April 5, 2024

Hydrogen Engines Changing the World - Gary Ong | BCL #314

Gary Ong is the Founder & CEO of Celadyne Technologies, a decarbonization and hydrogen solution company transforming industrial practices. Its proton exchange membrane technology enables superior durability for fuel cells, making them viable drop-in diesel engine replacements. The technology also decreases the cost of green hydrogen production so that it can be used as fuel. In short, Celadyne is tackling the ‘chicken or egg’ problem of hydrogen head-on with materials technology leveraged by partnerships with automotive companies to create a high-value use case for hydrogen while developing ultra-efficient electrolyzers with utility customers for green hydrogen production. Celadyne’s goal is to unlock the full potential of hydrogen to fully decarbonize transportation and manufacturing.

Gary: The main thingabout science that you have to prove your creativity.

When people think about science people tend to think of knownsolutions. If you actually think about what science is it's actuallytautological that it's not all solutions that are known. Otherwise, there'll beno scientific revolutions already.

The company basically works on technologies that will allow youto make durable trucking, but completely green. And at the same time make itpossible to make the fuels for those trucking. The molecule we're trying toenable as fuel is this thing called hydrogen.

One of the hardest part as a scientist turned entrepreneur isletting go. You have to start trusting your team to do things on your behalf.

Julian: I'm reallyexcited to chat with you in particular because we don't have a lot of moreresearch heavy companies on the podcast and products like that.

But one thing you mentioned about just the way you think aboutscience and research. It's actually a way to explore creativity and test yourcreativity. I heard you say this in another interview but I'm curious to hearyou expand on that idea. What does that relationship look like in, in yourperspective?

Gary: I think thatwhen, when people think about science people tend to think of known solutions.Yeah, I can, I can solve this equation or it's just something that should beknown, right? All science problems are solvable, right? If you actually thinkabout what science is at the edge, you it's actually tautological that it's notall solutions that are known.

Otherwise, there'll be, no scientific revolutions already,right? So I think you've heard me spoken about it, I think in the context ofsay water. So I'll use the same explanation again today, right? If you thinkabout how we discovered the structure of water, right? Effectively, if I gaveyou a cup of water right now and you looked at it, right?

Would you ever envision, you're like, you know what? WouldActually, I bet the water is actually this thing that is one oxygen, twohydrogens, and it's not actually even touching each other and it's actuallycolliding with each other at a particular time and then they hit themselves andsomehow get this amorphous blob and somehow everything stays together and itmanifests as this physical thing that we now call water.

Okay, no, if you, if you told anyone that no one would believeyou. They'll think you're crazy. But. It takes some amount of imagination foryou to actually come up with that. But I think the thing that people forget isthat the difference between science and pure creativity is that it takescreativity for you to come up with that visualization.

And then it takes the scientific method, which is actually themain thing about science that you have to prove your creativity. Yeah. It's onething to be like the world. It's like this. It's another thing to say, theworld's like this, here's the experiment, and go, I told you, I'm right. It'sas crazy as it sounds, I'm right.

Julian: And when youthink about the scientific method and companies, or even, industries likeyours, which are emerging technologies, How well are they, or how much testingare they doing? When we think about it, is it like one to two to three tests?Or is it a plethora of tests in a lab that we just don't see the mechanicsbehind?

What does that actually look like when, from the outside butactually inside looking out?

Gary: It's a lot. Soevery data point basically has to be repeated at least triplicates. More likefive samples, or five to ten per data point. So it's a lot of data, right?Because at the end of the day, until automation becomes like a fully full blownthing, there's always human error, right?

And you can never be sure if it's a result, it's just, Gary hasgood hands. The classic example, in science is always, I do an experiment andit works perfectly and then my co worker does it and they're like, it doesn'twork. And you're like what is it? Gary and his magic hands, like that doesn'tmake any sense.

So then you have to basically repeat the experiment. So it'snot just. How much you have to do testing again just by Gary, it's how muchtesting is done by Gary and then by two other three people and then be like,okay, good. If everyone can do this experiment and everyone can repeat thistruth or this experiment this results, then you have the beginnings ofbasically scientific discoveries, right?

And that's why scientific discoveries are so hard to come by.Because I think a lot of people also. You ever see those I'll digress a littlebit. You ever see those news stories where they go, we have now found, evidencethat maybe, wine would improve your sex life or something like that, right?

Something very, very,yeah. And then they'll cite this one paper, right? That, that's here's thedata, right? Most scientists recognize they're like, you have one paper on it,right? But it's going to take another like a thousand before this thing becomesa scientific truth.

There's a very difference between, a hypothesis and, this mighthave credibility to saying no, this is how reality works, right? There'sactually very few theories in the world. And I think one of the beauties ofgoing to school for science, when you get a physics degree and stuff, you'retaught all those theories and you're taught all those realities of life.

Yeah. I would think that, looking back at my own education, itwould have been really nice if someone told me like, oh, yeah, by the way, hereare all the things we know about the world. Oh, and here are all the things wehave no idea. And that would have been very useful, right? Because it takessome of the certainty out of it.

And then when it comes time for you to actually go further intoscience, right? It actually helps to unlock your creativity, because you haveto remember too, right? A lot of times in scientific theories, you always thinkyou're right, and then 50 years later, someone comes in and goes, Actually,yeah, that wasn't exactly what it is.

And you're like, oh, damn it. I thought I was right for 50years.

Julian: Yeah. It'sinteresting with a company like yours because, how your technology develops iscounterintuitive to company building as it's been popularized, right? Yeah.Grow as fast as I can, acquire customers, gain revenue, only raise money forthings that will bring you more revenue, right?

More, more revenue streams. Describe the relationship now that,companies like yours have with funding and how it's really changed, theemerging technology space and discovering these new ways to find products thatwill have a long term effect, and obviously this bleeds into what Celadyne doesand what your technology is about.

Gary: Yeah. So inorder to give you how all those things play together, I feel like I have totell you what the company does. So let's start there. So the company basicallyworks on technologies that will allow you to make durable trucking, butcompletely green. And at the same time make it possible to make the fuels forthose trucking.

So the molecule we're trying to enable as fuel is this thingcalled hydrogen. Not crazy, right? That the sun is fueled by it, but you can'tactually find hydrogen in On Earth, you have to make it by splitting water,right? And this thing that you use to turn hydrogen into energy is this thingcalled a fuel cell, right?

I think Elon Musk infamously called it a full cell, right? Andthen this thing that you use to convert water to hydrogen is this thing calledan electrolyzer. And the process is called electrolysis. It was invented almost200 years ago, right? The only problem with these devices is that they werenever really very efficient.

And our first attempt at making them workable and usable wasactually when NASA did it. So one of the earliest space shuttles and so forthwere actually using hydrogen technologies. Yes. So they actually Googled Aspropulsion? For life support, for creating electricity. Really? Wow. Becauseback in the day there was no lithium ion batteries.

So you can't use lead acid batteries or anything like your dualcell batteries in space. There's just not enough power. So they didn't have achoice. So they used fuel cells and electrolyzers. The space station today,they still use electrolyzers to make oxygen so that people can breathe.

Yeah, so it's really old technology. The only problem is, it'snot good enough if you try to use it on Earth. So unless, it's like a lifesaving thing, like the space station, or like you're trying to go to the moon,and it's, cost doesn't matter. Get the mission done type situations, you won'tuse this technology, right?

So what we came up with, where we're like, okay, thefundamentals were there. The science of how these devices work were there. Butthere were quite a few problems. bottlenecks that you still had to solve beforeyou can actually make these technologies fully viable, right? With a fieldstarted electrolyzer, a lot of its performance actually is dictated by one ortwo things in it.

Everything else is almost secondary. As with life, there'salways that one or two things that affect 80 percent of the outcome and theneverything else you're kind of like, It's important, but really I should focuson these things, right? And there was this thing, it's called a material, it'scalled the proton exchange membrane, right?

Scientists are not very good at naming things, so whenever yougo, What does the proton exchange membrane does? I'll tell you, it exchangesprotons. You're like, oh wow, wow, that's like the worst answer possible, butit is true, it exchanges protons, right? So DuPont invented this for NASA inthe 70s to enable the space shuttle missions.

And then we haven't improved on it since. Which sounds crazy.Why do you think that is? We've tried. We've spent billions of dollars trying.Yeah. So it's not it's not from a lack of effort. Every year we've tried 70s,80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010. We tried. And I guess was one of the ones who triedbasically in my PhD.

The only difference was, occasionally, as you keep trying yourattempts are studded with these successes. So it happened once in the 2000s,and that one formed a company on high temperature fuel cells. And now I'd liketo think that, it happened again. And that's why Celadyne came into existence,right?

I would love to take credit and be like, Oh my god, Garyinvented this amazing thing. That's whatever you want to call it, but the truthof these companies, Seldon and I included in this category, is that it's luck,you're standing on the shoulder of giants, enough people have made enoughprogress, and then suddenly All of it came together and you're like, okay, nowyou have this kind of quantum of improvement that is a big enough improvementthat it makes sense to commercialize and innovate on and form into a companybecause it would help improve the fields.

Because if you go around right now in my field, for instanceand you told people like, hey, If you could make this material work, will itimprove these devices? Then the answer is always a unanimous yes, it will. Howyou make these materials work, that's the billion dollar question, right? Noone knows, right?

So that's a really long winded answer to to your question,right? So once you have these materials going, right? I've spent my PhDbuilding it and everything. Now I want to turn it into a company. Why is thatdifferent from like the other kind of ideas of I'm gonna just, form a companyand kind of assemble a team of engineers or coders and stuff and build acompany, right?

The difference is that with my field, with a hard tech startupusually those inventions are effectively, people have spent billions of dollarsin the research of it. The counter argument is, if you were to, if you takethe, if you wanted to build a company at Celadyne, right? And you say, I'm justgoing to engineer my way out of it.

It's possible, but you might have to spend a billion dollars,plus all those engineers over 20 years, and then maybe you would have the samesolution. It's very complicated.

Julian: Rather thangoing your approach, which is research first, leading into a technology.

Gary: Yeah. If therewas some other way to predict, for instance like, in order to invent this thingand solve this scientific problem, I need to spend 20 billion dollars and 10years.

If there was a way to know that, then by all means, do it. Butto my knowledge so far, that's close to impossible to predict, and because ofthat, you end up having to do the fundamental science first, and figuring outall the research, and once the research is ready, then you can do thecommercial phase, which is to invent the product and then commercialize theproduct.

Julian: And what madeyou go that direction versus continue researching in this domain further andfurther trying to advance, and, and maybe spend, years doing it, what made youthink, okay, I think right now is the time to commercialize it and, and, andmake it more applicable is because you mentioned it, I think that it would leadto the industry growing.

So I'm curious on how, commercializing it now versus continuingto advance the technology, until it's, I don't know, better and better.

Gary: Yeah. I thinkof it as, there were two pieces of it, right? The first one is an ethicalmorality piece, a little bit philosophical. The second one is a commercialpiece.

So I'll start with the ethics of it. So let me tell you a storyand so that you can understand my position, right? Imagine, so you're Julian,right? And you've worked on a field, okay? And you are just the most recentperson who has been working on this field. Let's just make it a familybusiness.

Okay. Your father did this, your grandfather did this, yourgreat grandfather did this, and they've been trying to crack this problem andthey, they have never succeeded in cracking it. But they're like, we're close.And you're just the last one, right? And you know you'll have a kid, and if youfail, you give that kid the same knowledge that you had and be like, your turn,keep going, right?

Then one day you wake up and you realize you cracked it, okay?So you solve the problem. And you know that this thing has huge commercialpotential, it'll change lives, it might even solve climate change, it'll savethe world. Would you keep, would you ignore it and do research, or would youcommercialize it?

Fair, fair point. Exactly. There's almost a little bit of anethical, moral argument to be like I didn't choose to be the one who, whoDumbled on it. Discovered this on anything. Fully acknowledge that it'sactually the law of serendipity. All the stars aligned and here it is. But, nowthat it's in your hands, you have at least a ethical, moral obligation to bringit to the market.

To try to see what impact you can actually deliver. That'snumber one. Number two was when I founded a company in 2018 slash early 2019this innovation was in this field of effectively hydrogen. And there were a lotof companies that were doing batteries at the time, right? Lithium ionbatteries was the thing.

You can easily get funding as a company to get, do lithium ionbatteries. But when I started the company, I actually cold called about 25investors. And of those 25, I think 21 told me hydrogen would never be a thing.Never start a company in hydrogen because it's an, it's a, it's a dead end.It's crazy because now in 2024, hydrogen is all you talk about.

The DOE is, the Department of Energy is investing billions intoit. Everyone's raving. It's going to be the thing that will save the world,right? But in 2019, I actually saw that potential for hydrogen only because youcan do the Excel sheet for what it will take to fully decarbonize energy andvery quickly realize that you would need an improvement for batteries that islike a thousand fold before you can actually fix the energy problem.

So it was simple math, right? You can do, okay. Side caveat, myPhD actually involves battery research as well. So by the time I made thatspreadsheet, I was like I know what the what the state of the art is forbatteries. So I knew I could be wrong on batteries, but I was pretty certain Iwasn't a thousand times wrong.

And I was like, if I had a better idea and how I could invent abattery that was 1000 times better, I would have done that. But I didn't. Yeah.So then after that I started listing every other thing and I was like, okay, ifbatteries isn't the solution for it, what are my other options? Number two, Ilisted Fusion.

And I was like, ooh, I don't, I don't know if I can fix fusion,right? Someone else might figure fusion out, but that's not me, right? So thenthe third one was hydrogen. So then I was like, okay, interesting, right? Sonow going back to the earlier thing I told you about, hydrogen fuel cells beingterrible and electrolyzers being really inefficient.

And to Elon's comment, fuel cells are full cells, right?

Julian: Why is that?Is it the amount of energy that it takes to, exchange protons?

Gary: Correct,correct, correct. The amount of energy, if you put a hydrogen molecule inthere, how much energy you get out, right?

The hydrogen stores a particular amount of energy in its bonds,and you ask yourself, once you break it apart, how much energy you get out ofit, and you realize it's 50 percent efficient, right? It's pretty terrible,right? In that sense, Elon was right? It was terrible. He's also the one that'sfamously said, you should always think from first principles.

So then if you take a step forward and you take a physicsapproach to it, which is what he likes to do, and you say, is there a reasonwhy fuel cells suck? And the answer is no, there isn't. Actually, there Asopposed to say, if you look at an engine you're like, an engine is say, 25%, 30percent efficient.

Why is it so inefficient? And you say there's a limit calledthe Carnot efficiency. Literally, you cannot make it more efficient than about30 plus percent. That's the limit, right? But for fuel cells, because they'reelectrochemical engines, there is no reason why they should be so bad. The onlyreason why they're so bad, It's because no one's solved the materials problems,no one's put in the engineering time to fix all those little high frictionpoints to make something good, right?

So now going back to the, if you're a researcher, you have tobe a guy who is like glass half full, not half empty. So when someone tells youthis is 50 percent efficient, It sucks. What you should go is this is 50percent efficient. I have so much room left to improve it. I bet I can get itto 90, right?

And then you start the company. Because going back to our storyabout 2018, right? I thought if you really believe that hydrogen was anecessary solution to save the world and fix climate change, right? And 21people have told you not to do it. And then you look around the world and yourealize no one is doing it.

Then you go, if no one's doing it, and no one's funding to doit, so even if I do it, that's one more shot on goal, and that's worth it,right? If there were a thousand people doing it, and you're the one thousandand one, then maybe You know, you're like, ah, it's fine. I can just go get ajob. Someone else will fix this problem.

But if there's only 10 people doing it and you're the 11thperson and you're like, okay, no, maybe I should do this because there's achance, really high chance that this might never get fixed if I don't try. AndI thought to myself, I still remember that day when I thought to myself, I waslike, if I started a company and if at the very least, all I did was I couldconvince someone else to do it and they start their own company or et cetera,and even if they succeed, And say, my company fails.

It would've still been worth it because maybe if I hadn'tstarted a company which then resulted in me talking to them, which thenresulted in them starting a company. And then they have succeeded. Yeah. Thenthey would've happened, and then now the comp, now the whole world is screwedin 50 years.

Yeah. Because at the end of the day, you have to remember themission of why you're doing this. It wasn't just to make money, it was toadvance a cause, and the cause here was to fix climate change once and for all.Otherwise we're all screwed. Basically, at the end of the day, I'm like, yeah,this would have been worth it.

Julian: Right. 2018,I started a

Gary: company.

Julian: It's amazingbecause I had another founder on the show who was really adamant about thinkingof the dream rather than the mission of the company, because a mission you canpoke holes in, you can find, an opposition to it. But a dream, it's just, it'scompletely, it's personal, it's intimate, but it's also You know, it's almostimpervious to that type of, I guess the pushback because of, how it'sconstructed and how much energy and motivation it gives.

And also, you can take away the personal impact of, where yourprogress lands and just continue moving forward. And it's fascinating to hearyour commitment to, this problem in particular. And I'm, first of all, I'mhappy that you found the breakthrough so you can build, a company, a companyaround it.

But just to even like further understand the breakthrough inparticular and then we'll move on obviously to the application of, Celadyne andwhat you're, going to be using the product for and how it's going to beimplemented. What is that breakthrough? Was it, how did you make it moreefficient for the proton exchange process?

And is there any waste in there or is it fully recyclablesystem?

Gary: Mm hmm. Yeah.Close it on. Yeah. So that's a good point. So I'll address your, your firstpoint about the dream versus the mission first. I agree with you, but I thinka, I have a, a different idea. I think I define, I've never heard of itdescribed that way, but I think I think about it in the same perspective.

Hmm. I think for a company, for future founders I think of itsometimes, as a founder, you're expected to define the mission for yourorganization, for your company. I actually would challenge future founders notto just change the, define the mission for their company. But what they shouldbe doing is actually to define the mission for their field, right?

Which is not just your company, it's actually a cohort ofcompanies. Because at the end of the day, if you're serious about changing theworld, you're not going to do it alone, and you're going to need partners. Andyour partners are not going to work with you if the mission you are definingfor the field is misaligned with what they want for the whole field.

Let me give you an example, right? In my, in my field,hydrogen. Our whole goal has always been to like, decarbonize energy. That'sit. It's pretty simple, right? And the only reason why we're using hydrogen isbecause we believe that is the way path forward. It's also the reason why atleast for us, in Celadyne, when people put us against batteries, and they'relike, oh, it's batteries versus hydrogen, hydrogen will be a thing, batterieswill be a thing.

And I always tell people, it's I don't care. I care aboutdecarbonizing energy. If you find a better way to do it, power be to you. Goodfor you. That's the true idea of energy, right? Is to actually decarbonizeenergy. I don't, I don't really care how you do it. Now, obviously, don't,don't do something super unethical and kill a bunch of people, right?

As long as it's not it's really unethical, I don't really carethe technology note you use to decarbonize energy. Just do, just decarbonizeenergy, right? So that's the dream versus the company mission, right? Okay, nowto your point about technology and how we basically invented it, right?

So when you look at. kind of technology, and you're trying toinvent something, or rather you're trying to improve something, right? Youstart by just doing a very quick analysis and say, what part of it is terrible,and what part of it do people never work on? Going back to our story aboutNASA, right? It was very clear that the membranes, and actually the membranesare the catalysts, were the things that people were working on, but couldn'treally fix for the longest time.

Our key insight. That basically led to the company was actuallytwo pieces. So the first one, which is the actual breakthrough and theinvention, is in order to make these things really good, you have to do threethings. You have to be able to run these things harder. You actually have toenable the hydrogen and the oxygen to be more compartmentalized.

Because hydrogen is such a small molecule, even if you have alayer in the middle that's like a barrier layer, which is what the membranedoes, a little bit of the hydrogen will cross it. And once it crosses it, it'llreact with the oxygen. I don't need to tell you that hydrogen and oxygen isactually an explosive mixture, it's a bad idea.

And the third one is actually because a fuel cell createswater. You have to be able to make it operate at slightly lower humidity,because if you don't have it operate at lower humidity, all that water thatyou're generating is liquid water, and that clogs up all the pores, and it'sreally bad for the engineering.

But the third piece, even if you don't solve from a scientificstandpoint, you can solve from an engineering standpoint. So really, it's thefirst two pieces. But we think of it as a three part problem. You can argueit's actually a two part problem. It's fine. So we invented that material,something that will let you bring the temperature up higher, blocks hydrogenbetter, and can go slightly lower in humidity.

That was the invention in 2019. And see this is where it getsreally interesting. So there's the scientists invented this amazing product.This, the, the maximum size of the material we could make was about yay big.Like an inch by an inch. That's all an inch by an inch, right? And you're like,wow, this is going to take decades to commercialize.

And then we got accepted into Argonne National Lab tocommercialize this technology, got paid like half a million dollars. And we labspace with amazing mentorship, hired five people. And then February, 2020happened. Yeah, we literally hired five people in February, 2020. February20th, 2020. And then, maximum payroll, and then the whole world shut down onus.

That's crazy. Yeah, March. I tell people all the time, I'mlike, Man, if I had to write a book, Chapter 1 would be amazing. Yeah. I waslike, you can't make this up. You're like, I can't believe this. And there wasa point in the company. Getting to a saga. Yeah. The company's accountsliterally had 5, 000 left in the bank account.

And I was like, I don't think I can make payroll next month.Seriously, I don't think I make money on that. My co founder and I basicallyhad to put in our savings to save the company, which is crazy. But okay. But,here's the beauty of it though, okay? You have this amazing material with theseproperties, and now you have no lab, but you have employees.

So if you do something, right? We sent everyone out, and wespoke to our customers. And we said okay, developing a product that has allthree properties, even as amazing as it is and everything, first of all, wecan't really do it anymore because we don't have a lab, right? So let's take apage from software and say, rank order these things.

If I could only realize one of these properties and then thesecond and then the third, which one would you pick? Yeah. Because we alreadyknew, right? Realizing all three properties would take A long time tocommercialize. But if I dumped it down and I only have to get one of it real,it's six months, right?

The problem is it's not six months, six months, six months.

Julian: What did youdumb down? Or I guess, what did you minimize? Is it like a certain highlightinga certain part of the offering or a certain part of the technology to easilycommunicate it? Exactly. You have everything.

Gary: It'shighlighting a specific part of the technology from a physical sciencestandpoint.

Basically you're like, I have this, if you want to call it aNobel prize winning material, whatever, right? But then now you're basically,it hurts as a scientist to be like, I've made this amazing thing, and now I'mgonna purposely do things in a way that will sacrifice its properties and makeit a crappier material in some ways.

But it will work for that one thing, right? It's almost like Isaid, you have three things, but I'm gonna purposely kill two properties andmake it only good at one thing. It hurts. As an inventor, that's a bigsacrifice. Yeah. But, so we spoke to our customers, and then they were like,Actually, Gary, you got it right.

All three things are really important. But if you don't fixnumber one, which is, ended up being the hydrogen separations problem. If youdon't get me a material that We'll be better at blocking hydrogen, so to speak.I don't care about two or three. Because number two and three effect arebasically, if you enable two and three, you will improve efficiency.

Number one is safety. I don't care if it's more efficient, ifit's not safe.

Julian: Yeah.Especially today, yeah.

Gary: Makes sense,right? Like in hindsight, once I tell you the story, you're kind of like, didyou even need to talk to people to understand this thing? It's it's obvious,right? Yeah, hindsight 2020, right?

But at the time when you look at it, you're like, oh yeah,they're all important. They're all, efficiency is really important. Safety isreally important. We'll just do all of it. And then you're like, actually, whatyour customer has told you is I'm willing to tolerate a lower efficiency if youcan make this product more safe.

Because once the product's more safe, I can make a product thatmy customers will buy and they're willing to work with me and gradually roll insomething that's more efficient over time. Yeah. So keep in mind here thestory, we're in the middle of COVID right now and you got this information.Then you go back to your technical team and you go, only work on the firstthing.

Scrap the other two things, only work on this first thing. Buthere's the thing though, screw only work on the first thing and you have nolab.

Find some random office space, some bio hacking space, thatonly allows you to do chemistry using literally beakers and cups, with water,and figure it out. Literally, figure it out. You got a PhD in chemistry, figureit out. There's no other way around this, right? Company's gotta operate,you're gonna get a paycheck, we gotta make this work.

And we did. So we, in six months, translated all thechemistries that was previously very complicated. Solvents, like hydrocarbonsand kind of petroleum looking, into just water based systems. Because that wasall we could do. We were in an office space that didn't have properventilation, and we didn't want to put a bunch of oils in here.

That's really scary. So we were like, I can handle water. I'mnot okay with everything else. And then, at some point, we went to this, we canhandle water, we can handle ethanol, because that's vodka. It's not going tokill anyone. We translated all the chemistries to as aqueous chemistries.

And it worked. And we actually ended up showing that newmaterial that's dumbed down purely based on aqueous chemistries. And that'sactually the product we're commercializing. All the while knowing that it's adumbed down version of the product and we will eventually come back and revisitnumber 2 and number 3 once number 1 is done.

But, turns out, Number one is as valuable as what people say itis, because we have now shipped that material to all the tier one OEMs, theautomotive makers. They're integrating that material into their products, aswhat that person has said. It's even if there's a problem, we will want it.

Julian: Yeah, and arethese automotive automotive, are they larger trucks, and are they commercial?

Gary: You've heard ofthem. You need to know more than their names, but I cannot name them in a, ina, in a public setting because we have NDAs. But if you ask yourself, you'relike, which automaker has done a big gamble on hydrogen?

And then you go, which one in Canada? You're like, okay, therearen't that many. So you can guess.

Julian: That, you hadto simplify the product, focus on one particular pain point versus, you cansolve everything. It's, it's so interesting. Is that like from an adoptability?

Is that more like human psychology? Or is it cheaper? Is iteasier to integrate? Is it an easier bet for them to take? What were thereasons they were like if you focus on this one thing, that's our biggest, painpoint.

Gary: Yeah, simple.Because of three things. The first one, by focusing it down to one pain point,it's a lot easier to communicate.

You go to your customer and they're like, what do you fix? Andyou're like, this, right? Oh, cool. As opposed to this, this, and this. Andthen you basically, human psychology goes, when I tell you three things, now Ihave to think about it and be like which one's actually important to me?

That's all one problem for you that you can just decide, isthis important to me or is this not important to you? So that's number one,it's a communications thing. Number two, I think of it as, whenever you do, youcreate value for a customer, it's never equal value. When you have threethings, it's always.

I really believe in the 80 20 rule. One of those things hold 80percent of the value. The other two holds 20 percent of the value, right? Andyou focus on the first one, the dealer's the most value, because then yourcustomer gets the most value. It's quite, quite simple there, right? But youcan also measure value, because one of the things when we were doing thediscovery with them was at some point during the conversation, I'll be likewhat are you up to these days in your research labs?

Usually they'll tell you a story like, Oh man, my experimentdidn't work yesterday, blah, blah, blah. And you get friendly and you're like,What experiment are you doing? And they're like, Oh yeah, we're trying to dothis thing. We're trying to solve this problem. I'm like, Oh, you're trying tosolve this problem.

Okay, what's the problem you're trying to solve? They're like,Oh yeah, there's this thing, the material sucks. It's it's just leakinghydrogen all the time. This, that, whatever. And I'm like, Oh, and how longhave you been solving, trying to solve this problem? And they're like.

Two years, I can't wait for the day when someone like solvesthis problem for me. I'm like, okay, interesting. Wow, I really feel bad foryou. You're, and you really do, right? It's like someone's struggling for twoyears to solve this problem. They're frustrated. Then six months later, youcome back.

You're like, hey, Bob, I solved this problem. He's no way.Yeah, exactly. You're like, no way. I'm like, no, actually, though. Here's thedata. And they're like, how did you do it? I was like I won't tell you how Idid it, but I have the thing that solves the problem. Do you want to buy it?

And how much did it cost me? And I'm like, not that much. Acouple thousand dollars. And they're like, done! Send me the product.

Julian: That's how alot of the innovation happens in spaces like this, where it's, these microchanges that most people are solving this one particular or a few particularproblems.

An organization makes that leap and everybody tackles on to anew standard of how this technology should run and then it continues. Is thattypically how we see things like this be adopted and is this kind of the, isthis the right way or is this the best way to do it? Or would you personallyrather have seen somebody take the whole, three problem or three solutionproduct and actually implement that?

Gary: I think that Ithink this is the right way to do it. Just a short answer, right? Because Ithink that if you try to implement all three at the same time, right? First ofall, the company will probably fail. Because it takes too much resources,right? You'll lose focus. And the scary thing is always the method, right?

Is that you would have Commercialize that product with nocustomer input. One of the things I, one of the things I, I always try to, sothese days we're a little bit far along in our founder journey, so there aresome earlier founders, like year one, year two, they'll come and ask me foradvice, cause they'll be like, oh man, what should I sell, blah, blah, blah.

And then I always ask the opposite, I'll be like, what doesyour customer want? Yeah. And then he's we, we make this catalyst or whatever,and I was like, you haven't answered my question yet. Yeah. What does yourcustomer want? And then they'll be like, oh no, they want like a like a, like aPlatinum Catalyst that can do XYZ.

And I was like why do they want that? And they're like, I don'tknow, they just say they wanted it. I was like, go back and talk to yourcustomer. You have to actually not just understand what your customer wants onthe surface, you have to understand why your customer wants it. It's not whatthey want, it's why they want it.

Because if you only understand what they want, then you're backto the Henry Ford problem, where you're like, Oh yeah, here's a faster horse.But if you understand why they want it, then you can deliver something thatwill truly wow them. Using the Henry Ford example, right? What did the customerwant?

Oh, they want a faster horse. No, they don't want a fasterhorse. They want to get from A to B. That's all they care about, getting from Ato B. They don't care if it's a car or a horse or a rocket. They just want toget A to B, right? And then the metric that you care about is time, right? Ifyou can get me from A to B as fast as possible, as convenient as possible, Iwill buy your product.

And once you understand that, then you are finally ready tobuild a product, right? I think of it sometimes as As a scientist coming into,into commercialization, right? You always want to build the product that youhave invented. Because there's a strong emotional attachment to it. But youforget that this thing has to meet the market and there's a second Venndiagram, which is the product that the market wants.

And your job as entrepreneur is to find the overlap betweenthose two things and then, and then make a product there. Actually, there's athird Venn diagram, which is, you're like, there's a product that you haveinvented, there's a product the customer wants, and then the third one isthere's a product you can build the business around.

Can you make this profitable and self sustaining? If you findit, especially on those three things, yeah, then you make your, you make yourcompany around that thing.

Julian: Yeah. Man,it's incredible to think about how when this is adopted, widely, what it willhave in terms of its effect, but what gets you to that point where you see,more companies adopting this technology?

Do you need more companies to take this type of bet? Or arethere enough out there where we can see a significant change if they startusing, the materials you have to you know, for their fleets? I'm assumingthere's What do you need to get to that point?

Gary: So right nowlike this material, so I've spent a lot of time talking about the trucking sideof things, right?

Because that's the immediate traction we've already done, likewe've shipped it to the OEMs. But the material actually lets you make hydrogena lot cheaper too, right? Which is really important because making hydrogencheaper is how you unlock new markets. Effectively, no one will buy diesel at15 bucks a gallon, right?

But people will definitely buy diesel at three bucks a gallon.It's the same thing with hydrogen. No one will buy it at 15 bucks per kilogram.But if we, for instance, with our technology can get it down to 2 or 3 perkilogram, people will use it for new applications, right? And you need to dothat if you're serious about decarbonization for like things like trucking orsteel or cement or things that require a lot of heat, because one of the thingsyou can't really do very efficiently with a battery, you can do inductionheating to a limit.

But when the scale gets really, really big, induction heatingisn't viable, right? So one of the things that our technology does is alsomakes making hydrogen much cheaper. But going to your point of what do you needto actually get the traction to evolve, right? So we've already shipped thematerials.

Our next step is actually to scale up these materials intoroles and roles of these things. So we can deliver these things to more of ourOEM partners. Kind of like, the Toyotas of the world. And then we can integrateit into fuel cells that go into trucks. So make more, right? On the side, we'rebasically starting to do these pilots with these utilities to basicallyunderstand, when you think about making hydrogen, right?

You have a brand new material, but then you have to put thisinto a product that will actually make hydrogen. And we're trying to help themunderstand Kind of going back to our, our dumbing down exercise, right? Again,you can think of it as that's effectively what we're doing again. We have thisamazing material and you say, okay, this thing can help you make hydrogencheaper.

And then most people will say, make it as cheap as you can.Okay. And then, but the way we look at it from our side, it's like, why do youwant it so cheap? What are you trying to do with it? And when you say you wantit cheap, cheap in what way, right? Because there is a difference between youwant the hydrogen cheap because the thing making hydrogen is expensive, or youwant hydrogen cheap because the thing you're using to make hydrogen is actuallyreally cheap, but the electricity is really expensive, right?

Or something about it transmission of hydrogen is reallyexpensive, right? In one case, I'll make a box that's cheap, In other case,I'll make you a box that's really expensive, but I'll put it next to the thingthat's, that uses hydrogen and that reduces the cost, right? So it's like, whatis it that you want, right?

Like, all you have said is you want hydrogen really cheap, butyou haven't actually told me in what way do you want to make hydrogen cheap andwhy you want to make it cheap. So we're doing those kind of, thoseconversations and those pilots with the utilities right now so that we canreally understand the hydrogen market.

And once we crack that nut, we're going to redo the wholestrategy. It was like, okay, so I'm going to build you exactly what you want.Yeah, that will let us revolutionize hydrogen production as fuel.

Julian: Yeah.

Gary: And if you putit together, at the end of the day going back to the mission statement, right?

What are you trying to do? You're trying to decarbonize and fixclimate change, right? If you can make the heavy duty people cooperate and makeheavy duty trucks and they all run on fuel cells, you would have effectivelydecarbonized all of trucking. That would be amazing, right? Just think aboutit, right?

A heavy duty truck that's currently diesel powered, it'll rundown the freeway in about 10 years and it'll have no emissions, right? Justimagine that. I tell people, sometimes people have a hard time understandingand viscerally feeling that. I tell people all the time, here's how you shouldthink about a heavy duty truck today, okay?

On a per mile basis, every time a heavy duty truck goes down afreeway, Every mile, you should just imagine the heavy duty truck pooping out apound of, like a bag of flour, but instead of the flour, the flour is carbon.That's literally what it is. You just imagine this thing pooping out, like achunk of flour that's black, like pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

That's effectively what's happening. Okay? That's crazy, right?But that's effectively what's happening. Now, but in 10 years, no more. Insteadof that chunk of carbon that comes out, it would just be water vapor. Which isjust water. If they successfully do that, then it'll be a point in theirevolution where you'll have so many trucks that need so much hydrogen, they'llstart complaining because they'll be like, oh man, we're using so muchhydrogen, we're running out of supply and we need this to be cheaper.

Because otherwise, if the demand's high, the supply is notsustaining, prices go up. And that's why we're working with the people makinghydrogen to be like, here's technology to help you make hydrogen cheaper, helpyou scale, help you reduce the cost. Because that way, these folks who arewilling to buy a ton of hydrogen now, you can be like, that's good.

Julian: Yeah.

Gary: We'll sign along term agreement, we'll make bigger scale. And if they keep talking and theykeep working together, you have a bigger market, you have a bigger supply, thecost goes down, then other people go, Wait a second, the cost is lower now, Ican use this for shipping, and I can use this for steel.

And then these guys go, Great! We can make it even bigger, wecan sell even more hydrogen. And then next thing you know, these guys areprofitable, these other guys are profitable, and when it's all said and done,right? You in some ways, have capitalism working for you in this case, andthen, 2050, 2060, suddenly you go, Oh wait, no more climate change.

You don't, you're not using diesel anymore. You're actuallyusing hydrogen. But the difference is this time when you do it this way, youdidn't force people to give up on diesel, right? You gave them a truly superiortechnology that is just better. So they're like, we're switching because it'sjust better and that's what you need to do.

Julian: Yeah. Gary,that's a great way to transition to this next part of the podcast. I know we'recoming into the end here, but some rapid fire questions for you personally. Ilove the mission. I love the dream of, what you're building and it's excitingto see how, you can create one piece of technology and affect both sides of themarketplace and the supply and demand, because you would hate that one wouldrestrict the other from growing, but won't go too much further into that.

On a personal level, what is What's hard for you day to day?Being both invested in the science side, but also, running a business, learningthe mechanics of selling and kind of build partnerships and really getting outthere. What's the hardest part for you day to day?

Gary: I think one ofthe, one of the hardest part as a, as a scientist turned entrepreneur isletting go. Yeah. Yeah. One of the problems of, one of the problems of being areally good scientist is you always want to do everything yourself.

You're like, I, you always think I am the best experimentalist,I can do this, but your employee doesn't think you can, I can do this fivetimes faster, whatever, right? And at some point, you have to realize, you'relike, no, no, I have to let go, because you have to start trusting your team todo things on your behalf, right?

Otherwise, you won't, you will never succeed in building acompany. You have to learn to let go at some point. And I joke sometimes, it'sit's now, It's taken me years to learn this, which is now when, when peopleshow me data, I can actually accept data as like real, as opposed to me goingpoking holes in there and be like, I bet you didn't do this thing or I bet youdidn't do that thing and everything, right?

But one of the unintended consequences is if you start trustingyour employees and start trusting your team, it is only then that they'll,they'll be able to step up. Because if you can't trust them, they know youdon't trust them, I guarantee you they won't try very hard. Because they'relike, what's the point of trying?

Gary's going to end up redoing this himself anyways.

That's one of the hardest things, letting go, so that you canactually learn to trust your team.

Julian: And what is,something you do outside of running the company? Obviously, most founders,their company is their life, and there's no separation between, but I thinkmost of us realize we have to separate and find other hobbies and things.

What do you spend your time doing? I love cooking. Yeah?Alright, what kind of food? Tell me. Cuisine. Everything.

Gary: Everything. I,I, everything. I love baking, making bread, making desserts and things likethat. My, my fiancée complains. Cause she's someone's gotta eat it and now I'mgetting fat.

But that's besides the point. No, I love cooking. One day Iused to tell people like, if, if I wasn't doing Celadyne, I probably would havea very scientific food blog. Really? Yeah. Yeah, I remember, I'm the guy whobasically back in grad school, I remember there was this 30 days where my coworkers were very happy and unhappy at the same time because I would spend 30days and every day I would make a, I would make a batch of biscotti, but thenMonday I would make like biscotti with like flour of a particular proteincontent, Tuesday I'll make it with a different protein content, Wednesday I'llbe with eggs, Thursday it was just no butter but with oil and everything.

Julian: Don't tell meyou had a survey for people to tell you in feedback.

Gary: Yeah, prettymuch. I was trying to optimize the perfect recipe. So there'll be days whenyou're like, wow, this is going to be so good. And the next day you're like,this is like the worst thing I've ever eaten. And then it would just be likefluctuating everywhere.

And then by day 30, I'll be like, I got it. It's the perfectrecipe. And I remember sharing this with my friend and I was like, this is thefoolproof recipe. I've tested this to death. If you screw this up, it's not therecipe, it's you. I spent 30 days perfecting this thing, right? I love doingthat. That's how I cook, that's how I think.

And I think it's really fun.

Julian: I always liketo ask, outside of, what you're doing day to day A lot of founders read booksabout business. A lot of founders read books about their particular industry.Outside of those things, what are some book recommendations that, take you awayor that you really enjoy or that motivate you?

Things that you know, or lasted the test of time. And if notbooks, podcasts, something materialized.

Gary: I try to thinkabout a book that I've read like at least 10 times. Yeah. There are two books.So the first one is one, it's very philosophical. It's called The Meditationsby my Marcus Aurelius.

I think it's like book too, right? It's very, it's very it's,it's basically the essentials of stoicism as a philosophy because it helps youkeep centered because a founder's life is very chaotic and stoicism helps inthat sense. The second book is the one that actually changed my perspective ofbusiness, and it's actually this book by Richard Branson called BusinessStripped Bear.

It's a really interesting book because there's this line in thebook where he's if you care enough about something to do something about it,then you're in business. Which is very useful because in 2016, yeah. Becausewhen I was in 2016, if you told me, you're like, Gary, you will start abusiness one day.

I'll be like, I'm not a businessman. I don't, I don't know ifI'm the guy who was going to do financial modeling and things like that. When Iread that quote, it really resonated. Because then I was like, okay, when Istarted a company to try to like change, decarbonization and use hydrogen todecarbonize and all that stuff, right?

Really, what you're doing is you're starting a company so thatother people who share that ideal or mission and something can do somethingabout the problem. Basically, you have all these aggregates of people who, whenyou're looking for a job for a company, especially when it comes to startup,right?

What are you actually looking for? It's not just a paycheck,right? It's, you're saying, I want to do something, but I don't want to bedoing it unpaid, right? Find me a place where I can do something about thisproblem that I really care about, and hopefully get paid on the way for it,right? And that's effectively what Solarine is, right?

It's I want it. To decarbonize the world with hydrogen, Icouldn't find a company to do it with in 2018 or 2019, so I didn't really havea choice. So I was like, alright, since that company didn't exist, I guess Ihave to start it. And then since then, a bunch of people basically wanted to dothe same thing.

And I was like, oh, okay, SolarLight exists, so I don't have tostart the company, I can just join the company. Yeah. And that, that has, everytime I get discouraged, I read that book and there's always some little nuggetof wisdom in there that I'm that I'm like, Oh, yeah, it helps shift yourperspective.

You're like, Oh, yeah, I'm thinking about this wrong. Extrapoints is, if you Google really, really, really hard in Audible, you'll find aversion of that book that is read by Sir Richard Branson. Oh, really? Okay.It's way more effective because, you put on your ear pods and he's likenarrating the book and you're like, wow, it's this is pretty awesome.

Julian: That'samazing, Gary. Those are pretty much all my questions. The last one I alwayslike to ask is, is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have? Anythingyou wanted to cover that we didn't get a chance to today?

Gary: I think theonly thing I would talk about is, kind of Celadyne's, trajectory, right?

I think the company was founded in 2019, and for the most part,we've stayed silent for a long time. And then people go why am I hearing aboutyou just now? It's been five years. I tell people all the time, so you'rehearing about it rather organically, because now our partners are starting totalk about it.

For the longest time, I didn't You know, really do podcasts ordo PRs and things like that. Because I wanted a good reason to want to do it,right? And, and we're doing it right now because of two reasons. Number one iswe're finally at that point where it was like, we're look, we need our partnersand we need customers to help us change the world.

Cause we're like, Hey, the materials are ready and everything.We need, we need you to do this, right? Like our part is not almost done, butwe're at the limits of what we can do ourselves. And so that's why we needpeople to be able to find us. Number two, it's me paying it forward. Cause hadyou asked me to get on a podcast and kind of tell new founders what to do,three years ago, I probably would have rejected it cause I'm like, I'm prettysure I'll give you bad advice.

But now, I've stepped on enough landmines where I'm like, okay,if you want me to give you some advice about, maybe not advice, at least tellyou Selenite's story so that you can listen to it and then go. Ah, he steppedon these landmines. I definitely don't want to do that again.

That kind of thing. Then I'm like, yeah, I can definitely, Ican definitely share you those stories and hopefully you can learn from myexperiments and my experience. And you would, at the very least, A, realizewhat not to do, not make those mistakes. B, for the existing founders,recognize that oh, wow, he made all those mistakes, but he's still here.

And the company is still alive and we're actually doing reallywell. So founders have very hard on themselves when they make mistakes.Hopefully, if nothing else, this one would be like, oh yeah, he really screwedup on that one, right? But that's just part of the journey and I can, I canlive with it.

And it's not the end of the world. Because with a founder,sometimes it's very often, you make a mistake and you're like, oh my God, it'sthe end of the world, my company's going to die, right? It's no, no, calm down.Take a moment, take a breather.

Julian: Yeah, I thinka lot of founders also have the hesitation to try some things because, it'slike time, time wasted, it's, it's but all that time is spent to learn more.

And once that shift happens and you're spending the time on theright thing after spending loads of time with your customers, which I can'ttell you how many times we, I don't know how many episodes we have to do tomake sure that maybe that's the new logo or the new slogan. It's spend timewith your customers because really that's, that's 90, 95%.

Some incredible amount of percentage to what makes yourbusiness successful or product sellable or really anything. Even when you're ata standstill in your business, and you have no, thought of where to go, they'lltell you, they'll tell you exactly where to go. So I appreciate that, in yourindustry as well, that principle still carries on, and is really just somethingthat's led to a lot of the success you've had, and your company hopefully willcontinue to have.

Gary: Yes. Yeah.Yeah. Also important is like, when you listen to your customer, actuallylisten. Yeah. Actually listen and be empathetic to your customer, right? Don'tassume that you're like, Oh, your customer has got it good. And they're just acheck, right? Never do that, right? Always try to be empathetic to yourcustomer.

And be like, no, they have a real problem. I think of it allthe time, like, whenever I think of a customer and I find it difficult to beempathetic to them, I'll just be like, imagine this person has a wife and kidsand, they're just, they're just trying to make a living. They're not trying topay you over or anything like that, right?

They're just trying to make a living. And they're trying tosolve a problem so that they don't get fired. So you're trying to solve aproblem to them. And when they pay you, it's not that you have done some magicart of the sale or whatever, out of the deal, that's like making them pay you.It's that.

You have actually delivered real value in their lives andthey're paying you because they want to pay you. In other words, if they didn'tpay you, they will feel bad about it. Because they're like, wow, Gary's reallyhelped me out here. I'm walking away. Now I feel like a real, insert whateverexpletive you want, right?

So they're paying you because you've actually delivered realvalue to their lives. Yeah.

Julian: Well Gary,last little bit, where can we find you, where can we be a fan? Give us yourplugs, your Linkedins, YouTubes, Instagrams, wherever we can find and supportyour mission, your vision, and you as a founder.

Gary: Celadyne'swebsite's always there. We recently raised our 4. 5 million seed round. There'sa whole TechCrunch article on it, so you can read about it. We have a very longconference circuit in June. You'll find me at all the hydrogen technologyconferences across Washington, Houston, Seattle, I think maybe even New York.

We'll be in Climate Week in New York in September. Celadyne ishosting our very own Hydrogen Day in October in Illinois. It'll be a reallygreat event. But yeah, or I think as a quick ping, it's if you're new in thestartup journey and you want to chat, you can always ping me on LinkedIn.

Believe it or not, I'll actually reply. So a couple of peoplehave done that and they're always excited.

Julian: You repliedto the invite to jump on the show. So I appreciate that. And for that. Gary,it's been such a pleasure talking with you, learning your journey, and sharingyour stories so that we can all grab wisdom from it.

Thank you for joining Behind Company Lines today.

Gary: Happy to behere.

Julian: Of course.

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