“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.”Einstein, A. (1946, June 28). Physics and Reality. Journal of the Franklin Institute, 242(3), 215-240.
With incredible excitement, gratitude, and optimism, I am proud to announce that I have become CEO of DEXMAT, one of the most ambitious climatetech moonshots ever attempted.
What/Why is DEXMAT?
DEXMAT (“Deus Ex Materia”) is a nanotechnology startup that is making steel, aluminum, and copper obsolete with advanced, carbon-negative materials. Based on IP from Nobel-winning physicists and chemists at Rice University, DEXMAT’s patented products are superior to today’s materials and are produced not by combusting carbon, but rather by capturing it. At scale, DEXMAT will have 2-3 gigatons of annual CO2 impact so we have just closed our first equity round of funding to invest in rapid scale-up.
Why focus on materials? Because materials are massive contributors to climate change; steel, aluminum, and copper alone account for nearly 10% of human CO2 emissions! These are especially hard-to-abate emissions too; at Third Derivative we reviewed thousands of startups and didn’t see much quality dealflow in this area. As we #electrifyeverything, these materials are becoming more crucial – and harder to produce. Rather than bending ourselves into pretzels trying to make these industries slightly greener, DEXMAT is reimagining a world unconstrained by these dirty, centuries-old materials.
What/Why is Galvorn?
DDEXMAT produces GalvornTM, a material made of pure carbon and engineered at the nano-scale to be stronger, lighter, more conductive, more flexible, more corrosion-resistant, and less toxic than steel, aluminum, and copper. While the properties of those dirty, incumbent materials haven’t improved in recent memory, Galvorn is following Pasquali’s Law such that its properties are improving 2X every three years. We have only hit a small fraction of the maximum theoretical limits so we expect this performance improvement to continue for some time.
Galvorn’s basic form factors are fiber and tape. The fiber can be braided into yarns, which are ideal for wires and cables; the yarns can be further woven into fabrics that can be soft and supple as a textile or stiff as a mesh. The tapes are ideal for wrapping applications such as shielding. Both the fiber and the tape can be utilized as the matrix for composites – like carbon fiber or Kevlar but better in almost every way.
Crucially, Galvorn has multiple pathways to carbon-negativity at scale:
- Today, Galvorn is produced from hydrocarbons through pyrolysis – splitting off the hydrogen as a byproduct (which goes on to displace emissive fuels) and keeping the remaining carbon for our materials.
- Instead of being combusted and emitted as CO2, the carbon is permanently embodied in Galvorn; if our materials reach end of life, they can be reformed into new materials with no loss of properties for a truly circular supply chain.
- Galvorn displaces many times its mass of CO2-intensive materials like steel, aluminum, and copper.
- By producing materials that are stronger, lighter, and more durable, DEXMAT is helping to make heavy industry – and especially transportation – more efficient and less polluting.
- In the medium-term future, we have multiple pathways to produce Galvorn from captured CO2.
An analysis we conducted in partnership with Shell, ARPA-E, and The Grantham Foundation concluded that, at scale, DEXMAT could reach 2-3 gigatons of annual CO2 impact. Again, after having reviewed thousands of climatetech opportunities at Third Derivative, I just never saw anything with that kind of incredible impact potential.
Progress To Date
DEXMAT spun out of Rice several years ago and has been built on more than USD $20M of non-dilutive (grant) funding from, e.g., DOE, ARPA-E, NSF, NASA, AFFOA, and the Air Force. With no spending on sales or marketing and with an incredibly high price point, DEXMAT nonetheless has seen sales of Galvorn growing rapidly year after year. The team has done an incredible job scaling up production and reducing cost to meet this growing demand, so DEXMAT is well on its way to leadership in ultra high performance materials for niche applications.
However, DEXMAT’s customers are already deploying Galvorn in markets worth $2T and responsible for 3 gigatons of annual CO2 emissions. These markets are as wide ranging as defense, aerospace, automotive, power transmission, and wearables, but our customers all say the same three things:
- Galvorn is amazing.
- DEXMAT needs to be able to produce more of it.
- It needs to cost less.
Therefore, we believe that DEXMAT’s greatest potential is not as a niche provider of high-priced materials. We could build a very profitable business that way, but we would never move the needle on CO2 emissions. Rather, we need to scale DEXMAT up and reduce the cost of Galvorn such that we can begin displacing steel, aluminum, and copper at massive scale.
Almost exactly a year ago, I announced that I would leave Third Derivative “to start building the next game-changing climatetech venture.” I spent several months investigating where my time would be best deployed for maximum impact and I was flattered to be recruited for several incredible roles. At the end of the day, though, nothing got me as excited as DEXMAT. DEXMAT is the next game-changing climatetech venture.
DEXMAT has deep roots at Rice (and was even founded by my former entrepreneurship students there, so I know the team is full of amazing people) and in the City of Houston (a place that I love and that will play an outsized role in the energy transition). Beyond DEXMAT’s incredible potential and my personal ties there, I also chose DEXMAT because of my own additionality. Without me, DEXMAT might continue its path to leadership in niche, premium materials. With me in the CEO chair, however, DEXMAT becomes an ambitious, climatetech moonshot.
Since officially accepting the CEO role in October of last year, I have led DEXMAT’s first equity funding round of $3M. It’s just a small step (Scaling up to meet our ambitions will require billions of investment over time.), but building out our commercial team and scaling up / costing down by an order of magnitude will be a giant leap for our trajectory.
Our investment round was led by Shell Ventures, with additional participation from Overture Ventures, Climate Avengers, another energy company that can’t yet be named openly until we pass a regulatory hurdle, and many individuals whom I admire and respect. I am on record as saying that, if we fail to build the sustainable, prosperous, equitable future, it will not be a failure of ability; rather it will be a failure of imagination and of courage. While raising this round, I encountered many investors who thought our vision was too bold or too risky, so kudos to this syndicate for their imagination and courage as we build something truly transformational.
I need to be clear that DEXMAT’s new goal isn’t to make materials like steel, aluminum, and copper a little bit greener; it’s to make them obsolete. If successful, this is industrial revolution-scale innovation. We often think of eras of human civilization in terms of the materials used: the stone age, the iron age, etc. Our ambitions at DEXMAT are nothing short of ushering humanity into the carbon age.
This month we are going live (“Hello, world!”) with several articles, podcasts, and talks. I will be presenting at CERAWeek, SXSW, and the ARPA-E Summit, so come say hi if you are also attending. Otherwise, let me know how you are doing, what you think of my next [ad]venture, and whether there might be opportunities to collaborate. As I often said at Third Derivative, together – and only together – can we build the sustainable, prosperous, equitable future.
So join me in this incredible journey as we scale up by orders of magnitude to transform some of the biggest and dirtiest industries in the world.