CleanTechies
CleanTechies Podcast
#159 Slashing Trucking Emissions by 90% TODAY, Biodiesel, Scaling up Manufacturing, & more w/ Lori Dunn (Optimus Technologies)
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#159 Slashing Trucking Emissions by 90% TODAY, Biodiesel, Scaling up Manufacturing, & more w/ Lori Dunn (Optimus Technologies)

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Thanks for returning to the CleanTechies Podcast on Substack! If you are returning reader, we have a big favor to ask you. Please take ~7 min to fill out our listeners’ survey so we can better understand your preferences and better tailor the show to you. Thank you SO much for being a reader/listener.

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🌎 Welcome back to the CleanTechies PodLetter, founder edition.

In Today’s Issue

  • Today’s Issue

  • Lori’s background

  • The origin of Optimus Technologies and what they do

  • Show notes (timestamps)

  • Links

  • Asks

  • Our key takeaways


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Today, we are talking to Lori Dunn from Optimus Technologies

We have a great issue of the show today with a kick-ass person who is passionate about doing everything we can to decarbonize TODAY.

Some of the core discussion points are…

  • Going from a ‘small company’ energy to ‘big company’ energy

  • Why the trucking industry hasn’t already switched to biodiesel and how Optimus Technologies is solving that

  • Managing the challenges of upscaling manufacturing

And much more…


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The Guest: Lori Dunn

  • Early in Lori’s career, she worked for the Peace Corps. This alone offers you an idea of the type of person she is.

  • After that, she got straight into decarbonizing, primarily doing sales for various climate tech companies.

  • Eventually, this culminated in landing the COO role at Optimus Technologies in 2022, where she wasted no time in getting to business.

  • On the personal side, it’s clear when you speak with Lori, that she’s a kick-ass person who is squarely focused on doing her part to reverse climate change.

The Startup: Optimus Technologies

Transportation Decarbonization, Biodiesel, Hardware

One-liner: Helping the trucking industry decarbonize by up to 90% TODAY.

Founded in 2010 by Colin Huwyler who believed there had to be a better biodiesel option. Most technologies only allowed low blends of biodiesel (B5-B20).

Thanks to his deep conviction, he has persisted through many challenges and the company is still alive due to that effort.

The partnership between Lori and OT, comes at a perfect time where the technology has been proven and it’s now time to scale.

In 2024 they sold 1,000 units, and are aiming to be selling multi-thousands within the next year and a half.


📝 Show Notes:

Topics

  • 01:43 Small vs Big Energy Company

  • 04:37 Decarbonizing Diesel Engines

  • 07:00 Challenges to Decarb the Diesel Industry

  • 09:39 Understanding Fleet Managers' Problems

  • 11:37 Previous Attempts

  • 14:33 The Long Game of Hardware Innovation

  • 19:25 Joining Optimus

  • 25:36 The Technology of Optimus

  • 29:07 Communicating Value to Investors

  • 33:16 Revenue Model and Cost Structure

  • 37:42 Scaling Manufacturing and Funding

  • 42:33 Metrics and Partnerships

  • 44:30 Early Stage Manufacturing

  • 46:34 Manufacturing In-house vs Outsourcing

Links


Asks 👋

  • We have recently launched a listener survey, and we would love to hear from you how we can improve the show and what you like most. Please take 7 minutes to help us with this. It’s 7 minutes for you, but it makes a huge impact on how we can serve you.

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Here’s the thing: Somil and I both have day jobs, so if you’re in the helping mood, we both have an ask for you today.

Somil: I’m currently seeking to connect with founders in the built environment space for a project I’m working on. If you’re in that space, schedule a chat here!

Silas: As many of you know, my day job is solving people’s hiring headaches in climate - do you have a hiring headache? Well, let me be your Advil. (booking here)


Key Takeaways

As we record, some things pop up that stand out to us. Either because they are unique and new to us or because they have been said similarly by other past guests.

Since you have most likely not listened to every episode, we are putting them here for you.

  • They had the right team.

    • Lori talked a lot about how culture and the right people have been important to their success.

    • This stood out because it’s something a LOT of our guests have said. The notable part is that the ones who have scaled up their teams a lot are the ones who are banging the drum of culture the most.

  • Cost + Safety.

    • This is related to most of the companies that sell to large corporates but are new because we’ve not had anyone selling to commercial fleet owners.

    • The general principle to be aware of is that innovation may not be the word your customers want to hear. Many folks focus on cost savings, but in many cases, the word innovation is equal to risk, and the decision-makers in many legacy companies are not chomping at the bit to be the first ones to try a new gadget.

    • So, when building your company, developing your tech, and crafting your messaging, account for your customers' motives. In many cases, the words reliability and cost savings will be critical.

  • Preserving Optionality.

    • Given that her customers are fleet managers, a huge concern is access to biodiesel. Similar to range anxiety, the question in their mind is, what if I can’t access biodiesel on this route?

    • Therefore, their system must allow drivers to switch between 100% biodiesel and traditional diesel if they don’t have it.

    • I think this is the first time we’ve heard this specific advice on the pod.

    • Worth keeping this in mind. Many hard-core folks might be tempted to push for all-or-nothing adoption, but maintaining optionality is super important.

  • Design for Reporting.

    • It's not a new concept, but I noticed that they help make it easy for their customers to report on their sustainability goals by generating real-time data on what fuel is used.

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🙏🏽 Thanks for tuning in, and see you all next episode!

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CleanTechies
CleanTechies Podcast
CleanTechies is a Podcast and Newsletter where Somil & Silas interview the leading ClimateTech Founders and Investors to share their advice and journeys with other Founders and Investors to help others succeed.