CleanTechies Podcast

#146 AI-Powered Savings: Optimizing EV Charging Costs on the Grid w/ Ken Munson (Rhythmos)

January 09, 2024 Silas Mähner (CT Headhunter) & Somil Aggarwal (CT PM & Investor) Season 1 Episode 146
CleanTechies Podcast
#146 AI-Powered Savings: Optimizing EV Charging Costs on the Grid w/ Ken Munson (Rhythmos)
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Today, Ken Munson, CEO of Rhythmos, shares his story of becoming an entrepreneur, including the wins and losses. He also discusses what Rhythmos is doing in grid-edge technology. He explains what GridEdge Tech is, the importance of experienced entrepreneurs staying in the arena, and the intricacies of selling to utilities. Munson also delves into the future of grid technology and sustainable energy solutions.

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Topics:
**1:40 Intro to Ken
**3:00 Going from Architect to Entrepreneur to Rhythmos
**12:00 What Grid Edge Is
**14:45 What Rhythmos is Doing, Why, and How it Works
**21:30 How Rhythmos is Helping Solve the Infrastructure Problem
**24:50 Their Customer Types (Utilities & Commercial Fleets)
**27:48 How They do Incremental Data Access Tech to Fill the Gaps to the Utility
**31:20 The ROI of Using Rhythmos
**32:15 Advice on Selling to Utilities
**36:45 How to Hire Good SalesPeople
**42:30 On Deciding to Go Back Into the Arena

Links:
**Ken Munson | https://www.linkedin.com/in/kennethmunson/
**Rhythmos | https://rhythmos.io/
**Check out our Sponsor, NextWave Partners: https://www.next-wavepartners.com/
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**@Silas & @Somil_Agg on Twitter / X 

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Silas Mähner (00:00)
All right, welcome to the show, Ken. Super excited to have you today. Thanks for getting up early to do this. Awesome, just give us a quick intro to yourself and what you're working on. We'll get right into it.

Ken Munson (00:11)
Yeah, fantastic. And thank you very much for having me here today. So Ken Munson, I'm the CEO of Rhythmos. And we're really focused on developing the next generation of managed charging services, primarily focused on

the adoption of electric vehicles into the utility, electric utility grid.

Silas Mähner (00:34)
And I guess just, can you explain how you got into this journey? I think we'll probably spend a bit of time going on this because you talked about when we did our kind of pre-show meeting that you built this now because of the right timing. So can you talk, go back a little bit further in time, talk us through your career and how you ended up here. Just give us a few of the stories.

Ken Munson (00:53)
Yeah. So I guess going back to, you know, to when I was in college or right after college, I initially studied to be an architect. And I think is through that journey of that educational journey of wanting to become, you know, a famous architect at some point in time. What I really discovered was that I didn't like

the money that architects got paid. But I really enjoyed the fact that they were building something, something that was sustainable, something that had a legacy. And I think that's really what started my entry into entrepreneurship. After college, I had graduated with a business degree and decided to go to work.

for a company, a refuse company, Browning Ferris Industries at the time, and started in sales and basically spent about five or six years selling refuse services, believe it or not. And there's fairly prolific industry there. And it was there that I slowly migrated into business development and

always again had that yearning to go back and do something on my own, but realized I was pretty good at selling something and selling small things evolved into selling bigger things. And I was fortunate enough to have some really good mentors along the way that introduced me into the M&A environment. And through that exercise of participating with a bigger M&A team, acquiring companies, selling companies, doing the diligence for that.

I learned that I had a real passion that I could go out and do this on my own. And to be honest with you, the first, after, after spending 10 years in this, as a successful, you know, salesperson, sales manager, when I stepped out on my own, to do what I thought everyone was doing at the time, which was startups, right? I've, we failed miserably. I failed miserably.

I had no idea what a startup was about or what it took. And went through a couple of iterations on a couple of companies, again, mostly in the biotech space and in the agricultural space and just learned that this was really hard. And ultimately, I think I had a conversation with my partner at the time and she's like, you know, maybe you're not really cut out for this. And

And after four or five years of trying really hard, I thought, you know, maybe she's right. So I settled back into what I was really good at, and that's business development. And just happened to go to work for a company that was shortly thereafter acquired by a private equity group. And it was there that I think what was, I think, one of my most prolific mentors.

said, you know, you're, you're pretty good at this chameleon thing of being able to me being able to drop you in almost anywhere. And you being able to kind of come out the other side with a deal or a partnership or a relationship that matters that helps us grow. And that was kind of my entree into private equity. So I worked for the company that had acquired our firm. And it was there, frankly, that I really perfected

under again, mentorship, perfected the idea of how you build a company, how you really take sales to the next level, how you assess the market, how you look at a technology, how you look at how that technology might work within a broader set of technologies, how you get rid of technologies if they don't fit, right? How you fail fast. And after about almost 10 years doing that.

I figured it was time to try again. And with the support of my family, I went out and founded my first company, Sun Verge Energy. So now we're talking 2008 timeframe. And it just happened to be what we were doing was trying to find a solution for grid edge energy storage integrated into solar. And that was pretty early days back then.

with regard to where the entire industry was around grid edge technologies. But with again, with the help of someone that I ultimately chose as my co-founding partner, I got very lucky because he taught me the fundamentals of the distribution network and the energy network. And together over a 10-year period of time, we were one of the early innovators and leaders in some very innovative patent work that we did.

around the grid integration of energy storage and solar technology. And that ultimately evolved into what was ultimately a DERM's play, Distributed Energy Resource Management System, which was a new layer of technologies that utilities use to manage grid edge technologies via the cloud. I spent about 10 years with Sunverge, and then ultimately,

decided I wanted to pursue other opportunities in the space. And I think it was in 2018 or so that I realized that the amount of load growth that was coming onto the grid was continuing at a pace that utilities wouldn't be able to sustain or at least manage as easily as they had under a unidirectional distribution of energy environment like it had in the past.

And I also realized that I had spent 10 years really focused on the grid edge and really had no understanding of enterprise layer utility technologies like SCADA. And it was there that I was introduced to again, my partner at the time that had a company that was focused on SCADA and was looking to really

come up with a different and innovative way to introduce SCADA into utilities, focused on Grid Edge, but really coming from that centralized management perspective. And that was a company called Cougruative. And together, we spent about three years really rethinking that business, rebranding it, repositioning it, and moving it into the market. And we were one of the early.

virtual developers of Software Gateway for grid edge technologies to be integrated and managed via SCADA. And I did that from basically about 2018 through 2022 when we ultimately sold the company to another technology player. And frankly, at that time, I was going to retire. It was something that I had been thinking about. But whether it be through a bit of

hardheadedness or just having that entrepreneurial spirit in me, I decided that might be a little too early in my career, in my life career, if you will, to step aside. I figured I had one or two more rodeos left in me. So I founded, well, I stepped into a company called GridCure Incorporated. And they were a company that had been around since 2013.

but we're focused on asset management. And I think the initial investors and team were looking for a way maybe that grid care could differentiate itself from that class of asset management and do something interesting around the thesis of electric vehicles. And of course, electric vehicles had been a topic of conversation.

for myself and a topic of interest going back to 2016 when I really started to see this impact on load to utilities and so Rhythmos came out of that idea.

Silas Mähner (09:30)
Okay, so there's a lot of questions I have from that. I think your journey is quite interesting. I have a lot of, there's some pretty relevant recent things that have happened that are topics that are coming up, but we'll get to those in a second. What I'd like to do is, I believe a lot of people, and I have some familiarity with it, but a lot of people and myself included have very little understanding of when people say grid edge distribution, how these things work. Can you give us the very simple version of how things work?

and what the problem is and what problem you're solving, kind of in that order.

Ken Munson (10:04)
Yeah, so grid edge evolves from the theory of really the generation of power.

was a unidirectional flow for most of the history of our history, right? I mean, it came from centralized power plants and was delivered to the home with the advent of smart technologies, starting with thermostats, but inclusive of solar or battery storage or the ability to manage hot water heaters over the last decade or more.

utilities have now begun to recognize or the flow of energy has become bi-directional. So grid edge technologies are typically those technologies that sit at the meter, below the meter of the home and are used to manage whether it be the comfort of your home as in a thermostat or an electric vehicle or the charge experience with an electric vehicle or the solar on the roof.

And the reason that those technologies now have evolved to the level of importance that they have is the level of growth in load has become such that, you know, as we saw with solar and the initiation of the duck curve, or as we have seen with time of use rates, you're simply, a lot of these technologies are simply used to mitigate kind of the

non-coincidental peaks that exist or to manage with a greater level of fidelity, the way in which the home can support these technologies, meaning remotely controlling your thermostat so that it is coordinated with a more optimal rate to lower the cost of energy to the homeowner or to lower...

peak demand associated with excess demand on the grid at any given time.

Silas Mähner (12:14)
Okay, sorry. So then if that's the case, so that you're basically, you're building this technology, that's what Grid Edge is, right? What is the, why is the reason why you're building Rhythmos? Can you explain what it is and what problem it's solving inside of that, right? Was the existing technology just pretty crappy? It wasn't working so well? Like, what is the problem and what are you doing in simple terms?

Ken Munson (12:35)
Yeah, in simple terms, we saw an opportunity to solve an area of the grid that no one was

and the utility ecosystem in particular, the utilities distribution network come together. That particular point at which they interconnect is the single point of bottleneck or single point of failure if you want to think about it in those terms as it relates to broader EV adoption. Meaning that as

Utilities face this new tsunami of load that's coming on due to consumer adoption of electric vehicles. They're faced with challenges associated with managing, identifying, characterizing that load in the same way that they can characterize a static load of, let's say, the homes of the home via a thermostat. So we saw an opportunity where a utility, if you could increase the level of

so they could see where these electric vehicles are. You could characterize them, and then you could assess them relative to the operation of the entire distribution network from the transformer to the feeder to the substation to the bulk substation that you would have increased ability to have actionable insight for the utility, but more importantly, the experience for a fleet owner.

or for a passenger vehicle manifests itself in two ways. For a homeowner, the addition of an electric vehicle into the home is the equivalent of adding, the load is the equivalent of adding one peak load of a home for every electric vehicle added, meaning that the peak load is increasing pretty severely. And that could affect the service. And there may be a need for the utility

to upgrade the transformer. And although most of those in that particular case, those costs are socialized, the reality is it impacts time. The utility may not be able to do that service upgrade for that home owner for some period of time, especially given the backlog of supply chain issues that the industry is now facing. For a fleet owner, that can manifest itself into a very complex system.

a fleet wanting to put one megawatt of new load, or let's say 50 vehicles onto the grid on the corner of first and main. And they go to a utility and say, I want to interconnect. And they may be faced with a $100,000 or a $200,000 service upgrade charge. Plus the fact that the utility may come back and say, well, it's gonna take us, you know, six months, nine months, 18 months before we can do that upgrade, right? So there's an impact to their business.

Silas Mähner (15:41)
Okay, got it. So if I understand this correctly, I'll try to recap this. So in the way the grid was set up, you have energy that generally flows from, let's say, a coal power plant down through the wires, which we can kind of view for people who are not electrical engineers like myself. I've understood it as they're basically pipes, right? And you can only have so much water going through them, but in this case, it's electricity going down, and the pipes get smaller and smaller until you get to the house or whoever's consuming it.

But now we have a bi-directional meaning there's electricity potentially going back onto the grid. And because it takes so long to upgrade the grid and because there's a lot more electricity flowing in different ways, you have a congestion issue where there's too much electricity or water, in this example, flowing through the pipes. So your technology is trying to manage all of those and say, listen, in order to get your electricity now, we can try to coordinate with everybody in the network.

via the utility, I'm assuming, to ensure that everybody's getting charged without having any issues right now until the upgrades eventually happen in the coming years. Is this correct?

Ken Munson (16:45)
Yeah, that's correct. The utility now has the ability to factor into the algorithm, if you will. And I'll unpack that here in a second. To look at.

what is happening at the point of load, so at the meter, how the meter and collection of meters are impacting a transformer. So 7 to 10 homes on a transformer is that transformer being impacted, and specifically looking at the nameplate capacity or the thermal rating of that transformer to see if it's in an overload condition or a premature failure condition. And then how those

transformers collectively and individually impact a feeder so that you don't end up with something called feeder runaway, as an example, and then how those feeders impact substations. So it's a collection looking at all points of all points, all assets on the distribution network all the way back upstream. Now additionally, we also take into consideration below the meter. So we're looking at what's happening not only with

in the vehicle or on the beside the vehicle, right, within the fleet itself. But we're taking the business constraints as a first point of consideration, meaning that we're allowing a fleet or a driver of an electric vehicle to operate the vehicles as though originally intended without constraint. Right. So under a time of use scenario, to give you an example, that's a particular rate that encourages.

you know, EV adoption, it's typically a lower rate associated than your normal rate. Um, we allow, um, the user, instead of having to adopt to a particular timeframe, such as let's say 9 PM to midnight to charge their vehicle, they can charge it anytime during the day. And we will take into consideration what's happening on the distribution network and we'll factor that into the charge cycle, right? So that it becomes more ubiquitous.

allowing for greater freedom of operation from a fleet perspective, commercial fleet perspective, or in the way in which a passenger vehicle owner wants to own and manage their vehicle and charge their vehicle.

Silas Mähner (19:07)
Okay, got it. And then so this technology will, is it correct to assume that it will do two things, which is help prevent people from slowing down EV adoption because they're, you know, oh, you know, I had these issues and it'll prevent that from slowing down, but it will also save the utilities money.

Ken Munson (19:24)
That's correct. Yeah. That's exactly what we're, we're focused on. We're, we see the opportunity to increase the experience. I mean, one of the big challenges to the industry more broadly, right. Is, um, you know, obviously infrastructure, right. And the more infrastructure, I think the need for the industry to move to a level of ubiquity, like, like a gas powered vehicle or a nice vehicle is today is important. I think that. That.

ultimately will determine our ability to succeed in this transition. Um, but hardware is not the only piece, right? The experience that a user has, an [electric] vehicle owner has,  when charging that vehicle also has to delight or become ubiquitous. It has to be something that we don't think about. Right. And so although today the industry is mostly focused on where's the next, you know,

electric vehicle charging station, tomorrow's passenger should not be focused on that, right? Or tomorrow's owner should not be focused on where's that because the infrastructure will be there. And when they pull up or when they charge at home, it should be in accordance with how they think the vehicle needs to be operated. So to unpack that for a second, you know,  we think that a vehicle owner

should just be able to have predictive analytics that are pushed to them that say, you drove 40 miles last week between time A and time B. We anticipate you driving 45 miles next week. You're at 80% charge. Here's your optimal rate at which  to drive your vehicle next week. Here's the amount of savings that you'll have. But more importantly,

If you choose to, let's say, not have your battery at 80% and you want to run it at 60% and wait to charge your vehicle until three days from now when the energy cost is lower, or tomorrow when the energy cost is lower, here's an option for you. So the idea is simply that the owner determines the risk, the profile, the risk profile that they want to engage.

And that experience simply says, hey, this is my smart environment. And, um, this is what's best for me as an individual of that vehicle, given my lifestyle characteristic.

Silas Mähner (22:05)
Mm-hmm. OK, got it. That makes a lot of sense. I think that's quite interesting. I sometimes wish my iPhone could do that. And there's a lot of different things where you can notice that the technology is getting better in the background of predicting these things, usage of all sorts of things. What I want to understand is, so who is paying for this? What's your business model? You're obviously saving utilities money and individual customers. Are the utilities paying for this? And then it's just offered as a service

Ken Munson (22:13)
Hehehe

Silas Mähner (22:35)
to their users. Like how do you do this? Because I know it's notoriously difficult to sell to utilities.

Ken Munson (22:41)
Yeah, it's a great question. So.

We have two models. We have two personas, if you will, and we sell two. One is the utility, the other is the fleet owner. No. For a utility, there are enterprise services. And for definitional purposes, we see utilities owning fleets. So if you think about a program that a utility is running, let's say 1,000 vehicles in their service territory, we consider that a fleet. So one business model.

is that we sell based on the number of meters, based on the number of vehicles, based on the type of module that they want to employ from our platform, a utility would pay us a traditional subscription service. There are other add-on services such as, you know, we clean data, we do integration, we do other things, again, depending on the complexity for which the utility wants to engage around optimization. So.

Very simple things might be EV identification. Somewhat more complex might be transformer loading. And somewhat ultimate might be full distribution network optimization of their fleet. So depending on the module and the way in which the utility or the stage at which the utility is currently at in its EV adoption cycle will fit that.

And essentially that exists the same way for the vehicle electrification for the commercial fleet, right? We'll offer a traditional managed charging service that will be based on the number of vehicles and the level of complexity for which they want to employ, so they can take a very simple path where we're just simply managing four or five aspects of their fleet, or we can take a more.

advanced path, which has them fully integrated into a utility and fully optimized. So we sell to both sides of the mix. Today in today's world, you know, the majority of the pressure and the majority of the early adoption we believe is on the utility side, and that's where we're really focused.

Silas Mähner (24:56)
Got it. So one question I have is on the there's been a lot of talk recently about companies and startups that can build, that are building something that can collect a unique data set. Is your data set able to help the utilities identify where to do upgrades? And is that already something they have access to through their existing kind of softwares or whatever they're using? But I'm just kind of curious about identifying what's the biggest bottlenecks and things like that.

Ken Munson (25:24)
Yeah, our data set absolutely can identify where there are constraints on the grid. It can identify where the lowest points of wholesale cost, the cheapest points of wholesale cost of energy occur. And how to integrate that into a very dynamic.

a managed charging environment on the vehicle electrification side. Um, one of the things that when I founded the company, you know, there's, um, a lot of challenges historically with Derms applications, um, or ADMS applications. These are large applications or enterprise level. They're really designed for a system operator or a system planner. They're not, um,

A multi siloed technology that utilities use where multiple different stakeholders participate in for the most part. And more importantly, they take years to integrate. And one of the things that we wanted to avoid was running up against that. That wall, you know, of adoption, like we didn't want to have a rip and replace technology, meaning that you had to develop a platform that you had to take something out of the utility and put something else in order to achieve the value proposition that we're claiming.

So we designed the application where we access the data that you're referring to via AMI. And we also access other data sets, such as OMS from your Outage Management System for connectivity data. We can go all the way into SCADA if a utility so desires. But the point is that the way in which we access data is really incremental, meaning.

With the advent of modern analytics in AI, you don't need entire data sets or complete integrations in the historical sense where you had to have a very complex integration into a system of choice by the utility. And we use that data to fill gaps in their existing system. So some.

Durham's applications or ADMS applications have tremendous functionality, but they have gaps, let's say closer to the edge of the grid, below the substation level or below the feeder. And so our technology really focuses on filling those gaps and being kind of complimentary, uh, to existing systems, uh, so that the utility doesn't have to bear that integration cost or overall system costs. I mean, our platform goes in.

in the tens of thousands at the lowest level to, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars at the highest level. When you compare that against a traditional enterprise, DERMS or ADMS technology, that's, you know, in the millions of dollars. Our integration takes, you know, 90 to 120 days as opposed to a typical, you know, DERMS application that may take years, a long number of years. No, I'm just talking about getting the technology operational. Yeah.

Silas Mähner (28:19)
for the payback time you're talking about.

Oh, enter operational. Do you have any studies that you've done so far on seeing like what is the total cost savings for everybody involved in the system when you get a customer?

Ken Munson (28:37)
Yeah, we'll be publishing some third party studies in the first quarter of 25. We're still fairly early as a young company. So we just completed our first year of operation, but yes, absolutely. What we know now is that through our initial utility engagements and fleet engagements, we're seeing the ability once using our technology to increase the adoption or the

Silas Mähner (28:45)
Mm-hmm.

Ken Munson (29:03)
number, the amount of load or the number of vehicles onto a particular distribution network by 2x. So allowing utilities to use existing assets to achieve two times the rate of growth before having to prematurely replace that asset.

Silas Mähner (29:09)
Mm, okay.

Yeah, okay, that's quite fascinating. I like that. So that seems pretty clear then, all the technology, I think we've gone through that plenty. There's a couple of questions since we have a little bit of time left, I'd like to ask. One of them being, I think most of what you've done has been in this role in past kind of ventures has been selling to utilities. Can you talk about the, I guess, advice you have to other founders who are selling other related technologies to utilities because it's a...

I've heard just kind of set the table. There's been people who've talked about when it comes to talent, if they hire the wrong salesperson who thinks they can figure it out, but they only have one shot because they're burning so much money that by the time they realize that they've not done it well, the sales cycle has gone through and they don't have any more money. They're going to have a difficult time raising. So it's very, very important that people get it right when it comes to selling to utilities. So can you talk about that and give your advice there?

Ken Munson (30:20)
Yeah.

That it's a great question. And I think it's one that, you know, when I started in the industry in 2008, you know, I think there was this, you know, this is during the ARRA monies that were released under the Obama administration. That was kind of the first tranche of big cash that was pushed in, it was pushed into smart metering infrastructure. And, and it was arguably kind of energy transition 2.0.

because 1.0 was back in the late 90s. Maybe you could even go make another argument for the late 80s. But at that particular time, I came into an industry that was big into pilots. Pilotitis, right, was a phrase that was embedded in the back of my mind. And these pilots lasted 24 months, 36 months. They ran in continuous cycles. So you'd finish one and then you start another. It just was never.

It was never adoption that you were talking about. It was always proved to me that the technology will work fast forward, you know, 15 years, 10 years, 15 years today, there's still very much a fundamental part of what utilities and how utilities want to adopt, but I'm not seeing 24 and 36 months anymore, right? There are shorter demonstration periods and, and the phrase pilot has migrated the demonstration, which I think is a good thing.

But make no doubt that is a process you're going to have to go through as a founder to get your technology adopted. So one of the first things that I think is really important is that you achieve as a founder, as a company, as a team, you achieve technical acceptance. Like you use a firm or you, you know.

pitch into a company like EPRIs or an agency like EPRIs incubate energy program where there's technical validation of your solution. There are many utility industry members that look to agencies like EPRI to say, hey, this technology works. It's good. You should pay attention to it. It won't eliminate the need for that utility to go through their own pilot or demonstration project, but it will definitely help.

And so, you know, with more utilities now focused on actionable, you know, actionable demonstration projects instead of just pure pilot for the purpose of R&D and innovation study, you're seeing the sales cycle drop. And in our case, you know, you're still going to see, you know, a 12, 16, 18 month adoption in some cases, but I'm seeing a lot of cases.

I won't go so far as to say the majority of the cases be six, nine, and 12. And that's encouraging. Right. So my point is that, um, as a founder, you need to be prepared for a longer sales cycle, right? And I think you're going to see that on the vehicle electrification side as well. Anybody who's doing work with an OEM knows that, you know, it's not easy to penetrate a tier one OEM.

with your technology, whether it be for managed charging for a commercial fleet or otherwise, you're going to see a six month sales cycle, probably at a minimum and probably on average. And I think so for utilities to kind of drop into the 12 to 14 month cycle, I think that's a good thing. That's a really good sign. But to your question on the type of person that you're looking for, this is always a challenge for...

for early stage companies for founders to find good salespeople. Frankly, I think sales is the most difficult section of a, or, you know, functional area of a company to, to solve for. Um, I think that, you know, beside the fundamentals, and maybe we can unpack that in a minute, but aside from the fundamentals of just good sales

the utility in a way that is beyond more holistically is really critically important. So what do I mean by that? There's silos in a utility. There's distribution planners, which are distribution operators. You have the pro customer programs group. You have the rate and tariff energy trading group. You have these different groups and each one of these groups have different levels of expertise. And it's

It's not always easy to find somebody that has kind of the multi-siloed understanding of how each of these different areas work. But, you know, to find somebody that might have one or two that understands the utility voice in that is, is really important, right? Because if you bring, if you bring somebody out of a customer programs group, you know, from a utility and you hire them into, let's say a distribution network operations technology platform.

they might struggle because all they really understand is client engagement, right? In customer programs from a utility perspective, rather than understand the fundamentals of how does the transformer work relative to a feeder relative to a substation, right? How do all these technologies work relative to the wholesale energy market? And vice versa, if you hire somebody out of, let's say, the EV, out of an EV manufacturer that's never been in the utility world, and now

find a solution, take my solution to market, you know, as a managed charging services or an EV, some aspect of EV charge, of EV, the vehicle itself, you might have a challenge when selling to a utility. So those are general statements. It's not meant to apply to all because there are some really exceptional people, but

Silas Mähner (36:24)
Mm.

Ken Munson (36:27)
I think the net is you need to find people when selling to a utility that really understand the utility voice, really understand the technical aspects. I've personally become a big fan over the last 10 years of hiring salespeople that are more engineer-like than just good salespeople.

you know, just generally, but more pitch, more engineering like than generalist. Um, because I've found that at the end of the day, if you're going to really fit a solution to market, you really have to have a nuanced understanding of how that utility and the challenges that utility are going through. Now, I also mentioned that, you know, I wanted to unpack a certain piece of what you look for in a person. I'll take a diamond in the rough. Over, you know, a Harvard grad, nothing against Harvard, but I'll take

a diamond in the rough any day, someone who's got just raw passion and talent that they want to pursue in the space. Now again, obviously with some experience in utility space, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt because I think that diamond in the rough, that person that really wants to get it done has really four characteristics, I think, that are important. One is grit.

The biggest determinant for success in selling to anyone for that, not only a utility, but in the early stage environment is grit. The ability to get knocked down, told your solution is a pile of dog poo, go away multiple times, and then get back up and do it again. And that leads to the second point, which is persistence. Have the ability to persist, to continue

fail fast to adjust, to modify, you know, your pitch, your argument, your solution to fit the customer's need, which in order to be persistent, you really have to have belief in yourself. I mean, one of the things that I'll ask every person as they come into this organization, especially on the sales side is do you believe in yourself? Do you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, if I'm going to bet, I'm

on anybody in this world, is that the person I'm going to bet on? If you can say, yeah, I can bet on myself, I can get this done. Then you add that to grit and persistence. And I think you have a winning combination because, um, that overall determination to succeed is really important as you talk about selling into long sales cycles, but certainly, you know, playing the long game with, uh, adoption of any technology.

in this energy transition.

Silas Mähner (39:24)
Nice, so that was three. What was the fourth one?

Ken Munson (39:26)
Well, I was going to bring up the fact that, you know, self-starting, you know, not only the fact that you believe in yourself, but that you can actually get up and go get it done, right? Just get up and start yourself. Find what you need to do. Don't wait for somebody to tell you.

Silas Mähner (39:47)
Yeah, I think that's, you know, if I hired enough people as well, I think that's, it's one of those things you can't really train. So I appreciate that. I know we're a little bit over, but I do, there's a couple of things I would really like to, if you have a little bit more time, I'd like to ask you. So one thing you mentioned that you were thinking, hey, you know, I'm going to go retire after you had sold. That was with Congruitive, right? After that had sold, right?

Ken Munson (39:54)
That's right.

Correct.

Silas Mähner (40:14)
And you were like, hey, you know, I'm going to retire. I've done my work, but you decided

to go, let's, you know, people use this word a lot lately. I'm going to go back into the arena. And just this morning I was listening to the All In podcast and they were talking about, um, Freeberg decided he's going to go work as a CEO for one of his portfolio companies. And they had this discussion, which I had thought was quite interesting. And I hadn't really heard it mentioned too often, which is a lot of the, really the people who have proved themselves, who are really talented and who have experience doing things.

Ken Munson (40:17)
Thank you.

Silas Mähner (40:42)
don't often go back to build the hardest things, right? And in the case of climate change, we've got a lot of different challenges and technologies to work on. So could you maybe just talk about your calculus and why you decided to go back? And if you have any thoughts generally on the macro, not just you specifically, but on people who have gone and sold a company, they've been through it, they've started companies, they've been successful and they know a lot of things to then use their skills and go do the hard thing, which they don't have to do anymore.

They have, they've exited, they could retire, they could do whatever they like, but making that hard decision to go back and do the hard thing.

Ken Munson (41:21)
That's a great question. I mean, in my case, and then I'll move to macro.

I operate better as an individual. I'm a better CEO. I'm a better individual more broadly when I'm stressing myself, right? When I'm really pushing myself to a new level. And that can be on anything. Like I'm, we live in Montana. Um, my wife and I are big in the back country, whether it's, you know, back country snowshoe or back country skiing or hiking or whatever. And my.

idea of a vacation is working to get to the top, right? And that's not everybody's dream. A lot of people like to go lay on the beach, which just drives me crazy. Maybe not my wife so much, but me. And so for me to be idle was a big driver. I was like, this isn't gonna work for me. Like I'm gonna, I'm just gonna.

drive myself or those around me absolutely crazy. Like I need to be doing something. And it goes way back to the way we started this conversation, I think, as I reflect on myself, about building things. I really like to build. So that's probably point number one. Point number two really comes back to, and maybe this is something that applies at a macro level as well. I don't feel.

like I have quote unquote made it, you know what I mean? Or I don't feel like I'm done as an individual in that regard. I'm like, okay, we did that. We were either good or we were bad, you know? That's exciting. What did we learn? Let's go do something again, right? Let's do another thing, right? I guess that's another way of saying, I'm constantly trying to prove to myself to try to better myself.

I think there's a journey there, at least for me as an individual. And I think maybe that's what I see in the people that I respect, that I've placed around me, older and younger, because I have great respect for young founders and those that have done it multiple, multiple times across different industries, is that there's this constant kind of thirst or quest for knowledge. This constant, you know, thirst for...

You know, we can do this again, we can do it better, we can do it different. There's another problem to solve, right? And it's not so much about, hey, I now have the, you know, the, what's the word that you would use? I'm struggling with the word that you would use for, you know, having success under your belt. And you've got this level of confidence like, hey, I did this, you know, screw you, you know, you don't know anything.

That's not it at all. It's really, I think for a lot of the people that I see as really successful, they're just like, Hey, that's another problem to solve. Let's, let's figure that out. That could have some good. And I think maybe that lends itself to the last point, which may sound a little morbid, I guess, but you know, at my eulogy, I really, when that time comes, you know, my partner knows that.

The story isn't about what you succeeded at. It's about this journey, like the willingness to step up to the plate and take a swing. And whether you get it right or you get it wrong, the journey and what you've learned along the way and the lives that you've affected is what matters. And maybe that's a little too squishy for some people, I don't know, but the reality is that is what drives me. And I think that's what drives

a lot of founders is that desire. You know, I think some might refer to it as legacy. You know, legacy isn't the number of dollars that you have in your account. It's that story that your children or your partner or that others tell about you, about the willingness to kind of get up and do it, do it again and try. And frankly, the legacy, and one thing that I'm most proud about, to be honest with you, is when I look back and I see the number of people that have...

joined in my vision and, or my co-founders as a co-founder, our vision. And we've hired, you know, we've seen them raise families, get married, you know, have babies, you know, those we're adding to their experience in life too, right? And so that matters. It's not about, you know, at the end of the day, if we all had, you know, nine figures in our account, yeah, that's good. And that's what we had drive for. But

There's another part of it too, and it's all about, you know, what you're learning along the way and how you're affecting others along the way. And can you, uh, incorporate, you know, positive change, you know, over the long haul? I mean, my very Dean Sanders, who was my co-founder at sun verge, said to me, you know, you know, you're doing something right when you can talk to your mom about the technology you're building. And I.

And I think for those that are in the energy space, that's important because it's very different than if you were developing a social game or social app or a gaming application, right? That has really nothing but commercial value or consumer value. What we're doing is important. And what we are doing collectively as a group of founders and people who are participating in the space is we are changing.

changing the future.

Silas Mähner (47:18)
No, I like that a lot. I have other questions I'd like to ask. I think we can wrap it here though. This is really interesting. I'm very much a fan of this topic. I think there's a lot of people I've heard through the podcast I listen to of people who they make an exit and they get their nut, if they will. And then they kind of go through this period of wandering because they just don't know what. Because you have always in your mind that, like, hey, if I achieve this, you know, usually these people go from working their ass off for, you know,

years with little in the bank account and then suddenly they have a lot after they sell the company and just kind of this weird feeling. And I think it's just really interesting to think about the people who are willing to go do it again. Because now that you've learned the skills, you could probably do what you just did on repeat but twice as fast, or you could take those skills and go apply it to something else more challenging and go. This is something my first million podcast, they usually talk about, like, I beat this level of the game.

Now I'm going to play the next level, the harder level. And some people do it for style, right? But some people, I think a lot of people don't like him right now, but Elon Musk, I think, is one of those people who, like, he could have easily just checked out a long time ago, right? He didn't have to take in all this controversy and things like that for doing what he believes, whether or not you agree with it, doing what he believes is the right thing and kind of fighting for something, even though it's probably very bad for his health, right?

Ken Munson (48:42)
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I've enjoyed being here. Thank you very much. I appreciate the time and hopefully we can talk again I would love I could unpack that subject for forever.

Silas Mähner (48:43)
But anyways, I really appreciate your thoughts on this.

Yeah, we should definitely do it again. Anything, any calls to action where people can reach you and what you'd like to ask of the audience.

Ken Munson (49:03)
Yeah, you can reach out and learn more about Rhythmos at Rhythmos.io and we'd be happy to schedule a demo. Just bring you right into the portal and share with you what we're doing for both whether you're a utility or a commercial fleet owner. So I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you. All right. Thanks a lot.

Silas Mähner (49:19)
Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on today again. Appreciate it.


Intro to Ken
Going from Architect to Entrepreneur to Rhythmos
What Grid Edge Is
What Rhythmos is Doing, Why, and How it Works
How Rhythmos is Helping Solve the Infrastructure Problem
Their Customer Types (Utilities & Commercial Fleets)
How They do Incremental Data Access Tech to Fill the Gaps to the Utility
The ROI of Using Rhythmos
Advice on Selling to Utilities
How to Hire Good SalesPeople
On Deciding to Go Back Into the Arena