April 21, 2023

Episode 248: Jake Anderson, Co-Founder & CEO of Anderson Optimization

Jake Anderson is a co-founder and the CEO of Anderson Optimization. Prior to founding AO, he earned his BSB in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management with a minor in Information System Management from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

Prior to founding Anderson Optimization, Jake began his career in Fortune 500 corporate finance where he led a variety of cross-functional project teams and focused on strategy and business operations.

Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, and following sports.

Julian: Hey everyone. Thankyou so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we have JakeAnderson, co-founder and CEO of Anderson Optimization. Anderson Optimization isa software as a service company that helps renewable developers automate theirearly stage development and site selection processes.

Jake, I'm so excited to chat with you,not only because of your background and your experience, but also kind of whatyou're doing in this space that I think a lot of us, we're aware ofsustainability, we're aware of renewable. And, and we all kind of want thiswhole future of, of this, this zero carbon emissions, but it's not that simple.

And especially in, in an infrastructuraland a foundational level that, I think a lot of us are unaware of. So reallyexcited to see how your company is really attacking that and really kind ofautomating a lot of the processes that I'm sure we're either outdated orworking on legacy technologies that, need that kind of up level in terms of,technical equipment and, and ability and things like that.

So before we get into all that, whatwere you doing before you started the company?

Jake: Yeah, absolutely. It'skind of funny, I actually come from a background that has nothing to do withenergy whatsoever. So I previously worked in fortune 500 Corporate Finance. Iwas working at general Mills actually. So in the CPG sector doing financialwork across variety of areas, supply chain, finance, international, in avariety of other areas.

But yeah, always had wanted to start myown company. So then at a certain point down shift. Part-time there when I waskind of starting to figure out what I wanted to do and then ultimately, yeah.Left back in 2017 to go full-time on AO.

Julian: Yeah. It's sofascinating. Thinking about that transition, what brought you from finance torenewable energy?

Jake: Yeah, so it's kind ofa funny story. So I knew I was, wanted to start my own company. So I initiallywent into finance just with a thesis that any company. That you ultimatelydecide to start Yeah. Is gonna have finance. That's a key function. So I knew Iwanted that. So like I said, I initially went part-time and was working onstarting a company broadly in software, but actually on a different idea.

But around that same time, my cousin,who is now my business partner, he was finishing up his PhD in what is calledenergy system modeling, which is very technical jargon term, but basical. Hewas studying mathematical models to simulate the energy grading. He also wasgetting heavily recruited to industry to kind of bring that research to theindustry sector.

Yeah. And he and I got to talking as wewere both kind of wanting to do something as starting a company. And we said,well, I'm more of a business person. He's more of a technical person. Soinstead of us each trying to go it alone, why don't we team up? Yeah. Decidedto do something energy, and then we kind of took it.

Julian: And what was beingdone beforehand. Obviously, I, I don't think a lot of us know about the systemsbehind what it, what it means to kind of create Yeah, a, a highly, a efficientenergy kind of system. What was you being used in the incumbent and how much,just to dive into it, how, how much of the process was inefficient?

What was being done beforehand? Whatwere the practices?  

Jake: Absolutely. So it'skind of interesting. So even for us, like I said, we knew we wanted to dosomething broadly in energy, but we really didn't know where we wanted tostart. Cuz like the research, my cousin, business partner were doing at thetime, really advanced stuff that we knew was not gonna be reasonable to tacklefirst.

So we spent like a good year to year anda half just reaching out and hearing where problems. And what we kept hearingwas just how much of a pain, this what's called renewable sighting, orrenewable site selection is, and that's again, a technical term, but basicallywhat that means is if you're familiar with what a solar farm is mm-hmm.

Basically there's a whole lot of workthat goes into saying that's a good place to put a solar farm, and then weautomate that work. So a few of the things that you have to do, for example,is. You have to find a piece of land and you have to figure out who owns thatland. You then have to make sure it's nearby the energy grid so you canactually get that energy into the energy system.

And then two, on that piece of land, youbasically do a whole lot of analysis with different data sets to say, I can'tput my solar farm on a pond. I can't put it on under a forest. I can't put iton a hill, or it's gonna tip over. And there's all of these different factorsthat go into making a site viable are not viable.

Yeah. So literally the way this used tobe done in like sort of our aha moment if you will was we kept hearing thestory of people were just sending their people to random towns across Americaand they would rent a car and just drive under power lines and trace them outin Google Earth. And that was step one.

And then once they did that, then they'dhave to go to like another company to go purchase some parcel data. And parcelsare pieces of land. Yeah. And they'd have to go then purchase that and then seewhere those lines they traced, overlapped with land, and then figured out whoowned them. And then they'd have to go to all of these different websites.

So they'd have to go to one where thewetland data is one where the flood data was one, where the slope data was. Andthey'd have to manually put all of that together. And we were like, At the veryleast, we can just put all that data in one place and we'll definitely make itso you don't have to drive around.

Yeah, so that was the story we heard andthen we also knew it was a good starting point cuz once you find that site, youneed to make sure the energy can get into the grid. Yeah. And that's exactlywhat Eric, my co-founder cousin, business partner his PhD was in. So he said,oh great, we can get our foot in the door with this site selection and then wecan really advance that by this modeling research Herman's background.

So then, Yeah, kind of took itsindustry. Didn't really know a whole lot, so we just kept asking what's theproblem? And then we'd build a piece of our platform. Yeah. And we'd say, doesthis solve it? And they'd say, yes, but then we solved this problem and we'dbuild a fix for that. And then suddenly people said, yes, this fix is myproblems.

And then we were kind of off to theraces.  

Julian: It's incredible tothink about. Obviously there, there's some, obvious reasons why you put in, youwouldn't put solar in certain areas. You mentioned obviously like forest orpond. But I guess for, for the audience and, and for my own curiosity, what aresome less obvious reasons why.

Solar can't be built in certain areasthat we might not know of. That wouldn't come to you by just visiting the site,I guess also.  

Jake: Absolutely. So onethat was sort of like a big aha moment for me was just like the proximity tothe actual electricity grid. So you either have to basically have a propertythat's like right next to a power line.

Or next to what's called a substation.That's again technical term. But basically it's like these things where you,they're that are transferred, you can basically plug, think of it as a placeyou can plug that energy in and yeah, basically what you had to find, you haveto be within like a mile of one of those, or directly intersecting a powerline.

Cause it's really expensive apparentlyto build power lines. It's like in the scale of millions of dollars per mile.So like, wow. If you're more than a mile away from one of these substations ora power. Like your, your projects just not gonna be viable. So like thatproximity piece was really yeah, enlightening for me.

And then there's just like weird onestoo that I would've never thought about. Like, you can't be a certain radiusfrom an airport because of like homeland security restriction. You obviouslywe're actually trying to avoid buildings, even though you can do solar onbuilding rooftops. So it's just, there are all of these different quirks that Inever thought of.

Endangered species, like if you're in azone where there's endangered species, you can't build there. Yeah, there areall of these factors that go into it that are just used to be individual piecesof analysis you have to do, and then we basically put that all into one place.Yeah. And then automated it.

Julian: And, and also, go on,on top of the proximity piece. Will that kind of change along the way or whatyou said, obviously it's a huge kind of operation to feed into a power line oreven build a power line, but how, how, what is the, the process of mechanicsbehind just plugging in and, setting up your solar station, plugging in and,and then, cooperating to add more energy, but also, I'm sure there's somebenefits that come with it, but what, what's that process?

Jake: so that's like theother thing that was enlightening to me is how hard it is to actually makethis, so like when things happen in our system to get to the real world, it'slike a three to four year turnaround period. So right now, and even after allthe advancement we've helped and others have helped to bring this industry,it's still a really lengthy process.

And that's cuz of what's called theinterconnection queue. Mm-hmm. And basically what that means is, so everyone'sfamiliar with like what a utility is. You pay your utility bill, they do theelectric. Above utilities are what are called independent system operators. Theybasically are oversee all of the utilities and make sure the grid doesn't breakdown.

So if you wanna create a new powerplant, you basically have to file what's called an interconnection application,which says, I want to create a power plan with these specific tendencies, andthen, A mountain of checklists, approvals and analysis that have to happen thatliterally takes anywhere between two to four years to actually get through.

And there are hundreds and hundreds andhundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of projects across the queue. So rightnow, that's one of the biggest bottlenecks is. How do we get the queue to movefaster?  

Julian: Yeah. And is it, is itbecause they're kind of overseeing and, and going through the documentation?

I'm sure if, if, if they're not usingsomething like, your tool, they have to kind of take all that data, all thatinformation, compile it, and then, then this, I'm sure operator has to go andreview it and maybe even go through their own research to see if. Things willwork out. How? How can you shorten that amount of time?

Is it having all information in oneplace? Is it keeping track of it? Is it validating the sources of it? What aresome ways that you can, you can actually I impact the queue and move it morequickly?  

Jake: Yeah, absolutely. Sofor us right now, we're more focused on, cause there are different stages. Sothe queue itself, that's gonna need a pretty dramatic overhaul.

That's kind of on our long term roadmap.Once. But what we've done is taking the developer process, which is the otherside of it, like actually getting this project developed. Yeah. Because even onthat, there are basically different stages. You can just as soon as you have aproperty, cuz the way this works is our users go try to lease a piece of landand say, we'll pay you X dollars per year for the next 20 years.

If you let us lease your land to put asolar farm on it, and then there's next pace where then you actually have to,okay, you now have this piece of land and you know where you can build on it.Now I actually have to design where I'm gonna put panels. Is that gonna makeenough energy? What are my costs gonna be if I make something like that?

So there's this whole process of justkind of planning the project even before you really get into that Q piece. Sowhat we're trying to do is we're what we used to do, like for just even thissite selection step. Yeah. That alone, when you were doing it manually, would.Frankly several weeks. And now we've taken that and put it down.

And you can do that in like 20 minutes.Yeah. And citing is one step of the overall development value chain. And so aswe continue forward, we wanna keep bringing more and more into our ecosystem ofwhat we can do so that we can at least make the development process verystraightforward. And then once we automate that, then two, we can start,working towards going to the other side of the Coin of the operators and theutility to say, we can now vet projects on our side.

Now let's see if we can leverage some ofthose same capabilities to help you analyze the applications and the projectsthat you're receiving. Admittedly that's a little further, like the queue isits own its own beast, but there are a lot of, everyone in the industry fromutilities, ISOs, developers, service providers, everyone's kind of trying tofigure out.

If we're really gonna hit theserenewable energy targets that are set for the next 10, 20, 30 years mm-hmm. Thecurrent process needs to get faster. Yeah. At an overall level.  

Julian: Yeah, and it's sofascinating. It seems like, if you are able to do that, you can almost queue upa bunch of, potential projects and almost force the industry to innovate in, ina lot of ways.

If you are able to really expedite howmany projects are being submitted, then they have this huge, queue that theyhave to go through. And I'm sure that'll kind of force innovation and, and thatthat's a pretty cool system. I, I love when, when founders have, really simpleways to influence their market, even in a long term roadmap sense.

Jake: But, and actually it'sfunny you say that cause one of our customers recently is cuz like right now,like the queue bottlenecks, it's the whole thing is bottleneck. Yeah, yeah.It's, it's the talk of the industry. And one of our clients was joking with usthe other days, like, it's pretty funny that as soon as you guys came onto thescene, the queues became very clogged and overloaded because we've made it somuch easier and faster to move.

And again, to, it is not just us. Thereare other service providers helping the value chain. But yeah, right now I'd.More focus has been put into how can we make figuring out projects and planningthem better. So now the next piece is, okay, well we've got this too manyprojects that can actually be built.

So now we need to make sure that the,people have to accept or deny projects. Yeah. Can analyze them and ample.Timeframes.  

Julian: Yeah. And I'mwondering, as something sits in the queue, how much does the environment changein, in the, in the fact that maybe that project is no longer viable? And, andhow quickly can you understand that to, to, disregard that one and, and kind ofimplement hopefully a new project in that region?

How much change happens in the amount oftime something's sitting there?  

Jake: Yeah, I mean, thingschange all the time and most of our customers do. It's like, It. They're neverfiling a single application in hopes like they're working on projectsconstantly, like citing is the top of their sales funnel. Sure.

So they're trying to put as manyprojects in because to give you kind of the rough stat, like 80 or so percentof projects that file for interconnection never get built. So only, yeah. Sofour out of five projects that actually apply and get into the queue. Yeah.Never actually become a real thing. So in terms of dynamics, yeah.

Like every single day projects fall outof the queue and get added to the queue, and then you're having to kind of keepup to date on all of what's happening there. And sometimes you might try toapply for an application and realize. 47 projects ahead of you in the queue.Cuz right now it's very, it's traditionally been costly to, get some of thatanalysis.

There's efforts being done todemocratize some of that information. Sure. Something that we're thinking abouttoo in our, in our roadmap to Yeah. Help make it easier to decide, is thisproject actually gonna be viable? How do we analyze projects quicker so thatthe whole industry can kind of move forward.

Julian: Yeah. And diving backinto the technology and what you're working on, how, what is being used to,cite these areas or map these areas in particular? What, what type oftechnology is obviously being in person, not a good use of your time. It, it'sbetter to use technology to kind of get a little bit of more of a bird's eyeview.

But what, what's been especiallyinnovative about how you're doing it? Using some type of satellite technology?Or is it using existing kind of databases or all the above? What's particularly,innovative about the way you're, you're using information that we haveavailable as to us to, to help move these projects forward?

Jake: Yeah, great question.So, the area that we play is what is called GIS technology. And what that meansis basically like mapping data. So if you're familiar with, like Google Earth,for example. Yeah. And you know how you can turn on the link terrain, likeclick terrain, and then like the, the layer. All of that is gis.

So the way that this used to be done isbasically people would open their Google Earth or maybe like an arc. GIS is amore advanced version of that type of technology. And then they would go to allof these different websites where specific layers is what it's called, likethis specific type of mapping data.

So they'd pull a wetland layer? Yeah,they flood layers that would say where you had those issues. They wouldbasically just stack them on top of each other and Google Earth and then kindof. What properties didn't have issues. And so the big thing that we reallybrought to the industry is everyone has always thought of this really as a dataproblem.

It was like the more data you had, themore accurate you could get with your analysis, which would help you to findthe best, best sites, which mm-hmm is true to a certain degree. But whathappened is, frankly, there's no such thing as perfect data, just especiallypublic data. It's just not perfect. And so the big thing we found is like,sure, even if you have all that.

If you're manually scrolling around onGoogle Earth to have to like eyeball, like, oh, there's a good property. Yeah,there's a good property. Like that's still really inefficient. So the big thingthat we brought is like, no, this is not a data problem. It's a much more of aworkflow problem because where the real time investment and by extension costis going, is doing that manual eyeballing.

So we is said, we're gonna first bringall that data you need into one place. So we're gonna immediately get rid ofthat. But then what we're gonna do is write a whole. Proprietary software thattakes the work you are doing and just automates it to the click of a button. Soit used to be, like I said, you had to be within a mile of one of thosesubstation things for us.

Now you just type in one mile this sizeof parcels, hit go, and then we pull out those parcels rather than them havingto like draw a one mile radius and then eyeball which properties. And then likethe feature that we really are known for is what we call buildable area analysis,which says, Here are your properties that are close enough to the grid andthey're a big enough piece of land to make the project you need.

But now we need to strip out thewetlands, the floods, the high slope areas, and all of these other data sets.And again, instead of making them layer all of these things onto a map, theyjust type in their hazards, the things that they don't want, and hit go. Andthen we automat. Calculate how many acres of buildable area yeah, they have onany site.

And then we also create what are calledconstraint maps, which show, here's where you can build, here is where youcannot build. And then they go take that to their later stages. So again, webasically took the whole process and wrote code to automate it rather thanjust. Giving them a bunch of data to use.

Julian: Yeah. I don't know ifyou have it now, but do you have, have you built any predictive measures tosay, if you do build on this ideal parcel of land, what's the amount of outputyou'll see? What are the expenses or the operational costs, or is that kind ofindustry knowledge that you're looking to implement?

I'm just thinking about the wave thatYeah, there's so much that you bring to the table and, and there's so many waysthat you can do kind of predictive work that I'm, it just sounds like it hasn'tbeen done before.  

Jake: Yeah, great question.So you're hit the nail on the head. So that's exact. So right after sighting iswhat we do.

Then the next step is what is calledlike early stage layout and resource assessment resources. Basically, how muchenergy will this generate? So what they do is they make, they find thebuildable area in our site and then they take that to other softwares that havedone what we've done for sighting.

They've done it for array layout. Andthen they basically take that buildable area and then lay out a bunch ofpanels, and then they run these mathematical models that say, okay, based onthat design, you're gonna generate that much energy. And then they haveinternal, final financial models that say, for that much energy, we haveroughly this price.

Roughly it's gonna be this cost. Andthen that kind of helps guide. Okay, do we wanna take it to the late stage?Which is then you do like a. Detailed CAD design, which is like a really nittygritty find ring. Yeah. And again, there are some service providers there, sowe're on very friendly terms with do that and have some kind of partnerships inthat space.

And as we continue to grow, we're gonnabe continuing to formalize that so that we can, Offer more and more of thevalue chain automated in one place as possible.

Julian: Yeah. Well, how many Idon't know if you have a number for, this is speculation, but how many,buildable areas do we have available to us that, that are being not beingutilized and, and what is the optimum kind of building, envi or sidingenvironment that you'll see kind of selected for these projects?

Jake: Yeah, great question.So in terms of like total buildable acres across the us, like definitely don'thave a stack. But yeah, like don't really have a stack. We haven't reallyprocessed the whole country. But in terms of these projects, how much you needis, there's a wide range of how big these projects are.

Like the lowest type of project we workwith is what's called, five megawatts. Mm-hmm. Which is still quite a bit ofenergy cuz the projects we work. The ones on the ground, not like a rooftop. Sothey're pretty big. And so for that, you need about 25 buildable acres. Yeah.But we have companies that will do 500 megawatt projects for that, you're gonnaneed 2,500 to like 3000 acres, give or take.

So like very large scale. Yeah. So someof the sites that our users are looking for can be, several square miles andthen we analyze that for them. Basical.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. And I knowobvious this might be an obvious question, but why, why, why should we care somuch about it? Why should we, why is it so necessary to start kind of buildingthese solar?

I think some, someone mentioned likesolar farms. I don't know how it's, actually industry talk. How it, how it'show it's named, but why is it so imperative that we start building these, areasand not relying on other types of energy in particular?  

Jake: Yeah, absolutely. Sothere's like a few reasons.

So one is just the demand for energyinto the future as populations continue to grow is increasing. Yeah. So nomatter what, there is more demand for energy. So you have to figure out how tosolve it. And one of the biggest misconceptions these days about renewableenergy is, Re solar is the cheapest form of energy at this point.

Even unsubsidized, I think historicallyeveryone has this idea where it's like, oh, it's only because of this like gogreen effect, and it's more expensive, and that's just not the case anymore,right? Solar is cheaper. So it's like if we need to generate more en energy tojust meet the overall demand of society, the cheapest way to do that is withsolar and renewable technologies.

It, it is not coal, it is not legacy.Manner. So even aside from any of the environmental benefits, which I'll getinto a second, it's just good business. Yeah. For the utilities, that's athing. You'll go to conferences and these heads of utilities will come up andthey're like, you hear in the news, all of these people trying to say like,coal's coming back.

They're like, coal is really expensive.It is way more expensive than solar. Yeah. So regardless of any of thepolitical or the go green effect, it's just better business for the renewables.So there's that whole factor. But then there is of course, At the end of theday, it's, pretty proven science that global warming and climate change is areal thing.

A one of the biggest key drivers is theoverall energy system. Sure. So in order to offset that effect, a large portionof our energy generation in the future is going to have to be from renewables.So, for example, the globally, if we really wanna hit the Paris Accords or theParis Agreements by 2050, I think it.

50 terawatts, which is a, withoutknowing energy, it's a massive amount of energy is gonna be necessary to likehit that kind of greenhouse emission Yeah. Offset that they're trying to getto. Yeah. So again, there's both just a purely economic, we need to create theenergy. This is the cheapest and most effective way to do it.

But then there's the second effect of ifwe do that, it also is gonna be far better for the overall planet and society.Yeah. Yeah. And again, that's not even baking in the soft costs of the healthissues that traditional energy systems create. Yeah. They're trade offs becauseyou can't just deploy a ton of renewables and that's, there are still things wecan get into it of, what hold renewables back that are being worked on.

So, not to say this is an overnightthing, but Sure.  

Julian: Yeah. And how, andhow, in terms of infrastructure, how much is that being kind of changed inregard to a lot of these kind of I don't know if power plants, substations are,from. Probably what, I don't know how long ago they were built, but Long time.

Long time, right. And so long time. Andwhat kind of innovation are you seeing from an infrastructure layer that'sgonna allow maybe even the, the benefit to, plugging into a system cheaper oryou can go further out from a radius and access technology. Do you see a lot ofthat, change happening and, and when it will get to a point where it's.

Even that much more accessible to startpushing these projects forward because I'm, I'm sure a big bottleneck is alsocan this thing even work with the station that we have available to it?  

Jake: Right. Exactly. Soyeah, you hit the nail on the head and what you're describing is right now justan energy. There is an overall push of what they're calling grid modernization.

Yeah. Because yeah, the infrastructurehas been around for like over a hundred years and we tap into the technology ofthe electricity grid every day and don't really think about it, but it's kindof the same infrastructure over the past a hundred hundred 50 years. And whileenergy is independent, it is somewhat government touching just because of likethe utility nature that are kind of like hybrid, private, but also publicservices.

It's kind of like government whereenergy is just notoriously like 20 to 25 years behind everywhere else. So likeall of the technolog, technological innovation that we've seen in basicallyevery other industry and from the early aughts to now is really just startingto happen over the fast five, 10 years in energy.

So you're seeing things across theboard. So like smart Grid technology is a common one that's getting a lot ofplay these days, which is being able to better manage your at home energyusage. How do you make sure. Utilities, how can they track the power goingthrough wires and do real-time energy pricing so that it's not so static.

So there's a ton of technology on theactual provider side. Again, actually deploying all of this energy. Yeah,there's lots of services coming in for that. And then too, there's this lastpiece that's really coming is how do the overall operators and utilities startto manage a much more dynamic and Variable energy system.

And to do that you really. Needstechnology. So yeah, you're seeing it really across all ends to really level upthe grid and bring it to where it needs to be to continue into the future.  

Julian: Yeah. Tell us a littlebit, obviously wanting to shift gears back to, the technology and the companywhat's been exciting about the traction you've seen thus far, and what are youparticularly excited about in terms of the next milestones you're looking toto, to land at Anderson Optimization?

Jake: Yeah, absolutely. Sofor me, one of the things that's been fun is that like at this point we're kindof seen as the leader at what we do. We're generally seen as like the de factosite selection software. And for us, we're one of the rare software companiesin the modern era.

Like we bootstrapped it, we did it theold fashioned waves, we built the whole company through sales. And neither mypartner nor myself come from any sort of energy or renewal background. So, it'sdefinitely been really rewarding. See the efforts that we paid to basicallylisten to the industry of what their problems were.

Yeah. And really build directly to thoseneeds really resonate where we really had built a pretty reputable clientportfolio and we're really working with, yeah. Many, if not most of the majorplayers. So we're getting insights from the experts in the industry to say,Hey, where should we really go? So, I think that's been, for us to really be,become seen as sort of the best practice for how this work is done has beenreally.

You know where we're going in thefuture. What we're really excited about is when you bootstrap things, you don'thave the millions of dollars early on to just like throw at problems the wayyou do if you go raise a bunch of venture capital money. So for us, what we'rereally excited about is we are bigger now.

Our team, we're like, we're pushing 40people or so. And we're hiring pretty aggressively right now. We're at thestage now, we're able to play big, if you will, a little bit more, and thesethings that we've been kind of kicking the can down the road and saying, man,can't wait till we can go do that.

We're really starting to be able to dothat. Where our focus is right now is the way what we did for sighting andtaking what used to be a lot of steps and putting into one. We're really nowstarting to expand into just true end time development. Cuz like I said, citingis one step of a bigger value chain the same way.

What we now call sighting used to be fiveor six steps in its own value chain. So we're continuing to kind of take thesesteps and then work them up into, a single platform where our users can managetheir whole business. The way they tell it to us is, we want the one stop shop.

Yeah. And we really at scale, that'skind of what we're driving towards.  

Julian: Yeah. And if you thinkabout whether it's external or internal, what are some of the biggest risksthat Anderson Optimization faces today?  

Jake: Yeah, absolutely. So,I mean, I think there's a few things.

The way that we think about it is, onceyou've become a leader of sorts, people are definitely looking at what you'redoing and trying to find ways to take you off that pedestal, for lack of abetter term. So definitely since we've been on the scene, like there's morecompetition today than there has been in the past.

So that's something we spend a lot oftime thinking about. And also too, Like I said, we started, we kind of saw thisneed, we saw this pain point. We've really focused the past five years, fouryears on solving for that pain point. And now we're starting to get into newpain points. Yeah. And new problems that are not directly in this purview wehad from day one.

So there's also two. You have to besmart about what problems you try to solve and what problems you don't. A lotof companies try to do too much too soon, and they. Trip over themselves. So,we're, it's, we're trying to be very cognizant of making sure we're setting upa roadmap that continues to add value for our users, but also make sure thatwe're able to service them to the quality that we want.

Because Yeah. Yeah. The more companiesyou get working with you, the more input you have of like, oh, you guys shoulddo this, this, this, or this. Sure. And then it's on us to figure out what isthe right decision? Where do we have a right to. Where don't we? Yeah. Andyeah. Managing those expectations.  

Julian: Yeah. If everythinggoes well, what's the long-term vision?  

Jake: Yeah. Like I said, forus, like we really wanna get to a point where we're kind of seen as like thedefacto renewable development platform, so that companies can really out of thebox, automate this process as much as possible and really in a more, ah, what'sthe right word, in a more intangible.

We want to have a direct impact onleading the energy transition. We pretty strongly believe it's necessary, yeah.For society to adopt a more renewable and modern energy system to really lastinto the future. And our goal is to basically be a very direct impact on makingthat happen. So that's kind of the overall vision type of goal.

But how we do that is by making.Renewable energy and what we've really focused on solar to date, frankly, ourtechnologies apply to things like EV charging, yeah. Battery, storage, wind,all of these other technologies. And we kind of wanna be a service providerthat helps to. Be a foundation for how that work actually gets done.

Julian: Yeah, I love that. AndI love this next section, I call it my founder faq. So I'm gonna hit you withsome rapid fire questions and we'll see what we get. Sounds great. Awesome. Ialways like to open it up with this one. What's particularly hard about yourjob? Day to day?  

Jake: Particularly hardpart. Yep. Ooh, that's a good que.

I think for me it is balancing meetingtime versus desk work time. I think that's one of the biggest things for me as we'vegotten bigger is, all of a sudden we do have a team. 40 some people, and sincewe were bootstrapped where early on in our time, like I was very much on theground floor and on the ground doing a lot of work.

Whereas, I'm now transitioning where my calendaris notoriously very full with meetings. But I also still am in pretty directlyinvolved with projects. So I'm really working to, work through my team versus,naturally being like, oh yeah, I need to go get this task done. That's just nolonger feasible.

So that time management perspective hasdefinitely become a trickier part to manage.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Beingthat, you, you obviously as you're kind of innovating and being an innovator inthis space and kind of dealing with competitors, I know some founders, don'tthink about competitors.

Some do, some obsessed, some, are, arejust building towards their customer goals. How do you kind of manage theexpectations against kind of competition and, and what they're building? Howmuch do you kind of get lost in, into learning more about the competition andhow much are you able to just maintain the focus and the direction of thecompany with that process like.  

Jake: Absolutely. So interms of like competition management, every company has their own roadmaps andI think one of the things that I've found is, Once you're in an industry andyou're kind of in there, you just kind of hear through the grapevine. Yeah.Casually, what different companies are up to. So, we're still at a scale likewhere we're not necessarily doing any sort of like detailed advanced analyticsof trying to like customer attract, but just like through the grapevine of whenwe are in a sales conversation, we talked to a customer, we have a pretty goodsense of where we win, how our customers win things of that nature.

So I'd. It's really taking that, but interms of how you stay focused, it, it's a tricky problem because yeah, at anygiven time, even if it's not Com competitor, there's, you can always focus ondoubling down on what you already do. Well, Advancing into new areas, whichcould be revenue drivers.

Mm-hmm. Looking at areas you'redeficient to kind of defend. And all of them have their pros and cons and sothat's really where product management strategy comes in. And so, I think it'sone of the things we've found is it's very critical to invest into that part ofyour business so that as you do grow, you're continuing to put thought intowhat you build next.

I think that's been an evolution for us.Since we started the bootstrapped way, we had to find product market fit fromday one. So we, the way we did it is very hands on. We just talked tocompanies, said, what's a pain? Okay, cool. How would we solve that? And thenthey would tell us, and then we'd go build that, right?

So to this day, we still try to reallylet that be our Northstar, like, what are our users telling us? Yeah. If we'reconsistently hearing a common theme, let's focus on that and then really drivetowards it. And then, there's all sorts of analysis and KPIs and things you canadd to it. But no, we've always said, and we kind of try to maintain it.

Everything we've ever built is becauseof user feedback.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I, I liketo ask this question. When you think about kind of where you spend your timeand, and and, and what you've learned over the years, what's something thatyou're good at now as a founder that you wish you were better at early on?

Jake: Ooh, that's a goodone. Let's see. I think one of the things that I've gotten better about isunderstanding the nature of running something. Mm-hmm. I think early on any onething that would happen, positive or negative had a very intense emotionalreaction. Sure. Yeah. And I think as you. And I think too, earlier on in ourlife cycle, I always sort of had this thought that once we hit a certain stagewhere we weren't just gonna like collapse if the company, did one thing wrong.

Cuz when you're bootstrapped inparticular, it's like early on if one thing goes wrong significantly, like itcould be game over. Yeah. So I always sort of assumed the stress level once wegot bigger where that wasn't the. The stress level would go away. But what I'vesort of found is that like, no, like when you're a founder and you're in kindof the leadership chair, your whole job is to basically deal with and overcomethe challenges.

Yeah. Your whole job is to deal with thehard parts in my mind. So I think that understanding of what the job reallymeant, I always sort of thought the work itself was gonna be the hard part. Butwhat I realized, I was like, no, like I was doing harder work, right. In myfinancial analysis job where I was creating very complex models that wouldsimulate financial forecasts and do things like that was harder in the way thatcalculus class is hard in high school.

Sure. The work I'm doing right now isit's mostly conversations, emails, reports, things like that, that like anyonecould do those tasks. But the part that's much harder is, yeah, that mentalburden of. We have a commitment to our people to make sure that the companykeeps growing. We have a commitment to our users to keep making sure that we'resolving their problems.

And so, yeah, the pressure of all ofthat is inherently at the end of the day on you as the founder and the leaderof the company. And so I think early on, realizing how much of a mental strainthat is is something that I definit. Grown more of a thick skin towards.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. A lot offounders talk about just either right In the wave one founder said, kind ofreally ingesting, the, the emotions that come with it and, and transmuting itinto something else that's maybe more productive, more constructive.

But yeah, it, it's pretty much justlike, An emotional game and, and you really kinda have to ride the wave. Butbut you know, in that sense, it really opens up a lot of opportunity, which isso exciting to see. I always like to ask this question because I love howfounders in, extract knowledge from anything that they ingest.

Whether it's early in your career ornot, what books or people have influenced or impacted you the most?  

Jake: Ooh, that's a goodone. So I would say in. It's tough cuz some of the people are, names thatpeople listening to this won't do. But I'd say early on in our life cycle likeI said, the whole way we got this company started was we would just reach outto companies.

Say, Hey, we have this unique technicalskill set. We're trying to start a software company. What problems do you have?And I'd say there are a handful of people and companies through the industrythat are now users and people that I've known for years that. Really did a goodjob of being like, Hey, here is the exact problem that we're looking to solveand we don't know how to do it.

And really sat down with us and we'venow been working with those customers for years to give one. I guess alsospecific one or two specific ones I would say that have kind of beeninfluential in my path is so, in college, in addition to, one of my majors wasfinance, but like I said, I also wanted entrepreneurship.

So I did a double major finance and. Andone of my entrepreneurship professors Alan fine, his whole class, basically hewould just bring in founders and they would all kind of tell their story. Andone of the big thing, like the whole thesis of his class was like, you don'thave to create Google to be a founder.

I think a lot of people that wanna starttheir own company, They get so caught up in like founder Twitter that theythink like any idea to be a viable company has to be like the next Yeah.Google, whatever, pick a company. Yeah. They think it has to be this big thing.And he would talk to, like, I remember he had this one story about a guy thathe taught who started like, A printer paper company during the class as kind ofa joke.

And this was in the nineties and he madelike 2 million bucks and then never went and got a job and he just moved toHawaii cuz it was the nineties and he could live on 2 million bucks. So, thatreally gave me this like, oh, it is doable even if you don't have like, thenext revolutionary thing.

Yeah. And then I think once I was intofull-time corporate life I never met this person. The CMO of General Mills atthe time I remember he was giving like a town hall presentation. Yeah. And oneof the slides was like, it was, it just said like, if you follow the pathyou're on, you're probably gonna get where you're going.

That's tough. Yeah. Good line. Right.And I was kinda like, well, like I work at this corporation, I kind of knowwhat their, stepping stone ladder looks like. I kind of know how I'm doing hereat the company, so, If I follow this, like I kind of know where I'm ultimatelygoing and I knew I wanted to start a company and I knew that that path was notthere.

So, it was pretty shortly thereafterthat con, like that presentation that I made the active effort and went to myboss and was like, I want to go to part-time to try to start a company. Soyeah, that is one presentation I do always look back on fondly of. Reallykicking me into gear to actually make an active push towards this.

Julian: Yeah. I love That's a,that's a great, yeah, I, that's a great soundbite. I'm gonna, I'm gonnadefinitely steal that from you.  

Jake: Yeah, it's a goodline. It still sticks with me. I always like joke because I'm like, I feel likewhen founders tell their stories, they do have those like cheesy moments.

And it's one of those things in themoment, I never really thought of it as a thing, but now when I look back, itis like this interesting inflection point where I, I still remember like,Moment. It never sounds that clean. Yeah. When it happens though, I can't sayat the moment, I'm like, oh, this is this like, life-changing thing.

Right? Cause I used to always listen toa podcast like this too, being like, when it sounds very, yeah. Contrived. Butyeah, when you look back it, it still stands out in my mind.  

Julian: Yeah. And a lot ofthose stories are, it's like the right timing and the right instance and theright messaging.

It might, but it's just the simplicityin, in maybe explaining how you're feeling or maybe like, I was talking tosomebody the other day and it was just like the valid. Things that you alreadykind of assumed or predicted or hypothesized, it almost gets really capturedinto someone else really kind of either simplistically stating it or, oracknowledging it, by Right, right.

Totally. Yeah. I know we're coming tothe end of the show here, so Jake, I would love to make sure we didn't leaveanything on the table last little bit. Is is there any question I didn't askyou that I should have or anything that you wanted to talk about that weweren't able to get a chance to?

Anything that we left on the table here?  

Jake: Yeah. Honestly, Ithink you did a great job. No, I think you covered most of the things. Yeah,always loved talking energy kind of expressing what's going on in the energyworld since it is kind of a, a niche. Niche topic. I'd say, if anyone's lookingfor places to learn more about the renewable energy there are lots of goodpublications out there.

Solar Power World is a very popular one.North American Clean Energy. So lots of free resource materials for anyonewho's looking to just read more about renewables.  

Julian: Amazing. And where canwe learn more about you? Where can we support you? Give us the audience, allyour plugs, give us your LinkedIns, your websites, your Twitters.

Where can we find and connect with youand maybe even talk more about energy and renewables?  

Jake: Yeah, absolutely. Sowe our website is gonna definitely be the best place, andersonoptimization.com.LinkedIn is probably the social media platform that I am the most active on. Soyou can find me at linkedin.com/jake, B as in boy, Anderson 3 21.

Is my direct handle on LinkedIn. Butyeah, if you just Google Anderson Optimization, it should pretty much bringyou. Places where you can kind of find me and or the company. We have a fullblog on there too, if you wanna read more of the nitty gritty in this wholerealm. We've got a bunch of posts and articles and, are really trying to doubledown on content right now, so we're excited about some content options thatwe've got here coming down the pipeline.

Julian: Amazing. Jake, I'llshare, I'll, I'll share the RSS feed with everyone in the audience so we canall keep up to date, but it's been amazing chatting with you, not only learningabout your experience, but really how you got into the space and what's particularlyinnovative about what you're running and how you.

Kind of shortening the amount of time toget these projects up and running and, and potentially the future. And, andcreating this whole workflow system that allows these projects to really havean impact to us, individually from the energy that we're receiving. And, and,as, as, as a, whether it's a nation or company or economy, whatever it is, andhow much that positively will effective.

So ultimately, I'm a fan. I hope ouraudience is a fan as well. And we really appreciate you joining us on Behind,Company, Lines, and thank you again for being on the show.  

Jake: Absolutely no. Thankyou so much, Julian, for having me. Really enjoyed the conversation today andyeah, looking forward to talking soon.

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