CleanTechies Podcast

#149 PFAS, Sustainable Semiconductors, Water Consumption, & More w/ Tobias Egle (M Ventures)

January 18, 2024 Silas Mähner (CT Headhunter) & Somil Aggarwal (CT PM & Investor) Season 1 Episode 149
#149 PFAS, Sustainable Semiconductors, Water Consumption, & More w/ Tobias Egle (M Ventures)
CleanTechies Podcast
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CleanTechies Podcast
#149 PFAS, Sustainable Semiconductors, Water Consumption, & More w/ Tobias Egle (M Ventures)
Jan 18, 2024 Season 1 Episode 149
Silas Mähner (CT Headhunter) & Somil Aggarwal (CT PM & Investor)

Our guest today is Tobias Egle, an investor at M Ventures, the Corporate Venture arm of Merck.

Tobias joins us today to speak about deep tech investing, specifically around materials innovation and the decarbonization of electronics manufacturing. A topic that has been in the news a lot recently is PFAS, and given his work, he was able to speak about the issues with PFAS as well as how to get rid of it.

He also provided some advice to highly technical founders when it comes to team building and surrounding themselves with the right partners.

Enjoy the episode! 🌱🌎
🌎 Want the full PodLetter? Go to our substack to see the written content that supplements the audio interview.  
🚨🚨🚨 Shoutout to our sponsor Net Zero Insights — Net Zero Insights is the leading market intelligence platform on climate information with all the latest you need on funding rounds, VCs, and the climate tech ecosystem. Use this link to schedule your demo and get a 10% discount!! 🚨🚨🚨
📺 👀 Prefer to watch: subscribe on YouTube
🗣️ Take the Listeners Survey
📫 Get Written Summaries of Each Episode in Your Inbox
🌐 Join the CleanTechies Slack Channel

**01:21 - Introduction and Background
**04:32 - Transitioning from Academia to Venture Capital
**07:48 - Getting into Venture Capital
**10:52 - Focus Areas of M Ventures
**17:05 - Decarbonizing Electronics and Life Sciences
**23:37 - Challenges of PFAS Removal
**31:45 - Gaps in Deep Tech Founders
**40:45 - The Impact of AI in Climate Solutions
**46:55 - Adaptation and Climate Resilience
**48:10 - Grid Resiliency and Renewable Integration
**51:40 - Transitioning from R&D to Product and Business Development
**53:00 - Designing for Manufacturability in Hard Tech
**56:26 - Sustainable Supply Chain in Electronics Manufacturing
**57:42 - Team Building and Hiring for Startups
**01:01:34 - Getting into VC and Starting a Company

**Tobias Egle | M Ventures
**Check out our Sponsor, NextWave Partners
**Follow CleanTechies on LinkedIn
**@Silas & @Somil_Agg on X 

Support the Show.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Our guest today is Tobias Egle, an investor at M Ventures, the Corporate Venture arm of Merck.

Tobias joins us today to speak about deep tech investing, specifically around materials innovation and the decarbonization of electronics manufacturing. A topic that has been in the news a lot recently is PFAS, and given his work, he was able to speak about the issues with PFAS as well as how to get rid of it.

He also provided some advice to highly technical founders when it comes to team building and surrounding themselves with the right partners.

Enjoy the episode! 🌱🌎
🌎 Want the full PodLetter? Go to our substack to see the written content that supplements the audio interview.  
🚨🚨🚨 Shoutout to our sponsor Net Zero Insights — Net Zero Insights is the leading market intelligence platform on climate information with all the latest you need on funding rounds, VCs, and the climate tech ecosystem. Use this link to schedule your demo and get a 10% discount!! 🚨🚨🚨
📺 👀 Prefer to watch: subscribe on YouTube
🗣️ Take the Listeners Survey
📫 Get Written Summaries of Each Episode in Your Inbox
🌐 Join the CleanTechies Slack Channel

**01:21 - Introduction and Background
**04:32 - Transitioning from Academia to Venture Capital
**07:48 - Getting into Venture Capital
**10:52 - Focus Areas of M Ventures
**17:05 - Decarbonizing Electronics and Life Sciences
**23:37 - Challenges of PFAS Removal
**31:45 - Gaps in Deep Tech Founders
**40:45 - The Impact of AI in Climate Solutions
**46:55 - Adaptation and Climate Resilience
**48:10 - Grid Resiliency and Renewable Integration
**51:40 - Transitioning from R&D to Product and Business Development
**53:00 - Designing for Manufacturability in Hard Tech
**56:26 - Sustainable Supply Chain in Electronics Manufacturing
**57:42 - Team Building and Hiring for Startups
**01:01:34 - Getting into VC and Starting a Company

**Tobias Egle | M Ventures
**Check out our Sponsor, NextWave Partners
**Follow CleanTechies on LinkedIn
**@Silas & @Somil_Agg on X 

Support the Show.

Silas Mähner (00:01)
Alright, welcome to the show. Tobias, how you doing today?

Tobias Egle (00:03)
Doing awesome. How are you doing?

Silas Mähner (00:06)
I cannot complain just, well, this will come out in the new year, but right now we're recording leading up to the holidays and going to be going back to Wisconsin soon. So just kind of trying to wrap things up for the year and excited for a long break to decompress from this year. But yeah, super excited to have this conversation, I guess. For everybody listening, can you start us out with giving us kind of a quick introduction to who you are and maybe a little bit of the story on how you ended up here?

Tobias Egle (00:34)
Yep, happy to do that. The quickest version of who I am is basically I'm a material scientist who transitioned into the world of venture capital. And there, I'm really sticking to my previous passions since I'm still pursuing topics that are close to my heart and brain, so to say. So it's like basically materials and sustainability. This is sort of how I define myself.

And right now I do this with the German Merck's venture fund. And when I say Merck, it's the multinational science and technology company headquartered in Darmstadt in Germany. So Merck, KGAA is the apparent name. But I'm over here in Boston, as you know, not too far from you in New York. Yeah, how did I actually get there? So basically,

During my PhD, let's maybe start there. In the last year, I was in somewhat of a crisis, which is not so uncommon. I would say it's very pervasive in academia, especially as a PhD student, to be in a crisis multiple times during this journey, and especially at the last years, because like, okay, what am I gonna do? And I think the pandemic though, additionally, had really instilled this deep sense of, I want to do something

with like impact purpose and the topics I care about in my life. So there's been like a whole, this has actually impacted me quite a lot. And I had a lot of time to think during the pandemic too, which helped with my decision. So you might not even know this, but like I've actually started a company with a friend that was sort of pre-precede, if you can even say that, basically tinkering with a cool idea and talking to people in the ecosystem and so on.

And this had really helped me to explore the entrepreneurial space. But I realized that basically my idea wasn't really as viable to pursue this directly after graduation. So I explored other things to do that would keep me there in the meantime. And during having coffee chats here and there, basically, this is what brought me to, to a venture, to this role in VC quite serendipitously in the end where,

after finishing, I almost didn't even know what VC was. But then I sort of bumped into this serendipitously and was like, hey, this actually, this could be really awesome.

Silas Mähner (03:12)
Very good. I like that. So I guess one thing I don't think I've ever asked anybody this before, but you mentioned it's not uncommon for people finishing their PhDs to kind of be like in this kind of sort of a crisis. You know, why can you talk a little bit more about that and specifically how you find yourself or other people typically break it to get in kind of transitioning from this kind of academic space to more of like, hey, let's get into workspace.

Tobias Egle (03:24)

Yeah, I think, well, like the what you learn in grad school is very, it's very niche, right, focus on a particular topic. It's also focused on a little bit of a specific skill set. That's more like research and writing, in writing academically, right? This is, I think I have learned so much in the meantime, what like how writing is like can be so different, right? I, I would write completely differently now, because

to write your audience is very different. In the academic world, typically there's just only like one audience, right? Like your peer group that you write for. There's not really too much variation unless you're maybe writing a grant with your professor. But the crisis is really because also if you don't intern during those five years or so during your PhD, you're just always in the same world, which is...

which is not a bad thing, right? If you're going to be a professor, that's kind of what you need to do. But there's maybe, let's say around 80% or so, that's probably not the right number, but around there, who just don't follow this path, right? They go into industry or pursue maybe research in industry or start a business, let's say, right? It's kind of tricky. Like there's not...

that much preparing you for it unless, let's say, you specifically seek it out, join some clubs on campus, or really get involved into the weeds of it. There are a lot of opportunities, but you just need to really go out of your way to find them. And I think that's just sort of this crisis a little bit. You really need to think of, what do I want to do with myself if it's not sort of, I mean,

Silas Mähner (05:23)

Tobias Egle (05:31)
like consulting is sort of like a very standard path, let's say, that many people go into, because it's sort of the path where you can't go wrong in a way. But there's also people who are like, hey, maybe this is not the right fit for me. Like, what else is there? And this what else is just a tricky question, I think. So that's where the crisis come from.

Silas Mähner (05:54)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Tobias Egle (05:56)
Yeah, you just need a lot of intrinsic motivation to kind of reach out to people and talk to them, I think, to overcome.

Silas Mähner (06:03)
Yeah. Now, I think that's interesting is generally, and this can be applied to other things besides just getting your PhD is that if people are in a certain kind of track, it's very easy to just stay on the track without thinking about it, right? If you want to reference the matrix, right? People just kind of doing the thing that most people around them are doing and following it. But if you really want to, whether it's your career or even in terms of building climate technologies, for example, kind


find other inputs to get you thinking in a different way than the people around you, so you compare two things. I think many large innovators and very successful people kind of intersect two different things that are not usually considered to go together. So I think that's pretty interesting. Can you tell us a little bit more about the actual, you know, you said you bumped into venture capital. Can you tell us a little bit about the story of getting into end ventures? You know, what was it like? How did you meet them? And...

and what made you ultimately decide that this was the right thing to do.

Tobias Egle (06:59)
Yeah. I mean, how did I, I bumped into one of the at the time principles of the firm through a friend, actually through two different friends. So there were two sort of different ways how I found out about them. And well, they were local, or at least had to have an office here in Boston very close to where I was in Cambridge. So that kind of, that's always a plus, I think.

If you're already in the locale, then these kind of Brownian motions, serendipitous meetups or introductions can happen. You have a bit similar friend circles, overlaps. How I found out about VC was when I really wanted to go into entrepreneurial mode a little bit and just learn a little bit of the ground.

like some fundamentals of how would you even think about it? Like what kind of like IP would you need? How does this work? And there was, I don't wanna like tout any specific like program or so, but I think there was sort of this early stage entrepreneurial program from the engine here in Cambridge that I participated in together with my co-founder that very directly exposed me to VC just because like VCs were managing the program and we had sessions with them.

Silas Mähner (08:24)

Tobias Egle (08:27)
And then also NSF has like these customer discovery programs, NSF I-Core. They have local chapters and just meeting other folks who wanted to do similar things, you just kind of get to talk to each other. And then from there on, this was kind of like a moving, it was almost like, um, how do you say, uh, it was like a snowball effect. Yeah, that's what I mean. It's just sort of builds on the momentum.

Silas Mähner (08:51)

Tobias Egle (08:54)
And then I started listening to podcasts. Like at the time I was super into MCJ podcasts and just like learning more about climate through this angle. And then you go to like a few events and then you see really sort of some momentum building. But it all started like very small, like, hey, I wanna just kind of learn more about it.

Silas Mähner (09:13)

Yeah, absolutely. And so I guess why don't we get into talking about M Ventures specifically? So obviously they hired a materials science person, right? They're a venture firm, a corporate venture arm. Can you talk about what M Ventures focuses on maybe in relation to the corporate, just to kind of what do you focus on? What are you looking to invest into?

Tobias Egle (09:37)
Yeah, so I guess the way how we interact or like the difference between us is really that we're sort of a small team, like a small venturing team under this bigger corporate umbrella. Most of our work like other VCs is externally facing, right? But we do have some of those internal conversations like stakeholder discussions.

with experts or like executive leadership, mainly to align strategy and to see like, hey, where do they want to go? Where do we want to go? Where's sort of like a good middle path and where could we kind of add some foresight basically to the roadmap of the company? That's kind of one of the main purposes, right? When we speak of what's our strategic value at to Merck or why does this make sense is really to bring in...

ideas from like the external innovation ecosystem, because just like large corporates, there's like this term innovator's dilemma, right, where you're just too entrenched in a certain vertical, almost like our PhD example before, you're so specialized, it's tricky to see the next step, perhaps. And that's kind of, that's where we come in on a sort of high level.

Silas Mähner (10:48)


Tobias Egle (11:00)
So that's kind of the nature of the interaction. And then of course, the partners of the fund, they basically manage the relationship to make sure we are actually keeping the LP also happy, that we do what's sort of beneficial for all of us. What do we look at? So we basically follow the business verticals of Merck.

So, but by the way, in the US, we are EMD, Serono, Millipore Sigma and EMD Electronics. And it makes kind of sense to mention at this point because these are like also the verticals. And so Serono is basically the life science business, sorry, the healthcare business. And for us healthcare, we have a healthcare fund is basically therapeutics oriented. So there are a few strategic.

indications like oncology, immunology, neurology, and fertility. And there's quite a lot of flexibility if we do like pre-clinical or clinical stuff. But I'll not go into too much detail there. And the second one, which is Millipore Sigma, is the life science business, which is relatively broad, basically any tools or technologies that aid life science research or bio-manufacturing. So

by manufacturing or life science research. Some interesting stuff there is, I'm hearing this in the news like lately quite frequently, like now like gene therapy, right, is like, is really sort of on vogue and like it's sort of, there's some momentum building there. So manufacturing of like gene therapy, manufacturing is super expensive and a very time consuming process. So this is for instance, something that

my life science colleagues really focus on, right? Looking for startups addressing those problems or bioprocessing solutions, even like AI discovery for antibodies, those things. The third one for EMD electronics is the semiconductor business. So Merck sells semiconductor materials to fabs like Intel, TSMC.

Silas Mähner (13:06)


Tobias Egle (13:24)
Samsung and so on. And this is sort of where I put more than 50% of my focus into. So semiconductor is sort of my, is a lot of my jam these days. So the way how we think about it there is we don't want to invest into many things that are really like directly competitive. So like we wouldn't really like invest them in a just only materials company in the space, but.

We basically want to see where is the industry going. So it could be functional components. It could be chip design. It could be data center infrastructure, a very kind of current topic that I've been very involved with. How can you make optical links in data centers basically faster, less latency, these kinds of things. And also secure data collaboration,

something that's super key for an hour. Like we work with a lot of data, right? In those industries and healthcare and semiconductor, but how to securely exchange those. That's kind of a whole different question. The last one, which is kind of, and then I'm gonna shut up about this topic, but it's like the last one is sort of a bit more of an umbrella thing. We call it our Frontier Tech and Sustainability Fund, which.

Silas Mähner (14:32)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Tobias Egle (14:48)
go sort of by saying this is how we define sustainability for us in all of those other three sectors, so healthcare, life, science, and electronics, right? What can we invest in that sort of contributes to more sustainability in those areas?

Silas Mähner (15:05)
Mm-hmm. So on that topic then, this is perfect. I want to understand what across... Let's probably focus on the electronics business and then perhaps the life sciences space more. What are the main ways that you can decarbonize those? So people may not be familiar like when they say, okay, we need to decarbonize these businesses. What are the main...

you know, carbon intensive aspects that need to be worked on and are you investing in hardware to solve that? Is it more software to identify ways to make it better? You know, just kind of walk us through that.

Tobias Egle (15:38)
Yeah. Yeah, let's do with semis. That's sort of what I can comment on the best. So we focus on hardware, but not exclusively. So maybe an interesting example to share, which is.

Well, maybe not strictly sustainability, but we have recently invested in actually a pure software company called Tickness out of Seattle. They are using reinforcement learning to flatten the waiver after it's processed. And before it goes into the patterning step, the lithography step, which is sort of the, what lithography is what the expensive ASML tools do. And since these nodes for the smallest transistors are so small.

If you have warped edges in the waiver, your projection of the light will miss the spot, and you'll get failures and sort of low yield. So what they do, which is kind of funny that these huge semiconductor corporates actually haven't been able to do is really to make a product that sits on top of those manufacturing machines to calculate a pattern to...

solve for the stress and flatten this waiver. Basically make it flat within less than 10 micrometer height distance. So make it incredibly flat after you have these stresses in the waiver and then they're actually contributing to lots and lots of value in the end because it directly impacts the excess that you would not have anymore. So you have basically less scrap, less waste material.

Silas Mähner (17:22)

Tobias Egle (17:24)
It's a very, it sounds very niche, but it's actually, I think it's a really cool example of AI machine learning in sort of semiconductor and how that can really solve some gnarly problems in the manufacturing value chain, especially, and it gets worse and worse with smaller nodes. This problem is getting more pervasive and the pain is getting bigger.

Silas Mähner (17:49)

Tobias Egle (17:51)
But maybe lifting it up, like the general, what can generally be done in this ecosystem? So you can divide it in a bunch of different topics. Water is a big topic because there's a lot of water being consumed in fabs. I can comment on those a bit more, but there's a few categories that's the broader ones. So there's water, there's more materials.

There's energy and emissions. So I would sort of bucket into those four. Just to mention one example for each perhaps. So for water, PFAS has been in the news quite a lot recently, right? There's 3M, the materials company that's well known for their sticky tapes. They've been basically fined several billion dollars.

It was of a fine for basically putting out PFAS to the world, which other companies also do, but they were just the first ones to be fined. As a result of this, they actually sold, they just got rid of this whole business unit. So, yes, I got...

Silas Mähner (18:55)

That's a good solution. Yeah, that's not... Yeah, can you, sorry to interrupt, but can you talk a little bit about that? Because there's a lot of people who don't really understand what that, what PFAS is, and it'd be good to just kind of get a summary of what exactly this is.

Tobias Egle (19:23)
Yeah. So PFAS basically are substances with a lot of fluor in it, are molecules with a lot of fluor in it. Mostly it's like a carbon in a fluor because it's sort of alkyl chains. So basically longer seed carbon chains. And then there's like some hydrogen, and then there's a lot of carbon. This carbon, sorry, this fluor has like the function of, for instance, like in your pan being

It's easy to clean. It's great to cook a sunny-side up egg in and then so on. In the semiconductor process, for instance, the photoresist, basically the thing that you cure in the lithography step to create a pattern on your wafer, this also contains PFAS. There are.

cleans when you clean your chamber, basically to make sure there's no contaminants in there, you sort of clean it and then you purge it again. Those cleans often are NF3. So there's like one nitrogen and three fluor atoms in this gas. So there's like a lot of fluorine. There's also sulfur hexafluoride, for example, is another one. So there are a lot of chemicals or gas, chemicals overall just involved.

in the semiconductor manufacturing process that just contained floor. And the reason is because they just work so well. They just really, they just get the job done. And this industry is like very, and this industry, I mean, the semiconductor industry, right, is very conservative. And it's very, it's an extremely competitive business where really, like you look at

Silas Mähner (20:58)

Tobias Egle (21:19)
You have like very clear KPIs, right? Things need to be in spec and they need to work and they need to work like every single time because if there's a scrub in the system, you have the fab has to be down for like hours, a few days. It's immediately tens or hundreds of millions of dollars lost. And so, yeah, those materials are incredibly hard to get rid of because

Silas Mähner (21:22)


Tobias Egle (21:49)
they just work so well. And if you introduce another material until it qualifies, it's just a long cycle. But this is a problem that I hope, right, step by step slowly gets solved.

Silas Mähner (21:56)

So is there, is it currently that there's really, I mean, is there a way to destroy these? Cause that's what my understanding is, these are something that you can't really destroy, but are there existing technologies or does there have to be a lot of innovation there?

Tobias Egle (22:19)
So yeah, you can do different things. So what's done now, if you remove it, is you just incinerate and basically break it down into something that's less harmful or that's just not as forever, right? PFAS are known as the forever chemicals just because they stick around. You just, they're really hard to remove from like your body or anything. So just burning them and really like basically breaking the bonds by force.

is the solution that people have now. It's easy, but it's also very energy intensive, right? You need to basically have all, like the energy to break chemical bonds, that's like, that's huge energy. And it, yeah.

Silas Mähner (23:08)
Yeah. You can't just throw them on a campfire probably. Okay.

Tobias Egle (23:14)
Yeah, yeah. But there are basically, I mean, what we're actively looking at is there, there's startups that use like, that use many different ways to try to destroy it in a different way, from more physical, chemical or biological ways. So there's even companies that are engineering enzymes to break.

those basically to break down these molecules, which is a really hard task to do because nature hasn't been trained to do this, right? So they don't exist. So you have to sort of engineer those enzymes and to arrive at something that's so powerful, or basically to lower the barrier for those enzymes to crack those up is quite hard.

Silas Mähner (23:51)

So is this one of those situations where because of some of the recent news with 3M, the manufacturing companies are all quite worried that they're going to also get hit with fines. So I assume the manufacturing facilities themselves, people who are making these or creating these are looking for, very actively looking for either alternatives or ways to get rid of them because it'll go from being something they didn't think about before to now being a large cost center, so they need to destroy them?

Tobias Egle (24:34)
Yeah, that was a really good question. Basically, yeah, there was a bit of a wake up call, but most companies were aware of this and have been already sort of efforts underway. However, this just kind of intensified really like the progress. There is an industry association called SIA, the semiconductor, I think it's already called the Semiconductor Industry Association. And they have, for instance, a

They have a whole working group just around PFAS and different kinds of PFAS. And they released a really extensive report really detailing how much PFAS is it actually and which process and what are the different, what could be different avenues to distract, but also what does policy do, right? Where does the government move to in drinking water

effluent from the semiconductor fab and what can be done. There's a lot of quantification on that end, which is really good. And yeah, actually one of our, from our CTO office, one of the fellows, he was leading this effort in a major way. I don't know to what extent, to be honest, but I remember he sent this report along like a few months ago. So...

There is basically corporates being actively involved in those bodies to try to solve these problems. But the nature of the game, I think, is replacing it in the short term is not possible. That's the long-term effort. And in the short term, it's just removal. Just move it out of the cycle. Just find ways to collect and remove PFAS.

Silas Mähner (26:07)
Got it. Okay.

And so would you say, obviously, it may be slightly different for M Ventures, but for the majority of venture firms, these businesses have to have a large market. So when it comes to, hey, destruction is a short-term solution. At some point, somebody is going to innovate and create an alternative that has a very high potential market size. But when you look at something like this, where it's like, hey, we just need to take care of this in the meantime, yes, it'll go on for a while before we figure this out.

Is that a large enough market to invest in from a venture perspective or is it more of like, hey, this is just something that is going to cost so much that for now we have to do it, but maybe the total lifetime value of these companies won't be that high.

Tobias Egle (27:08)
Hmm. Yeah. Hmm. Yeah, that's a tricky one. But I would say the value also for like for human and planetary health, the value to remove it or not further accumulate in the ecosystem is huge in the long term. But it's hard to really make this a VC investable market, right? Because this is really more, this is something where

Silas Mähner (27:25)

Tobias Egle (27:38)
There's also uncertainty, like a lot of uncertainty and risk that's really just because of, it's like uncertain where the thresholds that policy also dictate, where those thresholds will be. And depending on where the thresholds are gonna be, and the EPA has set pretty low thresholds for now, but there's just a lot of things that are like not really certain yet. And...

Yeah, I don't think it's a classic. It's not a really classic, like a financial VC game, but it is sort of a big topic for folks in industries where this is concerned, like Intel Capital is looking at this too. We're looking at this, a bunch of the other semiconductor, mostly corporate venture funds do, or Heritage Group is another, they do, yeah, they look at this a lot as well, for instance. But only, I feel like really only when this is, when you have...

Silas Mähner (28:24)


Tobias Egle (28:36)
skin in the game in some way, then this becomes something for you to invest in.

Silas Mähner (28:39)

Yeah, I mean, because obviously it's important to save fines, so you don't want to get huge penalties, but the upside may not necessarily be there. I just think about it because I've heard other people talk about investing in this space recently, some VCs, and I was thinking like, okay, well, I don't know that that's going to work very well, but obviously there's a need, so maybe invest in it, but just consider it at a different scale. You may have to just invest fewer dollars overall if you're going to get the outcome you want, right? But I think that's an interesting point.

Tobias Egle (29:12)
Yeah. And maybe sort of one quick addition, like I guess if you're focusing on it from the communal wastewater or like right from the city or like the state point of view, what they need to do to have ensure like clean drinking water for all of us, that is maybe a more investable for the general

Silas Mähner (29:24)

collection or something.

Tobias Egle (29:39)
Yeah, like I know that like mass ventures invested in a clarity, one of the Massachusetts based PFAS companies and some water specialists like, I think, Burnt Island Ventures, for instance, they have also invested in a lot of water companies, including PFAS. So there are definitely a bunch of there, a bunch of a lot of different angles on this. And they're all I've learned a bit different because you're looking for different.

molecules, different chain lengths, different concentrations. And that just requires sort of a different view on what the technology should be.

Silas Mähner (30:14)
Yeah. Yeah, I could definitely see it for sure there being a kind of identification slash collection play because that's not something that you can even if you change the alternative in five years, right? You still have a lot of downstream effects from what's already there. So that's quite interesting. One question kind

of on a macro level, when you look at or when you talk to these deep tech founders today, what do you notice seems to be the biggest gap?

if you have any kind of feel for where they're headed, where, you know, what's the next thing in this space of deep founders and maybe where they're coming from, but currently where is the biggest gap that you normally see.

Tobias Egle (30:56)
you mean in terms of topic or where we are.

Silas Mähner (30:58)
the founders in, yeah. Generally speaking, like what, you know, everybody has a certain set of skills. And oftentimes when you look at kind of the history of venture, you see kind of people, founders will evolve to an extent, right? You know, in software for now, you know, building a software venture is relatively straightforward because people understand the means to get there, but some things have to evolve. So when it comes to deep tech, are there any big gaps that you typically see where like, wow, these guys got great technology, but they're just not thinking about the business model.

Tobias Egle (31:04)

Silas Mähner (31:28)
or that, things like that.

Tobias Egle (31:28)
Yeah. Okay, got it. Yeah. The one thing that really comes to mind because, excuse me, because we're like early stage, right? And that means a lot of our portfolio founders are actually sort of post-academic founders, right? It feels like it could almost be me. So it's also like a fun aspect working with those people. But there is...

a high appreciation for the technology, right? But there is a certain point where you really need to be focused on business development and really on productization of it. And I just think that this is not like at the very beginning, right? But just like not missing the time and actually hiring adequately for this transition, right? You need to have a bit of, you need to have a lot of foresight.

to do this and sort of being at the right stage and really hiring, yeah, just hiring with this foresight so that you're really ready to propel forward. I think this is sort of one of the biggest gaps as you have basically academic founders, right? Sometimes a great advisory board or just like folks who...

Silas Mähner (32:47)

Tobias Egle (32:53)
who, well, hopefully giving you a valuable and good advice that can help. But yeah, I had recently seen sort of basically like a, let's just say, I didn't, not mentioning names, right? But like a team that was, is thinking about, okay, how do we get to the series A basically, right? And then when you ask like, oh, so who's doing product, right?

Silas Mähner (32:56)

Tobias Egle (33:23)
then there were like no show of hands. So I was like, oh, okay, like, you know, like that needs to change. So I think these kinds of things are very challenging to sort of transition from the, where you're doing like R&D, but like more D, right? More development than actually research at the seed stage, developing from this D phase into this, just building a product phase. And then that's really hard in deep tech, I think.

Silas Mähner (33:48)

Yeah, I think it's quite fascinating because this is something I've bumped into from my day work and recruitment is that a lot of very brilliant, very sharp people coming out of university building these companies. And in some cases, they have boards. In a lot of cases, they don't because they interact with a lot of early companies. They also, because they don't have experience building companies, they don't have, let's say, a hiring thesis or they don't have any of these ideas.

flushed out on how to work with the broader business as a whole, right? How to build a business. And I just find it something, I think, Eli Gashay had mentioned this extensively when he was talking about the need for picking a really good board of advisors because you need people to tell you what you don't know. When you're junior, you may know the science really well, but that's exactly the thing. You're a PhD, you have a very particular niche you focused on, and beyond that, you just don't have certain experiences that somebody who's...

you know, I say 50 or something and built a couple of companies will have. So I think it's really interesting to see the, maybe you have take on this, but one of my kind of, I guess you could say fears recently has been that there'll be all of these high talent people and a lot of VCs investing in them. There's obviously some very good VCs, but there's also a lot of VCs that just kind of in for the ride of climate that I wonder if some of these, if too many of these hardware companies...

or I'm just going to flop and it's going to be clean tech 1.0 on repeat. So do you have any comments on this and how you see people kind of hedging to make sure that we don't have all this capital just get evaporated and burnt into the air?

Tobias Egle (35:26)
Hmm, yeah. No, so I think it's a good observation that I would say broadly, broadly I would say I'm sort of sharing this kind of sentiment.

Yeah, how?

Okay, maybe strike that pause.

Let me think about this.

Okay, let's strike the M's and so on. So yeah, I think that in climate, maybe more than ever now sort of PR is what gets a lot of people excited. There is, there's a bit of a game to, I mean, let's say like, oh, getting highlighted in Canary media or like in some of those outlets that are sort of very right specific that also lots of investors read or so.

It's almost like back in the day when like all tech companies wanted to be in TechCrunch. So that kind of bit like hype cycle of just following what sort of the media suggests or like the articles like, oh, the 30 best climate tech companies, according to investors. Like I really just don't like these kinds of articles because I don't think it focuses on any fundamental truths.

at all, it just focuses a bit on like an echo chamber, if that makes sense. So that, that is definitely that, that is a fear that I have. And we're seeing already a lot of like companies running out of money, not being able to, to raise the next round or raising on a down round and not raising as much as they actually probably should to get to the next value inflection point.

that will then allow them to actually raise the next round. So I think there's a lot of this already happening where you have these perpetuating cycles where if the performance is bad now, then the system is much tighter, right? It's like we're not in a zero interest rate policy environment anymore. So it's much more difficult. And that's also why I, like a company where

Silas Mähner (37:37)


Tobias Egle (37:56)
I'm a bird observer for it's like an optical interconnect company where I'm like so happy to see that. So we just recently closed an oversubscribed round and they have run away until around mid 2026, basically. So that's like amazing, right? That's like that's really, really good. But if you're.

If your runway now is like a year, you kind of have to start raising now because it'll take you definitely more than a year to close around. So all these all these things, it's and then as a CEO, you're almost spending like 100% of your time just on fundraising. It's like, it's very difficult how you actually then running the company on the back end. Right. So, yeah, this these are sort of some of the signs.

Silas Mähner (38:30)

Yeah. I think it's just really, I don't know, this is beyond the scope of this podcast, but something that I've only been kind of, let's call it following investing in general, but mostly focused on climate for let's say four years about. And it seems as though there's been a number of things that I could probably point out where it's like everybody goes into it and then everybody's realized, oh wait, we invested in too many companies in this space and now...

everything's over saturated. So now we won't look at any single deal on that, even if the newcomers actually are more mature about it or whatever, they're just out. They're not going to be considered like ESG SaaS is one of those, right? Nobody will look at that anymore. It's not happening, right? Even for people who I think are quite brilliant. So I just find it interesting, this idea that people are constantly just following waves and there's very few investors who are really not getting caught up in the, you know, the rigmarole and just...

going with the flow, they're really kind of stable, they have their anchors, they have their ideas. But then that can again also be dangerous if you have a particular thesis and you're like, you know what, this is what I'm staking everything on. Maybe that's good as long as it's, I guess, unswayable and then it'll be proven, right? Then there's no excuses, I guess, if you stick with the thesis there. But on this topic, you've mentioned a couple of times early on...

Right now, something that's really hyped up a lot is AI, right? People talk about AI quite a lot. If you don't have AI in your business, you're probably not going to get dollars right now, at least that's how it seems sometimes. Can you talk about what your view is on AI and climate? What actually is going to be the impact of AI in helping solve the climate issue? And perhaps any examples of companies you've invested in with the AI component?

Tobias Egle (40:34)
Hmm. Well, OK. Yeah, I guess generally, AI, that's sort of the, I find this funny, right? Especially with the semiconductor view. So in a first instance or in the short term, AI is basically, well, contributing to emissions. It consumes a lot of energy, water, and so on to make all of those. But I'm pretty confident that really, in the long term view, it should be.

it's definitely going to have a really positive impact. We, as inventors, we did only invest in really, mostly hardware climate, which is, for instance, like clean meat or microbiome, which can have basically from skin to gut microbiome health to also food and ag.

big impacts there. And it has this pharma angle, obviously, as well. That's why we were really keen on it. But I can take this from the personal viewpoint as well. So I guess I would really divide it into you have like, AI can help with mitigation or AI can help with adaptation overall. So for mitigation, especially as a material science person,

I have been quite amazed by seeing a lot of advances in material development. Right. This, um, just two weeks ago, this was just for the timestamp on this podcast, I guess, so this was November 29th, uh, was when this paper in nature with, uh, Google deep mind came out, right. They, um, they have basically it's, it's called a genome, um, which is, um,

graph neural. Okay, no, I can't. It's like graph neural networks basically in the end. So this project, they have predicted over 2 million new materials and apparently around 400k very stable or mostly stable compounds. And so this...

Silas Mähner (42:36)

Tobias Egle (42:54)
And some of them have been actually tested in real life. I think like around 700 or so of them have been actually made like synthesized. So just to ensure that this is actually, that your AI is not just telling you that this material should exist when it doesn't, but you should actually be able to make it right. So this was kind of a really cool advancement because it did just kind of, it blew up this whole

Silas Mähner (43:12)

Tobias Egle (43:24)
this whole ecosystem and I think within like one or two weeks this paper had like over 100,000 views on the nature side which is like which is pretty fun. Like I want to be a first, you know, if you're like a first author on this like this yeah you're yeah you're you made your thing. So that's sort of what I'm what I think is pretty exciting but

Silas Mähner (43:36)
That's a lot, right? Yeah.

That's good, that's nice.

Tobias Egle (43:53)
The history of this whole stuff goes back to like a DOE project at the time in the early 2010s, like the materials project, sort of like UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs joint effort at the time. So this space has been, it existed for a while, but it has really dramatically accelerated recently. So that is what I'm...

What I think is pretty interesting, there are a few examples, like MitraChem, for instance. They're sort of a battery. Basically, how do I describe this? It would be like a company that uses AI to shorten the development cycle of for certain type of battery materials. Yeah, so it's like software plus hardware, they actually make materials in the end also. So that's...

Silas Mähner (44:47)

Tobias Egle (44:49)
And I think the company is going really, really well. So that is a dramatic success. Maybe one other.

Silas Mähner (44:55)
So just generally speaking for the audience, then the major component you're sharing here is that AI can be utilized to, instead of like going in the lab, having an idea and coming up with things on the human aspect, many, many options can be tried on the computer. And then there's like, okay, a science probability, this one's more likely than not, here's what you need to do, and then the scientists can go test it. And in some cases, perhaps there's even machinery doing this on its own.

Tobias Egle (45:22)
Yeah, that is basically the gist of it. And some people are also researching automated labs, which also Merck has their own efforts of doing this as well. And I think just recently signed. They recently signed, had this collaboration with the University of Toronto on materials discovery.

or accelerated materials discovery in general. So there's also companies who are really piling into this. And yeah, it makes sense if you're a materials company, you can, there's a lot of benefit you can have from AI if it then really like works, right? That's sort of the crux. And in the past, it hasn't really worked all that well, but I think, yeah, I mean, right? That's kind of the truth.

Silas Mähner (46:10)


Tobias Egle (46:15)
But we could be kind of at this transition point where maybe finally, I mean, yeah, the last year was insane in AI. So with all of this development, perhaps really this starts mapping much better for materials as well.

Silas Mähner (46:33)
Yeah, okay, interesting. And then you said that there was also on the adaptation side, there was a

couple of things, a couple of applications.

Tobias Egle (46:39)
Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I guess for adaptation, I would see something like more in the climate resilience bucket could be of tremendous value, or you're more predicting supply chain, generating insights, sort of recommendation, even when it comes to weather forecasting, right? Like weather forecasting accurately for the weather.

natural disasters, being able to evacuate certain areas earlier, and just not having like false positives where then people say like, ah, it's not going to happen, I'm going to stay at home and then actually it hits, which I think that's kind of a big problem, right? So that is, that I think is sort of a great, or like a relevant example.

Silas Mähner (47:35)

Tobias Egle (47:35)
doesn't make sense. I don't know if I if I would jump back to mitigation like something related to grid is probably also what I would mention so around predicting demand and basically how do you in a in a in a smartest way integrate renewables, how much at which time at which sort of note how much can that note actually take in terms of power and so on. So I think there's

There's a lot that you can do there for resiliency of the grid and integrating renewables.

Silas Mähner (48:08)
Yeah, I definitely think, I mean, being somebody who doesn't quite fully understand, you know, I mean, I don't have any idea if I were to go start an AI company, how you go. I have an idea of the principles, but it's always very difficult for me to understand where are the best places to take bets when it comes to AI and climate. I think that from what I've noticed, there's a lot of these investments where they have a very positive climate impact as maybe even their core and

But in many cases, they're also going to become big companies because they'll be able to do other things beyond just impact and climate things. It could be that same technology can be applied to various markets. So it's something that I think is interesting and I'm going to probably bring it up as I think about it more with other investors in the future. But

Tobias Egle (48:57)
But I think overall, if I may just sort of interject, but I think overall, right, climate is, at the core of it needs to be, has to have this hardware driven nature, right? Because, I mean, AI itself is just not gonna solve the climate crisis, right? That's pretty.

Silas Mähner (49:13)
Yeah, I mean, if you're just building AI and you need all these data centers, then you're not helping at all. But no, I think that's interesting. Yes, obviously hardware is at the core of it. I think I can imagine being a highly talented kind of potential founder thinking about what to build. It's very challenging to build hardware, right? Sometimes it probably people end up building a hardware company by accident.

Tobias Egle (49:17)

Silas Mähner (49:43)
probably lower. I mean, we have the roadmaps on how to fund them now and everything is a little bit more structured, but it's got to be difficult as a founder to decide, hey, I'm going to go work on the hardware thing, even though it's way different. There's no roadmap per se, but we can't just have people navigating and showing us the way with the softwares that are built. We also need people to build the hardware. So a couple of things, I'm just kind of curious. You don't need to name any names, but are there any...

Tobias Egle (50:04)
Yeah, exactly.

Silas Mähner (50:12)
common mistakes that either within your portfolio company or elsewhere that you've seen. We talked a little bit about it with the founders, but big mistakes that have been made, whether it was the go-to-market strategy, going before there was product-market fit, any just common mistakes that you've seen and you would recommend to other companies, hey, just avoid this pitfall.

Tobias Egle (50:33)
Hmm. Yeah. I'm not gonna I'll just quickly sort of repeat some of the things from previously in case someone like jumped to this point. But yeah, I think overall, not underestimating how hard it is to fundraise right now. That can be that can put you sort of out of options in the end and then you're accepting money that you kind of maybe wish you wouldn't have accepted a year later.

or at terms that are very onerous. Terms could be both money as well as in like, more like in your documents, right? Like any sort of, any information rights or any veto rights for investor that can kind of kill the company in the end. And also really transitioning from R&D to really...

to product and business development. I think that's because in the end, as you develop your technology, you need to, at some point, right, you need to be parallel. Only if only the technology just gets better, but there's no product, then the value kind of still remains at zero, in my opinion, right? You kind of, I view this a bit as like a multiplication. The.

You have the technology and then the other factor to multiply by. It's almost like, how ready is it? How did you design for manufacturability? This would be a big topic in hard tech, but especially also semiconductor. If you're not designing for manufacturability and you give your designs to a fab, they just, it's going to be sort of, yeah, they don't know what to do with it because you need to design things


with them in mind, right? Like what can they do? What works well for them? What's an established process, a technique or so. So keeping those things in mind, like really, yeah. I think this is a term designed for manufacturing. I'm not sure, but I think it is.

Silas Mähner (52:41)

Well, I mean, that's interesting. So are there any core principles to that process where you can kind of share a framework or something where if you are at the point where you've gone behind the science lab, you're ready to go to build something, right? What are the core principles to follow if you're going for that? Are there any sort of a checklist of some sort or resource you can share?

Tobias Egle (53:08)
No, I don't think no, I don't. I don't have a there's no checklist. I think it really depends on which industry you're, you're really in. So yeah, it's, yeah, that would be it's, it's like hard to sort of outline here, but it really, it really depends. But it's best.

Silas Mähner (53:19)

Okay, interesting. I'm going to search the web for this. There's got to be something out there because I assume that there's core principles. If you're just a science person, you're not used to building things, you don't know how things operate in the manufacturing facility. If you have no idea where to begin, there's got to be some place, I assume, and maybe there's advisors for this. Maybe there's people who interact with the, from the manufacturing, from the contract manufacturer, interact with them and say, okay, here's what you're going to need, similar to the way...

a lawyer would prep you to get your documents set up for a fund. Or like, okay, here's what you need to bring me. So I'm going to look for that and try to share it in the notes afterwards. But I appreciate that. I think that's a pretty interesting insight.

Tobias Egle (54:10)
Yeah. That's very good. When you found it out. But yeah, I guess, yeah. Sort of like one thing in Semiconductor is like maybe sort of one interesting, one example, for instance, like if you, this is not like looking forward, but just sort of very general. If you want to, if you need a USB port, there is usually like there's basically that module exists in, you can just basically.

import it into your design. So there's like certain pieces and certain components that you need to take the design, the geometry oftentimes also, because you cannot make any arbitrary geometry. You basically need to adhere to those design rules or import the component and then work with it. But yeah, that's what you're going to be doing.

Silas Mähner (55:04)
Yeah. I mean, I assume you want to work with as much of the existing, maybe commoditized type of infrastructure there is and use what you can and then innovate as little as possible to keep costs down initially, right? So, yeah.

Tobias Egle (55:20)
It's risk low, right? Because if you're trying to establish a new process, then your manufacturing partner is probably going to be like, no, I don't think that's going to. No, you should maybe look for another one to do this. Because then they're going to make a loss or so, and they don't want to do that. So.

Silas Mähner (55:34)

Yeah. I think reading through, I've already mentioned this on the podcast before, so for some people it's repetitive, but I was reading through the Elon Musk book by Walter Isaacson, and there's the parts about the manufacturing process, doing it themselves. It's just crazy, right? So if you think about how hard it is to do that, the manufacturers know this, right? They're like, they as a contract manufacturer have things that they're trying to keep you in these parameters, right? So try to be aware of that. That's something interesting I'm going to add to my framework.

Tobias Egle (56:08)
That is.

Silas Mähner (56:09)
In terms of ideas, let's just say tomorrow you were forced to go start a company in climate and you couldn't be an investor anymore. What are some of the ideas that you have or at least the macro areas where you feel there really needs to be something to solve X problem?

Tobias Egle (56:26)
Hmm. Yeah, it's obviously, it's pretty hard. I think I would really try to be right now in sort of the areas that I feel like I know best, which is in like the area like sustainability and semiconductor and like a materials angle. So this could be something in more like sustainable

something related to sourcing of the different materials you need or something completely else. I actually I don't have a super specific thing there, but yeah. And also I haven't, I feel like I'm seeing like so many things every day that I don't have time to think about what I would do. Yeah.

Silas Mähner (57:17)
Interesting. So just to recap, you're saying that you would probably focus somewhere on the supply chain of manufacturing the electronics to make it more sustainable.

Tobias Egle (57:29)
Yeah, that would be something that I could see, like whether that's more on anything in the actually sourcing materials or the sort of the closing the loop in the back end sort of recycling wise or if it's more about a new process or but new process, this is like new process is like hard. I would go, I would probably not go into semiconductor but elsewhere just because yeah if you want to change a process just you probably shouldn't be a startup.

Silas Mähner (57:55)

No, I mean, it's a super interesting point. Something I don't think you, unless you go and scout around, it's not something like product market fit where you know you have to find it. You don't necessarily think, oh, I can't change the manufacturing process. You have to work within the bounds of what's there. Otherwise, getting to the scale is going to be difficult. Any particular advice, I'd be curious, especially, just correct me one thing.

Tobias Egle (57:59)
And that's it.

Silas Mähner (58:25)
Where you invest is that mostly later stage like series B and beyond or is it also early?

Tobias Egle (58:32)
I'm mostly Ced and Sarah Z actually.

Silas Mähner (58:33)
Okay. Mostly serious. Okay. So that's just a little different than most corporate ventures. So that's interesting. So I guess when you invest at that point, you see the companies go through a pretty important part of their growth. What is the most important piece of advice you have to founders during that process when it comes to their team building? You talked about hiring, but any particular thoughts around team building and kind of getting those initial people that are really going to be core to your growth?

Tobias Egle (59:02)
Yeah, obviously, I think there's a few things. They should be high caliber, obviously, but something that recently we had like a really big discussion about is just about how kind of everybody needs to be hungry, right, hungry for the mission, the vision, the whole purpose around it, sort of having this real, this real.

doer mentality and especially in the early stages being pretty cross functional and wearing a bunch of different hats. Right? Like in the beginning, everybody should be able to cross over into a bunch of different functions. But I would say overall, yeah, thinking about like what are the skill sets that you actually need on board and just being sort of complementary to each other.

The worst thing you can do is probably to have two technical founders. One is like the CEO, the other one is the CTO, and then you hire like a research scientist on top of that, right? Sort of like, but it can obviously like in a pre-seed, it can kind of start like it. We, we had a, there was a very unlikely thing of us to do. We had a, we had a, we made a pre-seed investment some time ago. And just because it fit.

Silas Mähner (01:00:07)

Tobias Egle (01:00:27)
really well within our thesis. And that thought like, okay, we're gonna do this anyways, why not now, right? And there we actually said like, hey, we're going to underwrite this risk for you, but we also want you, but we're also gonna help you to find a partner in crime, basically like a CEO. So, and then they were like this duo after...

like a couple months after the round closed, the new CEO onboarded. And then we basically had someone who already had a startup before, but whose background is very technical. So who had kind of like experience from like these two different worlds already with the then new CTO. So, and I think that was sort of a really good combination to really rapidly accelerate.

Silas Mähner (01:01:22)
Yeah, I think it's quite interesting. It's very difficult depending on the founder. It always depends on the personality if they're interested in sharing the stage. I've heard many people say that the best founders that they've encountered are the people who are thinking, hey, I don't want to be the CEO. I'd rather be the CTO. I want to invade because this is what I do. I think that is interesting. It takes a level of

humility and maturity to do it, but it also takes a level of humility and maturity to be the CEO that didn't found the company, right? And to be respectful of the founders and the mission and the vision, but then lead it in a business oriented way.

Tobias Egle (01:02:04)
Yeah, that's so true. And that's really like the sort of, you need to if you're agile enough, and you're kind of I mean, I don't know, people sometimes say that we're coachable, right? Or but just in general, I think that you expressed as well, like the humbleness and just being like, knowing what you don't know, and knowing what to do to sort of just pluck those gaps a little bit, to be a more holistic like team with all those different facets that you want.

Yeah, I think that's really key.

Silas Mähner (01:02:34)
Yeah. All right. So we're kind of coming to the end here, I'd say. Why don't you give us a bit of advice for, I mean, you're relatively kind of newer to VC as it is, and you have a bit of a closer perspective on the process of getting in. So perhaps your advice to people who are younger, who are looking to get into VC, whether, I'd like specifically if you can, you can answer both ways, but I'd also like to hear specifically.

speaking to the more technical crowd, right, on whether or not to get into VC, if they have hesitations, whatever it is. But I'd like to hear your perspective on that specifically.

Tobias Egle (01:03:10)
Okay. So if I had something as a technical person in my PhD that I thought would be like really viable to do. And to jump into this after graduation. I would if this is if this would be you, I would totally recommend doing that right I would totally pursue this path because

honestly, like after your PhD, this is, it's now so normalized to be a CEO of an early stage company with that PhD background. And it's also very, really low risk. I mean, there might be some other components, like sometimes, yeah, sometimes there's some personal or some other reasons that might not make it sort of as viable. But in general, if you have the opportunity, I would like totally, totally jump on it. Because, and it's also

even like corporates really like value this later on, somebody who had this experience early on and he made this jump. If you wanna go other routes, like for me, I think VC was just something I found while I was exploring this entrepreneurial path. And what helped me the most is really just to, to not hold yourself back by thinking you, can't do something, but just,

talking to, just really like go out there and talk to a bunch of people. Even if you don't pursue this path, you'll learn so much about perhaps things you may wanna do in the future or set your eye on towards, or you find out that this is like complete nonsense and this is not a personal fit for it. But yeah, talking to people and like going to, there's so many...

Silas Mähner (01:04:58)

Tobias Egle (01:05:07)
depending on where you are, right, obviously, but in some of those hubs, there's just like so many events going on where it can meet like awesome people, cool founders, interesting investors, or other just general people who are excited about the ecosystem. And that's kind of, that's honestly like a thing that has always fascinated me about climate because climate is very open. It's very, it's kind of very welcoming. There's not many barriers, I think.

So people are very eager to take you sort of on, sort of take you into, on like this journey basically. And there's like slacks and WhatsApp groups and anything. Yeah, personally, I've also benefited from, this was the first cohort of the, it was a pandemic hype, kind of like the on-deck climate tech, which doesn't exist anymore, but on-deck still exists, but it's basically an online community where you,

Silas Mähner (01:06:08)

Tobias Egle (01:06:08)
uh, like cohorts and organize as a program, but there's a lot of touching points and they really force these touching points, uh, which is, which was great. And they were really, I mean, they're really amazing people in, in the first cohort and just, and people I'm still in touch with. So maybe sometimes such a, such a program can just like be this initial catalyst that, that you might need to really accelerate into a role there.

Silas Mähner (01:06:34)
Yeah, I think it's really, really interesting in this idea that you need to... We talked about it earlier, right? You need to break your frame. You need to put yourself into a different situation. But I really like what you said is, you know, if you have an idea to go for it, because it's probably easier now than it ever will be, right? A lot of people say it's never a good time to start a company. So you just might as well do it. But it's also, like you said, good experience. I think it's kind of fascinating to consider the...

Tobias Egle (01:06:56)
There you go.

Silas Mähner (01:07:04)
The dilemmas because if you look at the data, the stats show that the majority of really, really successful founders, like mega billion founders, are oftentimes founding a company sometime in their 40s or 50s. They're older. They've done it before. So it's kind of counterintuitive if you just listen to that. If you're maybe a data-oriented person, you say, well, what are my chances? But I almost guarantee you that if you go into their past, they probably tried something earlier on. Maybe it's not well known.

but they probably tried and failed at something. And then those failures taught them a lot when they went to go work in corporate for a while or to go as an investor. And then just as a journey, and this is something as a pretty young person myself, I always think about just trying to understand like, am I doing the right thing to maximize the future benefit and any kind of value that I can bring? So I think it's something difficult to deal with because when you're young, you just don't have the experience. You don't have the, you don't know what it's like to go through.

that experience of working for 10 years. I remember when I came up my three years with NextWave, I was like, well, this is crazy. I've never worked, besides for my dad, I've never worked at a company this long. Right. And it's just kind of weird. Like you start to see compounding and all these other benefits. So very good.

Tobias Egle (01:08:13)

Yeah, but a lot of other things, I feel like if you're an immigrant, if you went to, like you studied in another country, right? I think very early on, even if you had some adversity or you put yourself into just kind of stressful situations that you felt like, oh, I really want to go to study in the US or I really want to do XYZ. And then you do it, you succeed. I think those...

can early on just have dramatic impact already on you. And then what follows after, whether you're like in product at a company or maybe like at an R&D role or in consulting or whatever really, right? That can also have an impact. But I think even like those very early experience, I think can also really impact your path and just your...

your risk appetite basically, right? That's what it, I think comes down to often. Like how willing are you sort of to jump into this sort of blank canvas?

Silas Mähner (01:09:23)
Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. I really appreciate this. I think we've covered quite a good amount today. Any final thoughts for the audience, Tobias? Any where people can reach you at anything, any asks?

Tobias Egle (01:09:38)
People can reach me, well, LinkedIn is a good way, but pretty easy to find because my last name is pretty uncommon. So, Tobias, T-O-B-I-A-S, and last name, Egle, E-G-L-E. Or, I mean, actually can also firstname.lastname at that works equally well. And yeah, this was super exciting.

I think one thing I wanted to say is that, and that kind of just sort of just reoccurred to me, this, I love sort of doing this podcast now just because what got me into climate or how I learned about climate was via podcasts as well, sort of in the very beginning. So this is kind of such a, it's almost like a giving back, coming full circle moment. So this is just kind of, this always feels very special.

Silas Mähner (01:10:35)
Glad to hear it. I think podcasts played a really important part of my life too. It's in a different way, but a lot of people have podcasts nowadays, so sometimes it's hard to keep going, but I do appreciate hearing the good story. So appreciate you coming on. It's been a pleasure and I'm very, very keen to see how things develop and how your investments go and how things continue to grow in the space. So thanks so much for coming on.

Tobias Egle (01:10:59)
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me.

Introduction and Background
Transitioning from Academia to Venture Capital
Getting into Venture Capital
Focus Areas of M Ventures
Decarbonizing Electronics and Life Sciences
Challenges of PFAS Removal
Gaps in Deep Tech Founders
The Impact of AI in Climate Solutions
Adaptation and Climate Resilience
Grid Resiliency and Renewable Integration
Transitioning from R&D to Product and Business Development
Designing for Manufacturability in Hard Tech
Sustainable Supply Chain in Electronics Manufacturing
Team Building and Hiring for Startups
Getting into VC and Starting a Company