Thanksgiving is typically a time meant for spending with family and friends, giving thanks, expressing gratitude, and eating lots of turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing. However, as an entrepreneur, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of spending Thanksgiving or other holidays with loved ones. This year EnergyX was presented with the opportunity to partake in an elite pitch competition at the Area 2071 Dubai Future Foundation, so during Thanksgiving I found myself on an airplane sandwiched in a middle seat to the Middle East.
The entrepreneurial path presents an infinite amount of challenges that most people usually don’t see or appreciate; they only see the success. They don’t realize the work that goes into the journey, the up and downs, the missed holidays and family time, the late, late nights (or sleepless nights) at the office, skipped birthday parties and weddings. While most folks can’t wait for Friday so they can throw back a couple beers at happy, an entrepreneur can’t wait for Friday so they can catch up on the 500 emails from the week, without receiving 500 more over the weekend.
So here I was, heading to Dubai for the chance to meet a handful of investors that could hopefully improve the trajectory of EnergyX. The pitch competition was organized by a friend, Cassandra Harris, the managing partner at Unicorn Ventures Group (UVG) which aims to profile founders with big ambitions. At Area 2071, UVG brought together 17 unique ventures in energy, mobility, and smart city sectors along with angel investors, family offices, leading corporate venture capitalists, and government representatives.
After flying the long haul 16 hour flight from LA, forgoing the traditional Egan Thanksgiving banana bread, and spending significant money to do all this, I had a grand total of 5 minutes to give my pitch! Seems kind of irrational in retrospect, however, the judges were people that could literally propel EnergyX to new heights. Faisel Rehman from Softbank Vision Fund, a $100 billion dollar fund, Majid Mufti, CEO of Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV), the $500 million dollar venture arm of Saudi Aramco, Felix Krause of Innogy Ventures, Talia Rafaeli of Porsche Ventures, and Girish Nadkarni the CEO of Total’s recently announced $400 million Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures were all in attendance on the panel.
Other ventures vying for the prize, and the right to pitch for $1 million at the next stage, were no novices either. One of them had already raised $100 million dollars! Some of my Dubai competitors were VR tech company Dreamscape, Swiss Bioenergy and renewable energy company Enoil Bioenergies SA, carbon-dioxide neutral concrete company Co2Concrete’s, aerial cargo delivery company Flugauto, waste-to-biofuel company Cirqular, and clean gas company Standard Gas. Thank God I had 16 hours on my flight to put together my presentation.
I started thinking about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aim to effect change on a global level. How could I best express the EnergyX mission to radically rethink the approach to energy storage, and come across best to the judges. Ultimately I decided that in these situations it’s not the nitty gritty details and specifications of your product that matter, but the story behind your mission. I knew I needed to inspire the judges on a whole other level. Eventually I settled on an methodology I had witnessed in a SpaceX presentation that Elon Musk gave at the International Astronautical Congress a few years back. While others tried to pack as much information as possible onto each slide, making the words so tiny it was impossible to read, my slides had mostly pictures with 1-4 short bullet point per slide. And every other slide was only 1 word or clause. See the presentation attached.
Sitting nervous in the front row, waiting for my turn to present, I recited the script in my head over and over until the point of memorization. Finally it was my turn…
I executed to perfection. Leaving the judges imaginations to the limitless possibilities of our impact on the sustainable energy revolution, they had so many questions that my Q&A period ran substantially over time. EnergyX secured the victory and established relationships with all the key corporate venture capitalists in attendance.
Girish Nadkarni, CEO of the Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures provided a quote for our forthcoming press release, “Batteries have a large role in the transition to sustainable energy. Today, the battery world is dominated by lithium-ion and EnergyX technology has the potential to take lithium-ion to the next level. Its approach looks promising and its success will greatly contribute to the success of the energy transition.”
Overall it was really just an honor to be among such talented entrepreneurs who are all undertaking incredible missions and overcoming such stark challenges to help push our communities forward. I was truly humbled to win the event by the selection of judges and investors with the type of experience and knowledge that the group holds. There will be big things coming soon from Softbank, Saudi Aramco, Total, and Porsche / VW.