The innovations driving the energy transition | Work Done Right with Geert Van De Wouw

In the latest episode of the Work Done Right podcast, Shell Ventures’ Geert van de Wouw joins to discuss the crucial role of supporting innovative startups in accelerating the energy transition and achieving net-zero carbon goals. Geert goes beyond solely measuring success by financial returns, highlighting the importance of creating impact at scale by deploying and implementing technologies that can bring about significant change in the industry. 
Don’t miss this thought-provoking episode on the energy industry’s path towards a sustainable and net-zero future. 

About Geert

Geert van de Wouw serves as the Managing Director of Shell Ventures, Shell’s corporate Venture Capital fund.

Shell Ventures invests in early- and late-stage start-ups and scale-ups in the renewable energy, climate, digital and mobility and transport sectors.

Geert has a long background in Business Development across the construction, engineering, and energy industries. He uses this background to help facilitate growth in portfolio companies, supporting their operations by being a launching customer and providing access to Shell’s knowledge of markets and technology.

Top 3 Episode Takeaways

1. Within the energy industry, it is critical to support innovative startups that can help accelerate the energy transition and achieve net-zero carbon aspirations. 
2. Success for startups lies in creating impact at scale. While making positive financial returns is important, one primary focus is deploying and implementing technologies that can bring about significant change in a sector. 
3. It is critical to go beyond individual solutions and consider how point solutions can integrate into larger value propositions that align with your company goals. Neglecting this aspect can hinder scalability and success in the corporate environment. 

Episode Transcript

Wes Edmiston: 

Welcome to the show. Yeah, Geert, you have quite the diverse background and I’d really be interested in hearing kind of how this transformation happened from your start and what ultimately led to you getting to the position where you are now. 

Could you tell me a bit about your background?  

Geert van de Wouw: 

Yeah, no, thanks. And thanks for having me and it’s good to make the circle round and be back with Cumulus, which is a company dear to my heart and once started in Shell TechWorks back in the days.  

Listen, I run Shell Ventures, which is the corporate venture capital arm of Shell. We are a unit of about 50 people across eight locations globally. And I think what differentiates us from many other corporate VCs, or CVCs as they call them, is two ways.  

Number one is we’ve really got a global spread. So we’ve got people in China and India, in Europe on various locations, and in the US, in San Francisco, Boston and Houston. And so from there we source the best available opportunities within a certain sector.  

And the second thing we do differently from most is not all, but most, is that we spend a lot of time on implementation management where we try and help the portfolio companies we have invested in to really land business and revenue generating opportunities for Shell, which is not easy.  

And I’m sure we’ll talk a bit more about that in the next hour or so.  


Wes Edmiston:  

Yeah, I really appreciate that and it’s great to have you here. We have a great relationship with Shell and we very much enjoy working with you all.  

So thanks for everything that you all do, especially as pivotal as you’ve been really in Cumulus’s story. Geert, you started off in you off working in construction, did you not?  


Geert van de Wouw:  

Yeah, a little bit.  

I’ve got a background in molecular sciences, mostly biotech, and I ended up in oil and gas, which is obviously an interesting pivot. But hey, I found out that the Barry Handbook of Chemical Engineering for Biotech is the same as it is for oil and gas engineers.  

I started my career at Fluor Corporation, which is large American based engineering construction company, but operating globally. And there I started initially as a process engineer and did some work in construction.  

And so I’ve been doing pressure testing and basically the torquing of fittings. That’s why a solution like Cumulus is near to my heart because I’ve been sitting behind that pressure gauge and watch it go up or not go down during pressure testing and it’s quite a boring, non inspirational activity.  

And you guys have kind of cracked that nut to automate and digitalize some of these more mundane and quite boring activities, but important at refineries and petrochemical and other manufacturing sites.  

And now I understand data centers, which is fantastic news.  


Wes Edmiston:   

Yeah, it’s been great as far as seeing other industries adopt our technology again. So I started off as a user of the system, deploying it on multiple projects before I joined the Cumulus team.  

So I think it’s valuable. I think a lot of people can get a lot of benefit out of it, and it really does improve the. Industry, and it’s exciting to try and sell that to customers. Right.  


Geert van de Wouw:  

In the rest of my career, I’ve mostly been active at the interface between commercial deal making and technology, whether it was in licensing or it was in new business development in Upstream and Shell or it was negotiating EPC contracts with the pet camps in this world or with Shell eventually, which was my global account at some point at Fluor.  

At the very end, I’ve been sitting at different sides of the table negotiating contracts, often with a strong technology component, with suppliers, contractors, with customers like Shell. And I’ve done M&A.  

And now, more recently, I’ve also been a CNP, so contract management and supplier management. And it’s kind of fun to sit on these sides of the table because you start to really appreciate what’s going on on the other side if you have been at the other side.  

And so, yeah, that’s kind of the thread in my career, is deal making negotiations, whether it was an M&A or contracting and procurement or whatever discipline. And it’s fun, and it. Particularly when it’s got an innovation and a technology component to it like it now has in shelf interest, which is the job I’ve been doing for the last eleven years.  

Wes Edmiston:  

Right, so you said you started off doing you were working for Fluor, doing construction, supervising and working in the engineering side of things and then you took a shift to business development. You worked in contracting.  

You’ve done a lot of things throughout your career as you were just kind of lining out what went through your head whenever you were making some of these pivots. You said you have a background in the molecular sciences.  

What got you interested in switching over to business development? How did these shifts and pivots throughout your career take place?  


Geert van de Wouw:  

Yeah, I guess even as an engineer, the interface with the customer I always felt was quite fascinating.  

Not easy, necessarily, and particularly understanding the buying behaviors of customers is sometimes more an art and a science. But I kind of like dealing with customers and helping to get to a solution that would be value adding to customers, I guess, in the end of the day.  

And I enjoy not just the negotiations and the sales process or the M&A process, the contract management process, but also then eventually seeing the fruits of your work in terms of the execution of the contract, where you either build a complex unit in a refinery or I’ve been working on Aliasca Pipe Line, for example, and seeing the fruits of your work come to reality, I find exceptionally rewarding, and particularly in the energy industry nowadays, where by investing in innovative startups and scale ups, that can really help accelerate the energy transition at Shell. You can see that and being actively involved in the implementation of these investments you can really see a direct or indirect contribution to energy transition which is very close to my heart over my career.  

Slowly but gradually being an engineer come to the conclusion that indeed the climate challenge is real and it’s a very material and at times concerning challenge and as an engineer and being able to contribute to solving part of that puzzle I find hugely rewarding.  


Wes Edmiston:  

Would you find things are just kind of interesting to you as well and you wanted to go over there and figure out how that was working?  


Geert van de Wouw:  

Yeah, I think that again, the real thread for me was that I wanted to sit on different sides of the table and go through that process and really understand how this process works.  

Right. Just from a customer or supplier or joint venture partner perspective or a company that wants to get sold or a venture unit like Shell Ventures that wants to buy a minority interest in a company, how does that process work and how can you really create win win situations for both?  

Because in the end of the day, most of these contracts are very long term and have to be sustainable and survive the test of time. And a mentor of mine once told me a guy at Fluoro, by the way, a good deal hurts at both sides of the table, but it’s still good enough to accept, you know what I mean?  

There has to be a certain level of giving on both sides and finding that balance I think is really important.  


Wes Edmiston:  

Yeah, I like that. Oftentimes whenever people think win win it means that everybody’s walking away with this light hearted feeling and stuff.  

That’s not really how negotiation works. Right. We’re going to talk each other up more, we’re going to talk each other down. Yeah. There’s always a level of discomfort when you get into a good deal because it means in order to make the deal sustainable over time, you have to give things and provide trust to the other side that well, is difficult to give away or difficult to build.  

Right? Yeah that’s really even thinking about it generally speaking, that’s really how relationships work in general. Right it and all of these deals are long term relationships, for lack of a better word.  

So yeah, that’s an interesting kind of approach in order to take with that. It’s absolutely right. We’ve talked a bit about Shell Ventures and the global presence, how it is that that it is that you’re you’re addressing certain certain issues that are plugging, you know, the the world with with climate change and really the the oil and gas industry as well overall, what would you say the mission of Shell Ventures is?  


Geert van de Wouw: 

Well, the mission for Shell Ventures is to accelerate the energy transition beginning at Shell so that we can meet our net zero carbon aspirations and ambitions before 2050. So Shell has set itself very ambitious targets in terms of decarbonizing not its own business, but also that of our customers.  

And Shell Ventures plays an important role in finding technologies and business models, new business models that we need to achieve that. So what sort of companies are you looking at through pursuing this effort?  

Right pursue doing net zero by 2050. Yeah. So we look at a wide range of solutions. We are a broad energy company, so you can expect us to be interested in a lot of things that have to do with energy, whether it’s around energy savings and energy efficiency.  

Or whether it’s about renewables and the dissemination and distribution of renewables or whether it’s about mobility as well as also very large mobility and retail business both on the lubricants and the retail fuel side of the house decarbonization technologies.  

So technologies that enable us to take carbon from the atmosphere at scale is relatively broad and for each of these verticals of thesis in terms of things that we believe should interest us and should fascinate us and we need to invest in.  


Wes Edmiston: 

So then whenever you’re actually looking at these individual companies, obviously there are a lot of different companies these days that are approaching the same front companies that are coming out, trying to extract CO2 from the atmosphere.  

Companies that are trying to innovate new technologies to generate energy or make things more efficient. So there are a lot of options out there, and clearly, shell ventures can’t invest in all of them.  

So what is it that you look for? What’s the process? Whenever you’re evaluating a company to invest in, what does that process look for and what are you looking for in a company in the end of the day?  


Geert van de Wouw: 

First, we try and see, okay, does this solution and this technology fit in the wider thesis that we have developed in terms of where we think and of course, there’s a level of bias there where we think that that particular sector in the industry will be going?  

And then we look at therefore at the technology as well. Do we think that this can be scaled to a size that is can create real impact? That’s not an easy question to answer. At. But everything in the energy industry, in order to create size, needs to be scalable and scale needs to be big, potentially.  

And we look at team a lot. What kind of team is there? Have they done this before? Have they worked together before? Do we think they can pull it off? I mean, the common saying in our industry is it’s better to invest in a great team with a mediocre technology than in a great technology with a mediocre team.  

It’s very true, I think. I mean, good teams, you can see putting things off. Even if the technology needs a lot of change and improvements, they’ll pull it off and they’ll get there. So team technology market potential is really important to us.  

And we also look, quite frankly, at who’s invested and what’s the valuation, the strength of the syndicate. Investing in these companies is really important to us. Are these people in for the long haul?  

Because on average, in, say, the clean tech climate, tech space, it takes eight plus years between the investment and an exit. In our sector, at least in our portfolio, it’s a lot of hardware, and hardware is hard, and it’s just hard to scale these things.  

You need to have a set of launching customers. There obviously is competition that’s important to us, too.  


Wes Edmiston:  

Yeah, it’s really interesting. Could you tell us, and I imagine as a shareholder, you probably find this information, but could you tell us a few of the types of companies that you’re invested in?  


Geert van de Wouw: 

Currently, through Shell Ventures, we invested in several mobility solutions that are more on the business model side, digital kind of solutions that provide additional services to our retail and lubricant customers.  

As the journey that the customer is going through is changing over time. And also customers increasingly will use electric mobility solutions and charge at home. So the location where we provide services is moving from the retail side to the home and also to the road, quite frankly.  

And so that’s an area where we invest quite a bit. We’ve looked a lot at new propositions to distribute and optimize renewable power to customers in the B2B and the B2C space. As homes are becoming smarter and also more and more green, electricity is being demanded.  

And the same goes for businesses and office buildings, et cetera. So solutions that can help our B two B customers improve their energy bill, improve their carbon footprint, they are clearly in scope then.  

There’s a lot of technologies on the decarbonization side of the house, whether it’s nature based solutions to monitor CO2 and methane emissions and absorptions by soils to direct air capture technologies, we’re looking at a lot of biochar opportunities.  

So it’s interesting to see, by the way, on that one is that the agricultural sector in terms of its role to reduce carbon emissions is kind of merging with the energy sector because both sectors are looking at supporting each other in decarbonizing their business.  

And I think agriculture is a fascinating space where at the moment, agriculture is 25% of all emissions, human emissions globally, give or take, if you include deforestration and. And I think we could actually turn that around and use the soils and our crops to actually store carbon at scale.  

And so that’s why Shell is also investing quite a bit actively in technologies that enable such capture by nature, which on the short and medium term is a really elegant way to to capture carbon at scale.  


Wes Edmiston: 

We much needed in order to reach net carbon zero, especially, like you said, at scale. Right. That seems like a very scalable solution if we are already taking up large swaths of land as is. If we can just incorporate this into what it is that we’re already doing.  

Yeah, that seems a lot like a no brainer. Are there any other, I guess, companies, areas, technologies that you find really promising, that you’re really interested in at the moment? What is the role of Shell ventures within Shell?  


Geert van de Wouw: 

Right, so if you look at renewable fuels, nobody can really tell you what the future will look like. It will likely be a mosaic of solutions depending on sector. How are we going to decarbonize aviation?  

Is that all going to be through sustainable aviation fuels? Is hydrogen going to play a role? Depending on who you talk with, you get a very different opinion. It’s like a group of lawyers that look at the same contract.  

They will have very different comments and it’s the same a little bit with that. It’s kind of hard to project at this early stage of growth where it will be going and all of the solutions have its own challenges.  

Scaling sustainable aviation fuels in terms of manufacturing is not easy. And hydrogen has its own problems in terms of storage and distribution and also cost at the moment. So what we do at Shell Ventures, we try and bet on all of these horses a little bit.  

And put small bets in taking minority shares in companies that develop new biofuel solutions or new hydrogen green hydrogen electrolysis solutions. Or we’ve invested in the Netherlands in a company called Nord Seoul that produces bio LNG from biogas and strips the CO2 out of the process by which you then create basically over the value chain, a carbon neutral transportation fuel because they take rotten tomatoes and food digested in large digesters produced biogas.  

And that process actually generates 30% to 40% CO2. And then the CO2 stripped out the gas is liquefied and used and sold at Shell retail stations in the Netherlands to power large trucks that go over long distances.  

You have to bet on several horses knowing that some of them are going to be more successful than others. And that’s what Venturing is all about. Yeah, it’s really interesting to think about, you know, trying to trying to to kind of prop up as many of these companies without over leveraging yourself.  

I mean, very much like diversifying your own stock portfolio. Right. What is worrying, though, at the moment is that there’s so much not just venture capital, but also early stage private equity entering this let’s call it climate tech, clean tech sector.  

At the moment, billions and billions of dollars are being injected by private funds, but also by governments. The IRA, the Inflation Reduction Act in the US is a good example that we don’t see inflation.  

We see huge inflation in valuations. We don’t see valuations going down. Rather they go up. And that is, of course, as an investor, you like to see the other way around, but that besides the point. The point is that, as we have seen in clean tech 1.0, that some of these companies will get stuck in what I call the valuation trap because.  

Ah. Some of these investors will basically throw too much money at these companies. Evaluations will continue to go up and up and up, because every round the investor wants to see an uptick until they reach a moment where they become an investable and too expensive.  

It’s a bit like a house that has been on the market. It’s a great house, it’s beautiful, nice garden and everything, but it’s simply too expensive. And at some point people start to think, well, there must be something wrong about the house.  

There isn’t really much wrong about it. It’s just too expensive, the price is too high. And so then you get a downround and you get a restructuring. And those processes are generally quite painful to the existing investors and so they take too long, typically, to act.  

Some of the early stage VCs have stepped out, they have maxed out, they don’t have any money available. They need to show to their investors that they can realize an uptick. It puts the entrepreneur in a real pickle because they may still be years away from warranting the valuation that they’re trying to push into the market.  

There’s nothing wrong with the product, it’s just too expensive. And I think this is a problem waiting to happen in our sector at the moment, given where valuations are. So we continue to be very prudent in terms of valuations, knowing from experience, having done this now for decades as Shell Ventures, that the market will turn around.  

But it’s a message we share quite a bit with entrepreneurs that we like in terms of technology and team, but who are pushing too high. Evaluation. This will shoot them in the foot if they’re not careful.  


Wes Edmiston:  

It’s interesting to think about that and comparing that to have you ever read anything from Ray Dahlio, the investor?  


Geert van de Wouw:  



Wes Edmiston:  

He talks a lot about the short term and the long term debt cycle. And the short term debt cycle follows this typical seven to ten year trend.  

And as you’re saying. Know if these companies are typically eight years to exit. And also with that, it takes a good amount of that arc for them to actually get to the point where they’re really a viable company, right?  

If that short term debt cycle is on the narrow end and we’re looking at a seven year term, it can really, as you’re saying, put these startups in a pretty precarious position if they’re right there at the cusp.  

But people have to pull their money out and invest it elsewhere because, as you’re saying, it’s just been propped up too high over that short term debt cycle.  


Geert van de Wouw:  

No, I think and look at the amount of clean tech companies that have sold for more than a billion.  

We can count them on one hand, right, over the last decade. So it doesn’t happen often that these companies can justify the valuation. The other day, I had a direct air capture company knocking on our door.  

Pre revenue company, still only have a product coming out of the lab. Don’t even have a module that can operate at respectable size. No paying customer valuation above $300 million. It’s like, Guys, you’re a seed company trying to pitch me a Series D valuation.  

It’s just not going to happen. Right. And that’s a real risk in our sector at the moment.  


Wes Edmiston: 

Interesting, as you’re saying, because all of these other industry, I guess, the federal money that’s coming into it, the governmental money that’s coming into it, these large private equity firms, they think they can get it.  

That’s interesting to think about what the implications are going to be over the next, we’ll say decade. That also seems almost too bad, because, as you’re saying, it could stall progress is really the concern.  


Geert van de Wouw: 

Right. Yeah. And we know the VCs that, like us, have been in this market during Clean Tech 1.0 and during their fingers, like most of us. But it occurs to me, I always call it it’s seven year cycles, three year memory.  

Well, and a lot of people also, they haven’t been in it as long, like you’re saying, as someone like yourself. So they just, you know, whether or not they have that short term memory loss or not, they may just not have the opportunity to know that much yet.  

Interesting. So what does a successful company look like in your mind? What does success look like for one of the companies that you’re invested in and also really inside of Shell? What does success look like for Shell Ventures?  


Geert van de Wouw: 

Yeah. Success to Shell Ventures and to me is if several of the companies that we have invested in indeed start to create impact at scale, in the end of the day, that’s what it boils down to. Of course, I’m incentivized to make positive yielding exits every year.  

We have a portfolio now of 120 companies and funds that we have invested in. And of course, we need to make money from exits. That’s just the normal expectations when you run a venture capital business, let’s be clear.  

But the real value in the end also for us is can we create strategic value from deploying and implementing these technologies at scale, whether it’s by using them within Shell to reduce cost of operations or to introduce a renewable solution at a lower cost?  

Or whether it’s about creating a new business growth opportunity where with a combination of new business models with the existing retail proposition we have, we can help the retail business grow their piece of the pie.  

And then at the same time, we also kind of have a bit of a pathfinder role in Shell where we do invest in things that maybe still ten years away but we need to have some eyes on in order to understand how fast this will start to impact our business.  

And in the past, that would have been electric mobility or it would have been autonomous driving and autonomous technology. The reason for us to be invested in LiDAR technologies and autonomous technology stacks was really to get an appreciation of hey, how fast will this really go?  

And we all know that level five is always still a couple of years away. It will happen, but at least not on the very near term depending on who you talk with. But clearly it’s been a promise that hasn’t delivered yet and it’s taking more time and getting that kind of intelligence back into the organization is actually quite helpful and so that’s also a role that Shell Ventures has to have some eyes and ears on potentially quite disruptive trends and technologies and so today we are looking at things like nuclear fusion and small scale nuclear reaction.  

So fission also as a way to get some eyes on that sector which is showing some real promise and get a feel for how fast this will really start impacting the wider energy domain. That’s really exciting to hear for a multitude of reasons I think that nuclear is one of those areas where I think everyone would agree we haven’t had really enough research going into it here over the last several decades out of some level of.  


Wes Edmiston:  

You know, caution, fear and some of that’s justifiable but it’s it’s great to hear that that Shell is investing and it sounds like what you’re saying is kind of putting a bookmark in it so that you have easy reference back to it with some of this kind of lower investment that you’re doing.  

You had talked about before what it is that you’re looking for when investing in one of these companies. One of the things really being having a solid team what can companies do that maybe they have a solution that they feel is something that Shell would be interested investing in a company like Shell would be interested investing in?  

What can a company do to best prepare themselves and to be in the best position possible to work with a company like Shell and to attract you all as an investor? What advice would you give to these small tech companies CEOs and to their teams?  


Geert van de Wouw: 

Well, the good teams have a way to find me or anyone in my team, right? So I don’t need to give them further advice. They seem to do a pretty good job. We have something like 2000 incoming every year and we invest in about 2025 of them so there’s enough deal flow.  

It’s really being quite clear and having really thought through how their solution can really help us accelerate the energy transition and have they thought through the implementation as well? So the benefit of a startup is that you work on a singular or a short list of product solutions with a tremendous amount of focus not necessarily disturbed by all kind of corporate overhead and administration and red tape.  

Um, in that pressure cooker, you develop a product that is a bit of a point solution and thinking through, okay, how does this point solution you may not think of your solution as a point solution, but generally they are how do they integrate, really, in a wider value proposition that a company like Shell would want to put into the market?  

Or how do I integrate my solution in an existing asset think, looking through that in terms of how that works in a wider system. So some system engineering thinking is really important. And if you prove that you have really thought that through, that is definitely a big plus.  

Because that’s, of course, where some of the inertia comes from in getting new technologies deployed in big corporates. That’s the biggest worry. How is this going to impact my schedule, my project cost, my bottom line?  

And there’s a level of conservatism, of course, in these large corporate with that regard. And so really helping the customer, Shell or another energy company think through the process of integration and through some systems.  


Wes Edmiston:  

Thinking, yeah, that’s a really good point. I was working with a customer here recently, kind of drafting up a similar strategy document, talking about a lot of this stuff, and as you’re saying, really understanding the whole of the system, how this is going to impact their relationship with their contractor on projects, how this is going to impact operations and maintenance, how this is going to impact yeah, there’s the whole.  

And that’s for our system specifically. Whenever we’re talking about other types of solutions for DCAR organization and potential energy systems, how that integrates into the current portfolio. And just thinking about it from your perspective, not from their perspective.  



Geert van de Wouw:  

That’s a good point. And that includes also safety. You know, I mean, of course safety is top of mind when you, you operate an energy asset and so really thinking through how this impacts the existing safety protocols and systems and how can it potentially improve, that is really important.  


Wes Edmiston:  

Yeah, there’s still definitely remnants of your time working with Fluor and there most people that are working in some other form of venture capital that all they’ve ever done is investment. They probably wouldn’t bring that up, so that’s good to see.  

Clearly there’s still some perspective in there from the years that you spent doing that. I bet that brings a lot of value to Shell ventures when you’re helping out with identifying some of these potential companies.  


Geert van de Wouw: 

Quite frankly, it’s also something we can help our portfolio companies with. Right. I mean, you may dislike it or not, but the safety procedures that Shell has developed and the engineering protocols that we have developed, they have been developed over 150 year history.  

Right. So there is a lot of richness in there, maybe it’s a lot and therefore you need to kind of size it down and make it applicable for the startups and scale ups who we work with. But there’s a lot of value there.  

There’s a lot of corporate memory that has gone into it. Right. So it’s important that we kind of pick out the appropriate pieces and help our portfolio companies embed in the energy industry because you cannot operate in an industry without being very aware of safety standards and procedures and policies and yeah, that’s a natural characteristic of our industry. 


Wes Edmiston:  

Shell safety culture is better than just about any other one. Shell’s kind of the foundation of everybody else’s engineering principles. And yeah, I just loved the corporate culture.  

So happy that I was able to spend five, six years working with Shell that I did.  


Geert van de Wouw:  

One thing we started recently doing is advise some of our portfolio company on the cybersecurity side of things by doing some friendly hacking and trying to break into their systems and advise them on how they can improve on it.  

We started a pilot with three of our portfolio companies and there’s some interesting observations coming out of it. Generally, it’s probably one of the last things that most startups think of, but in the current macroeconomic environment, cyber theft is of course, increasingly becoming a concern.  

And if there’s one asset that startups have to defend with their lives, it’s the intellectual property they’re developing. That’s an area where we try to be helpful and point them in the right direction without trying to force Shell standards on it.  

Right? I mean, still appreciating, it’s a small company with less exposure.  


Wes Edmiston:  

I guess one of the last questions I’ll ask is and just thinking about it, I was talking earlier this week with a member of a large oil and gas company.  

Won’t name any names, but we were talking with them and we’re in the later stages of the deal process and the contract structure costs, all of those things are always at top of mind, obviously at that stage.  

And they’re talking deploying this on multiple locations over a long period of time and we have different tiers of pricing and one of them being an enterprise model and talking with the individual, they were saying, obviously this seems to be the way to go.  

But internally we don’t really have a structure set up in place to ingest a software like yourself at a corporate level and then to kind of build this out to the individual operating facilities and projects that are going to be utilizing the system.  

Outside of something like Microsoft office suite or something like that. There doesn’t seem to be a central, we’ll say budget, a central billing mechanism for some of that stuff. And I feel like that’s kind of a missed opportunity.  

Missed opportunity on our side for one. Selfishly, but also really a missed opportunity for the customer as well. I try to keep my customer hat on as much as I possibly can in my role here. I’d like to hear if you had any thoughts, any perspectives, especially from as many companies as you interact with on what can these large corporations do and what can these small companies do to best work together in order to structure this in a way that they can be compatible.  


Geert van de Wouw: 

Yeah, I think there is a risk of startups to get stuck in an endless recycle loop of pilots and further tests because our organizations tend to be organized asset by asset and it’s good. Obviously, you need to start with the pilot in one or two, maybe three assets.  

But at some point, you need to find out who you need to influence at a high level in the organization, in the asset management organization or in the technology organization that can sort of have a more holistic view on how to implement these things and be a real champion for you.  

It’s really important. And what I notice in companies like ourselves that consist of many joint ventures that have their own basically purchasing decision process is that before you know as a startup you can get stuck in.  

In a race to be second. Everybody admires the technology, but nobody of those assets wants to go first. So you first need to find the launching customer, that one asset that sticks up his or her hand and says, yeah, we want to test it.  

But then you need to really work the organization to find out, how do I influence the organization at a higher level to make sure we become part of more Holistic standard operating procedure? There is a level of conservatism in companies like ours because we deploy oil and gas thinking sometimes also to renewable energy solutions, which isn’t always very helpful.  

So really mapping out who are the influencers, who are the decision makers, and having a strategy in place in terms of how you’re going to work these people. Shelbenches we have an implementation management team in my organization that can help with navigating that company right in a decision on, say, something like your organization, where we have technical experts that need to be convinced that this makes sense, then we have people in contracting and procurement, then we have the people in the asset management domain.  

You really need to be quite thoughtful in terms of who you influence and when and how you work with champions in the organizations to really help sell your solution upwards. Otherwise you do, and it’s a flaw in our system.  

I will recognize it immediately. Otherwise you get stuck in an endless recycle loop of pilots and you never get to scale. And it’s hard. I’ve been there. I sold my stuff to Shell, and I can’t say it was easy, but some tenacity and also some clear planning in terms of the integration piece I spoke about and the organization piece, the influencing piece is required.  

Sales is very important. And then the second thing I’ll opt is I noticed that a lot of. The companies we invest in start too late, thinking about procurement and supply chain management and optimizing their supply chain and getting down on cost.  

Maybe it’s a less sexy part of the business, I don’t know, but it’s really important because you need to show that you can go down the cost curve, because your first implementation is probably going to be on the expensive side.  

And so have you really thought through your supply chain and the security of supply as well? Which obviously now, because of since COVID the macroeconomic tensions has become a real issue and a real challenge that startups need to prepare themselves for.  


Rapid Fire Questions 

Wes Edmiston:  

Geert, we are running very short on time. I’m going to ask you just a few questions to get to know hert, the person, not just hair, the professional. So if you don’t mind, we’ll ask these little last rapid fire questions.  

So you’ve been quite successful in your career. You seem to have gotten to many different positions that I think a lot of people would have kind of settled into and just thought, you know what, this is good enough.  

What has propelled you to continue driving forward in your career?  


Geert van de Wouw:  

I have an inquisitive nature. I like to do new stuff and I like to go into avenues that other people don’t want to go into.  


Wes Edmiston:  

What would you say the one word is that describes you?  


Geert van de Wouw: 

I guess I’m a nerd.  


Wes Edmiston: 

There’s nothing wrong with that at all.  


Geert van de Wouw:  

It’s a fashionable word these days. But I was a nerd well before it became fashionable.  


Wes Edmiston:  

Yeah. Before the recording, you were saying you were just in Banff.  

What would you say your most favorite place you’ve ever visited would be?  


Geert van de Wouw:  

Anywhere in the Rocky Mountains. Yeah, although we’ve done some hikes in Oman as well in in the Middle East, which were wonderful as well.  

So, yeah, that’s where I love to go. No people, no GSM, no Wi Fi, good glass of wine once in a while, but hiking, biking, camping, that’s my thing. I love it.  


Wes Edmiston:  

That’s sheer bliss in my mind as well.  

What is your dream job?  


Geert van de Wouw:  

The one I’m doing today? I can’t think of a better job. I really can’t.  


Wes Edmiston: 

What would you say if there was one piece of advice that you could give to somebody just starting off their career, or a company that’s just starting up?  

What would it be? 


Geert van de Wouw: 

Stray off the beaten path. Try to do things in your career that are different.