Ep. #1184 - Overcoming CEO Challenges & Battery Technology
Today’s episode of Startup Hustle features Matt Watson and Dr. Raj Talluri, President and CEO of Enovix. Listen to their exciting talk about overcoming CEO challenges and battery technology. They discuss Enovix’s dedication to disrupting industries with its innovative battery technology. Matt and Dr. Raj also touch on keeping your company focused and raising funds as a public company.
Covered In This Episode
Anyone with a smartphone or rechargeable device likely uses lithium batteries but probably doesn’t think twice about it. Enovix highlights the importance of battery technology and the need to improve it.
Listen to Matt and Dr. Raj discuss why batteries have become the bottleneck for consumers. Dr. Raj explains how lithium batteries work and his efforts to improve them with Enovix’s silicon battery. They agree that the sexiest market may not be the most profitable.
The conversation turns to the most significant challenges to CEOs, mainly keeping up with innovations and acquiring talent. Dr. Raj also points out the difficulties with managing and raising capital for a publicly traded company.
Intrigued yet? Join the conversation in this Startup Hustle episode now.
- Dr. Raj’s background (1:31)
- Why batteries have become the bottleneck for consumers (3:27)
- How lithium batteries work and how to improve them (5:28)
- The net gain of Enovix’s silicon battery (10:29)
- When will the Enovix battery get to the market (12:05)
- Licensing the technology (14:01)
- The biggest challenges that CEOs have to deal with (18:47)
- Keeping the company focused (22:52)
- The sexiest market may not be where you make the most money (23:46)
- The challenges of keeping up with the changes and innovation (25:48)
- The challenge of acquiring talent (32:19)
- The challenge of managing a publicly traded company (35:04)
- Raising capital as a public company (36:48)
- Dr. Raj’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs (40:13)
Many companies go public without a product because you need a lot of investment to start to build the product….[O]ne of the key challenges to the CEO is to communicate the vision, the milestones along the way, and your ability to hit the milestones. And as you hit the milestones, you incrementally build more and more confidence that you’re on the right track.– Dr. Raj Talluri
Everybody always wants to know if we’re winning or losing, right? And, most importantly, if we’re losing, as leaders, we have to tell them that. So, we can ask for their help, like, hey, we need your help to overcome these challenges. Because if you just keep everybody in the dark, they can’t help either.– Matt Watson
Having diverse talent is very important because of the ideas that you come up with. Everybody comes with a slightly different twist and slightly different angle when you’re trying to solve these big problems. How did they think of that? But that is kind of obvious from where they come from and how they think. So I think that’s been a really great thing for us is the diversity of the talent pool we have.– Dr. Raj Talluri
My main advice is persistence. This and just stick to it, have a singular vision, and take a few calculated risks. But ultimately, you know, if you stick to it long enough, and you have a singular vision, and you hire the right people, the chances of success are pretty high. And it’s super exciting, and have fun along the way because these are tough jobs. And if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it’s really tough to last the long haul.– Dr. Raj Talluri
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt Watson 00:01
And we’re back with another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson, excited to be joined today by Dr. Raj Talluri, who is the president and CEO of Enovix. And I think this is gonna be fascinating story today, we’ve got a company that is publicly traded that has been in r&d mode for 16 years. So getting their product to market, but went public. I think it’s fascinating. They create batteries. And there’s a lot a lot going on in that space, obviously, with cars and all sorts of things. So should be fascinating conversation today. And we’re going to talk mostly today about the challenges of business and being a CEO and running a business and sounds like they have a few challenges after 16 years. So should be interesting conversation. Today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult, Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And it has the platform to help you manage that team. Please visit FullScale.io to learn more. Raj, welcome to the show, man.
Dr. Raj Talluri 00:58
Thank you so much. It’s really my pleasure to be here.
Matt Watson 01:01
So before we hit record, you were telling me that sounds like you’ve worked in around maybe Silicon Valley for for 30 years and in doing a lot of different stuff. Tell us a little bit about your background?
Dr. Raj Talluri 01:13
Yeah, absolutely. So I am, I got my PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, actually in AI and computer vision before it’s as popular as it is now. And from there, I joined Texas Instruments in the research labs, did some research work in computer vision for about six, eight years. Then I moved on to working on products. You know, I worked on digital cameras for a long time, a lot of the early digital camera chipsets, and then cell phone cameras, you know, mp3 players, a lot of consumer electronics devices, mainly making chipsets, okay, we’ll call these. There was a TI for about 16 years. And towards the end of that my time at TI I was running the OMAP application processor business, which was a fairly large business almost maybe close to a billion dollars in those days. And then I then I moved to Texas, from Texas Instruments to Qualcomm, where I was responsible for the Snapdragon application processor, which is in, you know, many of the Android smartphones. I was there for about nine years. Towards the later part of my career, I was running their Internet of Things business. And the last five years before joining Yeah,, I was at Micron Technologies, which is another large chip company, and that was running their mobile business where we sell DRAM and NAND into cell phones. That was also a large business. You know, last the year I was there, it was about a $7 billion business. So it’s kind of a different speed. Now, for me now in its early-stage public company, we don’t have much of revenue yet, but a lot of a lot of promise in the company. And our aspiration is that we’ll be a powerhouse in batteries.
Matt Watson 02:52
Well, so it sounds like you’ve been in and around, like different kinds of computer, electronics and components for a long time. So there’s, you know, a natural fit for you, you know, sounds, you know, very, very similar kind of business, right? So tell me a little more about a Ennovix. You’ve only, you’ve been there for a few months, but the company is actually about 16 years older, right? So, tell me a little more about the company. I think it’s fascinating that we have a company that’s 16 years old, that’s public, but doesn’t, doesn’t have a lot of revenue and doesn’t have a product that has raised half million dollars, right? So, it’s it’s a fascinating, fascinating story.
Dr. Raj Talluri 03:27
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think to really put innovators in perspective, you need to understand the battery space a little bit better. Because lithium ion batteries are something that has been around since 97. When it was first invented, I think, by Sony. But the improvements in in the amount of energy these batteries can provide, which people refer to as energy density, amount of energy per unit volume, but your way, you know how well you want to look at it has been very slow the progression. I mean, the progression and increase the energy density has been very slow, only, like a few percentage points a year. Now, if you think about that, and if you say, you know, from 97 to now, if you look at all the other things have worked on, like processors and memories and displays and so on. They’ve made tremendous headway. Oh, yeah. I mean, if you look at the counters of magnitude, orders of magnitude, yeah. So that poses a very interesting problem, which is, which is the reason one of the reasons I joined and it makes is because, you know, we’ve built this process, we build these memories in our displays and cameras, that has made a ton of progress, but to really, for the consumers to get the benefit out of the progress made in all those areas. Now the battery has become the bottleneck. So if you run for example, if you take a latest cell phone and you turn your display on to full brightness, and you turned on all the process to run at full speed in the memory at full speed, the cell phone will perform wonderfully. It will work like much, much faster and you’ll enjoy that the performance of the device. But the battery’s gonna go down really, really fast.
Matt Watson 05:04
Man, I say all the time, they haven’t invented one new thing on a cell phone the last five years, they just keep making up crap, that doesn’t matter. They can take all that crap away and just make the battery lasts like three times longer, we would all be way happier, right? Like, they add so much crap to our phones we don’t need because the battery is what we need. So if you can solve that I’m all in.
Dr. Raj Talluri 05:28
Exactly. And the interesting thing is, when you actually solve the battery problem, you will actually unlock the innovation of all those processes and displays that have done, they’ve done a lot, they just can’t use them because the battery goes down. So in any case, so that’s that’s that’s the that’s the the challenge. And that’s the opportunity of making a battery lithium ion battery. Now, let’s get to Ennovix. Now why, let’s ask the question first, why is it that batteries haven’t made that much progress? What about batteries makes it so hard? So maybe for your for your listeners, let me let me just kind of explain in kind of layman’s terms how the battery works a lithium ion battery, and then I’ll talk about what we do in Ennovix that makes it interesting problem to solve. So basically, almost all batteries have an anode and a cathode. And the cathode is typically made up of cobalt and nickel. So material like that. And lithium is, you know, is deposited on that, that’s how you buy. And then you have an anode, which is basically made up of graphite in most of the batteries. And when you charge a battery, the lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode and deposit themselves on the anode. And there is a an electrolyte in the separator that separates the anode and the cathode from shorting each other because they’re positive and negative terminals. And when lithium goes this way, the electrons go the other way through the circuit. So now, when you charge the battery, lithium deposits in the anode, when you discharge the battery, lithium goes back to the cathode, electrons go into the circuit and you get power. That’s that that very simple, silly, simple electrical circuit, if you think about it, the key is you’re generating electricity electrochemically, not through fossil fuels. You’re basically generating power, through electrochemical reaction, unlocking the energy that’s actually locked inside, chemistry inside inside materials, that so they clean energy materials. They don’t, they don’t cause a carbon footprint to get worse. Now the problem is, although the batteries have been here, so long, no one has been able to really replace graphite with anything else. Now, why is that important? Because graphite as a material can only hold so much lithium. So the lithium when it comes to the cathode deposits itself on the on the anode, which is graphite, and it kind of kind of finds the space inside the kind of cellular structure of the graphite and deposit cells there. And when you remove the charge, and the lithium actually comes back to the cathode. So the amount of lithium you can put in is proportional to the amount of energy that’s in the battery. So everyone wants to put more and more lithium, but graphite, but can only take so much. So the problem is, you’ve not been able to really increase energy density because of the materials. So how do you solve this problem? So people have known for a long time that if you replace the graphite with for example, silicon, it can hold much more, you know, almost six times more lithium than graphite. So suddenly, you got a huge energy boost because you can put much more lithium on the cathode, push it onto the silicon, it holds it, when you discharge it, it comes back to the battery that’s much more powerful. Well, there is a couple of problems with that. One, problem is when you use silicones of graphite, the lithium actually reacts to the silicon and forms an electrochemical look electrochemical, it becomes a different component. So silicone lithium oxide of some kind, that of course, when you take the when you discharge it, it will go back to being silicon it isn’t just give it back. But when it goes and combine silicon just expand, like literally scales up like a balloon. So if you if you just made a battery, just like how we were the graphite battery, and you put it inside a phone, for example. And you charge it, it would explode. It’ll push the back off, so it doesn’t blow up. It just becomes big. Yeah. So there’s a physical problem of that, and no one has been able to mix silicone knots well. And that has been the thing that and that is the problem of 16 years of research. Genomics figured out how to make silicon swell less than 2%.
Matt Watson 09:42
Well, there you go. So that though that that is the big innovation. Did, so did, so did that come, I’m curious, is that something that you guys all did in-house or was that like a partnership with, you know, colleges or others that that had worked on this too? Or how did how did that come about?
Dr. Raj Talluri 10:00
It’s all in-house, you know, the founders of this company, you know who I like I said, I’ve been here about seven months, the founders have been there for 16 years, they came from IBM and other research places, and they worked on it, they tried many, many different things. And finally, they came up with this one idea, you know, of, of sort of solving this silicon swelling problem. And when the crafted idea when the first batteries, that’s when that’s when they went public in 2021.
Matt Watson 10:29
So well, that effectively make your I’m gonna hold up a battery, here’s my battery, for nobody can see on the podcast. So like the battery I have, in my hand here will essentially hold six times more power, or what, like, what is the net actual gain of that then?
Dr. Raj Talluri 10:44
So yeah, not able to, I mean, so you can continue to get there. I mean, there’s still a lot of work to be done to get all the six times, you know, and titled power of silicon, but we’re able to now get to 50% better. So our first sales, people tell us that we’re sampling say, hey, this works 50% better than the battery I have right now. So we’re first able to do that now as we make more progress. So it’s not just pure silicon, it’s silicon with some other compounds in there. Now we have to change the electrolyte that does that we have to change the title to be something else. So there’s a lot more electrochemistry work to be done to get to this full six times thing you’re talking about, we can get to but we can get to, you know, 50% better now. And that’s the excitement in this company.
Matt Watson 11:24
So if, you know, I feel like over the last few years, like every, every couple of months, I read some article on the internet about some breakthrough battery technology, be it you know, from something from Tesla, or Toyota, or solid state battery. Seems like there’s always like this kind of stuff. But then, you know, we never see it come to market, right? Or do you feel like there’s a lot of this kind of stuff that’s going on going on out there because of electric cars and everything are really pushing all of this. But that’s still years years away before a lot of us are we’re going to see some of this stuff finally get to market? Or what are your, what are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Raj Talluri 12:05
Yeah, so great question. Um, there is a lot of if you actually start doing a little bit of Google search and research on this. You’re right, there is a lot of promise and silicon has been promised in you know, to be able to solve this problem for many years. And a lot of companies went public with that promise. There’s a, you know, there’s a lot of companies that are actually making different kinds of silicon, like, for example, some of our competition actually doesn’t make batteries, but makes silicon of different kinds, like, for example, just a raw silicon, they make some silicon nanoparticles, which the nanoparticles silicones inside, and they argue silicon wants well as much because we’ve kind of consented inside some article. And there are some other kinds of silicone compounds that people have come up with. None of them are actually really in high volume products in the market. And the main reason is, people have been able to take those kinds of silicone powders, if you will, and sprinkle them on top of the existing graphite battery to get increased energy density some, but no one’s been able to use 100% silicon, active silicon anode in the market, we are the first ones to be able to do that. Okay, but the excitement of the companies and our products. Customers using our batteries, we’ve sampled a lot of, of these, you know, almost over 100 customers have these products that they’re testing. We expect them to come to market this year, there’ll be early stage production. We don’t have a large factory that can produce these batteries in the millions of units. We’re working on that and our factory that will produce in the millions of units will start next year in Malaysia. We’ve just secured the funding and if you look at our company, we’ve just begun begun the manufacturing of the machines that make this battery. And that will start in April next year. So hopefully next year or the year after, when you’ll see you should see, you know, larger volume of Ennovix batteries in the market.
Matt Watson 14:01
Are you are you able to also just license your intellectual property to, you know, Panasonic or Tesla or something like that, and they can just reuse it and then you don’t have to manufacture it is that is that part of the plan to?
Dr. Raj Talluri 14:12
Yes, absolutely an option, although that is not our first choice right now. Because we would actually like to make the batteries, we’d like to build the factory. And we’d like to get the premium associated with that because, you know, it’s a truly differentiated technology and we’d like to be able to manufacture that scale. Now, you know, the market is so big, clearly, you know, licensing to some companies in some of the areas. Like, our target market right now is more consumer electronics, which is where they come from, like watches, you know, IoT devices, you know, speakers, headsets, smartphones, computers, and so on. In the auto, they’re slightly different requirements in the auto space, and then much much bigger factory so it’s very licensed technology. But those markets, but we’ll probably manufactured for the consumer markets.
Matt Watson 15:03
Yeah, the batteries for one car has to power like a thousand cell phones or something. So it’s a, it’s definitely very different. But the so somebody, you know, you’re expert in the industry. So, you know, so somebody like Tesla’s an example over the last few years, they’ve made some sort of improvements to this kind of stuff, right? Like, incremental improvements, but But how were they able to do it without, I guess, changing the graphite? There’s other things they’ve done with the chemicals and stuff?
Dr. Raj Talluri 15:33
Yeah, you said one possible way is to put a little bit of silicone on top of the graphite, and that’ll give you some improvement. You can change the cathode to be something a little bit better. So it holds more, you can change the electrolyte, you know, so that it actually becomes better. And graphite itself, there’s probably different components of graphite you can make. So there’s a lot of things you can do to make incrementally better, but not stepchange.
Matt Watson 15:53
Yeah, yeah, you’re talking about potentially, like order of magnitude better here, you know. So like,
Dr. Raj Talluri 15:58
Which is what, which is what the markets need, by the way. I mean, actually, there is a blog on my, on my site, if you look, I actually ran some, some experiments. So I had my team run, for example, stable diffusion, which is, you know, everybody talks about AI and stable diffusion. And everybody feels like that kind of technology will move edge. That means instead of doing it in the cloud. People will want to do it in the computer, people don’t want to do it in the phone because cloud is expensive. And it has latency and privacy and all this stuff associated with it, you bought an expensive laptop, you want to do it there. Well, we found that the neuron stable effusion on a laptop versus running in the cloud, takes like 60 times more battery, it just burns through it. It’s crazy. So we need much better battery to really improve this.
Matt Watson 16:41
Yeah, it’s a lot a lot of processing power to run those AI models. And I mean, I, I play a Legend of Zelda. The new Zelda game is awesome. And, and you look at a game like that. And I think in the future, you know, I could see making video games like that, which are, they use AI to, like, completely randomize the game. It’s like, you know, every, every person who plays the game has a totally different game, totally different experience and stuff, but it’s gonna take orders of magnitude more processing power to do some of those things. So
Dr. Raj Talluri 17:14
And then the battery has to keep up if you want to have a mobile experience, you know?
Matt Watson 17:18
Yeah, you know, especially for cars and potentially flying planes and or, you know, planes and things like that, you know, having batteries that could have 50%, 100%, you know, more battery capacity is like an absolute game changer. So that could be the difference between having an electric airplane or not, like, just that could be a huge difference in the future, you know, when we have these sort of breakthroughs and in the technology that hopefully will come down the pipe.
Dr. Raj Talluri 17:47
Yeah, that’s, that’s the exciting part of the company. That’s why there’s so much excitement in the company. And even though we have pre revenue, the stock trades pretty well. And there’s a lot of excitement in the company, and they’re able to raise the money to build the factories.
Matt Watson 17:58
Well, I do remind everybody that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, and see what developers are available to join your team today. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Well. So let’s talk about some of the challenges of being a CEO. And I imagine, especially in your company today, you have like, especially unique set of challenges, right? Like, like, how do we build a battery factory like that, that in itself sounds like a nightmare. So thank you for being the one to figure out how to do that because I have no idea where to even start on building a battery factory in Malaysia. So what do you think are some of the biggest challenges that CEOs have to deal with?
Dr. Raj Talluri 18:45
Well, you know, I think, you know, in a sea of every company has its own unique set of challenges. You know, this is my first time being a CEO of a company, but I ran large divisions in other companies, you know, so I’m kind of familiar with the problems of running large teams and, and generating revenue and customers and all that. You know, in an early stage company like this, you know, I think there’s, there’s a few unique challenges. You know, firstly, you know, we are there’s a lot of expectation that the company will do well, and make make this phenomenal a game changing batteries. And that’s the reason why a lot of our investors are investing in us and we are traded on the NASDAQ and so on. So one of the one of the key challenges is to is to communicate the vision of the company and communicate the promise of the technology and the timeline it takes to do that. A lot of people ask them question us, you know, you have so little revenue, how are you public and how can you, you know, generate that much interest. In tech is not that common, particularly in chips is not that common. Although in things like biotech, it’s quite common. Many companies go public without a product because you need a lot of investment to start to build the product. So, so then then how do you convince investors that, that they should hang in with you and continue to invest for the next few years when the meaningful revenue will come? So one of the key challenges to the CEO is to communicate the vision and communicate the milestones along the way. And your ability to hit the milestones and kind of promise a milestone, hit the milestone, promised a milestone, hit a milestone. And as you hit the milestones, you incrementally build more and more confidence that you’re on the right track. That’s, that’s a big part of the challenge, just a whole in you must communicate. Community and communicating, we have a great set of investors, they’re very patient, and they see the promise of it. But I think that’s, that’s one thing.
Matt Watson 20:48
I think everyone, everybody always wants to know if we’re winning or losing, right? And, and, and most importantly, if we’re losing, as leaders, we have to, we have to tell them that. So we can ask for their help, like, hey, we need your help to overcome whatever these challenges are. Because if you if you just keep everybody in the dark, they can’t help either.
Dr. Raj Talluri 21:07
Yeah, well said. And you know, and again, there are challenges clearly. I mean, when you’re trying to come up with totally new way of doing things that will, you know, in some way, differentiate and change the world, you there will be a lot of challenges along the way, and it is a long haul. So, so that’s the same kind of challenge internally, you know, you have to have all your employees motivated, that, you know, will win, and the lot of very big problems that come in, but ultimately, we’ll get there, I think that’s very important. The third big one is, you know, as a CEO is the ability to take risk. Because you know, you’re not, you’re not going to be able to get to where you want to go if you don’t take some calculated risks. In terms of, you know, building the factory, now, a technology is getting ready, but we have to write big, big checks for the factory. And people always ask the question, hey, what if some problem happens, will the technology with your factory work? So you kind of have to take some risks that the engineers will figure out how to solve these problems when they come. So I think that’s, that’s a big part of the job. You know, the other the other, the other big, you know, challenge and yeah, the big opportunities to get the whole team pulling in the same direction, because it’s an early stage startup, and early stage company, and we’re public company, you get a lot of opportunities, you get opportunities for people saying, hey, I want to battery in cell phone, you got opportunity from people saying, I want you back in laptops, or cars, or, and they’re all slightly different batteries. So you can’t just go after all of them. you got to have a clear vision and go-to-market strategy, which one you do first? Which one you do next, you want to return. And you have to get all the teams to be pulling in the same direction consistently. So um, yes, you know, some of those probably had to be challenges, you know?
Matt Watson 22:52
Well, and in your case, certain certain types of devices are going to get more value out of out of your innovation and others, right? And the challenges is to some to some degree in your in your situation is focused, right? It’s like we can’t, we can’t build the world’s best battery for an airplane and make it as light as possible, and a hearing aid and a cell phone and it is you it’s so hard to do will ever be all things everybody, right? You’ll just end up failing and all of them because it’s
Dr. Raj Talluri 23:25
One of the problems with this company before it came, you know, early stage startup, great technology, a lot of excitement, they were going after so many things. So I had to clean up a lot of that in the last last seven months and focus the company on a few products and staff them well. There are so many product projects that are a little bit stab. So I had to kind of, you know, get that focus back to a few things we do well in a gauge manner.
Matt Watson 23:45
So what are the industries that you’ve seen the most success and it’s you said it’s portable electronics is the thing you’re seeing the most success in?
Dr. Raj Talluri 23:55
Yeah, I think anywhere there’s a lot of edge computing is probably the area that will be most success, because when there’s a lot of edge compute, they need a better battery. So smartphones I think is a huge market.
Matt Watson 24:07
Security cameras, please. Security cameras, please.
Dr. Raj Talluri 24:10
And another one battery-operated security cameras
Matt Watson 24:12
Changing those batteries sucks. So that that will be awesome.
Dr. Raj Talluri 24:16
But you know, when you saw the problem for something like a cell phone, which is a huge, you know, 1200 million unit platform, you know, it needs to fast charge it for a long time, you can then quickly get that battery into all the other areas. So a little bit of a contrast. For example, a lot of people talk about EV batteries, and that’s a great area. EV batteries, you know, huge town. Everybody wants to get into that. One of the challenges though, is that, the cost. Because you know, if you look at what’s the what’s the price for which you can sell a battery in an electric vehicle market, for example, and let’s just say you said, what’s the price you get per watt hour. One simple way to think about you’ll get less than 10 cents. Now if you said how much you get in a watch, you get oh $2.50. So it’s very interesting. Like, sometimes the sexiest market may not be the one where you make most money.
Matt Watson 25:06
Yeah, because the margins are so much more compressed on a car. Versus like in a hearing aid or something, the battery is so small that the cost of the battery is insignificant, almost compared to the whole thing. You can charge much more like per volume than you would on the car
Dr. Raj Talluri 25:25
Is huge and makes a huge difference. You know, your, your watch last four days. I mean, just think about that. That’s pretty nice compared to do this, you know, but in a car, yes, a lot more energy density helps. But you know, charging stations that are popping up so close by that people actually care more about fast charging, heating, right then. So there’s those kinds of decisions we need to make along the way.
Matt Watson 25:48
So I’m gonna guess you heard about the LK 99 superconductor thing. Did you hear about that?
Dr. Raj Talluri 25:55
Matt Watson 25:57
So these research research scientists rushed. So we’re recording this, it’s beginning of August, some research scientist, I think it was in Korea, quickly published some research paper about a superconductor that supposedly works that if it works, it’s like the Holy Grail of like all electronics. So for those who are listening who don’t know what a superconductor is. It’s basically, you know, a new copper wire that can can transfer all the electricity from one end to another without generating heat and without losing electricity on the way. And that’s like the Holy Grail of technology. Because today, all this stuff, electronics generate heat, right? And so if we could invent a new type of superconducting metal, or whatever it would be that would transfer the power, it would also be a giant game changer in electronics. And evidently, these guys claimed that they did it. And over the last 48 hours, there’s been two or three independent labs that have like said, yes, there is giant promise in this technology that think that that could actually it could actually work. So we’ll see. We’re like in cutting edge crazy times. But they say it could be like the biggest invention, since like the original, like computer transistors were invented. Like, it’s an absolute game changer, and would dramatically change what you guys do. Right? And in regards to working in electronics. So the that’ll be fascinating. So if you haven’t heard about that, you should check into it.
Dr. Raj Talluri 27:27
Look it up? Yeah, I’ve been a little bit busy last couple of days with earnings calls and stuff like, Yeah, well. I mean, look, I think there’ll be lots of innovations in the future. I mean, look, I’ve been in this business for 30 years. And I’ve been seeing so many changes in cameras in process and displays and, and consumer electronics is just a fascinating space and a lot of innovation there and changes people’s lives when you provide a great technology. Right?
Matt Watson 27:50
Well, and that’s one of the challenges, right? It’s just keeping up with all of the change, you know, and I imagine some of the some of the companies you’ve worked with before the project she’s worked worked with before. You know, industry changes, I imagine along the way had dramatic challenges for some of those companies.
Dr. Raj Talluri 28:09
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you if you I mean, I’ll give you an example. You know, I worked on digital cameras for a long time. And, you know, cameras was something that I felt was a big thing. And I mean, I still remember working on the very first cell phone camera and telling my boss, hey, I think, you know, people will start putting cameras in phones. We should make a processor for the phones that does pictures. And they were like, are you crazy? Who wants to take pictures the phone? So somebody still did it anyway, and it was great business. And then I still remember talking about, you know, we should probably put multiple cameras in the phone because you know, people want zoom. And no, no, one camera is bad enough who wants to put more and today I see like, front cameras,
Matt Watson 28:50
like four or five of them.
Dr. Raj Talluri 28:51
four or five. It’s a game changer. And those kinds of things happen. process change, memories, change, display changes, you know, battery changes, and some of those things like have an impact on everything.
Matt Watson 29:03
Yeah, and one of the first first mobile app I ever wrote this was in 2004, was actually for like, Windows CE, like palm pilots, like compact pilots, like the little PDA things. And it was to take pictures of cars for car dealers. And we had a one megapixel camera that you could put in it with an SD card to take pictures of cars, so car dealers could run around and take pictures of cars. And it was before the iPhone existed, before Android existed. And it was terrible like the you couldn’t take pictures. Only if the like it was cloudy outside there wasn’t much glare, and then it would work but but like we desperately needed that technology. So car dealers could take pictures mobilely and easily, you know, do other data entry and upload it to the internet and whatever. And yeah, I would have been one of the guys like begging you to please, please, we need better cameras and put them in our phones and let’s do this It’s like, yeah, I would have been that guy begging you for that at that time. Eventually, yeah. Eventually somebody like Rico came out with a special camera. Yeah. Allowed data entry in the camera. And that was a big thing. Yeah, it’s just amazing how things change.
Dr. Raj Talluri 30:16
Yeah, I think I think the big one, I think is the, the, you know, the applications that use AI and machine learning. I mean, every day, I see a new app that does something better than the old app. And, you know, a lot of these problems, which we thought were very tough to solve are solved by training. And, you know, I mean, like, people don’t realize how much machine learning is in the camera app right now, you know, the auto exposure, auto white balance, auto focus, finding people’s faces, you know, detecting SIM cards, you know, doing your reels, you know, all of them are done by AI and ML, and that consumes so much performance. And that’s the other interesting thing about phone market for us. And that for our customers is that they launch a phone today, they don’t, they have an idea of what will run on it, and they can have the battery and processor to that. But three years from now, the stuff on the App Store is totally changed. And those apps consumes so much more power and so much more performance. That is a constant struggle for our customers and how much battery to put in the phone. Because what they think is needed today is not what’s gonna run on the phones people bought three years from now.
Matt Watson 31:23
Yeah, it’s like, consumer games haven’t changed quite as much, right? Like, we still play Candy Crush and Solitaire, and they’re probably not that much different. But but then the camera stuff, you know, the the biggest innovation of all, and I think in smartphones, or last few years is definitely the camera. The cameras getting better and better and better. And, you know, some people run crazy, crazy games on and stuff. But
Dr. Raj Talluri 31:45
I’ll give an example, something people never thought about was when I was involved when we first said, Hey, should we put GPS in the phone? And they were like, why would you put GPS, if all the things? Well, we didn’t know about Uber in those days. But Uber would never happen without GPS, right? It wouldn’t happen. UberEATS wouldn’t happen. So you know, a lot of time
Matt Watson 32:03
Pokemon Go wouldn’t happen.
Dr. Raj Talluri 32:04
A lot of times you put technology in there that you’re not quite sure and and stuff. Yeah. But the problem was, when we put GPS, the power drivers, I mean, the radio is consuming battery like crazy. You’re gonna go back to the singular problem.
Matt Watson 32:19
So going back to challenges, tell me, tell me about your thoughts around talent, and just acquiring talent. You know, as a CEO, and, and that aspect of it always seems to be one of the biggest problems I felt like as a as a leader is just talent.
Dr. Raj Talluri 32:35
Yeah, it is really tough. You know, I think, particularly, we are in the Bay Area, and it’s even tougher here. Just because, you know, there’s so much opportunity and cost of living is so high. And, and we get, we can get really good people, but it’s hard to keep them sometimes because, you know, the ecosystem has so many opportunities, and people are always looking for the next one. Commute is a problem. So there’s a lot of issues. But, you know, in my career, I found that having multiple, geographically distributed sites is a good way to have talent, like and also kind of complementary talent. So we just opened outside India, in Hyderabad. And I’ve done it a few times, you know, both at TI and Qualcomm and micron, setting up international standards. And that is something that is hard for startups to do. But for a publicly traded company like us, we can attract great talent, because you know, we can give stock options which people can sell. And they can see the see the you know, the promise of the company. That’s why we moved our manufacturing to move, we started a new manufacturing plant in Malaysia, because very hot, our current plant is producing batteries here in Fremont. But it’s so hard, so hard to keep that going. They’re expensive, and hard to get people work on the factory floor 24/7. So having geographically distributed talent base is very, very key. And the other thing I found is, you know, having diverse talent is very important because the ideas that you come up with, you know, everybody comes with a slightly different twist and slightly different angle when you’re trying to solve these big problems. Having people with different backgrounds, educational backgrounds, you know, cultural backgrounds, geographic backgrounds helps us a lot because I sit in meetings, and suddenly I come people come up with these ideas, like, how did they think of that, but that is kind of obvious from where they come from, and how they think. So I think that’s been a really great thing for us is the diversity of the talent pool we have.
Matt Watson 34:32
So like in Fremont, is it hard to even just hire people to do the manufacturing? Like, it’s just very difficult to find people?
Dr. Raj Talluri 34:39
It is hard, but you know, we’ve been successful and kept them for a while. But you know, we do lose, there is attrition. So we have to continue to keep filling that and, and it’s expensive. I mean, it’s very expensive because people have to live here. It’s very expensive. That’s the other challenge we have. Yeah, it’s a it’s a constant struggle. Manufacturing in the US is still pretty tough.
Matt Watson 35:04
Well, so being a publicly traded company, I’m I’m curious, what are the challenges with dealing with that part of it from from your job like is that, you know, is that a big percentage of your job having to deal with, you know, SEC filings or different public related stuff shareholders, like, what is how much of that is a headache and a challenge for you?
Dr. Raj Talluri 35:26
Yeah, it’s, it’s newer to me, because I’ve been doing it only for seven months. But I think that’s one of those areas where you have to have a really good team. You know, I have a good CFO now, who can take care of that, as a good chief legal officer, who does a good job of that we have some consultants that will help us with that. The company has been public for a couple of years. So we’ve got the processes worked out now. And what we need to do SEC filings, 10Ks, 8Ks, 10Qs, all that stuff, we have people who do it well. But I still have to be involved and make sure they’re on track and how it is, and so on. Because ultimately, you’re the CEO, you need to, you sign off on all those, so you gotta be super careful. We are very good board, you know, the board helps a lot. And I don’t know if you guys know, TJ Rogers, you know, kind of Wall Street and kind of Silicon Valley icon. He’s chairman of the board, he recruited me, he and his team helps quite a bit on that. But it is quite a bit of work. But the advantage or advantages to, the advantage is, is the ability to raise capital. You know, we can raise capital in the capital markets. And earlier in the year I did a, I did what’s called as a convert where we, you know, we’re able to raise, you know, $172 million in a week. And you know, when you will have factories, you got to raise capital. Yeah, that part that part is, is good being publicly traded, but it comes with the, with the overhead that we have to do and do carefully.
Matt Watson 36:48
So when you raise $170 million like that, are you going to VCs and stuff like that? Getting them to buy into your publicly traded company? But I mean, are you still going to those kinds of investors? Or how do you do that?
Dr. Raj Talluri 37:02
Yeah, we went to capitals, typically don’t, from my my understanding, don’t invest that much in publicly traded companies. We typically talk to institutional investors like large funds that manage hedge funds, hedge funds, long only funds, a lot of family offices, people who invest, buy stocks, sell stocks. A lot of them buy our stock, and stay with us for multiple years, because they know over time, so for example, we are in some of the index funds, some of the large index funds, if you buy a growth energy index, they will buy our stock, for example. So a lot of the money comes from places like that. And we you know, it all the big ones, I mean, you talk about you know, you know, you we usually go talk to, I don’t know, fatalities and zero prices and all the big company. Okay. So those are people we talk to,
Matt Watson 37:52
so when you raise money like that isn’t? Do they end up buying it just like anybody else would, and it drives the price up? Or is it more like a fixed price kind of thing?
Dr. Raj Talluri 38:01
Yeah, so Yeah, good question. Very good question. Actually, there’s, there’s, there’s always people can buy price in the market stock in the market. But we don’t get that cash, right? They just buy it. Right. So we did what is called as a convert, convert is an interesting instrument, the way it works is, we get a, let’s say you wanted $100 million, and you’d go and say, I’m looking for raise 100 million dollars. They’ll give it to you as basically a loan, let’s say 3% is much lower than interest in the market. But why are they giving you a lower interest rate. So then we tell them, you have the opportunity to in four, five years will get paying interest and will give you back that money or you can, we’ll guarantee you can buy our stock at this price. So let’s say the stock my stock was trading at 10 bucks, I tell them, give me $100 million, I’ll give you 3% interest. But if the stock goes to 20, you can convert this 100 million into shares at 15.
Matt Watson 39:06
So you got a type of stock option or warranty?
Dr. Raj Talluri 39:08
Exactly, exactly. So that’s that’s something that helps a lot. So when we did the convert, earlier in the year, a few months ago, I think stock was trading at 11. Now it’s trading close to 19, or 20. So all those converts are in the money and all investors are happy. So next time I want to do another convert, they’ll say Okay, last time it worked out, so we’ll do more money. So those kind of instruments are not open if you’re not a public company. That’s something that helps.
Matt Watson 39:32
Yeah, that’s very cool. Well, you talked earlier about how hard it is to hire software developers and hire them around the world. If you need help. Full Scale can help. We have a team of 300 plus developers in the Philippines. That’s what we do. When you visit FullScale.io, all you need to do is answer a few questions and let our platform use a little bit of AI and match you up with our developers that are available to join your team. Please visit FullScale.io to learn more. That’s what my my company does. One of my companies. Well, thank you so much for being on the show today. As we round out the show, I’m curious if you have any final tips or suggestions for other entrepreneurs out there?
Dr. Raj Talluri 40:13
Yeah, my main, my main, my main advice is I’ve been doing this for a while, persistence, this and just stick to it, and have a have a singular vision, and take a few calculated risks. But ultimately, you know, if you stick to it long enough, and you have a singular vision, and you hire the right people, the chances of success are pretty high. And it’s super exciting and have fun along the way. Because these are tough jobs. And if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it’s really tough to, you know, last the last the long haul as I’ve been doing it for 30 some years and I plan to keep doing it.
Matt Watson 40:49
You have to enjoy the journey. That’s for sure. Well, everybody, this has been Dr. Raj Talluri. He is the President CEO of Ennovix. You can check them out at e, n, n, o, v, i, x.com. They’re publicly traded, as we talked about earlier as well. Super exciting technology you guys are working on. I’m hoping to see it in my security cameras so that I don’t have to change the battery so much. Hoping to see it in my phone. So hopefully over the next year or two. Hopefully you guys will get that all ramped up and wish you guys all the best. That sounds very exciting, so.
Dr. Raj Talluri 41:25
Thank you so much, Matt. Thank you for having me on your show and really enjoy your show. I watched quite a few of them. I just watched the robot and AI one that was super exciting, but thank you. Yeah.
Matt Watson 41:35
All right. Thank you so much.