BRITE Energy Innovators

How to be the Smartest Person in the Room

Advice for Energy Storage Novices

Energy storage is new to me. Occasionally when people ask about my interest and background in energy I can say a few quick anecdotes so that I’m not completely dismissed. I’ve taken more courses than what is godly reasonable on environmental land use law so I know a lot about power system placement, nuclear waste storage, and the most fun of cocktail chatter: eminent domain. I used to hang out with people from IEEE because they were in and out of the planning school I attended and were OBSESSED with grid modernization. I had a short stint as an intern for an international development organization identifying solutions to Europe’s dependence on Russia’s natural gas. That’s about it. So, when I started at TBEIC, I’ve done what I’ve always done to be able to hold a conversation. I downloaded some podcasts.

I’ve been a podcast evangelist for over ten years. It started when I was living overseas and needed a way to passively hear my mother tongue. It deepened as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine, where I’d download a few hours from itunes on to my ipod (remember those days) for 12+ hour train rides to Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv and Simferopol. Back home, they became my entertainment when I didn’t feel like being social and have escalated to the point that I have to have one on in the background regardless of what I’m doing.

Over the past six months, as I’m becoming more acclimated to the work of TBEIC and its potential, the downloads have further increased in numbers. I find that I have little time or energy to read something and fully absorb it (says I as I type a blog post). I’d like to share some of the podcasts that have helped me transition to a new career in energy storage, the Internet of Things, and entrepreneurship:

Startup Culture:

Hosted by Jason Calacanis, a founder, angel investor, and LAUNCH accelerator partner among many other titles is like a Muppet movie. He has factoids that are for the kids (newbies just learning how to get their evaluation together) woven in to sage advice for serial entrepreneurs. This Week in Startups is about an hour per episode and typically goes into one or two areas in great detail. Sometimes, companies pitch to him and then he gives immediate feedback. Other times he just rips Facebook advertising. What I like about this show is how its inspiring but also realistic, providing tough lessons when metrics aren’t being met.

Not really a startup podcast but it’s one of the first I press play on when a new episode drops. Kara Swisher, a Silicon Valley journalist of Vox with a rich history of documenting the emergence of tech over the last three or so decades is an incredible interviewer. On the show she’s interviewed Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban along with executives across corporations, philanthropy and politics. What I like about Kara is she always says that tech founders could benefit from a good liberal arts education and boy do I find that ever so to be true. I find that often founders are pigeon-holed to be both masters of one thing and everything and this show pushes towards what is most important as a society in how and who gets to control technology.

I call this podcast my fake MBA because of how much I’ve gotten out of it over the past few years. It’s so powerful that it is one of the reasons I left my old job to start at TBEIC. Dave Stachowiak is a consultant who works with top-level managers to build their leadership capabilities and amplify their strengths. His show is typically under forty minutes or so and provides a mixture of interviews and advice. Through this podcast I’ve learned to speak with radical candor, delegate, better read people’s emotions and in general continuously improve.

Energy Storage:

Greentech Media hosts this weekly overview on all things energy from policy to founders. Recently, the Energy Gang had an incredible interview with CEO Gene Berdichevsky of Sila Nanotechnologies, the creator of a lithium-ion battery that really put into context how hard it is for tech-enabled energy startups to get a footing and have a win within the first decade (I’m learning you should get excited around Year 12). This podcast also drives my LinkedIn searches to connect with people I must get to know and follow in the cleantech field.

This podcast is unique in that it covers a topic that I’ve found hard to wrap my head around and get much good information on: capital raising and funding for cleantech companies. I thought impact investing was just a buzzword for people in energy to feel like they “got it” but it’s a real thing. This podcast has a nice variety of founders, philanthropists, venture capitalists, incubator staff and others to really learn about the ecosystem.

Hosted by David Hunt, an entrepreneur, this podcast interviews startup and scale up founders and industry leaders in energy storage, mobility, renewables and smart cities among others. It’s a nice overview of how cleantech can and will impact all aspects of life and each episode includes an incredible notes section with links to topics and individuals. This podcast is a great overview for generalists as well as those wanting to not reinvent the wheel when starting and scaling a cleantech company.

Internet of Things:

First off, these podcasts need new names. They are really hard to find and differentiate. I find IoT fascinating as a talking point because often it starts with a big idea and quickly becomes a conversation about AI and computing storage power… for some reason I find this disappointing, like we find out what the wizard looks like. I guess I’m trying to say is as this field matures and centralizes, I hope there is more substance in the media produced around it.

This podcast features interviews on broad topics such as the platforms used for IoT and how they are applied for supply chain management, smart buildings and robotics. I like how it thinks through the business development of IoT software and how in turn they are adopted.

This series is similar to the previous podcast in providing a blend of broad topics mainly on smart cities but also includes interviews with hardware companies and goes into depth on project implementation of IoT solutions.

I like this podcast for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it’s hosted by a woman, Stacy Higginbotham. There are so few women interviewed in IoT and I love how excited she gets about it. Second, this podcast mainly focuses on consumer IoT like light bulbs and things like Alexa and Nest. Before listening to this podcast, I didn’t realize how many people are like my husband and enjoy tinkering across technologies and code them for things like nighttime security light optimization. This podcast also showcases how quickly consumer tech can be the center of attention and rapidly fade because of competition and/or planned obsolescence.

Sara Daugherty is the Director of Operations and Economic Impact at the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center.

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