CleanTechies Podcast
#172 AI x Production, Battery Technology, Learning from Tesla, & More w/ Vivas Kumar (Mitra Chem)

#172 AI x Production, Battery Technology, Learning from Tesla, & More w/ Vivas Kumar (Mitra Chem)

🌎 Welcome back to the CleanTechies PodLetter, founder edition.

Today, we are talking to Vivas Kumar from Mitra Chem

In today’s conversation, we discuss…

  • How iron-based materials have a more sustainable and reliable future

  • What Vivas learned from negotiations at Tesla

  • How AI is 10x’ing their production process

& More. Enjoy today’s episode, and let us know your thoughts in the comments

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The Guest: Vivas Kumar

Vivas Kumar is the CEO and Co-Founder of Mitra Chem, the first lithium-ion battery materials manufacturer focused on shortening the lab-to-production timeline by over 90%, addressing the largest barrier to innovation: R&D and scale-up speed.

Previously, Vivas was a senior manager in Tesla's Battery Team, where he was the lead commercial negotiator for strategic contracts representing billions of dollars in aggregate multi-year spend along the battery materials supply chain (the company's largest BOM category). Throughout his career, he has conducted commercial negotiations and handled partnerships with executive and senior government counterparties in North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific.

Vivas earned degrees in engineering at Rice University, and an MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is still actively involved at Rice University via mentoring students and, formerly through Board participation at the Rice Engineering Alumni and Association of Rice Alumni.

The Startup: Mitra Chem

Iron-based Cathodes, Onshoring, AI, Production

One-liner: the first lithium-ion battery materials product company focused on shortening the lab-to-production timeline by over 90%, addressing the largest barrier to innovation: R&D and scale-up speed

Mitra Chem is a company focused on 3 problems:

  • Shifting the Western electric vehicle and energy storage industries' battery portfolio towards better, safer, cheaper iron-based battery cathodes

  • Building production capacity in the USA to offset production asset overconcentration in China

  • Accelerating by >90% the lab-to-market timeline for a portfolio of battery materials through a proprietary machine learning advantage

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📝 Show Notes:


  • 04:18 Starting as an Entrepreneur

  • 06:41 Near-Shoring

  • 10:18 Transitioning to Iron-Based Materials

  • 11:00 Trends and Challenges with Nickel, Cobalt, and Lithium

  • 14:49 Working at Benchmark's Mineral Intelligence Group

  • 24:50 Financing and Business Models in Climate Solutions

  • 27:32 Adapting Technology for Local Context

  • 31:31 Shifting from Innovation to Supply Chain

  • 35:13 Integration of AI and Automation in Production

  • 41:41 Longevity and Outlasting Competition

  • 44:08 Reducing Organizational Costs

  • 43:21 Finding the Right People

  • 45:23 The Importance of Curiosity and Motivation

  • 47:54 Takeaways


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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!

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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.