Gene Berdichevsky was one of many early group members at Tesla. Now he’s constructing his personal unicorn startup, Sila Nanotechnologies, which is valued at over $1 billion. One which seems like it should gas each manner you journey from the highway to being within the air.
Berdichevsky not too long ago appeared as a visitor on the Dealmakers Podcast. Throughout his unique interview, he shared his journey, constructing his first photo voltaic automobile, and the way he’s raised tons of of hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal know-how startup that’s rising at an unimaginable tempo.
Hundreds of Miles & Designing Your Personal Schooling
He was born on the Black Sea in Ukraine, frolicked in St. Petersburg, Russia, and even lived north of the arctic circle for 5 years. All earlier than touchdown together with his household in Richmond, Virginia, and attending school in California.
Gene was lucky to develop up in an entrepreneurial household, and see his father begin his personal small companies. Each of his dad and mom had been software program engineers and labored on nuclear submarines.
So, the one factor he says he knew was, “I undoubtedly wasn’t going to be a software program engineer.” He did get pleasure from math and science rather a lot. That led him to check mechanical engineering.
Inside his first yr at Stanford, he bought concerned of their photo voltaic automobile mission. College students would compete to construct a solar-powered automobile and race it throughout the nation, 2,300 miles, from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Gene’s group constructed the automobile chassis from scratch, constructed a carbon fiber physique, and powered it with a battery with about the identical power because the toaster in your kitchen.
That was it. He fell in love with vitality, problem-solving and constructing, and was actually energized by having actually constructed one thing from the bottom up.
Berdichevsky went on to get a Grasp’s in vitality engineering from Stanford. There was actually no such program in existence on the time. So, he put collectively his personal curriculum. He dove into supplies, semiconductor physics, quantum mechanics, and photo voltaic.
Many individuals are already combating the choice to go to college. So, why go, and even create your personal research, when you possibly can piece every part you wish to know collectively on-line today?
As with most of the different extremely profitable startup founders I’ve interviewed who’ve come out of Stanford, Gene discovered the community you achieve entry to very beneficial. A few of these folks nonetheless work for him at Sila right this moment. He additionally credit the worth of studying out of your friends there.
Tesla & Battery Points
On the finish of his junior yr, Gene turned the seventh Tesla worker as a tech lead for battery system architectural improvement.
It’s no secret that there have been loads of early challenges for Tesla. They began out actually supergluing laptop computer batteries collectively to make the battery pack.
Then with security the primary concern was avoiding random failures. They occur in batteries. Even being uncommon, when you find yourself utilizing 10,000 batteries to run a single car you actually must count on this to occur and preempt that.
Tesla grew from round 10 folks when Berdichevsky began there, to round 300 when he left. About 30x in simply 4 years. Tesla now has over 45,000 staff with a market cap of $40 billion.
His huge lesson from Tesla was that as a startup founder, you wish to go after actually huge issues. Mockingly, Gene says generally it’s simpler to resolve a extremely huge downside, than a smaller one. For a begin, it lets you entice unimaginable expertise. It’s also each extremely rewarding and reduces your competitors.
From Tesla, he noticed that it’s essential be keen to do issues the world doesn‘t assume are doable. This requires a mindset and a tradition that’s self-reliance the place you’re keen to do a number of issues in home.
Entrepreneurship In The Making
From the day he walked into Tesla, Gene says his mind was already fixated on “How do I begin my very own firm? How do I construct one thing like this?” He had even beforehand written a marketing strategy for making electrical automobiles within the U.S. market in his junior yr at Stanford.
He then did a stint at Sutter Hill Ventures the place he understood the VC lens when figuring out entrepreneurs which have the potential for achievement. The important thing substances and the way the lens is used to establish patterns consists of the next:
1) Nice markets outlined by an important distribution
2) A robust product that captures the worth
three) Founding groups geared up to resolve complicated technical issues
Gene was touring the world assembly many founders. Throughout his time with Sutter Hill Ventures, Gene met his future co-founder, Gleb Yushin. Shortly after, Gene’s former Tesla colleague Alex Jacobs joined them as Sila Nano’s third co-founder.
After a number of conversations and understanding the worth that every one in all them dropped at the desk, they bought began with a 1,000 sq. ft. lab in a basement at Georgia Tech and Sila Nanotechnologies was born.
Financing The Subsequent Massive Factor
Proper after forming the group they went out to boost financing. That they had a giant benefit and that was the mental property Gleb had amassed which included six patents and 4 years of technical knowledge round the issue they needed to resolve.
They knew the know-how was absolutely appropriate and had a transparent understanding of the highway forward given the years of expertise at Tesla from Gene and his co-founder Alex.
They went out and raised a Collection A spherical with Sutter Hill and Matrix as co-leads. Each of whom have continued investing in each spherical.
Sila’s most up-to-date spherical of financing was a $170 million spherical led by Daimler. To date they’ve raised round $295 million.
The enterprise positioning was important as lots of people had misplaced cash in battery firms. From day one they had been very clear they weren’t a battery firm, however a know-how firm that makes supplies for batteries. Batteries are a low margin market however the supplies have a really wholesome market as the higher the product the upper the gross sales.
They’re valued now at over $1 billion the place storytelling performed a giant function. That is having the ability to seize the essence of the enterprise in 15 to 20 slides. For a successful deck, check out the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I not too long ago coated. Thiel was the primary angel investor in Fb with a $500Okay examine that changed into greater than $1 billion in money.
Throughout the early days, the cofounders had been in a position to recruit a bunch of proficient engineers to affix them and from there began to construct the enterprise.
Their enterprise mannequin revolves round inventing, creating, manufacturing and promoting their product.
On this regard, their product is a powder that replaces graphite powder in current lithium-ion batteries. The extra effectively you possibly can retailer lithium, the much less materials you want for a similar quantity of vitality. Sila Nano’s materials can retailer vitality extra densely, providing you with extra vitality at related quantity and weight.
Sila can cut back battery weight by roughly 20 % or improve vitality shops by roughly 20 % with it’s materials. That means automobiles have the potential to go 20% additional than anybody else’s.
Think about that each electrical car will want round 15 to 20 kilos of this materials. Assume ahead to some years from now when all automobiles are electrical. You’re speaking a couple of market of 100 million new automobiles per yr. At 20 kilos per automobile, you are speaking about 2 billion kilos of this completely new-to-the-world materials that needs to be produced, yearly.
This materials may be used to gas new air taxis, and alter the best way we journey, and the aerospace trade.
Sila has been rising by round 40-50% yearly for the previous 5 years, and there are not any indications of that slowing down anytime quickly.
Listen in to the total podcast episode to search out out extra, together with:
- The important substances for elevating cash
- Gene’s prime piece of recommendation for his youthful self and new founders
- Learn how to develop as a pacesetter when your group is rising at 92% in two years
- His method to fixing strategic issues