he's done a lot of things in a career spanning 21 years in five different companies, Tom is, by my reckoning, the longest tenured and most experienced clean tech government affairs and communications lead in America.
And as the accelerating clean energy transition meets growing pushback from the fossil fuel lobby, the future of success of our sectors is not certain.
Clean economy companies are often disrupting powerful incumbents with decades of experience in weaponizing government influence and propaganda against market threats for newcomers like us.
A year after the IRA's passage, it felt like a good time to bring Tom on for his institutional knowledge and his seasoned perspective. I think you're gonna enjoy and benefit from his wisdom.
Whether or not you work in government affairs, you need Tom's wisdom to make sure your company moves forward.
We need to scale up renewables to make it a larger portion of our electricity supply, but to do so, we need a new grid model and new technologies such as battery storage and transmission enhancements.
12:45 - Net metering had many economic benefits, but that wasn’t enough to make the technology widely adopted due to other barriers such as utilities disliking the idea. They had concerns about the safety and performance of the new tech, but it ended up being
more reliable than they initially thought.
14:17 - Regulatory barriers, not related to the economic viability of solar, can create obstacles for customers who want to generate clean energy. It’s important to address these obstacles in advance, so that when cleantech becomes economically competitive, we can deploy it without facing these hurdles later on.