1:52 - From fossil fuels to clean energy
7:55 - Idealab and Energy Vault
14:20 - Hardware and software
29:03- Saying no to customers
43:50 - The intense schedule of going public
Robert Piconi is the co-founder and CEO at Energy Vault, a global energy storage company based in Ticino and publicly listed at NYSE. He previously worked at companies like BP, Alcatel and Spirent Communications.
Despite his past in the oil business, Robert is currently dedicated to taking an active role in the transition to renewals. That’s why he co-founded Energy Vault in 2017, after having validated the idea at Idealab, the longest running technology incubator in the US, with a very impressive track record: almost half of its companies have either gone public or been acquired.
Energy Vault aims to tackle the complicated issue of energy storage, i.e. electron storage. This storage is made difficult by the electrons’ limited “shelf-life”, by the costliness of the infrastructure, and by the fact that it is rather hard to find sustainable ways of doing it. Energy Vault combines innovative design, advanced materials science, and proprietary machine-vision software to orchestrate the storage and dispatch of electrical power by lifting and lowering composite bricks, made from eco-friendly materials. Energy Vault’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in a unique approach to the circular economy which utilizes local industrial and energy waste, including remediated coal ash and recycled wind blades converted to recyclable materials, to build the system’s composite bricks.
They run their infrastructure and acquire their raw materials locally, so as to avoid greenhouse gas emissions and reinvest in the communities where they’re located. One major customer segment of theirs are utilities companies that distribute to a grid infrastructure, and which are currently in the process of shutting down their fossil fuel plants and making the switch to renewables.
Energy Vault went public on the NYSE in 2022, through a merger with Novus Capital Corporation II (NYSE: NXU). The transaction raised approximately $235 million in gross proceeds, additive to its recently announced Series C of $107M and the $50M license fee from Atlas Renewable, to fund the execution of its growth strategy. Reflecting on the going public process, Robert advises founders to not go public before they’ve reached a scale which allows them to reliably predict the company’s future, or before they’ve hired enough people to maintain operational excellence during the IPO process.
"I felt like my potential could reach greater heights if it weren’t held back by corporate constraints."
"Countries have no walls: greenhouse gasses go all over the world. It is imperative that we cooperate."
"An IPO process takes months. I would caution founders to structure their business in a way that makes sure things run on time even if they’re away."