Asa part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Cann, CEO / co-CTO for CryomatiKs Inc., a company commercializing a 100% zero emissions “Wind to Wheel” and “Sun to Wheel” platform that uses the air we all breathe every single day as a type of “fuel” for transportation vehicles and infinitely scalable energy storage.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been a gear head since before I was able to crawl into the garage. Spent many years working in automotive along with manufacturing and logistics environments. The blending of those experiences has lead to the creation of unique mechanical designs that can be used to solve some of the world’s energy related problems.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
“It’s Just Air!” Our solutions allow the atmospheric air we breathe everyday to be chilled into a liquid that serves as a non-toxic zero emissions “fuel” source that generates electricity/power for transportation vehicles, portable emergency power products, as well as serve as a mobile/distributed energy network. CryomatiKs’s innovative design solutions combine 100+ year old proven air condensing technology with proprietary cryo turbo air expansion technology, and telematics / wireless connectivity technology. Our patented designs and liquid air solutions “enables and accelerates” adoption of all the leading zero emissions technologies (including Liquid Air Energy Storage, Batteries, Hydrogen, Solar, Wind, and many others). This technology provides the ability to directly power transportation vehicles from Wind and Solar while keeping the entire end to end process 100% zero emissions.
How do you think this will change the world?
Prior to our Cryo Energy based Eco-System, there hasn’t been a single platform that simultaneously provides zero local emissions for transportation while also providing low upfront cost and low operating cost but still providing the all important convenience of 5 minute quick refueling. Since our primary material is unlimited (remember, it’s just air!), we can scale our technology infinity without any resource limitations. Another key benefit of using the air we breathe is that no one group or country has control over the feedstock material, air is available everywhere on the planet so there is no scarcity concerns. In terms of impact, our platform is not just a technology but more importantly a methodology for the full democratization of zero emission technologies by providing a low cost unlimited process of transferring energy from where the energy is generated to where and when that energy is needed the most, providing the highest possible value with the lowest possible cost. We also enable and accelerate the adoption of other zero emission technologies. For example, our Cryo Energy Eco-System also serves as a mobile/distributed energy network that can act as an alternative to expensive infrastructure costs associated with Quick Charging for pure battery EVs and Hydrogen Fuel delivery, plus allowing Solar and Wind to provide power 24 hours a day, all without releasing any local emissions. The non-toxic nature of using the atmospheric air as a type of “fuel” allows for convenient “Just In Time” portable refueling that can not be easily matched by other solutions.
The current geopolitical structure is heavily based on energy markets so the democratization of zero emission technologies will certainly change geopolitics dramatically. That part is known, but the unintended consequences are what happens after the change in geopolitical structure takes place. There’s simply no way to predict what the response will be in the countries where the government budgets are still dependent on the physical extraction of materials. How do the constituents respond when that source of revenue vanishes?
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
For the last few decades LNG (liquefied natural gas) has been discussed as an alternative to diesel and gasoline in the transportation sector. The process that converts the natural gas into a cold liquid consumes energy that can later be recuperated but in the transportation sector, this energy is normally discarded. To solve the issue of this discarded energy, we created patented designs that not only recuperate most of this energy but our designs also provide sufficient power density so that atmospheric air that we all breath can now be used instead of natural gas. The process of improving an existing solution, in this case the use of LNG within the transportation sector, led to the development of a better overall solution and business model. The “tipping point” is the culmination of dozens of other technologies that have made improvements over the past decade along with the extreme increase in demand for zero emission technology. As usual, it’s not one thing but dozen of things combined that help to pave the way for the final outcome.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Awareness is key. In order for technology to have an impact, you have to have adoption. Condensing the air we all breath into a liquid is a mature process that dates back over 120 years. Liquid Air is already being produced every second of the day all around the globe. Chilling the air we breathe into a liquid is as common as electricity itself. However, until recently the use of liquid air was considered applicable for large industrial needs only. Our modular approach and unique patented designs have opened the door for many new exciting use cases (such a transportation vehicles and other equipment) while also driving down component cost which then opens the door for even more use cases. Companies that are interested in zero emissions transportation technology that has a lower up front cost and lower operating cost than the alternatives while still retaining the convenience of 5 minute quick refueling should be open to solutions such as our Cryo Energy EcoSystem. The economics will speak for themselves so its a matter of having people embrace a technology that has already been proven in other industries and is now being used in a slightly different method. In other words, awareness is important right now.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
How about we do “5 things that are under appreciated or under discussed regarding entrepreneurship in general.” That should be more helpful to most people. In no particular order:
1. The “next big thing” is usually something other than what the general consensus or current narrative suggest it might be. A couple examples, Yahoo was considered the next big thing until it turned out to be Google. MySpace was also considered to be the next big thing until it turned out to be Facebook. There is a long history in various industries where something that was overlooked goes on to become the majority of the market, so keep an eye open for other possibilities. It’s well worth the effort.
2. Know basic accounting. Seriously. The number one reason that businesses fail is because they run out of cash. How can you properly manage cash flow without understanding what cash flow is?
3. The single most important investment you will ever make is yourself. Skills last a lifetime so invest in yourself by building a knowledge base that carries over to multiple industries or businesses.
4. Get use to hearing and saying the word “no” quite often. Always be courteous about it when it happens.
5. This is the most under appreciated and under discussed topic: Opportunity lies at the intersection of contradictions. The reason technology can be so powerful is because many solutions require a different perspective or point of view rather than a brand new invention. Companies and individuals that are capable of providing new solutions will dismiss them if a contradiction to an existing solution or business happens to appear. What solutions have other companies passed on or left behind? There is your opportunity. This sounds a lot like the topic listed under number one and that’s because the two are inherently related.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
There’s a few different thoughts out there on this topic. Some people believe that machines will take most of the jobs in the future, but history proves otherwise. Technology breeds new opportunities and those opportunities create new jobs. Not sure that anything is really “future proof.”
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
The energy market is the largest market the world has ever seen so demand is definitely not an issue for our solutions. As for as specifics to our technology, resources are going into pilot programs so additional resources will be applied to operating programs concurrently. We choose programs based on how quickly those clients will starting receiving ROI. Additional resources allows more programs to roll out which speeds up overall adoption creating a nice feedback loop.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Our design philosophy is based on two distinct principles. First, there’s always a better way. Regardless of the circumstances or the narrative there will always be better ways to accomplish a goal. Second, we strive for our designs to have a multiplier effect, which allows a solution to benefit various groups simultaneously. Our end goal will always be to increase quality of life for every man, woman, and child regardless of location. Technology, in our case energy related technology, is simply the pathway to raising quality of life.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
After having conversations with people wanting to be entrepreneurs, there’s a common theme that has emerged, with that being a total lack of pragmatism. It’s great that so many people have the desire to start a company but at times it feels a bit like telling an adult to believe in the tooth fairy. Someone recently asked for advice with turning an idea into a company and my response was, “are you willing to sacrifice the next ten years of your life to try and make this happen?” The silence was deafening. It’s not doing anyone a favor to highlight the possible positives while ignoring the obvious downsides. People need to be aware that in order to build anything from scratch you need to be fully committed for a minimumof 10 years. There’s no shortcuts to gaining experience but learning from other’s mistakes is as close as you will probably get to finding one. Try to find someone that is willing to share their mistakes and how those mistakes came about in the first place.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Energy based technology is not usually a good match for VCs as the difference between dealing with the 0s and 1s of software and dealing with molecules within energy is tremendous. We’re big believers in strategic partnerships that are mutually beneficial to all that are involved. Our solutions sell themselves once people take a step back to view the simplicity of how our modular patented designs scale into a large 100% zero emission “Wind to Wheels” and “Sun to Wheels” ecosystem. Our technology requires no toxic materials, has a closed loop life-cycle, scales infinitely, operates in a market with never ending demand, has zero scarcity concerns, is derived from proven existing technology, has lower upfront cost than alternatives, has lower operating cost than alternatives, is more convenient than alternatives, easily compliments existing infrastructure, plus as an added bonus, we also purify the local air in real time The real question is, who isn’tinterested in all those benefits?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Not a participant in the Matrix, but people can follow the progress of our technology at www.CryoEnergy.Tech