4 Minutes With…Kyle Teamey, CEO, Liquid Light

September 1, 2014 |

TeameyElsewhere in the Digest this morning we make reference to the technologies and markets being explored by Liquid Light — specifically the opportunity to make a molecule with a powerful market such as mono ethylene glycol (MEG) out of waste CO2. Leading the company is Kyle Teamey, who left behind a military career (including a tour of duty in Iraq) and a consulting role at DARPA to become entrepreneur in residence at Redpoint Ventures, where he co-founded Liquid Light with Princeton scientists Andrew Bocarsly and Emily Cole.

Tell us about your organization and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Liquid Light develops and licenses process technology to make major chemicals from low-cost carbon dioxide. By utilizing CO2 from processes such as fermentation we can make more sustainable materials at lower cost. Liquid Light’s first process is for the production of ethylene glycol (MEG).

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

Our focus:

1. Further scale-up of our technology to pilot

2. Enlisting strategic partners, including chemical producers, firms with waste CO2, and downstream firms

3. Spreading the word about the benefits and pragmatics of this new approach to more sustainable chemicals

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

First, show that processes and products really work in real customer applications. Second, show genuine cost advantages. This industry’s technologies have to compete head to head, not just deliver sustainability benefits. Economics and environment are partners in sustainability.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

I’dd get the various players in a value chain to move all at once. Solve our chicken and egg dilemmas. Convince downstream users to make initial commitments more readily so that producers are ready to act and use producer plans to ensure feedstock sourcing is reliable.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?

The privilege and opportunity to work with a great team tackling some of the world’s thorniest problems. We are after a big issue — greenhouse gases — with a solution that makes sense economically. Turn waste into something useful and at a profit… why wouldn’t I want to do that!?!

You’ll be speaking at the next ABLCNext conference in San Francisco this November. What’s special about that week for you?

The approach we’re championing is still a relatively new idea to many people. I love having the chance to share it, and literally startle some very smart people with how far we’ve come. The innovative nature of ABLC and ABLCNext attract a diverse audience with whom it’s wonderful to share these ideas and get great feedback.

Who do you consider your mentors?

The most influential are often those closest to home. I’ve been blessed with a very supportive family and wonderful teachers. Mrs. Schell and Mrs. Devasia were the elementary school teachers who taught me how to learn. My high school science teachers (Shannon, Riecke, Andretta) inspired me to work in my current field and I had professors (Bolger, Kuhl, Sullivan, Lynd, Farrauto), coaches (Smith, Wallin), bosses (Tien, Sweet, Miller, Nagl), and many others who encouraged and helped me along the way. I count myself lucky to have had so much support and to have lived in a place and time where anything is possible. It’s a responsibility to take all of that and contribute back to society; to give as much as we have received.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

No matter how bad the circumstances or the situation, you can always keep your sense of humor and you can always take away something positive to use in the future.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

Most of my time away from work is spent literally pursuing my kids; they get in all manner of mischief. When they are a bit older it will be time to introduce them to some hobbies like backpacking, sports, fishing, and maybe a little surface chemistry.

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz. Best start-up management book I’ve come across. Great read.

Quiet, by Susan Cain. Interesting take on introversion and extroversion. A lot that can be applied to the world of R&D.

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Category: Million Minds

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