Green.org sat down with Audun Sommerli Time, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) & Co-Founder at NextFuel AB, to learn how he transitioned from working in PR to running an award winning clean tech startup, which transforms fast growing grass into a clean copy of fossil fuels in less than 30 minutes.
Audun, thank you for being here. Tell us a little bit about your background.
After finishing my business degree I worked 10 years for the largest PR-agency in Scandinavia, Geelmuyden Kiese. I have also been involved in Norwegian politics and held several board positions in different types of startups. Today my key responsibility as CMO is the sale and marketing in NextFuel AB that is an award winning clean tech startup that owns the IPs of the most scalable biomass technology in the world. We can basically transform any type of feedstock into a clean copy of fossil fuels in less than 30 minutes, giving the world a faster way to combat climate change. We are currently, together with our industrial partners, implementing the largest torrefaction project in Europe. Since our product launch 4 years ago, we have been contacted by hundreds of companies that want to do business with us in different parts of the world.
What would you do with $1 billion dollars?
Invest it, but in a smart way to both be able to beat the market and at the same time contribute to fighting global warming. First of all it is important to remember that research show most of the actively managed mutual funds in the world are never able to beat the market in the long term, and most investors even lose money since they prefer to follow the crowd so they often end up buying the same stocks when they are expensive, and sell them when they are cheap. If you want to both avoid inflation “eating up” your cash, and still be able to beat the market with 1 billion USD you need to diversify and focus on the capital efficient companies with unique technologies and strong competitive advantages in future growth industries. In a portfolio you also need to make several small high risk/ high return asymmetrical bets since each win of more than 1000% outperform even up to 9 losses of 100%, and many of the companies that can deliver these types of returns are not even listed.
A few big wins are the reason why venture capital and private equity funds are the only funds that on average are able to beat the stock market index today. With these facts in mind I would personally gradually place about 1/3 of the billion USD in these types of funds combined with a portfolio of selected unique growth companies that fit these criterias like for instance clean tech companies such as NextFuel AB. I would then put another 1/3 in dividend ETFs/ index funds (with a 15% trailing stop loss to avoid bear markets), and the final 1/3 would go to different types of green infrastructure projects since this is a safe overlooked part of the market today with way better return potential than real estate. For instance if I invest in future NextFuel factories in our most profitable global markets a yearly ROI of more than 30% for each factory is expected. This is a fast way of earning back the investment, with less risk than the more volatile stock market. 1/3 of the one billion USD earmarked to such NextFuel projects also makes it possible to replace nearly a million ton of coal per year as well.
Why do you think sustainability is such an important topic today?
Sustainability is becoming more important in terms of investing since capital is the key to faster bring new ESG friendly technologies to market. History show that all challenges facing humankind have been solved with new technology breakthroughs funded by risk capital. Today the clean tech industry is where the tech industry was more than 10 years ago, but the stakes are much higher. We still don’t know which green companies that are the next Tesla, Amazon or Google, but the more clean tech companies that succeeds the more likely it is the world can reach the 1.5 degree target in time.
What do you envision your industry looking like in ten years?
It is hard to predict the future, but biomass is today the largest sector of the renewable industry and with today’s energy crisis the potential for growth is the highest it has been for years. The only thing that is holding back the industry is the lack of raw materials, since there is not enough wood in the world to cover the entire coal replacement demand. With our technological torrefaction breakthrough the biomass industry can now use any types of crops as raw material. For instance bagasse, bamboo, paddy straw, agriculture waste, and recycled furniture. It is even possible to supplement with elephant grass that grows 4 meter in just 100 days on cheap marginal land, making the scalability nearly unlimited.
Our clean torrefied NextFuel briquette is also possible to use directly in existing energy infrastructure like a coal plant without the need for any rebuilding of it. By utilizing the Fischer Tropsch process we can even transform our briquette into liquid Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) giving for instance the oil industry and the aviation industry a possibility to faster go green without having to worry about getting enough feedstock for producing the large volumes of such a clean fuel. So if we are able to spread our new torrefaction technology to many different industries around the world, the entire energy industry could change in 10 years and the CO2 pollution will also be much lower than what the IEA is currently projecting.
Audun, thank you for sharing how NextFuel is paving the way for a new form of clean energy.
Dylan Welch is the CEO and Host of Going Green, a podcast, website, and social media brand that highlights renewable energy, cleantech, and sustainable news.