Growth Leap

Carbon Removal and How to Build a Deep Tech Startup with Carla Glassl

November 01, 2023 Stun and Awe Episode 26
Growth Leap
Carbon Removal and How to Build a Deep Tech Startup with Carla Glassl
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Imagine a world where we could significantly reduce our carbon footprint, effectively giving our planet a much-needed breather. What if I told you that is the goal of my guest, Carla Glassel, the co-founder and CTO of Ucaneo Biotech? 

With an ambitious target to extract 1 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2030, Carla joins us today to explain the cutting-edge technology and innovative methods her startup uses to combat the climate crisis. 

In this fun and enlightning conversation, we talk about the intricate world of climate tech, exploring the challenges of bringing a hardware product to market. Carla shares a ton of advice and anecdotes about the importance of assembling a World Cup-level team, hacks to reduce experiments timelines with hardware, her plan to scale a hardware tech, and the secret to get to the finish line. And she doesn't shy away from sharing some of the mistakes she's made.

We conclude with a deep dive into the investor landcape for climate tech and the expected timeline for Ucaneo's product development. Plus, Carla shares her outlook on climate tech, why putting a value on CO2 is critical, and emphasizes the need for multiple solutions to tackle the climate crisis. 

If you're a tech entrepreneur interested in fighting climate change, building a meaningful business, or getting into a hardware tech, this is the perfect episode for you!

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Carla Glassl:

I think a big difference is the time frames. So if you think about software startups, they often use Grum or Sprints or learning cycles. They've been open cycles and they try to keep them short. Because they're short of the cycle right, the faster you can learn, and I think that's also true for hardware. It's just that if you have an idea or you wanna test something in a hardware startup, you have to make a plan, you have to order things, you have to wait for like six weeks delivery times. Then you maybe do an experiment and you're like, oh, it does not work. And well, you would took two months to find this out. And it's not. Someone could have known this before. It's just that hardware takes longer and Hi everyone and welcome to Grope Deep.

Michel Gagnon:

I'm your host, michel Gagnon. We talk to pretty awesome business builders who are designing disruptive and meaningful companies. Hi everyone, today we talk about climate tech with Carla Glassel. Carla is co-founder and CTO at Ucaneo Biotech, a startup that aims to remove 1 million tons of CO2 from the air by 2030. To achieve that, their pioneering direct air capture technology mimicking human lungs. Carla is a visionary. She's ambitious and she has eight years of biotech, four years of machine learning and three years of startup experience. She initiated 10 plus research projects during her studies and is driven to harness technology to create a bright future. So, carla, welcome to the show. How are you?

Carla Glassl:

Hello welcome. Yes, I'm very good. Thank you for inviting me.

Michel Gagnon:

To make sure we start on the right foot. I think we should cover the basics, and it'd be great if you could explain to us a little bit what carbon removal is.

Carla Glassl:

Yeah, I love the question, I'm happy to dive in. So carbon removal means to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. So take out CO2 from the atmosphere that we currently breathe, and this can be done in many different ways. And the most important part is that it's not from a point source, so not from a blue gas stream, but really the air we breathe, and then it can be used, for example, for storage so really removing it for thousands of years or it can be actually utilized and turned into products. So that's all open. What's important to remove from the atmosphere?

Michel Gagnon:

Now that we kind of understand the basics, I'd like you to tell me a bit more about where you are with Eucanio, like in terms of technological development, in terms of funding and overall company stage.

Carla Glassl:

We are currently still in prototype development, so TRL3. We aim to go or reach TRL4 to 5 already next year. So quite a quick curve, just to kick some context out there. And money-wise, we just raised a pre-seed last year from investors and last year to live. We're currently about to close our angel round. Just that was allocated in the pre-seed and we aim to start next year to get a seed round. And besides it's a tech and money. We also did something in between. So meanwhile we built up an office, a lab and a hardware space right in Berlin. We all play in Berlin and we're a team of eight people and making the bright future come true.

Michel Gagnon:

We met you and I in the summer, I think, at the TIC Open Air. I really enjoyed your views and your ideas on the panel that you were on One of the things you mentioned. I don't remember perfectly, but I think somebody told you that you should never get into tech or something like this, and obviously you've not listened to that person's advice. Can you maybe tell me a little bit about that story?

Carla Glassl:

My educational background is actually a mix of biology and machine learning, so I would say, perfectly made for health care and personalized health care right now. And I also worked in a startup before that used this algorithm for disease detection in genetic diseases. So it's also really in this field and really more like software-oriented started. And I would say that the general connotation in NBC is that you want to scale right, you want to have an intense increase and scaling is much easier if you have a digital product, Basically create your product and then you deploy it anywhere. And that's why I would say, in general, I'm getting a bit more cautious with the statement. You see, like software much more and as soon as you have hardware, you have a slower scaling factor or more laborious or more cost-intensive scaling factor, and that's why a lot of general BCs would generally recommend not to go into hardware and deep tech because it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of money, very high risk and again the scaling factor might be a bit lower. And I understand those reasons and I was considering it, but in the end of the day, my motivation was to have an impact on the climate and the climate is a physical thing, and that's why I then not ignored the advice, but consciously made a decision against it and said, okay, it might be a bit more tricky, but we still have to do it and I'm up for it. And that's why I then went into our hardware climate to start up.

Michel Gagnon:

You can know, the technology captures and kind of isolate the CO2 from the air. What do you do after with that CO2? What are your options? That's a good question.

Carla Glassl:

So they are actually a manifold of options to utilize or to do anything with the CO2. And maybe also a good anecdote is when my co-founder and I in the beginning looked into the field and market of carbon removal. We started off in the beginning with an idea where we would combine carbon capture so getting the CO2 from the atmosphere together with storage or utilization projects, so turning it into a product, for example. And while we started off with this idea maybe to give an example for product is synthetic fuels, aviation fuels or bioplastic kind of anything that's carbon based and while we looked into this idea we realized that it's actually really hard. It's really hard to first of all captures CO2 at very low concentration 0.04% For most people this is or most processes. This is a rounding error and then converting it to a process that needs actually much higher concentration and needs to be catalyzed and optimized for the product, for example, bioplastics. So that's where we decided we're not going to do both together, but we're just going to focus on one and we believe into a modular future of carbon removal and carbon utilization or storage, and that's why we said we only going to take one part, the first part, which is increasing the CO2 concentration from 0.04% to 95%, and that is a big value add. And then when we have high quality pure CO2 gas, that's carbon negative Other people can make use of it, and that's when we basically work together with Parkness. So either for storage options, storage means you can mineralize the CO2, for example, into limestone, also stored underground in gas form different story about that and then you can basically issue voluntary carbon credits that have at the moment very high monetary value, so let's say $600 per ton different prices when going around. And the second option is then to actually also provide CO2 as a is with feedstock. So if you think about current products, anything you see made out of carbon kind of comes from oil and gas, and we believe there has to be also some sort of transition to replace or reduce the polluters and basically say, hey, we can create a circular loop, provide carbon negative CO2 to then create products that are maybe not stored forever and maybe much shorter time frame, but that we also don't pollute. So net zero or negative maybe.

Michel Gagnon:

You mentioned something earlier in your previous answer, the challenges of scaling a hardware technology. I'm curious to learn how you manage the whole thing because, on one end, one of your challenges is to prove that the technology is working, that you're getting the results that you're looking for and, at the same time, you have a funding or a business to run or to develop at the same time. So how are you managing this? Like to be able to build that technology and, at the same time, make sure that you find channels to actually make money in the end?

Carla Glassl:

Yeah.

Michel Gagnon:

You don't sleep. That's the solution, right.

Carla Glassl:

Exactly no sleep ever again and then only wanted to meditation and power net. I think the harsh truth is actually money. So, if you know, developing a product in the hardware space takes longer and is potentially more expensive. In the end you just need more money and this can mean, for example, you also have to depend on public grants or you get other sources of financing, or you have a very compelling business case and maybe investors are also willing to invest more, and, of course, at the end of the day, also having a strong business case and terms of how much money you get out of it. And I think that's often a really big struggle, because if you think of software solutions, you can do a subscription model, maybe three to $10 a month, and that kind of pays off the cost and you can scale. But if you then do a hardware product, you have to have much higher margins and a product that is really high value in a way that the longer development times pay off. And I think that's basically, or those are two real big challenges that hardware companies have and especially startups. But I also see more and more deceives for money providers if that's the sense, investors, and also it's a background set. So I'm trying to say that I'm aware of the challenges of hardware, but I'm also really willing to still go for it and see benefit and value in it. So it's definitely doable. It's just, I think, a slightly different time frame and maybe slightly different mindset on what scaling means and the pathway to it, but it's definitely doable. I would even nowadays after being in the journey for one and a half years I would even say hardware can even be more rewarding. It's much less difficult than you think. I think it's difficult, but as I said in the beginning, it was really like a portrait as a blank monster no one should ever touch, and I think it's definitely not true. I think it can be quite fun, definitely a challenge, but it's doable. You just have to kind of find your own approach to it and I think that's how you do it in the end.

Michel Gagnon:

Have you already managed to get some sort of maybe it's too early for that, but to get some sort of commitment from some potential partners in terms of buying the byproduct that you're gonna get?

Carla Glassl:

Yeah, so it's somewhat early, but actually that's also one big benefit of car removal. So we are basically one specific niche of car removal called direct acapture. So that means you use a technology or machine to remove this U2 and then have it pierce U2 as output. And for those technologies there's actually even some financing mechanisms where you can have so-called pre-purchasements, so bigger companies can give you money for voluntary carmen credits that you have not created yet, but you get the money to them create those credits so that you actually build the machine with this money. And as soon as you produce the credits you can send them back to the people that paid for it. And I think that was also very big. Compelling part for me to look into the hardware world is because the business case and car removal and carbon credits is really really strong. So the truth is, if you would offer and credits right now out of direct acapture, they would all be sold. So it's a very high demand and there's just very little supply at the moment and that's why it's definitely helping in terms of hardware to know in the market it's definitely do that. It's there and also a good margin in a way.

Michel Gagnon:

You've done a lot of research in your previous life. I'm curious to learn about like you've talked about meditation and power naps, but how do you feel like? How do you like the co-founder and CTO life compared to what you've done before?

Carla Glassl:

Well, I love it. I think in general I'm just a very curious person who likes and embraces change. So I like to say if it's not difficult, it's not for me. Of course I mean this also brings a lot of frustrations because if you try a lot of hard things, some of them won't work out right. So I'm definitely not a person who only does things where it's 100% that's going to work. I need some sort of risk in it and I think also research brings us risk, but also deep-tank product development brings us risk. So in that sense it's probably somewhat similar, I would say from my experience. One is really different is the speed. So then in academia I also had my own research project so I could kind of govern my own small budget. It wasn't a lot, but I could still decide on my own what to buy. I didn't need to write any grant. So for academia I was still very fast, I guess because it was also small sums. But now the start-up it's really a different speed and a different mindset and that for me is a big blessing and makes a big difference. I couldn't imagine maybe outside or maybe in other places academic mindset is slightly different, but at least from my experience, it was really not about a product, not about the application, but also the field I was in was more basic research.

Michel Gagnon:

I'd like to know how your team is structured, because the core team is so important At the beginning. You really have to have that World Cup type of team around you. How have you started? How are things going? How are you structured in terms of team at the moment?

Carla Glassl:

Team is a very big topic. So I think, especially in the early stage, the team is one of your biggest assets, and I think also that is actually one reason why my co-founder and I raised money really quickly last year. We actually managed to close around in a couple of weeks only, and the reason for that is because we both working amazingly well together. We were super fast, we had a lot of progress, we were also very honest to each other, and I think that helps also not to prevent any potential conflict, but also really think critically about what you want to achieve. So I think the mindset and the small team that you have in the beginning is really really crucial, and for us, the challenge was, or still is, that we want to build something quite new where there's not a lot of experience in the field, in the industry. So it's actually almost impossible to hire someone who did exactly what we do right now. So it can be a bad thing, it can be a good thing, but that's at least the reality for us. So we were trying to get a very interdisciplinary team that kind of combines scientific, technical people with a startup mindset, and what we managed to do is actually get some really cool members on board that, for example, did a PhD or postdoc and then they worked in industry or in a startup afterwards and they kind of combine looking into complicated things, living with the unknown, uncertainties, but are open to change, open to learn, want to get more speed, and so I think this is what we most have looked for in the beginning. And then also we talked to just a lot of people to get an idea, because if you talk to five people, you maybe know the range of five people, but when we talk to 50 people you maybe get a better feeling of maybe what is good or what's the average. And for both my co-founder and I it was the first time we hired people and I remember in the beginning we were quite surprised on the different backgrounds and qualities of people that are out there and I think we probably applied a quite high standard, kind of unconsciously, and I guess that's helpful we're still kind of evaluating ourselves a little bit, like what are implications of it? Is it good, is it bad? How do you find good people? I think it's an ever-ranging question and probably there's always some trial and error within the journey of that one.

Michel Gagnon:

If you compare your story to a digital startup. Digital startup usually have a product and engineering team who are building. You have marketing and sales who are trying to get some product market fit, get some feedback or pivot. If it's not working, what about you? What is your team doing all day? I'm curious.

Carla Glassl:

Actually, I think you could probably in some way compare it. So in the long run we also have sort of an R&D team yeah, I guess it's kind of in the more forefront of things and we have an engineering team that builds the machine and then the third part is the business department that really looks into sales and business development. So in that regard probably there are some similarities. I think a big difference is the timeframes. So if you think about software startups, they often use Grum or Sprints or learning cycles, divan open cycles, and they try to keep them short because the shorter the cycle, the faster you can learn. I think that's also true for hardware. It's just that if you have an idea or you want to test something and a hardware setup, you have to make a plan, you have to order things. You have to wait for six weeks of every time. Then you maybe do an experiment and you're like, oh, it does not work. Well, you would took two months to find this out. It's not someone who could have known this before. It's just that hardware takes longer. I think the first step to success is accepting this, is facing reality, that it is slower just because of delivery times. That's also what I mentioned at the beginning. You'd probably need more money because it is slower, and that's exactly why and I think the second approach is also finding hacks about it, like knowing, oh, this delivery is longer, maybe I can find it somewhere else, maybe taking a car, driving somewhere, picking up the part, maybe going to university, going to other people. You know where you can borrow something, where you can use something. Talking to experts is a super good way to learn much faster without investing. So, even though this is a reality that you are a bit slower as a hardware setup, I think there are many ways how you can speed up things, and we have endless stories of just meddling with some suppliers or getting some parts from different places. And also, I mean, I think one big thing is also you order a bit more in the beginning and then we come back to money and then you just kind of combine the delivery delays.

Michel Gagnon:

Have you seen some change in terms of interests from VCs? There's a lot of impact VCs there was a term that did not exist a few years ago. I remember you and I had a discussion with a banker in July. How was the investment landscape in terms of opportunities for you, specifically and more broadly, for climate technology?

Carla Glassl:

We started fundraising last year only right. So we were kind of born in a time where impact investing was already a big topic and we had inbound from both very general VCs and also very niche VCs, and for us it was always important that our investors are on the same page as us and then know what's happening or what is to be expected. Otherwise, I think you can run into a lot of trouble, and that's why we actually went for quite some specific niche investors. So our lead investors are also very scientifically driven and they do a lot of also, let's say, scientific supports that they really understand deep tech and what it means, and timelines. We also, for example, have a niche investor that only does carbon removal. There's a growing landscape of very specialized VCs and from my experience this can help a lot because people really understand the struggles we have. Also, the network is more helpful. In a way. It's also good signaling, of course, if you convince people that are really in the market because they really understand the market, you don't have to do a lot of introduction on that one. But there's also growing interest in generalists and I think maybe that's just my opinion right now, but it's probably a wise step because at the end of the day, we will have to have climate solutions and if the climate is going to break down, a lot of money from everyone will go into it. So if you have some investments and then write the challenges that they will succeed. It's very high, at least from a very high perspective. So I would say there's a lot of change. It's more a question on what you look out for within an investor. Is it mostly money? Is it network? Is it market knowledge? So I think there are different motivations to go for different investors.

Michel Gagnon:

And where are you now in terms of being ready to sell, like how much more runway you have in front of you? So that's my first question, because I'd like you to talk a bit more about the technology and maybe how it compares to others. But are you going to go live tomorrow or are you got two more years to go? How does that look like You're hitting?

Carla Glassl:

a nerve in my body. I'm an American patient person and I want the world to be on the market tomorrow. That's like my biggest dream, but that's not the case, and so we currently are still building our prototype and this is important to understand the process, so sort of like a little sneak peek on why we're different is really work with validated equipment that's available on the market, where we have existing supply chains, but in order to make them cost and energy efficient, we have to really tweak the process around it. So until the end of the year we want to build data generators how we call them, to really understand optimal operating parameters for the process, and then until end of next year we want to build a full, close photo types of machine that can run into end and, depending on the size it will turn out to be, we can actually put this on a location. So in theory, if we're quite optimistic, which I tend to be end up next year we can have a planned outside running and then to go really like commercialization, really out on the market, we want to build container units, so a bit of a bigger plant, and this we plan to have ready by 25, 26, something around that. Of course, also monitoring becomes more relevant, so there's also some legislation involved. So, for example, slow things down a bit. But let's say, at 28 we have a container running outside. That is energy and cost of the sheet. And this is the moment when we actually start scaling, because what we're going to do in parallel while we develop our container, is thinking about a production line of the container. So for us it's really or what we really believe is we can only reach a significant scale of carbon-oilful if we think about production line. And the production line brings two benefits. So the one benefit is you can already produce units that you can place, so you can create revenue, you can remove carbon. And the second benefit is because it's a modular production line, always like a car manufacturer, you can also change some different materials within the process. So while you basically have your production line running, you maybe find some ways to optimize it in terms of materials. You can very easy ship out a second generation, for example, so you can, in the long run, become like. You basically have a very fast learning cycle in terms of transferring like optimizations in the lab into the production line and the containers outside in the field. And that's a very big benefit compared to very large on gas plants that need years of planning, years of building and if something you want to change, you need another like big amount of years to do that and implement it. So that's roughly the timeline, so soon. Basically, we have one container, we plan to have a production line and then we can plop them out hourly, daily. Got to see how fast.

Michel Gagnon:

Forgive my ignorance and maybe it's because you work on this every day, but while you were explaining I was trying to visualize that container. And what does it do? But is this? One part of the container is kind of a vacuum, like you know, taking air out. And then in a previous interview I heard you say you have a magical machine that does its thing, and then the output it's still CO2 in gas form. How does that work?

Carla Glassl:

I'm happy to dive deeper into the process. That's true, we often use the term magical machine. It's just a bit easier from a concept, but I'm happy to dive into the magic of it. So we will start off Once you exactly started off. It's like we will have a big portion of fans or some of air in sucking modules in the container where we basically mix the air with our liquid solvent. So we have an actual solution where CO2 converts into bicarbonate and bicarbonate is basically the same as CO2, which is proper proton, like an age chemical formula which is proper on there basically. And with that reaction it becomes charged. And that's a very big difference in chemistry, because CO2, you can think about it as a load. We can't. It doesn't want to interact with anyone and wants to do its own thing and it's happy that way. And as soon as it turns into a charged ion, it really becomes interested and torn to other things and can be moved and it can be concentrated, for example. So the key step is in the second step, where this CO2 is converted to bicarbonate and then we have an electric field and a membrane basically electrochemistry where the ion is then transported across the membrane and this transportation is basically our concentration step, where this CO2 becomes very much concentrated. And the last step is probably the smallest unit is a little membrane contactor where basically liquid sees air again or vacuum in this case and this CO2 is released as gas.

Michel Gagnon:

If I understand correctly, you'll then be able to use the modularity and flexibility of your let's call it container approach to serve different clients and use cases. Is that the idea?

Carla Glassl:

Exactly so. We plan to go for containers and it's mostly to optimize cupex and opax actually, and the second benefit of containers is that we are also more flexible and where we want to place them. So if you think about storage, you want to have them properly larger. But if you think about utilization, we also talked to some people who would be interested in CO2 as a feedstock. They don't need like a real huge oil and gas plant volume CO2 per year, but they're fine with like 1000 tons, for example, and for them what you would is actually quite interesting or relevant to be placed on site of their production.

Michel Gagnon:

And what kind of a customer would that be? What kind of industries?

Carla Glassl:

There are actually quite several ones and so far we had a lot of inbound. But of course inbound is a difference between making assayables right, but the inbound is quite diverse. So we have everything from like diamond companies I want to have carbon negative diamonds which I think is quite exotic and also, for example, synthetic aviation fuels. They need actually carbon negative CO2. And this is only going to be available through carbon capture. So there's a big demand on that one. But also pretty chemical like methanol acetate. Also, if you utilize those chemicals, for example, in the bioplastic and a lot of different applications also in the beverage industry, in the food industry, for example, to seed your food, they actually pump CO2 in your sealed food to avoid it to oxidize in normal atmosphere. So those are all people or customers that meet high purity, non-compromise CO2 in a way, because if you go to full gas you have a lot of things you don't want to have, like sulfates for example. So that would be potential utilization customers.

Michel Gagnon:

Obviously, the prototype is the big thing. We're all looking forward to seeing it, the sooner the better. But what other obstacles or challenges do you have in front of you?

Carla Glassl:

I agree. So the prototype is definitely a big one. The second one for us is also to get energy and cost down, because we assume our prototype not to be energy and cost efficient. Yet it's a starting point, basically with, again, data components, so those components are not necessarily meant for our application. So definitely getting the cost and the energy curve down is a big challenge and this will require some development, both on the process side but mostly process side and otherwise. I think storage for carbon credits is actually a big challenge. That's also a little bit outside of our space. So we can, of course, talk to them, we can make aware of hey, we are suppliers, this is our needs in terms of energy or geography, but in the end we won't start in storage places. So we depend on third parties to do that and that's definitely a limitation down the line, especially if you talk about skin up in three to five years. If we only have two storage places, we can build as many containers as we want. It's gonna be a problem Basically, like bringing energy and cost down and then also storage solutions, at least for carbon credits. It's gonna be a bottleneck or a challenge, let's put it that way, and that's also one reason why we explore as well carbon realization, which is maybe a bit shorter term in terms of removal because it will be released at some point again, but at least it's out for now in the atmosphere.

Michel Gagnon:

If we take a broader perspective on climate, what's your outlook, your prediction? Because I've been involved in corporate social responsibility and sustainability throughout my career and I've seen a lot of different things, like the good, the bad and the ugly. There was not so long ago in Germany a bit of a scandal around carbon credits. I know it's a loaded question, but how do you see things? Use your crystal ball and tell me everything.

Carla Glassl:

I think a lot of questions are always great, right Like talking about the controversies, I think is where it gets interesting and of course, as you said, it's a crystal ball, so no one knows for sure what's gonna happen. But I think actually adding monetary value to CO2 is a very important step and I'm really really grateful that this step has happened, because I think one big issue of our current capitalistic system is that we take some items or resources without giving it a price, so we're kind of doing full accounting and I think that's one of the main issues we have. So I'm really excited that we have at least some sort of accounting system for CO2 or carbon in that sense. And I think it's absolutely normal if you have a big change or new system, that you have hiccups and challenges and different opinions in that whole journey. It would be actually scary, if not, because then probably something is swept under the carpet or people don't talk about it. So I think it's good. And this also includes some scandals, and I think there's also I'm trying to stay open-minded for people that have scandals, because I'm also thinking at least they're trying to do something. I mean, maybe it didn't work out and that should not be the case and that should be talked about and discussed. But at least they're trying something, and so, in my opinion, I think carbon removal, or specifically direct air capture, actually brings a lot of benefits in terms of credibility, because you have peer-received CO2 at the end that you can only use once, not, for example, like a tree may. With that you can I credit multiple times and it's a bit harder to track. And I think there's not a single perfect solution out there. I think all our solutions have their own pros and cons and I personally believe not a single solution is equipped to solve the full climate crisis. I think we need many different solutions and leverage the pros that each of those solutions bring. Maybe for direct air capture, it's very low land use, for example, but the content is high energy, right. So I don't think there's a silver bullet for any problem in life, and what I'm trying to do is learn from the scandals that I've seen, try to keep them in mind and try to balance reality and the risk of a scandal. For me personally, it's very important that, or my personal motivation to join Okaneo, to found Okaneo it's a room of CO2. So at some point, if this is not a given or a question. That's a problem for me, but that's all I can say, and I may be other people that were in a scandal had the same personal motivation to begin with, and then I don't know, things happen, so just try to be open minded about it and think about the goals and things can go wrong on the way and we should just all learn from it and try to avoid from happening again.

Michel Gagnon:

I don't want to take too much of your time, but I have one last question that I want to ask. You've talked about learning from your mistakes and experience. Well, tell me some of the mistakes that you've made. If you had to start again today, you said well, maybe I would take a different approach. Let's say I love the questions.

Carla Glassl:

I think I've done a lot of mistakes and I think I had this very good capability of kind of just taking the learning and taking away the bad feeling of frustration. So it's often hard for me to remember exactly what happened or gave me the learning, but I take the learning with me. So I need to think a little bit. But If I would restart, I think that's a bit easier for me to answer how I would do it if I would restart now. So what my co-founder and I did in the beginning a lot was talking to a lot of experts and getting an idea of the space, and I think that's definitely a good one. I would keep that, getting up to speed very fast and writing things sounds fracturing your thoughts. I think that's really good. I think what I would do differently is when we started doing lap work, I was really focused on getting a lot of my equipment, getting a lot of chemicals. I had too many things going on at the same time because I basically still had to do some strategy, had to talk to experts, but also setting up a lab, getting equipment, chemicals, thinking about the protocol, like there were a lot of things all of a sudden, and that's fine, but I think I will probably try to take a step back more often and just pick one at a time and say, okay, today I only do a protocol, for example. I think it's also something you can always only say in hindsight, to be honest, because at the moment everything feels a prior. So that's hard, but I guess that's what I would say Like, sometimes take a step back. If you think you don't have an overview or things have been too fast, then maybe that's true, and then give yourself maybe sometimes just an hour to think about it in a different perspective, or take a meditation break. And maybe one of the biggest learnings and I like that one because it's also controversial is that doing a bit more of the unintuitive things, and I think I just gave an example for that. So if you think you have to actually work faster to get everything done and you really have to hurry because otherwise it's not going to work, that's exactly when you should slow down, that's exactly when you should take a breath, think about it. Do I really have to do one of those things? What is important? What do I want to get out of it? What is the worst thing that can happen if this is not done? And this is kind of like what I do much more now, and sometimes I also do it, of course, on the weekend. I'm not trying to be the week, that's not time for it, but I do it and it's really helping massively, both with mental load but also the actual work capacity and the effectiveness of the work and results, and I think I would do this much more from the beginning. One other mistake for me is external partnerships. We try to collaborate quite a bit with other parties and I think there's a big benefit. We also have a lot of friendly supporters, advisors this is a real big strength of Hokehne, I would say. But I would only start a partnership like where money is involved and also substantial amount of money if it's 100% clear what the output should be and the challenge. I myself I think we saw quite some partnerships where this was roughly clear I mean, of course that's when we started it, but maybe not set in stone and 100% clear and I think this can just lead to a lot of unexpected results and different expectations. And if you want to save yourself some money, then I would postpone partnerships as long as possible. And as long as possible means only when you exactly know what has to be done and you know you have the exact right partner for this, and that can be sometimes hard because you think outsourcing a partner might make you faster. In my experience, not always. So I would be more cautious in spending substantial amounts for partnerships.

Michel Gagnon:

I said it was my last question, but I lied because you just triggered something else. Those partnerships that you're talking about, are they partners who came inbound, or are they partners that you actively looked out for?

Carla Glassl:

Those were actually partners we looked out for. Yeah, I know that's quite surprising. That's how I said, like we kind of knew what we wanted and we also knew those people can help us by partnering with us. But I think what we always underestimate is the timeline of a partnership. So if you really want to do a project together with an external party, it just needs time, and maybe we're sometimes a bit too ambitious with our timeline or we just want to move fast. I think it was in nature of a startup, right, and sometimes we were just faster than the partners actually at the end of the day, or we just reached a level that was good enough. Of course, a partnership would have been better, like more in-depth result, but it was good enough for us. So it was always hard to find partnerships that were defined and fruitful within our pigs and I think that's not to do with the partners we reached out to. I think it's just having a challenge of an early stage startup. That's difficult for partnerships.

Michel Gagnon:

I'm very happy that you were open to sharing all of your mistakes. Not everybody likes to do that, but this is where you usually learn the most. Before I let you go, is there anything that I did not ask or any parting words that you want to share with our audience?

Carla Glassl:

I would probably give like an advice. I also often tell myself I would not make a choice based on what other people advise you when you disagree with it. So I think it's very important to listen to advice and get input and ask for input and always challenge yourself. But if you get an advice and you feel like, ah, but there's something missing, then keep this mistrust and find out what's missing. And I think this will be often a game changer and it might be taking some time to find that out. But don't distrust yourself. If you have not 100% clear feeling about something, then dig it up and find it out, clarify and I think then you are really like, well set for the future. And exactly if you think, why not a hardware setup, why not a climate tech setup? I think it's a great time now to go into the space, need more and more solutions, more people in the field. So if anyone is curious about any learnings or maybe don't think too much about it just try and go and do it and then you'll see for yourself how it is to build a hardware climate tech setup.

Michel Gagnon:

Thank you so much, Karla, for your time. Wish you all the best. I hope to see the prototype not by the end of next year, but tomorrow. Let's stay in touch because I'm very interested in seeing how you can go well develop in the coming months and years.

Carla Glassl:

Absolutely. Thank you again for having me. It was a pleasure. We keep you posted. I'm trying my best to be faster, but I'm not very good at it.

Exploring Carbon Removal in Climate Tech
Understanding Carbon Removal
Ucaneo's company and tech develoment stage
VCs on Hardware Technology's Scaling Factors
What Ucaneo does with the CO2 it captures
How Carla builds a new technology and runs a business
The customers who can buy CO2 from Ucaneo
Transitioning from Academia to the Startup Life
How to Build a World-Cup Level Team When You're Developing a Brand New Technology
Hacks to run fast experiment for hardware startups
Is it easier to raise money for climate tech companies?
When Is Ucaneo Going Live
How to build a production line to drive revenue and allow for changes
How does Ucanoe's magic carbon removal machine work
The advantages of Ucaneo's container approach
What industries are interested in buying pure CO2?
The obstacles that still need to be overcome
Carla's outlook and the important step that could completely change the game
What Carla would do differently if she could start again
One of Carla's biggest learnings
The Mistake to Avoid When Working with Partners
Why you should dig deeper if your gut is telling you not to follow someone's advic