Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you originally from?
Much of my childhood was spent in a small town two hours south east of Los Angeles. The town didn’t have a traffic light and initially there wasn’t a high school. Now, I barely recognize the area because tract homes and traffic have taken over.
I was first exposed to urban life while attending USC and then went on to get a Master’s in mechanical engineering from Stanford. For the next five years I worked in aerospace, and at a Bay Area wind energy start-up. After that I went back to school for an MBA is sustainable business. During the second half of my MBA, I started the wind energy software company, Muir Data Systems (MDS).
What was it like growing up there?
Growing up in the Inland Empire was an adventure. It was a mix of rural country living and thug life. My high school had numerous gang problems and racial tension was very real. The high school was one third African American, one third Hispanic, and one third Other. As a member of the Other group, I was often called “White Boy” and had to watch my back because I was not a member of a gang. Going from a rough high school experience to the country club atmosphere of Stanford was eye opening.
As a child, what did you want to become as an adult?
I always had a passion for building things as a child and still do today. As a child I spent countless hours building Legos and forts. As a young adult, I spent my time learning to work on houses, cars, and computers. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to become, but I had an inkling that it involved starting with very little and trying to create something useful.
What generated your interest in energy?
It happened at some point during undergrad. I was involved in research projects relating to wind, and I started thinking about the profound human relationship with energy systems. For those born during the last 150 years, the peak of the industrial revolution, we have no idea how to obtain our own food or create our own medicine. It has been said that our high level of technology dependence is a form captivity because we can’t live without it. Energy is a complicated space with questions such as: Who controls the energy? What are the long term impacts of energy dependence? What happens when we run out of fossil fuels? Are we happy living in our high energy society? These are some of humanities biggest challenges and I find the topic fascinating.
What is Muir Data? What does it do?
MDS is a software company that manages maintenance of wind energy systems. Think digital medical records meets wind farms.
We are experiencing unprecedented extreme temperature and weather events due to anthropogenic climate change. Predictions for the future are dire, particularly if we continue business as usual. Even if we could, we are likely to run out of readily available fossil fuels in the next century. We increasingly need clean energy to meet our ever growing demand. Wind energy helps address these issues, so it’s little wonder that it has been growing globally by 20% annually. Wind is an important player because it’s sustainable, clean, and cheap. It will need to be even cheaper in order to displace additional fossil fuels. That’s where MDS comes in. Daily operations in wind energy are not optimized. MDS increases efficiency, and through sophisticated analytics, identifies areas for cost savings. Reduced cost will encourage adoption of renewable energy.
What was your inspiration behind creating your company?
I wanted to create a company with positive and impactful company culture while reducing the total cost of wind energy.
What work has your company done so far?
MDS has been around for about three years. The initial product has been sold to a number of wind customers. We are now expanding our feature set to access a larger customer base. We are seeking software developers who have a passion for mobile, web, and renewable energy.
What are some of your future goals?
In the near term I’d like to expand MDS while staying true to the original reasons for founding the company. Another challenge that interests me is how we are going to adapt to the changed climate in the future. In the long run, I’d like to contribute to that problem as well.
Is there any advice you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or individuals interested in the energy sector?
Start companies that matter. I’d like to see more of society’s brightest individuals solving big problems not just making big money.
I see a world full of real and pressing challenges. Zika, climate change, growing economic instability, political unrest, to name a few. These unwieldy issues need attention. It saddens me to see so many promising minds diverted away from the issues that matter in favor of the ones that are easy or pay well. I encourage entrepreneurs to ask themselves why they do what they do and whether it makes them feel fulfilled. I hope that we will see more people focusing their efforts outward, toward helping others, and making our world a better place.
Why do you think it’s important for people to follow their dreams?
If I actually followed my dreams, I might still be playing with Legos and building forts. As adults, the challenge is to create value in society while staying true to ourselves. Instead of forts, now I build companies that have a positive impact on the world. I think the key is not necessarily to hold fast to a single end goal, but instead to hold on to what matters to you, no matter what road blocks may come. Don’t let anything get in the way of finding true satisfaction in what you do. For me, that’s what helps carry me through the challenges that come with building something from nothing.
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