The world is facing three interrelated problems: energy crisis, climate change and clean water shortage says Justin Hall-Tipping founder and CEO of Connecticut-based investment company Nanoholdings. Solutions are not going to be found through incremental improvements to established technologies or the miraculous occurrence of a more balanced life style of the 7 billion human beings inhabiting the earth. No, the venture capitalist puts his money on disruptive technology.
Nanoholdings invests in nanotech startups that focus on energy. It is solely dedicated to funding and co-founding companies that operate in the field of atomic and molecular manipulation in search of new ways to generate, store and transmit energy. Essentially it’s looking for the technological breakthrough that will make free energy possible.
Hall-Tipping became acutely aware of the impact of climate change when he saw the satellite pictures of the B15 Iceberg, the largest ice berg in the world, break away from the Ross Ice Shelf. A second shock came when word all over the media was that this was a normal occurrence. You know, these things happen.
He realized that many if not most people have a tendency to adapt to any given circumstance. Rather than admitting to the shock of witnessing an extraordinary phenomenon that might very well be a foreboding of far worse things to come, they file it away as normal to maintain a sense of safety.
But the numbing effect of the normality filter inhibits the necessary mindset to deal adequately with the given circumstance. These unprecedented problems call for disruptive ideas and paradigm ruptures to arrive at groundbreaking solutions.
Hall-Tipping recognized these traits in the nascent field of nanotechnology. So he founded Nanoholdings in 2003 to use his entrepreneurial skills to convert breakthrough research into industrial viable products.
Hall-Tipping told Sara Goodman of Greenwire that a lot of promising research succumbs in the valley of death, the abyss between the lab and the market that is hard to cross because of lack of funding. This is especially true for nanotech. To make the jump from research to building a prototype requires a significant capital injection because it often depends on developing new materials. Most venture funds rather invest in less capital-intensive industries such as software development.
In fact, normal investment models no longer suffice when it comes to funding breakthrough energy research. They’re geared toward a return on investment after about 10 years. A valid expectation when investing in a technology that is incrementally progressing. But when looking for a radical change normal isn’t going to cut it
“It is a new paradigm, because we’re talking about funding the next technological leap in energy. That will require a different mindset. Nanoholdings isn’t really a venture fund, because we do take a long-term view. We do believe that if you’re funding the next technological leap, you need to think about it in different terms”, Hall-Tipping told Greenwire.
Nanoholdings doesn’t limited itself to providing capital. It also actively seeks to establish a network of leading nanotech scientists which can mutually reinforce each others research. It has ties with over 15 universities amongst which are Yale University, the University of Cambridge and the University of Singapore.
June 2011 Hall-Tipping held a TEDGlobal talk in Edinburgh, Scotland [video embedded below]. He presents three nano-energy products which generate, store and transmit electricity. Convincingly backing up his vision of a future of free, clean and individually generated energy with products developed by Nanoholdings’ subsidiaries.
Photo: James Duncan Davidson / TED
Video Source: blog.ted.com
Sara Goodman’s Greenwire article Firm Escorts Nanotech Energy Startups Through ‘Valley of Death’ [pdf] (original source behind a pay wall but available via nanoholdings.com)