Alacrity Cleantech Talks

Alacrity Canada


Alacrity Cleantech Talks invites clean technology leaders, thinkers and sustainability experts to talk about solutions to the global challenges we face today. Our episodes cover how cleantech is making a difference, how science is trying to find answers to our everyday problems, and how we can keep the environment and sustainability in mind - even in business. Alacrity Cleantech Talks discusses the future of water, natural resources, energy and our role in making the world a better place.

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23 episodes

The Food of the Future: Getting the Dish on Growing Food

Season 3, Episode 9 features host Sofie Campbell discussing the future of growing food using Agritech advancements with 3 Cleantech CEOs. Join Ken Grenier, CEO of Pacific Ridge Corp., Valerie Song, CEO of AVA Technologies, and Alycia van der Gracht, CEO of QuantoTech as they devour topics such as vertical farming, indoor growing year-round, and what sustainability means for the farmers of the future.

Jun 09, 2022
ESG Investing with Basma Majerbi and Lynn Works from the University of Victoria

In Season 3, Episode 8, Host Sofie Campbell is joined by Basma Majerbi, PhD and Lynn Works, MBA from the University of Victoria as they discuss the trends and mechanisms surrounding investing using ESG principals and Impact Investment funds. Learn about the evolving field of ESG rating scores and how businesses can adapt their operations to meet new standards.

Jun 09, 2022
How Nyoka Design Labs Uses Luminescent Technology to Create Plastic-Free Products

3:30 - Paige: We started working with our first investors this year, so instead of doing as much as we could with very little funding, we're now really able to develop the bioluminescent system that we're using for our fully non-toxic, biodegradable light wand. We have a lab we're working out of, are developing different colours, making them brighter and longer lasting. We'll be launching a bright yellow colour in the new year. 6:20 - Paige: The lumi is a reusable, rechargeable glowstick alternative that lights up after charging it in the sunshine. 7:05 - Paige: Selling the lumi on their online store. Have some distribution talks as well.  8:05 - Paige: The original idea was to make a glow stick that was fully non-toxic and biodegradable.  8:45 - Paige: All next year will be really dedicated towards testing the product with customers and getting feedback and doing further product development. Part of that is to set up case and pilot studies with different industries we're interested in. So we're setting up a search and rescue pilot study. 9:30 - Paige: The first key use of the light wand in the marine industry is for safety. They're often attached to life jackets. The second key use is as a fishing lure.There are certain types of fish that are attracted to light under water and will swim towards it. Larger fish and sea animals like dolphins and whales have proven to be deterred by the light so using these lights is also a really efficient way to mitigate by-catch.  16:00 - Paige: That is something I would say to anyone who is starting out in business or looking to become a founder - that prototype, having that prototype in hand made all the difference. Then people could see and believe in and rally around the product. And some of the media from that and the proof that it was possible. Our team came together because of some of the media that came at that time.  21:15 - Paige: Getting our first investors has been incredible, we've been working with this firm called Indie Bio and they've been amazing. They invest in biotech companies. They've changed the level of company that we are. Looking at those long legal documents is scary and you feel the pressure and the weight of those expectations. Sometimes leveling up can bring down your confidence because you're now operating on a new level but you are probably doing a good job if you're leveling up and if good things keep happening. In terms of good things happening there have been lots. Someone from Nasa's jet propulsion lab got in touch with us and wanted to try out the bioluminescent formula we've been working in one of their experiments and I almost fell over. They are one of the biggest applied science organizations in the world. When things like that happen, the unexpected things that land on our doorstep, that's when I'm reminded that what we do could really impact a lot of people.   24:00 - Paige: The Canadian federal government creating legislation that limits the use of single-use plastics really is significant in terms of supporting up and coming companies that are trying to make new and more sustainable products. Bands like these are really important to pushing the needle so that more sustainable products can become the norm. We've looked into what it would take to get single-use glowsticks banned and basically what we've seen across the board is that for an item to be considered up for being banned there needs to be a demonstrated, widely available, commercially viable alternative. So we aren't there just yet but we're working towards that. The price, as we move forward, will be competitive with conventional glowsticks and as that happens, applying for a ban is definitely on our radar.  26:00 - Paige: One of the issues we've had is finding manufacturers who will work with these new biodegradable materials, and so if plastic items really are being banned then industries will have to shift towards working with some of these materials that are more sustainable. So seeing governments take strong and impactful moves to ban things is so needed. 27:00 - Paige: I know that one of the core challenges in the environmental movement is the balance of individual responsibility and systemic/government responsibility. So I see things like bans as being an amazing reminder that they are being pushed forward by individuals. There was such a melancholy wave of, you know, sure, we're banning plastic bags but what does that really do. But honestly, it's one step at a time and I just really respect everyone who worked on that because it does take collective and concerted work to make these kinds of changes happen. 28:30 - Paige: In the next 6 months we're fully launching our light wand for the first time ever and it's been such a labour of love, years and years in the making, and then on the business development side we'll be working on our seed round. Starting in mid-October I'll be focused on starting our seed round.

May 25, 2022
How Metaspectral is Applying Their Technology to Optimize the Plastics Recycling Sector

5:20 - Francis: Metaspectral is deploying its technology into a variety of industries, including defense, space, recycling and agriculture. At the core the technology is much the same but just need to do some integration. Metaspectral can detect that there's an object floating on water, for example, and can determine what that object is made out of. In agriculture, we're able to detect how plants react to different types of pesticides which enables us to measure the rate of disease in plants.  7:40 - Francis: We went through a pivot when we started the company, initially the concept for Metaspectral was that we would use machine learning to compress data more efficiently. But then realized that there was a greater value proposition for tackling data with more depth to it - we had more value to add than just traditional imaging.   10:00 - Francis: We recycle only 9% of the plastics we use in Canada and the Government of Canada has set ambitious goals of achieving 75% diversion from landfills. So going from 9% to 75% we need to have a lot of innovation in terms of recycling capacity. Part of it has to do with increasing demand for recycled material but part of it also has to do with making the supply better and higher quality. The government has passed a draft law relating to the market for recycled plastics, so now plastics producers will be required to include a certain amount of recycled plastics in their products. 13:30 - Francis: The recycling plant we're working with is quite automated, but there is still 30% contamination, meaning that 30% of material that is not supposed to be there. And that is the issue that we're trying to solve. 14:25 - Francis: There are a few other players that we're aware of who operate in the recycling automation space. At least one other in Canada, a few in The States, some in Europe as well. But we believe that we're complementary to those. The others on the market focus on automating the tasks that a human can do. Whereas we are really trying to sort beyond what a human can do or existing machinery can do. That doesn't mean you don't need those other machines on the market.   17:20 - Francis: We are very optimistic about the recycling market because we think that what we can do is really unique and very valuable. It is also lower maintenance from a sales standpoint compared to servicing the defense industry, for example.   21:00 - Francis: Public policy is really important to creating a stable market for recycled plastics. The whole recycling industry had a really hard time in 2016 when gas prices dropped super low because it suddenly meant that the economic benefit to using recycled plastics was inverse. So regulation, like requiring that people use a certain amount of recycled plastics in their products, is really important. Landfilling is so much cheaper than recycling which means that the recycling industry will always require some amount of policy to help bolster it against the cheapness of virgin plastics production and landfilling.

May 25, 2022
How Innovators Like Properate and Endura-Form Are Helping Design the Green Building Industry

8:12 - Arman: Building codes are moving towards being very software centric, meaning if you want to get your building in compliance with codes you need to use a variety of software tools. This is common practice for many construction industry professionals but for energy, this is new. So there is this significant need for software that can make innovation in the building sector possible, primarily focused on building efficiency. 9:35 - Arman: Our focus right now is to make it really easy for builders, renovators, home owners, etc. to get an idea of how their home is performing and how they could make it more energy efficient.  10:10 - Arman: Over the last few years, this has turned into a very beneficial service with information about costing, carbon data, and lots of building technologies and assemblies. 11:30 - Arman: Buildings are one of the most important areas that we need to all be focusing on from a carbon emissions reduction standpoint. Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which is a body trying to make macro-level change in the climate, looked at the five biggest sectoral challenges in the climate fight and those are manufacturing, transportation, electricity, agriculture and buildings and the only sector that had an easier time transitioning to the greener economy is buildings and that's because with buildings, you're already saving money when you're greening your building. And this concept is called the green premium. If you want to make a product in a greener fashion you might have to pay 10 or 20% more but for buildings, we're already past that threshold. For buildings, it is already more cost effective to improve energy efficiency in buildings than it is to leave them as they are. The real challenge isn't the technologies or the economics of the situation - it is the market perception and the inertia of the market. Very often when I talk about these things with educational partners I really feel that I'm trying to sell a website to people who don't know what a computer is. You have to first explain to them what the technology is. And it might not create that lightbulb moment in the first interaction. The conversation is continuous. We really need to start normalizing the fact that energy efficient buildings aren't here because we just haven't done it yet.  14:45 - Tony: Trying to change the minds of engineers and builders around the world to trust plastic, and especially recycled plastic, instead of always using concrete or brick, that is difficult. Education ends up reducing cost. But it is also my greatest challenge right now.  19:55 - Arman: A lot of people look at something like the Canadian Greener Homes Grant and see just $5000 but what I see is intent and one more tool that we can have in our toolbox to make homes more energy efficient. And that can really change things. One of the major factors in any new build is, how much is this going to cost. And every little bit really counts. You will not only see reduced energy costs with a retrofit but you will see an increase in the value of the home, for example. When the housing market is also so intense, these sorts of grants really start to make a difference in peoples' calculation of whether to invest in changes to improve efficiency. 

May 25, 2022
Overcoming the Valley of Death in Cleantech

06:28 - Sofie: Definition of the Valley of Death from Investopedia. The death valley curve is the span of time from the moment it receives its initial capital contribution until it starts generating revenue. This period of time can be really challenging for the business because their business model remains largely unproven because they haven't yet begun earning revenue.  7:50 - Cec: First learned about the Valley of Death around 2001 just after the Dot Com bust. Cec was the E-Business Evangelist for PWC. 8:40 - Peter: I call it the cash runway. Peter learned about it the hard way through the first company he started. We were funded as needed - as we needed cash we would make a cash call until that changed. The first law of entrepreneurship is: don't run out of cash. This form of raising funds has its advantages but it's high risk. 10:35 - Rich: Well, I would just call the valley of death: 'startups'. It's the problem of scarcity. There are never enough customers, there's never enough investment runway. First time I was really exposed to it was with an Alacrity portfolio company in 2015 that was in mobile data and telecoms. They had built really interesting tech and had one paying customer but not enough for customers to cover the monthly bills. It was a really challenging time and in the end the company was able to really dig in to a good marketing strategy and get some investors to stick it out and it sold three years later for $40M. But it was really rough there for a while and we were having conversations about how to sell the desk chairs and computers.  12:40 - Rich: There are so many factors at play when a company ends up in this situation and of course there is some element of luck. I do always say 'the harder I work the luckier I get' but of course I know, as well as anyone else, that sometimes things happen out of one's control.  15:10 - Peter: The Valley of Death is where entrepreneurs really show their grit and resilience. Peter tells the story of a company that he led, they were struggling to raise money and were running out of money.  17:25 - Peter: Right before the company I was running ran out of money, like 48 hours before, we managed to sell for 10X. I think the bottom line is entrepreneurial team resilience, creativity and desperation to get you through these valleys of death.  18:20 - Cec: I don't think a lot of founders think about the valley of death or understand that it's coming. So one thing that can help is just understanding that you're going to go through it. Find a mentor or advisor to help you through these sorts of times as a business.  20:30 - Burak: When you take on an investor you're getting someone who could also be an asset to the company. Who can help guide and support you. Money on its own doesn't mean a lot because when money comes with the right know-how, the right networks, it is a completely different thing. Not every investor is the right fit for your company.  22:45 - Rich: Don't be afraid to make the pivot. Every successful company we've worked with has changed what they're doing at some point in the game. They've never built the exact idea from day one. So we try to tell people not to get too caught up in their own assumptions. Also a boring note, is just to have your proper due diligence materials ready. If you're a founder listening to this and you don't know what a data room is you need to stop this podcast and find out how to set one up, because you need to be able to move quickly and if you don't have a data room set-up that is going to become a massive headache that can be largely avoided by taking the right steps early on.  24:20 - Cec: Get an audit. Right out of the gate. Because when you do get a serious investor later on you might end up having to backtrack and get years audited retroactively.  25:25 - Rich: The point when you don't get out of the death valley is when everyone has given up. That's when it's all over. And we've seen founders run on fumes for months and months still trying to pull out of that but sometimes it doesn't work and that's the end of the story.  26:00 - Rich: Our goal is to prepare the companies so that they don't actually land in the death valley. Helping land customers, do deals, build revenues, we like to help with the investor side - helping build pitch decks and providing intros to investors who might be a fit for the companies - and then further work on financial models and different projections and activities to try to make sure the company has a good plan in place so they aren't just driving straight off a cliff.  28:35 - Burak: We provide our portfolio companies with a good amount of communication and marketing support which can really help these companies that sometimes need an educated outside perspective. We also help them see alternative options for their products and services, or also help with investment decks and being prepared for the right investors. Our work is quite tailored. We tailor a custom suit for all the companies according to their needs and have been really successful at this so far.  30:50 - Cec: Because Alacrity is really well informed regarding government programs and funding, Alacrity has really helped some of its portfolio companies to access government funding which is incredible useful to these companies. My comment on realizing when you're at risk of not emerging from the valley of death is when you see the company starting to try to use their accounts payable to get through a period of time. If you're not sure you've got money coming in then that's a huge issue. If you're using your suppliers to get you through a period of time.  31:55 - Peter: This might sound counterintuitive but the entrepreneur/founder has got to be the last person to know. They have to fight and claw and ignore reality to try to persevere. Every startup goes through nightmares and pivots so you really have to have resilience. I think in some ways you have to have a reality distortion experience where you don't see what is actually obvious to everybody else. You can't be a shrinking violet. And it doesn't always work. But I think the entrepreneur is the last one to know when it's all over. The other thing is that as you closer to the valley of death, or the end of the valley, you get more and more desperate and you'll take a worse deal from an investor. We've helped companies out of that scenario, we've helped them see the full scope of options in front of them and helped them get the best and fairest deal possible, and we can help these companies because we've been there ourselves throughout our careers.   34:40 - Peter: Try to get early validation and interest from customers. If you can test your ideas early with a customer then you've got that positive input and you'll have an easier time getting investors on board. If you have those early proof points of your idea with customers, even if it's conditional. Where they say, if your thing can do A, B and C then I'll buy it. So I guess, early customer engagement and validation. 35:30 - Rich: Build a strong and resilient business that doesn't rely just on investor capital. When you're building your plans you want to have a path to the business being able to survive without investor capital. Investment may help scale it up and grow it faster but you don't know what will happen with the economy, investor preferences shift, so a lot will be out of your hands if you're 100% reliant on investors.  26:30 - Cec: Another thing is you need to focus. Some founders end up being a bit scatterbrained. Focus on one vertical to start. Too many pilots, too many different ideas can be a real threat. Pick a vertical that you understand well and drive it that way.

Jan 28, 2022
What We Know About Canada's Cleantech Sector

5:35 - Rich: I think we can all agree now that it's essential to our planet. We know there's a problem that we have to fix and the technology side is just a massive opportunity. As humans we're good at innovating when we have to, and now we have to.    11:00 - Peter: There is the technology mantra of "move fast and break things" but in cleantech you don't necessarily want to actually have incumbents doing that because in the cleantech industry entrepreneurs are working with technologies and systems that quite literally keep the lights on. So we really need to educate our technology communities so they understand that the customers they are working with are often very risk-averse customers coming up against very disruptive technology.  12:30 - Peter: I wish investors were more understanding of some of the challenges cleantech companies are up against. This friend of mine said to me, 'Well Peter, to me they've got long development cycles, long sales cycles, lumpy revenue, I wanna run in the other direction'. So I'm looking forward to our investors embracing some of the unique characteristics of cleantech. But customers are facing disruption. So my hope is that customers become aware of that and embrace it.  13:30 - Peter: One way to make investors feel more attracted to cleantech is  through some de-risking mechanisms. So one thing we promote at Alacrity is pilot funding. Once investors or clients see a project that has been successful in the field the stakeholders then see that a lot of the risk has been removed from the situation. We also really need to help the companies scale up. Very few cleantech solutions are very stand-alone, so there are often multiple actors who need to be coordinated.  14:50 - Cec: A lot of costs over the years have come down as more actors enter cleantech you get economies of scale. We're also looking for opportunities in industries that we hadn't really previously thought of bringing cleantech into, so there are more solutions being offered by cleantech. And as each segment of the industry grows economies of scale are bringing costs down and making cleantech more competitive with 'old-tech'. 16:20 - Rich: There was a lot of scar tissue left in the investment community after the pain that many early cleantech investors experienced in the early aughts as the sector really came into being. So when I started working more seriously in cleantech in 2015/2016 none of the investors really wanted to talk about it. But that has really changed. It still is predominantly courageous investors taking the big risks, but I think if we look back on this time we'll see that there were some amazing returns achieved.  18:30 - Burak: This plastic fund that we helped implement at the start of this year really helped to create commercial value especially in small communities. And that is really one of the key benefits of cleantech and of our program. The capacity it has to generate really high value jobs across geographic and economic regions. 22:20 - Peter: In the mid-2000s there was the Tech Wreck and a lot of investors flooded to cleantech. But cleantech generally speaking turned out to be much more complicated to implement than those investors thought. It turns our that integration and adoption for cleantech is quite difficult.  24:50 - Rich: Cleantech is actually very measurable. So you can't fake it in cleantech and that's something people need to get over a bit. It's also important that people have ways to demonstrate and pilot their technology using funding, especially government funding, because if you don't do it in real life in the real environment then you'll always lack credibility. So you need to see these technologies and projects actually working, especially the bigger customers. They can't just depend on what worked in another area of the world. 26:50 - Peter: The biggest threat to cleantech is execution risk. It's back to that customer unhappiness. These are conservative customers and if you stumble, they're not coming back.  28:50 - Rich: The biggest threat to cleantech is the status quo. If people aren't forced to make changes sometimes they don't. But if there's continued risk aversion and lack of funding at an investor level and government level then that's the biggest threat to the industry growing in a meaningful way. 31:30 - Cec: Really understanding their product and their market. Really to succeed you need to spend more time up front really understanding who your early adopters are. How you're going to get your product to market to prove and showcase what you do. 33:50 - Peter: The vast majority of customers are not easy adopters. They need to have an easy path to adoption. 33:30 - Rich: I would say that commercialization, marketing and sales are the biggest issues. And the things that we need to get right more often in order to succeed. Part of that is because a lot of these cleantech companies are really heavy technology, heavy science companies. But you need to go and find that help and bring in those skills. If 40% or 50% of an organization isn't related to sales and marketing, if 90% of your team is still working on the R&D side then you can assume that you're not going to be growing revenue in a meaningful way. So many companies have amazing technology but it doesn't go anywhere if they aren't able to build meaningful revenue. So I can't say enough how important it is to focus on sales and revenue. 38:25 - Burak: Firstly, you really need to get intercultural communication right, especially when you're looking to start selling on the international stage. Secondly, you need to work on your communication of your value proposition, and thirdly, develop a good sales cycle so you know what customers are asking for. And don't fall in love with your own idea/solution.

Dec 16, 2021
Raising Funds in Cleantech

4.20 - what stage of raising are each of the guests at? -dilutive versus non-dilutive funding -time and effort that goes into raising, especially when it comes to signing the paperwork -ISED and IRAP funding -SDTC’s funding program 8.25 - takeaways or learnings? -how to qualify investors -what to expect throughout the process 11.00 - closing on a “Safe” (a simple agreement for future equity) -investment mechanism that’s well suited to early-stage rounds 13.00 - surprises about raising? C: angel markets in Victoria and Vancouver don’t particularly like the Safe option J: non-traditional space and complexity of software plus hardware is more challenging for many VCs D: stage of the company and product market fit, get in the network as early as you can through accelerators 17.40 - the least favourite part about raising?  J: rejection, but use it as a source of learning D: it’s like a sales cycle 22.50 - SDTC funding and what to consider when applying  24.45 - don’t ignore your personal network, they want a good opportunity too 27.00 - get to revenue as fast as you can to appeal to most investors 27.20 - it is a sales cycle and you can create a sense of FOMO, audit the team you’re working with as much as they’re auditing you 29.00 - one thing you wish you had known before raising? C: at first, we thought we had to tick all the boxes, and answer all the questions that were being asked of us, investor red flag because there are certain things you should be figuring out together as you go S: hardware/software company and you’re competing against SaaS companies so there’s no way you’re going to be as successful - “comparing oranges to watermelons” J: if you structure it like a sales process, you’re really setting yourself up for success 33.33 - D: making good business fundamentals, focus on making a good business and get early criticism, speak to industry experts to continue improving your offer “That awareness [of what problems a company could have] at seed stage, pre-seed stage is key, which many entrepreneurs don’t have, so you separate yourself right away if you do.” 34.19 - Devesh talks about the four types of investors (high net worth individuals, family offices, different types of VCs, and strategic investors) 36.45 - what to do with feedback from investors who aren’t interested “If you can get away from your ego being hurt by rejection and take everything that you learn from those, you really can get a better product market fit.”  38.10 - one piece of advice for a fellow entrepreneur at the start of their fundraising journey? What is the critical takeaway? Or an experience with an investor that became an integral part of the business? S: “What do you want from us, besides the money?” that is a really key question to think about and know the answer to -be choosy, this is a marriage   J: "It might feel like you’re the one that’s asking things of people, you’re the one that’s begging for money, but that’s not really the way you should look at it..." -offering something that has tremendous value Grit is needed to be an entrepreneur and grit will be needed throughout your investor journey as well.  C: Two-fold. One: It’s never too early to build a clean data room. Makes the investor’s job easier. Two: Find your lead. The lead investor can host other investors. D: lots of articles to learn from, starting as early as possible for data room, it’s truly never too early -make sure you’re focusing on your business fundamentals -get some indication of revenue, of customers using it, the more you can do that, the better your fundraising process will be

Sep 16, 2021
Cleantech Insights from Leaders in Cleantech Podcast Host, David Hunt

1.30 - how David began his career in the cleantech industry back in 2007, talking with a electrical engineer about wind turbines and solar panels at his daughter’s school 3.30 - the uniqueness of the cleantech sector and its disruptive nature and the culmination of many technologies that are coming to fruition (batteries, solar power, grids, etc.) -how digitalization is clearly fundamental to  enabling much of the innovation that's going on 4.10 - disruption in cleantech is faster than in other high-growth sectors in the past, which can create challenges for policymakers because things move so quickly in this sector 5.00 - how a decentralized sector, like solar power, impacts policy decisions and strategies 6.20 - the differences that David has noticed through his work between the Canadian cleantech sector and other markets like the UK; a lot of innovation coming out of Canada, but initially companies struggled to find funding outside of the local market, although European VCs and accelerators are now actively engaging with Canadian companies, not just US ones 7.30 - Canadian companies are less internationally focused, or less European-focused because of a massive market on the doorstep, even though European markets, particularly around energy and mobility are quite a lot more advanced than the North American markets 9.08 - how organizations and accelerators like Foresight and Alacrity are supporting startups to grow 11.00 - how GDPR and other regulatory differences from jurisdiction to jurisdiction add another layer of complexity for cleantech companies, even though the opportunities are there 12.40 - thoughts on the next upcoming cleantech sector? Cleantech is quite a broad umbrella, but solar, energy storage and batteries, emobility has really evolved because of this 14.00 - areas that are critical in decarbonizing the world that don’t get much airtime, like buildings and construction and the built environment, smart cities, agritech and foodtech 15.00 - the hydrogen sector, where it currently is and where David thinks it’s going 17.20 - “The technologies exist to achieve what we need to achieve, it’s just about making sure we’re using the right ones in the right place at the right time… and that’s not always straightforward and, as a policymaker, that’s a really tough call.” 18.00 - IPCC report and how policy, industry, and cleantech entrepreneurs are advancing the transition that's needed “The report was both not surprising unfortunately, but was shocking also.”  -hopeful that the IPCC report is a wake up call that governments will heed  19.45 - innovation comes from small companies and startups and then it butts heads against policy and traditional industry 20.20 - next critical steps in boosting cleantech adoption around the world? getting out of the cleantech bubble, disconnect between what people know and understand inside of the sector versus outside of it -consumers need to also understand that these technologies are just better, both from an environmental perspective, but also efficiency-wise and a more educated population about the technologies will help drive policy change 23.40 - recycling, or the lack thereof, with 9% of consumer recycling being recycled 26.00 - plastics also contributing to the problem 26.45 - "We sit at the intersection between technology and entrepreneurship" and more about the Leaders in Cleantech podcast that David hosts

Sep 09, 2021
Exploring Cosmic-Ray Muon Tomography with Ideon Technologies

-Peter Van Der Gracht, senior advisor at Alacrity Canada, talks to Gary Agnew of Ideon Technologies about the company's innovative mining solutions -how cosmic-ray muon technology is similar to x-ray technology -applying this technology to the exploratory phase of mining as part of the geophysics toolkit -straight-line imaging technique provides a high degree of certainty in the industry -technology is focused on displacing drilling, which is expensive to conduct -base metals and battery metals can be detected by density contrast using this technology -how does this technology fit within the regulatory framework? -removing hit-and-miss drilling from projects, cutting costs while increasing certainty -change management in mining means that a solution has to offer a significant value proposition to create the momentum to make the necessary changes -direct-to-customer business model with potential for partnerships -managing through a lot of complexity, providing the customer with a simple solution -providing "certainty-as-a-service" -developing an optimized plan with the customer using muon tomography technology to provide better geophysical certainty -innovation started at TRIUMF physics laboratory at the University of British Columbia in an effort to miniaturize the detection device's form factor -using muon detectors in archaeological sites; is this a new marketplace for the technology? -navigating commercialization in a scientific environment like TRIUMF; building a bridge between academia and industry -how the Canadian ecosystem has played a role in Ideon's growth and development -providing great environmental benefits AND increasing profitability

Feb 16, 2021
Sustainable Development Technology Canada's Role in Cleantech Funding

-Peter Van Der Gracht, senior advisor at Alacrity Canada, talks to Rustam Sengupta of SDTC about how the federal government agency helps support innovative Canadian cleantech companies -comparing activity of the fund in 2019 versus 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first started -emergency funding delivered through SDTC in March -how funding in the clean technology space has recovered after the initial impacts of the lockdown -what are the top 3 things SDTC looks for when assessing a company? -how do national and international policies or regulations impact SDTC's investment strategy? -the affects of not being able to travel to meet teams and companies -the value of a consortium partner for a cleantech company -how much traction does a company need before applying for seed funding; what stage should they be at? -what is the ideal Technology Readiness Level? -how do other funding options through federal agencies differ from SDTC's funds? -assessing the environmental benefits and commercialization of a clean technology -what's in store for the future of clean technology and post-pandemic recovery

Feb 05, 2021
Marketing in Cleantech with First Light Technologies and Ocean Diagnostics

-Mike Williams, Alacrity Digital Marketing Bootcamp facilitator and CEO of Jetstream Digital Agency, talks to Sean Bourquin of First Light Technologies and Ashleigh Erwin of Ocean Diagnostics about how their companies approach marketing in the cleantech space -how these two companies are developing a relatively new market for their clean technologies -more global, complex problems are occurring and clean technology is one of the solutions for these problems -challenge as marketers to develop this new market and becoming more relatable to customers -doing market research to identify the target sectors and customers that exist -marketing in the solar space across First Light's 10 year span of experience -how solar lighting has changed as "clean tech" has become a larger sector -being a purpose-driven company and doing something that's helpful or better than what's been done before -the difference between "greenwashing" a company and operating based on long-term benefits and economic value -oceans as an untapped economy and what the economic value is -in the past, "cleantech" meant expensive, but the economic value is balancing out these days -an inherent marketing problem in cleantech is to update customer knowledge about new technologies instead of "the way it's always been done" -agencies and regulations changing to meet sustainability and climate change goals so marketing as a clean tech company is more feasible now -focusing on a mandate and mission to discover the ocean and enter the blue tech space, while providing new knowledge and technology for microplastics research and pollution -how has increased education of the average customer or average person changed marketing strategies as more people understand climate change and clean tech as an opportunity? -helping policy makers make informed decisions that get translated into regulations -how solar lighting has changed in the last decade (macrofactors like core technology changes are creating a meaningful difference) -providing a better technical solution than what's previously existed is key -customers also taking climate change seriously and making careful decisions when it comes to the solutions they choose -providing resiliency and solutions that improve on the "old-fashioned way" -how the global pandemic has impacted marketing strategies and business -marketing is there to support business goals; COVID has highlighted new challenges and new opportunities in reaching customers, putting more importance on digital marketing -the agility of a startup-style mentality for many small cleantech companies -navigating the challenge of finding revenue to build out a marketing team early on -founding a company during the economic crisis of 2009 and now navigating the pandemic as a business owner -seeing the adaptation of businesses and people, despite the pandemic's effects -improved safety and human health as added benefits and opportunities for cleantech companies -the triple bottom line for cleantech companies and the purpose-driven people behind them -building resiliency and circularity in local communities -how will the future of clean tech marketing evolve? -keeping up with new tools and technologies, while translating face-to-face passion into a wholesome and effective marketing strategy -storytelling instead of pure promotion as marketing strategy

Jan 28, 2021
Monitoring Our Oceans with Ocean Diagnostics and MarineLabs

-Peter Van Der Gracht, senior advisor at Alacrity Canada, talks to Dean Wenahm of Ocean Diagnostics and Scott Beatty of MarineLabs about their ocean technologies  -hear about how the companies use bluetech to helps us learn more about our oceans and coastlines, along with the impact that human activity and climate change are having on them -origin stories of the two CEOs and how they founded their companies -what are the key use cases and customers  -how do these companies go to market? -quantifying customer benefits and returns on investment -what does a typical sales cycle look like in the oceantech space -what was the biggest surprise in the entrepreneurial journey -the next key milestone for these companies -what do these two founders see in the future of oceantech

Jan 12, 2021
How Plugzio and Audette Use Energy Consumption and Efficiency to Build Their Platforms

-Peter Van Der Gracht, senior advisor at Alacrity Canada, talks to Mohammad Akhlaghi of Plugzio and Christopher Naismith of Audette about their platforms and how they make use of energy consumption data -what is a day in the life of an entrepreneur like and what are some of the surprises that have popped up along the way? -being "a hacker, a hustler, and a hipster" as an entrepreneur -saving energy as being a small part of functioning within a job or community -"entrepreneurship is jumping off an airplane and building a parachute on the way down" and the love/hate relationship with entrepreneurship as a job; failures are huge, but the successes feel amazing -saving energy is about saving money; in a startup you're either saving someone money or making someone money -energy ecosystem is changing very rapidly throughout the world and there is so much opportunity -how data around energy usage is used in Plugzio and Audette as platforms -data brings businesses out of darkness and acts as a feedback mechanism -the primary job of a building is to keep people comfortable; how layers of energy efficiency can be designed into buildings -the digital information gathered over the past 10 years in this space has matured and allowed the technology to advance, but the processes around this sector have not yet advanced -pulling in large building data to identify and display the best opportunities for improvement in energy usage -how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their businesses, especially when focused on customers that have office buildings or other shared spaces -incentives for delivering money into the energy management space has been "business as usual," especially in institutional buildings and spaces -because of COVID, there is a huge trend in people buying electric mobility vehicles like bicycles and scooters -how these two companies go to market and find customers; the role of channel partners -how utilities and governments play a role in energy efficiency programs; incentives versus processes -how utilities can manage micropower; incentives as very effective, but for the wrong reasons -increasing awareness about energy consumption is good, but incentives are being allocated to people who don't need it -accessing financing for these companies; how government funding programs help -different entrepreneurial journeys to found these companies and platforms; learning from past experiences to develop the businesses -the next milestones for Audette and Plugzio -the future is not just about electric cars; increasing awareness around electric mobility - bikes, scooters, etc. - as the bigger picture -misconceptions around fast charging; different machines than gas vehicles so approach needs to be different as well -at the precipice of a huge investment event in energy usage and cleantech -the technology is there, the processes aren't quite there yet

Dec 16, 2020
Origen Air Tackles Indoor Air Quality

-Peter Van Der Gracht, senior advisor at Alacrity Canada, talks to Susan Blanchet and Andrew Crawford of Origen Air about their company and operations in the cleantech sector -origin story of the company; why Susan left her law career to join forces with serial entrepreneur, Andrew -business model is a "humanistic enterprise model"  -how environmental and social governance ratings influence decision-makers -Origen Air's genetically modified plant products work to clean the air, while also reducing energy costs -minimum standards for indoor air quality set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) -smart sensors and app will help decision-makers understand their indoor air quality better and improve standards -impacts of COVID pandemic on the business; founding Origen Clean, a probiotic fogging company -measuring an invisible problem, like indoor air quality, and then managing it through proprietary sensor technology and app -customer focus and go-to-market strategies -returns on investment and looking at the business model from an investor's perspective -short-term milestones; the clean air delivery rate (CADR) of the Sentinel Purifier, the first of Origen Air's products -funding programs and support for cleantech companies -marketing strategies and the long-term plan to reach the global market -the triple bottom line, caring about social responsibility and the environment in conjunction with profits -why the team behind Origen Air believes that "nature always wins"

Dec 08, 2020
Investing in the Cleantech Sector

-Peter Van Der Gracht, senior advisor at Alacrity Canada, talks to Sarah Appelbaum of Pangaea Ventures and Kathryn Wortsman of Amplify Capital about investing in the cleantech sector -investment sweet spots, early-stage and later-stage investing -the criteria for investing in a Series A round or Seed funding -an impact fund as essential service fund; focusing on healthcare, cleantech, and education -deal flow still strong throughout 2020, though adjustments are being made to extend runways -team makeup and evaluation when looking to invest -leading rounds or partnering with other syndicate investors, whether it's institutional investors or angel investors -conducting due diligence during the COVID19 pandemic effectively -how are returns on investment being measured in cleantech? -cleantech sales cycles are longer than in other sectors, but customers are also very sticky -cleantech investors need patience and long-term outlook -how does regulation impact the complexity of going to market for a cleantech company -the importance of patents and intellectual property when looking at a potential investment opportunities -assessing a company against its competitors and leveraging partners and customers as advisors to validate the market -deals looked at versus deals made; what does the filter look like? -feedback for entrepreneurs in the cleantech space

Nov 24, 2020
Women in Cleantech; A Day in the Life of Three CEOs

-Julie Angus interviews Melanie McClare and Susan Blanchet, two fellow female CEOs operating in the Canadian cleantech space about their experiences as women in positions of leadership -cleantech as a supportive environment for women leading companies, becoming CEOs of their companies -COVID19 as a challenge for everyone, but especially for women that are also more likely to have to balance more family responsibilities as well -some positive COVID19 changes to the workplace and more access to funding have also helped make the cleantech ecosystem more resilient -government funding programs and extra support from mentors and business advisors have helped inform the changes necessary to the business development road map -COVID has created new opportunities in some spaces, paused opportunities in others -how cleantech can use challenges created by the pandemic to make the world a better place and to innovate in different sectors -COVID19 as a catalyst in innovation when it comes to environmental and social issues  -how COVID19 has impacted women in the labour force and what we can do to recover from that impact -creating community around young women to encourage more of them to enter the cleantech space and use their environmental and social governance skills to create positive changes -supportive ecosystems in Calgary and Victoria for startups, active knowledge sharing within the community -advice for women interested in the cleantech sector or a STEM career and how to get involved in this space -lessons learned from failing, finding success on the doorstep of failure, and how to recharge after that experience -memorable moments in the entrepreneurial journey

Nov 05, 2020
The importance of future thinking when it comes to energy

-what "magnetic cusp inertial electrostatic confinement fusion reactors," also known as Polywell reactors, are and how they work -how these reactors differ from the nuclear reactors in use today -Polywell patents held by Dr. Rogers and how they help make advancements in the technology -how widespread adoption of Polywell could change the energy landscape -what Progressive Fusion Solutions hopes to achieve with Polywell in the future  

Jan 23, 2020
Shining a light on solar lighting with First Light Technologies

-how being CEO of First Light Technologies for a decade has shaped Sean's entrepreneurial journey -how the market has changed over the last decade and how the term "cleantech" fits into the change -why solar lighting used to suck and how evolution in the space has made it suck less -what First Light's products are and how they can be used -how the products are helping create "safer, more usable communities" -standing behind your product and delivering on your promise of service, even if it means carrying  a ladder across the Mojave desert -the future of solar lighting and hopes for cleantech's further development

Jan 09, 2020
Sustainable energy in the not-so-distant future with Progressive Fusion Solutions

-how "ageism" has played a part in his entrepreneurial journey -how Progressive Fusion Solutions started and what the company aims to achieve -what the Polywell reactor is and how it works -using an alternative method, inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC), to produce energy -why IEC is less known or employed in the traditional fusion sector -securing funding for a cleantech startup company -how Sam and the team plan to develop PFS over the next decade

Nov 26, 2019
Operating in the cleantech space as a founder, advisor, and investor with Peter van der Gracht

-similarities and differences between cleantech and other sectors -challenges of operating in the cleantech space -getting funding for pilot projects -QuantoTech's  offerings as an engineering company, supplying energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly lighting to commercial growers -how the cleantech space could continue to develop and how Alacrity's working towards helping companies in the space grow -the experience of founding a company with his daughter

Nov 12, 2019
Disrupting industries without disrupting systems with Pani Energy

-Pani Energy's goals in the energy and water sectors -how the company develops advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and system design to disrupt these sectors, without disrupting their foundational infrastructures -lessons learned from developing hardware and software in the cleantech space -working directly with treatment plants on a business-to-business scale -how the cleantech space has shaped Devesh's entrepreneurial journey and how the sector has evolved since Pani's beginnings -Pani's efforts in combating climate change and developing technologies that have a low barrier to implementation  

Oct 31, 2019
Getting to know our oceans better with Open Ocean Robotics

-Julie's journey across the Atlantic in a rowboat during a hurricane -going from adventurous expeditions to becoming a clean-tech startup founder, combining her love of science with her passion for adventure -Open Ocean Robotic's goals and possible impacts -how the company's energy-harvesting autonomous boats work -how Julie's experienced being a woman in the tech sector -the future of Open Ocean Robotics

Oct 09, 2019