Gene Berdichevsky was one of many early workforce 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 can gas each method you journey from the highway to being within the air.
Berdichevsky lately appeared as a visitor on the Dealmakers Podcast. During his unique interview, he shared his journey, constructing his first photo voltaic automotive, and the way he’s raised a whole lot of thousands and thousands of for his personal know-how startup that’s rising at an unimaginable tempo.
Thousands of Miles & Designing Your Own Education
He was born on the Black Sea in Ukraine, hung out in St. Petersburg, Russia, and even lived north of the arctic circle for 5 years. All earlier than touchdown along with his household in Richmond, Virginia, and attending faculty in California.
Gene was lucky to develop up in an entrepreneurial household, and see his father begin his personal small companies. Both of his dad and mom have been software program engineers and labored on nuclear submarines.
So, the one factor he says he knew was, “I definitely wasn’t going to be a software engineer.” He did get pleasure from math and science lots. That led him to review mechanical engineering.
Within his first 12 months at Stanford, he obtained concerned of their photo voltaic automotive venture. Students would compete to construct a solar-powered automotive and race it throughout the nation, 2,300 miles, from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Gene’s workforce constructed the automotive chassis from scratch, constructed a carbon fiber physique, and powered it with a battery with about the identical energy 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 Master’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 battling the choice to go to school. So, why go, and even create your individual research, when you possibly can piece every thing you wish to know collectively on-line nowadays?
As with lots of the different extremely profitable startup founders I’ve interviewed who’ve come out of Stanford, Gene discovered the community you acquire entry to very helpful. Some 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 Issues
At the tip of his junior 12 months, Gene turned the seventh Tesla worker as a tech lead for battery system architectural growth.
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, if you end up utilizing 10,000 batteries to run a single car you actually must anticipate 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. Ironically, Gene says generally it’s simpler to unravel a very huge downside, than a smaller one. For a begin, it lets you entice unimaginable expertise. It can be each extremely rewarding and reduces your competitors.
From Tesla, he noticed that you should be keen to do issues the world doesn‘t suppose are doable. This requires a mindset and a tradition that’s self-reliance the place you’re keen to do a whole lot 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 start my own company? How do I build something like this?” He had even beforehand written a marketing strategy for making electrical automobiles within the U.S. market in his junior 12 months 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 fulfillment. The key substances and the way the lens is used to establish patterns consists of the next:
1) Great markets outlined by an ideal distribution
2) A robust product that captures the worth
three) Founding groups outfitted to resolve advanced technical issues
Gene was touring the world assembly many founders. During 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 considered one of them dropped at the desk, they obtained began with a 1,000 sq. ft. lab in a basement at Georgia Tech and Sila Nanotechnologies was born.
Financing The Next Big Thing
Right after forming the workforce they went out to lift financing. They had an enormous benefit and that was the mental property Gleb had amassed which included six patents and 4 years of technical knowledge round the issue they wished to resolve.
They knew the know-how was totally 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 Series A spherical with Sutter Hill and Matrix as co-leads. Both 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. So far they’ve raised round $295 million.
The enterprise positioning was crucial as lots of people had misplaced cash in battery corporations. From day one they have 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 are valued now at over $1 billion the place storytelling performed an enormous function. This 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 right here) that I lately lined. Thiel was the primary angel investor in Facebook with a $500Okay verify that changed into greater than $1 billion in money.
During the early days, the cofounders have 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.
In 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, supplying you with extra vitality at related quantity and weight.
Sila can scale back battery weight by roughly 20 p.c or improve vitality shops by roughly 20 p.c with it’s materials. Meaning automobiles have the potential to go 20% additional than anybody else’s.
Consider that each electrical car will want round 15 to 20 kilos of this materials. Think ahead to some years from now when all automobiles are electrical. You’re speaking a few market of 100 million new automobiles per 12 months. At 20 kilos per automotive, 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 way in which we journey, and the aerospace trade.
Sila has been rising by round 40-50% yearly for the previous 5 years, and there aren’t any indications of that slowing down anytime quickly.
Listen in to the total podcast episode to seek out out extra, together with:
- The important substances for elevating cash
- Gene’s prime piece of recommendation for his youthful self and new founders
- How to develop as a pacesetter when your workforce is rising at 92% in two years
- His method to fixing strategic issues
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