Ask everybody questions regardless of their profession or background. There’s an unlimited amount of wisdom waiting to be passed on, you just need to ask.
Mark Cann is the founder and head of design for three separate companies (Cryo Energy, Completely Keyless, Streaming Power) as well as being directly involved with creating the intellectual property that underpins those solutions. Strong background in manufacturing and logistics as well as automotive customization.
Cryo Energy has developed technology that condenses the air we all breathe everyday into a liquid as a form of storing energy for portable power (transportation) applications as well as large scale energy storage systems used by electrical grids to allow more variable sources (such as wind or PV) to be implemented. Our ability to quickly refuel transportation use cases in 5 minutes or less eliminates the primary issue with batteries (charging time), not to mention we do not require any toxic materials. We provide all of the positives for zero emissions transportation without the usual negatives (cost, inconvenience, questionable supply chain, etc.). Affordable large scale energy storage and zero emissions transportation are considered to be two of the most important solutions for this century. The fundamentals of our designs are based on a 100+ year old mature industry (industrial gases), although we have optimized existing methods for use with new use cases, such as transportation, as well as driving down the component cost which opens up even more use cases.
Completely Keyless developed one of the original digital car keys/Phone-As-A-Key solutions. Currently in the process of rolling out our 3rd generation platform that streamlines car sharing/rental, fleet management, and many other transportation related solutions.
Streaming Power is developing convenient solutions for power management of portable electronics and other connected devices. Combining proven methods with passive logic so that devices are always charged and ready to go.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
We’ll focus on the Cryo Energy technology since that business will have a major impact on the multi-trillion dollar energy markets. The core technology began life as a way to make LNG more competitive with the alternatives. While going through the development process, the designs evolved to the point where we can supply solutions based on atmospheric air instead of natural gas. The energy markets have continued to shift over the last decade creating tremendous demand for our type of solution. Our technology is quite unique within the energy industry as we provide unlimited scalability with a raw material that has infinite supply (it’s just air). With no scarcity concerns we not only provide a better method of storing energy, but we can indirectly assist with the democratization of energy itself. What was previously discussed as science fiction is now a reality.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A quick caveat, people need to find the methods that work best for them. Also, being busy is not the same as being productive. Now, some people feel the most creative first thing in the morning. My creative hours happen to be later at night and since I make sure to get a full night’s sleep, that means starting later in the day relative to early birds. Start off with the basics (eat, shower, etc.) which are routine driven so little brain power is required. If your mind is drifting go for a short walk or drive. Once the hamster wheel is running properly, finish up the work that was left over from the day before, respond to what is critical, and speed read through industry related articles. Wrap up meetings/calls for that day and finish up responses to less critical issues. This is the end of the “busy work” for the day, now we can make some actual progress.
Go for a another walk or drive to help your mind rest plus replenish yourself with some food. Hopefully, distractions are limited so that the creative work can finally get done. No real structure at play here, work on a few different issues at once to keep the juices flowing. If your brain starts to fade, go for another walk or do something that requires little to no concentration to give your hamster time to recoup.
Once the creative juices are running a little low, I’ll stop for the night and switch over to reading some old reference books to hopefully saturate my brain during a full night’s sleep.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As cheesy as it sounds, a great business will find you. Often times, it comes down to a particular group of skills that just happen to be beneficial at just the right time. Since none of us can control time, it can feel as if the product/solution/service finds us when the time is right. Skills require time to develop so it’s unlikely that someone will always know ahead of time exactly how their skills will end up being utilized. That’s where someone’s natural interest comes in to help build up expertise that will eventually one day be in high demand for a specific reason. When those skill sets intersect with the proper market conditions, you now have a great business opportunity.
Learning to manage resources properly separates those that have ideas from those that can build long lasting companies. Once you recognize the opportunity it’s strategy time. You need to build as much foundation as possible with as little resources as possible. There’s a good possibility that the first few iterations will fail so make sure to use calculated risk. From there each solution and market has its own path forward so there is not really a universal cookbook to follow.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Not particularly excited about it, but there is a clear shift back towards regional based economies. This is not that surprising since other than the last 50 years or so, societies has been built upon regional markets, the recent globalism is actually the outlier in human history.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Asking everybody questions regardless of their profession or background. There’s an unlimited amount of wisdom waiting to be passed on, you just need to ask.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t care for these types of questions as it’s basically asking about avoiding mistakes but mistakes are what allows you to make the most progress as long as you are willing to learn and move forward.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Batteries are not a long term solution for environmental issues as they merely sweep the problems under the rug to be dealt with later. A common narrative that is being pushed presents batteries as some form of cure-all for many of the world’s pollution related woes. Unfortunately, reality is quite different than the hype. In order to solve these extremely challenging issues, you need to move beyond the mentality that requires the physical extraction of materials. Our Cryo Technology is not a silver bullet, but it’s close.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Turn off the TV and read instead.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Growth itself is highly overrated. Who cares how fast a business grows if it will be dead and buried in a year or two down the road? Much better to plan for the long term, resources are precious so be strategic. Ignore the hype.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We have designs that fail to meet our goals all the time. This is not a one time thing, happens on a regular basis. You just learn to move forward.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
During the next downturn there needs to be some form of hybrid model for the housing markets. Right now the main options are mortgages (which are repackaged and sold), renting, or lease to own via the property owner. The lease to own space needs the equivalent of securitization that mortgages currently enjoy. Not my cup of tea so I’ll leave the specifics to someone else but there is certainly a need for more purchase options in the housing market.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Recently spent some quality time with family, worth every penny.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Flipboard to aggregate articles into the three primary topics that are of interest (energy, automotive, and consumer electronics). You can quickly scan through 100s of articles while minimizing the time wasted on noise.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Wealth of Nations. Not sure how anyone can claim to be an entrepreneur and not be familiar with Adam Smith’s work.
What is your favorite quote?
A paraphrase that is often attributed to Mark Twain, “it’s easier to fool people than convince them that they have been fooled.”
- Find what works best for you
- Being busy is not the same as being productive
- Great businesses have a way of finding you
- Ask everybody questions
- Turn off the TV and read something
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.