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Episode
105

Thomas Folker

Co-founder & CEO of Leap

Ep
105

Enabling Resilient Energy Grids: Thomas Folker of Leap

Apr 5, 2022
With
Thomas Folker
44:38

Enabling Resilient Energy Grids

Thomas Folker is the co-founder and CEO of Leap, a climate tech startup that helps balance the energy grid and begin the transition to renewable energies, all through a single API. With the goal of running an energy grid that is decreasingly carbon-intensive, Leap hopes to pave the way for better and cleaner energy alternatives through their software. 

In today’s episode, aside from sharing how energy grids in general and, in particular, Leap work, Thomas also shares how he and his team made the most out of the pandemic.

With a team of 80, he sings praises about the beauty of going fully remote and the advantages that came with it, such as being able to hire the perfect people regardless of where they are in the world plus how having a Director of People made a huge impact in their company culture and so much more. This is an episode you won’t want to miss. 

Thomas’ key lessons and quotes from this episode were:

  • “We are a startup with a mission, a climate tech-driven mission. So, everyone that works at Leap has the drive to do something good for the world, so that's been a real big magnet for us to acquire real talent.” (36:51)
  • “For everyone, impact is different, and we are not the small startup anymore where everyone knows exactly what's happening in everyone's private life. So, processes break as well.” (38:47)
  • “Technology got us where we are right now, but it can also get us in a situation where we make sure that we are not on a pathway to destruction. Clean energy is the future.” (42:53)

In this episode, we also talked about:

  • Electric vs. solar vs. wind (10:53)
  • How Leap works (17:24)
  • Leap’s business model and how they make money (26:52)
  • Lessons Thomas learned during the pandemic (35:27)

Transcript of the episode

Maiko Schaffrath  00:00

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You are listening to Impact Hustlers, and I am your host, Maiko Schaffrath. I have made it my mission to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental problems. And for this reason, I am speaking to some of the best entrepreneurs out there who are solving problems such as food waste, climate change, poverty, and homelessness.

My goal is that Impact Hustlers will inspire you, either by starting an impact business yourself, by joining the team of one, or by taking a small step, whatever that may be, towards being part of the solution to the world's biggest problems. 

In today's episode, I speak to Thomas Folker, the co-founder and CEO of Leap, a solution that helps level peaks in the energy grid by using connected devices to balance the load.

Their solution helps to create a more resilient grid, ready for the transition to renewable energies, and I'm really excited to dive deep into the technicalities of how grids work, his entrepreneurial journey, and some advice from a founder that's been around for a bit. So, welcome to the show, Thomas. Thanks for joining.

Thomas Folker  02:30

Thanks for having me.

Maiko Schaffrath  02:31

Thank you. So, the first bit I want to cover is really your personal story. You've been in this industry for a little bit and collected your experience, but I'd like to understand, why is this problem of energy grids or, in general, energy one that matters to you personally and why are you working on this?

Thomas Folker  02:31

Yeah, so this whole journey started about 15 years ago when I first became aware of renewable energy being a potential solution for climate change. It's not a new concept that we know that we're emitting way too much carbon, CO2, in our atmosphere.

If we keep doing that, there will be some critical consequences for the planet. So, the whole idea of being able to run an electric grid on renewable energy was a really appealing concept. 

I started out originally as an analyst on the project financing of a large offshore wind farm in the Netherlands. I'm from the Netherlands, originally, in the North Sea, and that was just an incredible experience to see how that is designed, how you physically build offshore wind farms, how you get turbines delivered, how you export that electricity from sea to shore.

So, it's a really interesting time. This is in 2007, 2008 or so. In the meantime, there was this big solar energy revolution going on in Europe as well. 

Germany, of course, led the way there, but when I came on the scene, Spain was the big market, and everyone was scrambling to build large solar power parks there. Back then, you can just build a wind farm or a solar farm and then you connect it to the grid and you'll be good to go.

The grid, to me at least, was a really black box. If you drive through the countryside, you can see power lines, and when you plug in your phone in a charger and magically, electricity comes out of your outlet.

But if you peel back those layers, you can see what a ton of complexity there is behind making sure that that energy is actually produced, transmitted, distributed, and then consumed. I originally only saw one side of that massive industry. 

That's the generation side, wind farms, solar, hydro, all types of generation and eventually became much more interested in, okay, but what's the next step? How can we all integrate this into a grid, electric grid and still make everything work? How do we keep the lights on?

Because one issue with renewable energy, of course, is that you don't control the output. You don't tell the wind when to blow or the sun when to shine.

With traditional power plants like coal and gas, if demand increases, because it's a hot day and people are running air conditioners, or it was the World Cup, everyone's watching football, especially in the UK, when it's halftime, people will put the kettle on and boom, you get an extra gigawatt of load or demand for just the water cookers. How do you manage that? 

Typically, a grid operator, and these are the people that make sure that the grid stays in balance will just call up the power plant and say, "Okay. Hey, for the next 15 minutes, we need a gigawatt extra power."

But if you have a grid that is majority run on wind and solar, you don't have that option. So, running a reliable grid that is using less and less carbon-intensive resources, because that's the goal, is a pretty complicated business. We've seen situations in grids that have a large amount of renewables that the reliability of the grid tends to go down. 

In Europe, you might not really have that yet. We have a pretty good, interconnected network. When there's wind on the North Sea and there might be cloud cover in Germany, that power can just flow.

Norway has a lot of hydro lakes and some really big undersea cables to the UK and to the Netherlands that can transport a nuclear power plant's worth of power within seconds. So, it's all connected and all in balance, but that's not necessarily a given. In the US, we have much less of those interconnections, and you can see what happens. 

If you've seen the news, last year in Texas, the weather was unexpectedly cold, a lot of the gas power plants couldn't get gas, there was an under-delivery of energy, and boom, the whole thing fell apart. So, my interest in the grid is really, how can we transition to a complete clean energy future?

The mission of my company, Leap, is to decarbonize the world's electric grids, but how can we do that safely and fairly? Yeah, and what we specifically do is provide full credit to make it all connect and click, but the grid itself is a fascinating machine.

Maiko Schaffrath  08:43

Yeah, it is, and I'd love to ask you maybe one or two questions more about it, and we'll dive into Leap and how you actually solve this problem. So, you've covered quite a lot there already, which is amazing to just get a basic understanding of the grid. I guess one aspect is the problem of having to balance the grid was always there in some way. 

As you say, if there's a World Cup, and there's the halftime break, then energy utilities actually have to deal with it, and the grid operators have to deal with it. That's always been there, or as long as energy has been, there has been peaks. Is that right?

And I'm sure most utilities will be relatively prepared for this, more or less, for at least predictable events. And then, there is this massive transition where it seems that most of our energy consumption will be shifting towards electricity, and we're trying to replace coal and gas energy with renewable energies, and we suddenly have people coming home with the electric car and plugging it in all at the same time. 

What one of my uncles actually is involved in, building properties, they wanted to connect each of the residents to a car charger, and the utility actually said, "Sorry, we can't do it. We can't let everybody charge their electric car all at once or our grid wall break."

So, there's this whole new challenge of, everybody wants to charge their electric car, everybody wants that we only use solar and wind and other renewable sources, which are also peaking quite a lot. 

So, what's the answer to this? Is it technical solutions like Leap or is there definitely also still a need for other sources of power that are more reliable, going back to the nuclear debate or even gas or so that are able to have more consistent power output? What's your view on that?

Thomas Folker  10:53

All of the above. So, yes, if everyone starts driving electric and plugs in their car at the same time and charges, the grid will go down. That is not a lie. But fortunately, that's not the way things work. First of all, there aren't that many electric cars yet, but the signs are good.

I mean, I love electric cars. I want everyone to drive electric. Maybe as a bit of a side, 30% of total carbon emissions come from the electricity sector, another 20-30% comes from the transportation sector. 

So, if you decarbonize the electricity sector, and therefore also decarbonize the transportation sector, assuming that everything will become electric, eventually, you cover about 50-60% of total emissions. So, that's a big, big, big impact.

We're talking about gigatons of CO2 that are not emitted. Right now, every year, the world emits about 40 gigatons, 40 billion metric tons of CO2. We actually emit more CO2 in the atmosphere than physical stuff that the whole world produces. If you would have a scale, the amount of CO2 would be more than all the physical stuff that we actually built. It's a massive amount of emissions that we treat. 

Going back to your question, yes, you can definitely run a grid on high amounts of renewables. I mean, we've seen Germany have many days that the whole country runs on solar and wind, but they're also one of my favorites. German word is [German].

You have the times when there's no wind and no sun, and where do you get your power? Well, currently, it comes from friends, because friends make the, turned out to be the, correct decision to invest heavily in nuclear. 

I think nuclear gets a bad reputation, but it is clean energy. It's clean, zero carbon energy, and it's safe. A lot of the horror stories are, of course, informed by what happened in Chernobyl or Fukushima, but those are outliers.

The actual nuclear industry is super safe, and yes, there is nuclear waste, but there are other solutions. We can go into that another time. Nuclear is a part of the solution. Unfortunately, it's not part of the near-term solution.

You can't build a nuclear power plant within a year. You can build a lot of solar and wind, so we should do both. We should build more nuclear, preferably in the higher latitudes where solar and wind can't go for the whole season. 

In the US, here in Arizona and California, build out more solar, more solar, more solar, more solar. It's the cheapest form of energy. When I started in clean energy, my friend made jokes like it is never going to take off; solar energy, that's for satellites.

But right now, solar energy is cheaper than gas and existing coal. So, it's an answer of everything. People open the nuclear power plants. Germany [did] the ridiculous decision of shutting down nuclear power plants. Hopefully, we can reverse that, and it, unfortunately, also resulted in unintended consequences. 

I grew up in the 80s, and I remember vividly that we were marching against more nuclear power, but every one of those nuclear power plants that haven't been built, now we know that's the equivalent of a couple of gigatons of CO2 that has been emitted by the alternative, which is coal.

So, the unfortunate event of unintended consequences is something you should factor in into every decision you make. So, can we run a grid on full renewables? Yes, solar, wind, hydro, great, nuclear plays a role, but we should coordinate it all. 

The idea that every electric car will charge at the same time is already not true, because cars have software. They can communicate. Utility will charge you a peak rate if you charge at seven in the evening, so most cars already charge overnight, and there's one added benefit.

You use your car maybe an hour a day. The moment it's plugged into your charger, it now is actually an asset to the grid. You can use a battery in your car to feedback energy into the grid or to your house in some cases. 

Here in California, we have so much solar energy that it's actually free during the day. No one will pay you for producing solar energy during the day, but you can charge your car or your electric bus. And then, you can use that battery in the evening when the grid really wants it and feed it back into the grid.

So, there's all these ways to make sure that all these devices are coordinated and working together, and you can then run a really resilient grid on clean energy. We've seen this already happen in the UK, and in Germany, large parts of the US, and there's no reason why that shouldn't be the case around the world.

Maiko Schaffrath  16:24

Alright. Let's dive deeper into how Leap actually works. So, you mentioned there's already incentives in place, I think, in a lot of grids, where even now, have smart meters, where electricity is actually on the consumer, and it becomes cheaper or more expensive depending on when you use it.

So, you're setting some incentive to use the energy when there's actually a surplus of energy that needs to be used. 

On the other hand, for those producing energy, as you said, at lunchtime in California, if I'm trying to sell my solar energy, nobody really wants to buy it, and it incentivizes me to store that energy rather than push it into the grid.

So, now, with that in mind, tell us about what Leap does, and how do you add on to that, and what's the difference you're making with your solution in terms of setting incentives? Because that's what I understand is the core of what you're doing, setting more incentives to basically balance the grids.

Thomas Folker  17:24

Correct. Maybe it's already mentioned about grid operators. A grid operator is mostly a non-governmental or nonprofit organization that makes sure that the grid stays in balance, and the metric there is to make sure that you are within a very minute difference between how much hertz you have on the grids. In Europe, we have 50 hertz, 50 cycles a second. Here in the US, we have 60.

The whole goal of the grid operator is to make sure that that frequency stays stable, and frequency stays stable by making sure that demand and supply are always in sync. 

Again, as I mentioned, if the demand side of the grid increases, because people use more energy, it's a hot day, typically, you would increase the supply side, fire up a power plan, and that's actually what's happening.

About a third of the traditional power plants that are connected to the grid, on any given moment, are running what we call idle. They're not actually delivering energy, but they are burning fuel to be able to respond to an increase in demand.

What you can also do, instead of matching increased demand with that increased supply, you can match increased demand with decreased demand somewhere else in the grid. 

The grid is like a waterbed. If you press one end, it goes up the other. As long as it's in imbalance, that's all fine. So, increase demand here in San Francisco, met with decreased demand in Oaklands across the bridge is also fine. So, you don't have to actually run a power plant to make up that shortfall.

That is what [is] called demand response. So, that's one thing that we do. For instance, we have many thousands of smart thermostats connected to Leap. Leap, as a software platform, we are essentially compared to Twilio or Stripe or behind the scenes, a B2B software provider that makes all of these connections work. 

Take a Nest thermostat, it can control your air conditioner. We have many thousands of customers through our partners like Nest that have allowed Nest to smartly cool their home or take over the energy consumption of their air conditioner.

Imagine if you can do that with 10,000 air conditioners at the same time, 10,000 times an air conditioner that uses about a kilowatt, two kilowatt, that's 10-20 megawatts. That's a lot. I mean, a gas power plant is about 50-100 megawatts.

So, instead of begging a power plant to produce 50 megawatts, you can also say, all these 10,000 thermostats, instead of cooling at, let's take Celsius, 18 degrees, let's switch to 20 for the next hour.

You won't even notice it, but the difference to the grid is the exact amount of the power plant that we don't have to switch on. So, that's called demand response. 

We are currently serving over 300 megawatts. That's about three power plants that are not burning fuel, are not running currently in California, because Leap provides what we call virtual power plant surfaces.

Let's just take the example of a thermostat, but we also provide access to batteries, to electric vehicles, to smart homes, stationary stores. If you have a Tesla power wall in your garage, you can participate with that.

In the end, what is really important is that the grid operator can rely on Leap that our energy delivery is as reliable as the power plant that they would normally call upon to pick up that slack. Leap is nothing else but a virtual power plant software provider. 

We have partnerships with companies like Stem, a big battery developer, let's take some brands that you know in Europe, Nest, the smart thermostats, Honeywell, those are pretty big brands. They all know that their devices can automatically respond to signals, and they're integrated with our platform.

Leap provides an API that the software of Nest integrates with, listens to, and then performs what we all dispatches based on the price that we pay them for every single interval. That way, you can create virtual power plants out of devices that you already have. Isn't it nice that your electric vehicle now also doubles as a virtual powerplant? 

The fun thing is, you plug in, you charge your car during the day, it's virtually free; you discharge during the evening when the grid leader wants it, maybe you charge up a little bit more during the night. Your car's charged in the morning, you can drive, but you actually made some money on it, and that's a nice way. You made money, and you helped decarbonize the grid.

Maiko Schaffrath  22:52

Just a really quick break from this episode to let you know a little bit more about our podcast producer and content agency, Content Multiplied. With all the moving pieces of a business, you can't be stuck managing and creating new content all the time.

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Got it. And then, with Leap, does it work both ways? So, both incentivizing energy users to use less energy or is there also a way to turn it up and use excess energy both ways, or just it's about energy saving?

Thomas Folker  23:48

What we call demand response is just a reduction of demand, but you can imagine that a lot of businesses nowadays have backup generators or batteries. Instead of reducing demand on-site, you can also decide to discharge the battery on-site to the owner of that building. They don't notice the difference, but to the grid, it looks like you're using less energy. 

So, you can do both. You can reduce some demand, you can take power out of your battery, and therefore, you reduce the demand that you pull out of the grid, and to the grid, that looks like you're using a lot less energy.

And to explain the last part of it, every grid operator has a whole list of power plants that they can rely upon all the way from a big nuclear power plant down to a small gas power plant. Leap in the California grid is an actual power plant. 

We're virtual, but we provide the exact same services. In the control room up in Sacramento, it's a really interesting- you can imagine how that looks like, big screens that show you how the grid works.

There's a whole list of power plants that are available, and we're in there, and the market tells supply and demand, just economics 101, whenever supply and demand meet, that is where the price sits for the next hour, and we participate in that market and subsidize. 

We compete head-to-head with all the other power plants out there. And since we don't burn fuel and we don't have to invest in upkeep, we typically are a really attractive economic power plant, and therefore, we can grow quite quickly.

Maiko Schaffrath  25:41

Wow. That's really good to actually understand it like that. This is really powerful. And obviously, you're able to react so quickly as well, because it's basically a matter of microseconds that you can react, isn't it?

Thomas Folker  25:56

That's the beauty of software, yeah. There's no human in between, yeah.

Maiko Schaffrath  26:02

Amazing. Let's understand your business model, because there's so many different actors. For somebody trying to understand this market for the first time, it's maybe a little bit trickier. Okay, there's these grid operators, there's businesses, there's individuals, there's companies producing energy, so there's all these different actors. 

And then, you're basically partnering with companies like Nest, for example, to then give incentives and actually reward with cash to reduce energy consumption, if I understand correctly.

So, how does that flow of money work and what's your business model in that? Who's benefiting from this? Who's your actual customer in the end and how does your business model work?

Thomas Folker  26:52

Well, first of all there, I mentioned grid operators. There are many grid operators. In the US, we have three physical grids. We have the Western grid, the Eastern grid, and Texas, which is their own grid for historic reasons, and those grids are subdivided by grid operators.

In California, we have the California Independent System Operator. We have in New York, not very original, they're called the New York Independent System Operator, you have ISO New England, which is Massachusetts, Boston, BGM. There’re about seven big grid operators. They manage the grid, first of all, and they all have different technology. 

Leap, we provide a single API to our partners on the front end, but in the back end, we are integrated with all these different technologies and different operators, so that's one thing.

Taking away the complexity of dealing with the different rules in New York versus the different rules in California, if you are selling thermostats in California and New York, you don't want to be bothered with interpreting the rules of every market differently. The rules are different. The product is electrons, but the rules are completely different across markets. 

In Europe, the majority of Europe is connected to the same grid, but every country is their own grid operator to a certain extent. The Netherlands together with the western part of Germany is managed by TenneT. But then, the eastern part is managed by an operator called 50Hertz, and there's an over-arching grid operator that makes sure that everyone is in sync. 

Maybe, of course, on everyone's mind right now is what's happening in Ukraine. Ukraine is synchronized to the Russian grid, but the Russians are trying to bring down Ukraine's grids, and now, Ukraine is trying to switch over to the European grid. All of that interaction is extremely complicated. There's different rules and regulations. 

What Leap does is providing a single layer across all of those markets, at least the markets that we have enough coverage in, and then have a single API, just like you would use Stripe or IGN for your payment processing. If you do business internationally, you can accept payments in Turkey and in Indonesia, you only have to integrate with Stripe or IGN once and you can process payments. 

Twilio, another good example, is a company that processes SMS text messages. If you ever order a rideshare like an Uber, that communication is not handled by Uber. It's handled by Twilio. We're behind the scenes providing a similar service but for energy markets, a single API that integrates with all of these complex markets and makes it as easy as buy on the front end.

And then, our business model, who buys what we sell, well, there's utilities that buy power, they buy it in the open market from suppliers of power, power plants, and that market goes, just like the stock market, when there's high demand and low supply, prices go up, and when there's more supply and low demand, prices go down. It's the same with electricity. 

Typically, nuclear power will just supply 24/7, but there's more expensive- gas power plants, for instance, the ones that I mentioned, that are running idle, that are waiting for demand to increase, they only sell maybe an hour a day, some plants only a couple hours a month for the highest price points.

We, as a virtual power plant, of course, are not selling 24/7. You can't sell demand reduction from a therm- the whole idea of a thermostat is that it controls your air conditioner. If you switch it off forever, that defeats the purpose. Your car is for driving, but all these nice side effects are really helpful to the grid. 

So, we're in the middle between high expensive gas power plants and cheap solar, wind, and nuclear. I just mentioned that there's, say, seven different grid operators in the US, maybe 12 in Europe, but then there's thousands of utilities that also are integrated into the market, are buying power, like your local utility has a requirement to buy power in the market and supply it to you, and they have to forecast how much that's going to be.

They all have their different systems. So, the fragmentation is just intense and enormous, and Leap provides a single interface that covers that all of that complexity. And then, the question, well, how do we make money? Just the same way as Stripe makes money. We take a percentage of the trades.

Maiko Schaffrath  32:23

Got it. And then, as a consumer, if I have a Nest thermostat at home, would Leap be activated by default? Is that something that I need to opt into? And then, what's the benefit of having that? Do I get a check from Nest every month? How does it work?

Thomas Folker  32:40

Well, it really depends on where you are, location. If it's a utility, again, Leap is business-to-business. You as a private individual cannot sign up for us, but you can buy a Nest and then when you activate it on your app, you will see a notification that, "Hey, do you want to join Rush Hour Rewards?" That's how the program is called for Nest.

And then, in some cases, that's managed by us, and that incentive differs. Utility that wants to buy that flexibility could give you a free thermostat. That's what we've seen a lot, but it could also be an ongoing payment. It really depends on where you are. 

Energy is not equally distributed in price. It could well be that in Los Angeles, energy is really expensive, because heat waves hitting while in San Francisco, it's cheap. Yeah, what we do is making sure that that incentive, of course, is interesting enough.

Say, if the typical price for a smart thermostat is $100, you can get it for free, or you can get an ongoing payment for $50-$100 maybe every year. For an electric vehicle, it's much more. 

Of course, in the end, the incentive should be that you make money. It's just this money would normally go to power plants that are burning fuel, but it should go to you. How our partners use the payments that we give them is their prerogative.

I've seen partnerships that dish payout over time. I've seen free devices. I've seen discounts on the purchase of your electric vehicle. Imagine an electric vehicle over time being worth about $2,000-$3,000 in energy from the grid.

It would be nice if instead of paying $40,000, you now pay $37k for the car as long as you opt in to be a virtual power plant participant. So, I've seen multiple models, yeah.

Maiko Schaffrath  35:01

Got it. Super interesting. I could go on on this for forever, but I also want to cover a bit of your entrepreneurial journey and focus on that side and see some lessons learned through your journey. I think you said you're about 70 people now, is that right, at Leap, roughly?

Thomas Folker  35:20

Yeah, closer to 80 now, yeah.

Maiko Schaffrath  35:22

80, yeah, there we go. You've doubled your team size in the last year, I think.

Thomas Folker  35:27

Yeah, all while being fully remote, of course. With current developments, you tend to forget that we also had a pandemic the last two years, which for us was what you call silver lining. We started in San Francisco, but we always had an engineering team in the Netherlands.

The moment that we had to work remote, we canceled our office leases and saved that money to extend our runway in the period, but in between, we now have people on our team that would normally never been able to join, because they live in Chicago, or Wyoming, or Atlanta. I have engineers on my team now that live in Austria, in Norway, in Spain. 

The beauty of being able to go fully remote, of course, we're lucky, because we don't make physical products, software. It's an easy switch, and for us, it worked out really well.

It also really changed the hiring environment. We always try to make sure that we pay competitively. Of course, we are a startup with a mission, a climate tech-driven mission. So, everyone that works at Leap has the drive to do something good for the world, so that's been a real big magnet for us to acquire real talent. 

But obviously, we're here in the Bay Area. If you want to double your salary, you can also go work for Facebook, or if you want to triple your salary, you can work for a big tobacco company.

That's really one of my learnings is that you want to organize a team around the same incentive. Everyone in the back of their mind has to come to work with an idea like, "Hey, I'm working on something impactful," and that's been a real, big driver for us to acquire talent, and we really had to make the switch from an office culture to a remote culture. 

One of the things that we did quite early on is to give everyone a pretty sizable budget to make sure that their home setup was good. You don't want people to still work from a small laptop at the kitchen table, but you have a desk, a chair.

Also, spend time and effort to check in with people. I have a family, and for me, it was actually an opportunity to spend more time with my kids, because you don't have to commute anymore, but I've also seen my younger team members straight out of college that had the dream of working a cool startup job in San Francisco and then had to work from their mom's basement for the next year. 

For everyone, impact is different, and we are not the small startup anymore where everyone knows exactly what's happening in everyone's private life. So, processes break as well. I think we should have hired a Director of People much earlier on.

That's been a godsend, having someone that really makes sure that the team functions well or that we check in on how people's well-being is. 

But other things, of course, we're also looking at what's happening in the macro trend. Are we looking at the new recession to make sure that you have enough runway to withstand any potential downturn?

We raised a series B in June 2021, which is eight months ago, but it was a different world. It was a world where stocks only went up and climate tech was the new crypto, and maybe that's not the case. If I look at public micros right now, especially the climate tech-focused companies have taken a pretty sizable beating. 

So, my whole goal or task as a CEO is not building detailed product anymore. It's really setting out the lines and longer-term strategy and building a team and making sure that we have enough fuel in the tank to make sure that we can hit our milestones and raise either our next round or become more profitable, but it's an exciting journey.

I'm convinced that we're on the right pitch. As I said, if we decarbonize electricity, you by default also decarbonize transportation. Sixty percent of total global emissions can be abated. 

I'm in the US and therefore watch Super Bowl. I think the most featured commercials were all about electric vehicles, Polestar, Ford 150. Ford 150, for the people that don't live in the US, is the best sold car in the US for the last 50 years in every state. It's a big pickup truck.

They're going electric, and the really interesting thing is that the commercial was not about the driving experience, but the whole commercial was about a handyman being able to plug in its power tool into the outlet that Ford has in their car, and I think it really paints a picture of where we're going. 

If you would have told me that five years ago, Volkswagen would commit to only building electric vehicles, I wouldn't have believed you, but that's where we are right now. So, we're just at the beginning where all of this is happening.

For us, it's now really our goal to make sure that we have focus and dedication and enough runway to make sure that we build out that vision over time.

Maiko Schaffrath  42:09

Got it. Exciting. We're out of time, but I'll ask you to do one sentence on your vision for the next 10 years. How does the world look like in 10 years from now if you succeed with what you do at Leap? If you continue to succeed, I have to say.

Thomas Folker  42:25

In 10 years from now, every nation is energy-independent, and it could be in collaboration. We should not rely on bumped up old dinosaurs that accumulated over 500 million years. It's quite depressing to see how we completely messed up our planet, but I'm also a massive believer in technology.

Technology got us where we are right now, but it can also get us in a situation where we make sure that we are not on a pathway to destruction. 

Clean energy is the future. It's the cheapest by every stretch, every metric, it's abundant. Energy independence is also nice, because you don't have to rely on geopolitical, malicious actors, like Russia, for instance.

Ten years from now, everyone will drive electric, will potentially fly electric. That's also a pretty cool thing, or fly on synthetic kerosene that is actually carbon-negative. There’re so much technological developments that, I know you asked me online, but maybe that's it. Technology got us in this mess, and technology will get us out of it.

Maiko Schaffrath  43:53

Love it. That's the message. That's the message of this podcast. Thank you so much, Thomas, for joining me today. I wish you all the best and can't wait to catch up again when your team doubles in size again and your impact doubles. Yeah, I really can't wait for that, and thanks so much for joining.

Thomas Folker  44:11

Appreciate your time. Thank you, Maiko.

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