21 Mar March 23, 2020 – Wireless Power Florian Bohn Great Fail Debra Chen and 1st Time Home Owners AJ Barkley
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Florian Bohn – CEO & Co-Founder at GuRu – Read interview highlights here
You should not have to think about power for your devices. You do
not have to worry about plugging in your devices, recharging them.
The only time you will think of power is when it is not there.
Florian Bohn has always felt compelled to understand the way the world works. As a co-founder and CEO of GuRu, Florian brings years of technology experience. At Axiom Microdevices, he helped define and implement high-frequency RF integrated circuits which have shipped more than 400 million units. At Agilent Laboratories (formerly HP Labs), he worked on clock and data recovery circuits as well as novel test and measurement systems. As a Caltech Lead Scientific Researcher, Florian guided engineering and operational aspects of implementing the microwave system at Caltech’s Space Solar Power Initiative. At GuRu, Florian is thrilled to be building technology that will enrich people’s lives on a global scale. He is also proud to be building a community of passionate and like-minded engineers at the organization.
Debra Chen – Corporate Consultant and Host of The Great Fail Podcast
I have always been fascinated by why great companies have failed.
I wanted to marry that with my love of true crime and put together
a genre bending platform for people.
Debra Chen, a long-time corporate consultant on capital markets this week launched her own podcast, The Great Fail. Debra said the podcast will focus on the stories behind infamous business failures, such as the recent WeWork IPO collapse, with a sensibility and story-telling approach borrowed from narrative-minded true-crime podcasts. The Great Fail is a true crime inspired, business podcast that examines the greatest success stories of the most prominent and prolific companies, brands, and people and what led to their demise. Stemming from a Wall Street background, Debra is a seasoned executive who has cut her teeth on the trading floors of Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan. She has over a decade of success advising CEOs, board members and C-suite executives on their communications and investor relations strategy and was a Principal at IRTH Communications. Her work has been published in major financial media outlets that include Bloomberg, Reuters, and Barron’s and her background in art and design has led her to be featured in the New York Post, Korea Herald, Huffington Post, NerdStalker and other media outlets.
AJ Barkley – Neighborhood Lending Executive at Bank of America
Bank of America will give first-timers up to $17,500 towards
the purchase of your new house!
AJ Barkley is the Neighborhood Lending Executive for Bank of America, responsible for identifying opportunities to drive successful homeownership among low-to moderate-income borrowers, underserved communities, and multicultural borrowers across the economic spectrum. In her role is, she is accountable for transforming the company’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) commitment for more mortgages, small business, vehicle and small business lending into a strategy designed to increase demand, market share and consumer education. She is also responsible for aligning strategies to deepen relationships with multicultural, first-time home buyers and low- to moderate-income consumers. Prior to joining Neighborhood Lending, she held many roles at Bank of America.
Highlights from Florian’s Interview
What GuRu does is we have a transmitter unit which we call a generator unit that transmits a wireless power using millimeter waves to a receiver unit or recovery unit, that then converts the energy it receives to useful energy such as for lithium ion battery for your cell phone or whatever. The generator unit uses electric power and converts it to millimeter waves. Those are the same waves that they use at airports to scan you, those are the same electromagnetic waves they are using in 5G networks. It kind of looks like a lens and we call it an RF lens. So, what happens is, the generating unit will generate a beam of waves that goes over the air to the receiver unit, and then the receiver unit will absorb those waves and then convert it back to energy. So, it’s very similar to how light is being transmitted through the air.
It takes some energy to do that, but it’s a very efficient process. The reason we are using millimeter waves is precisely for that reason; to make it more efficient, because what happens with millimeter waves is that you can transmit the energy very precisely and directly to where you want to use it. This is the same reason they use millimeter waves in 5G microcells, to be able to target where you’re sending it, unlike let’s say a Wi-Fi router that transmits energy everywhere.
There’s obviously a similarity to the laser but a laser is sort of on the one extreme. So, a laser is a very pinpointed and typically a very concentrated form of energy. It’s actually operating the same way as a laser does, except it’s controlled electronically, so you have more options. You can steer to form different kinds of beams, since it’s as if you could tell your beam to do different things. But it’s not nearly as concentrated as a laser light beam would be, because that’s generally not necessary.
Everything can be turned into a weapon. With any new technology, the first thing people can think of is a weapon. But in order to turn it into weapon, you would basically have to make something that rather than charging and powering IoT devices or your cell phones will now severely interfere with the health and well-being of people. Theoretically, it can be turned into a weapon, but so can a laser or pretty much anything. You can build a car, you can build a tank, so to speak.
The advantage of a 5G network is that it can send the information far more selectively to your phone or to the user’s phones without interfering with everyone else, that in return gives you the ability to increase your data rates. Wi-Fi router which operates at lower frequencies is far less able to do that. So, what it typically does is, it just transmits the signal all over your house, let’s say even though your phone or the couple of devices that are around your house that use the Wi-Fi are precise location. This is more than an analogy; this is physically what’s happening. With millimeter waves, you’re able to far more directly send information or energy or power to devices.
It’s absolutely not the same as the pad you lay your phone on and it gets charged. So, the technology that’s being used with a pad is a magnetic coil, it’s a Qi charger typically these days, but it’s a magnetic coil in the path, and then energy is transferred inductively over the coil. This can work over very short distances only. Whereas, our technology allows you to send waves over the air. These are free traveling waves that will travel over the air unbound to the actual transmitting or receiving device until they get recovered by the receiving device.
I think the use case for GuRu is some more for your everyday devices. The targeted applications that we have are cell phones, tablet computers, IoT devices, lighting devices; those kinds of things. There are several advantages of having a wire-free environment in your house, but these advantages may not be as large if you have it outside of your house. The same way different technologies coexist for data transmission. For example, you have your cell phone that works wirelessly, however, there’s still a reason to have internet connections or an internet backbone. But I don’t think power lines will go away anytime soon with GuRu.
The difference will be you don’t have to think about it. Think of Wi-Fi, think of data and how you use it nowadays. 20 years ago, it was almost unthinkable that you could be anywhere in the world and have an internet connection, or be able to send data from your cell phone that’s in your pocket. The same idea is for your devices in your home and factories and retail stores, that you don’t have to worry about plugging in your devices, recharging them. You’re at an airport, you kind of have to find this one outlet, everyone is gathering around it. All of this will leave your mind and you don’t have to worry about it with GuRu. The only time you notice it is when it’s not there. The same way that if you now walk into Starbucks and you don’t have Wi-Fi signal, you say what’s going on, isn’t this an amenity that’s for free. So that’s how I think about it. I think about it, like in Star Trek, those people running around flying through interstellar space, they’re not going to charge their tricorders by plugging them in, the computer will take care of that. This will be here in five years, for sure.
The technology that we’ve developed wasn’t actually my idea, I need to be clear about that. The technology development is almost a decade old and arguably even older than that. My former PhD advisor at Caltech, Ali Hajimiri, who’s also co-founder of the company, approached me I think in late 2012 and talked to me about this. To me, this idea made immediate sense in terms of the use case, and then the technological aspects of that I could pretty much understand in a day or two. He had already begun working on that in his lab at Caltech at the time and I joined the effort. Half a year later or so, I quit my job at HP Labs at the time and started developing this technology with my co-founders and a couple of other people. The company itself, we founded in 2017 as Axiom at the time, in order to be able to grow more quickly. There are many things you can do in a research environment or lab, and part of the things that we were doing at the time had to do with a satellite space power system. We founded the company in order to support activities that three of us just can’t physically do in a timely fashion. We went and raised money. My business partner, Ali Hajimiri, was also my PhD advisor who I’ve known for over 20 years. Behrooz Abiri, I’ve worked with at Caltech for many years. So, by the time we founded the business, we were already a very closely knitted group, knowing each other probably inside out.
Getting back to raising the money, we pitched to the Sand Hill Road VCs, we pitched to VCs that are affiliated with Cal Tech. So, we went out and pitched this to a variety of people. At the end, we decided to partner with Kairos ventures and BOLD Capital because we felt that there was the right chemistry or the right partnership going on there, and I think that’s very important. Raising money is not necessarily about raising money, it’s also about working with the right people. Because different people have different goals, different objectives, different visions. There are people who have grand visions, there are people who are very pragmatic, and it’s important that you share a common match. I’m very happy with the VCs that we are partnering with, because I feel that there’s a true partnership going on.
It’s not like they took over 90% of the company and fired everybody just like the stereotype that we have for all VCs, which is why it’s so important to select the right partners. At the time when we raised the money, it was the three of us; so, it was three co-founders and the venture capitalists. So, there weren’t all that many people to fire to begin with, and it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea to fire the three people who have developed the technology on day two. They are partners, they have business interests, they want to make money like us, and we also want to change the world. I don’t know about the stereotype, but at least in our particular case, I don’t think this is who we partnered with. This is why it’s important to pick the right people, because I think, again, different VCs have different objectives.
We are actively working and engaging with partners and some customers to bring the products to market. I want to say 12 to 24 months is roughly the timeframe for monetization. There are some people that are more ready to deploy than others. Some applications take naturally longer. So, if you’re let’s say talking about automotive applications, which will be about powering the devices inside your car, that by the very nature of the business takes at least five years. Because even if a car model is decided, it won’t come out for five years. It’s similar for mobile applications, but some of these applications are pretty much ready-to-use, like IoT sensors. I think that’s where we’re going to see it first, in your home, in your cameras; you don’t want to wire your cameras up in the corner, your intrusion sensors, your smoke alarms, your rings. That’s a pain point for people, to have to worry about all of that.
You can find out more on our website “guru.inc”. You can find us on LinkedIn, you can follow us on Twitter. You can also read about us in the press, we’ve been featured in Consumer Reports and other publications. So those are some of the ways you can follow us.