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ITerum Energy Founder Mark Ryan on Converting Waste Heat Into Energy

Introduction

Burning fossil fuels is still the main method of generating energy throughout the world. With it comes an inevitable byproduct: waste heat, the leftovers that don’t get consumed. That heat energy has to go somewhere, though, so it escapes into the environment — usually the atmosphere or bodies of water. The consequences are more greenhouse gasses and worsening climate change.

ITerum Energy gives unused heat a purpose by storing it and converting it into electricity. The company determines which sources of energy are available at a site (including landfills, geothermal, and industrial waste heat) and uses what’s available with its modular, combinable conversion technologies. We reached out to founder and CEO Mark Ryan to hear more about the inspiration behind the company and how he gets scrappy.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What inspired you to take the leap and start ITerum Energy?

Mark Ryan

After 25 years of creating and managing engineering, procurement, and construction companies in industries that produce tremendous amounts of heat as a byproduct, I felt compelled to utilize my expertise and experience to engineer and provide solutions for mitigating the environmental impact of waste heat.  

I founded ITerum Energy and started toward the goal of reducing the global impact of waste heat and reducing greenhouse gasses, aiming to become the leading provider of comprehensive renewable energy solutions focused on waste heat recovery. We are identifying sources of renewable energy at specific sites that can be captured, stored, converted, and delivered to provide the most desirable and economically advantageous energy products.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Mark Ryan

Throughout my career, I met and was able to work with top experts in various disciplines, developing relationships with dozens of experts who are available for providing specific solutions as needed. When I decided to do what I could to address the environmental challenges we face today, I called on a few of these experts to join me in developing and identifying appropriate technologies and solutions that can be deployed in industrial nations and utilized in developing economies serving underprivileged people of the world.

Our core team is…

  • Mark Ryan, CEO: My experience during my professional career includes leadership in many enterprises and managing various functional areas, including accounting/finance, operations, marketing, sales, product development, and engineering. I have more than 30 years of continued success in building and managing companies and growing them from concept to acquisition within several industries.
  • Dr. Todd Stevens, director of technology: Dr. Stevens has more than 20 years of technology development, technical management, and consulting experience in the renewable energy, fuel cell, and semiconductor industries. Dr. Stevens’ expertise includes innovative combined heat and power systems, development of high-efficiency balance of plant components, and system integration and optimization. 
  • Oussama Laraichi, director of operations: Mr. Laraichi has gathered significant international experience. His engineering and computer science background has led him to leadership positions in major companies. With his experience in lean supply chain management, Mr. Laraichi has developed strong expertise in procurement, production, delivery, and maintenance optimization, and he has a strong project, program, and budget management background. 
  • Cullen Ryan, director of field services: Mr. Ryan has considerable experience in evaluating various cutting-edge technologies for “energy from renewable resources” applications. He has several years of industrial energy project experience in controls and automation, sustainable practices, grid-level battery storage, and hybridized energy systems through two energy industry-leading companies. Mr. Ryan has advanced knowledge of system design improvement and commissioning, chemical/electrical energy storage, and custom creation of design process tools bringing autonomous project oversight expertise into the realm of large energy projects. 
Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What is the scrappiest thing that you have done for your company?

Mark Ryan

I subcontract as much as possible. This approach offers two major advantages in our business model. 1. It reduces the number of full-time employees, reducing our overhead, and allows our managers to manage the best person or company for a particular task or function. 2. It gives us the flexibility to constantly evaluate cutting-edge technology. New technology is being developed every day in the components we use and/or integrate in our solutions. 

Subcontracting reduces our costs of goods sold. We are not “locked” into large capital expenditures for production equipment and processes and can utilize several qualified vendors in various locations around the world. This approach also allows us to use the top manufacturers of our components and take advantage of their development process. 

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Mark Ryan

The competitive landscape is varied and fragmented. There are several companies that claim to provide waste-heat-to-energy solutions. But a majority of participants provide a single “widget” design that lacks the ability to collect all the available heat or provide a single modular system that will maximize energy from the available waste stream.

Our competitive advantages are… 

  • Lower overall project cost — more than 40% less expensive
  • Greater electricity produced — about 3 times more electricity per project
  • Managing all heat streams simultaneously — both heating and cooling.

Our flexible and scalable architecture features…

  • Easy transport and installation (modular system arrives assembled)
  • Maximum power generation (collects waste heat from a wide variety of sources)
  • One comprehensive system (collecting, storing, and generating electric power)
  • Artificial intelligence/machine learning software for predictive failure to reduce downtime
  • Lower cost and more efficiency than current alternatives.

We create end-to-end solutions that easily integrate with existing industrial processes and renewable power projects. There is no disruption to operations, and customers can maintain the existing system as a backup. We are scalable across a wide range of industries and heat sources, including diesel power generation, geothermal, solar thermal, and other renewables.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Your company offers two different services: waste-to-energy and heat-to-energy. Which service will you start to provide first and why?

Mark Ryan

Waste-to-energy and heat-to-energy are basically the same thing in regard to our technology and systems. Heat is our “fuel” source. It comes from the burning of fuel or thermal sources.

Waste heat is what we will focus on — heat pollution from any source as a result of burning a fuel.

Landfill gas, biomass, and other industrial process waste heat are the greatest threat to our environment. They are also the easiest to utilize in the creation of power.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Mark Ryan

The intended use of the capital raised during this round is to manufacture revenue producing waste-heat-to-power solutions. It will also go toward… 

  • Growth of projects — fabrication and installation
  • Inventory, equipment, and team development
  • Sales and marketing.

We look forward to seeing where Mark and his team take the company. ITerum Energy is currently raising on Castle Placement.

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About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.

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