Eight months ago, I spun out Gridtractor from its small but stable incubator, with more than a bit of trepidation. It was not clear whether I could meet the commitments I’d made for the company, recruit key contributors, and reconstitute and build upon its shared technology platform, without running out of money. It also forced me, after spending most of the last 15-years on market-facing activities, to buckle down and focus mostly on R&D.
Gridtractor is still here - so there’s that.
There is also a small “we” to displace the “I,” a few really talented contributors who are slowly but surely implementing the company vision and sharing in the collaboration that I really like. Despite the challenges of the spin out, we made demonstrable progress: engineered the first integrated pumping/charging/export site, MVP of a charge/load management system, MVP of a farm electrification planning application, winner at PG&E’s Innovation Pitch Fest, and a big proposed award that will be finalized in 2024.
Once we got on track, hitting the R&D milestones in our CEC project, the biggest strategic question was what kind of company Gridtractor will be and how to finance it? Venture Capital is the siren song for any emerging technology company, and there is no shortage of interest in a first mover at the intersection of grid, mobility and Ag.
But, asking the hard questions about the maturity of the market and readiness of the product, it was clear that the overhead of fundraising and operating the company to the cadence of investors exceeds the value of the additional resources, welcome as they would be. It is not an easy path but, for 2024, Gridtractor’s plan is to operate as a closely held company and to build and grow at a pace that can be funded by operations.
Fortunately, Gridtractor has the support of California’s public innovation system - in particular California Energy Commission, great partners like Monarch Tractor, PG&E, Valley Clean Energy, and patient pilot customers like Terranova Ranch, and Talley Vineyards. Our product is approaching release just as California has set a massive, 7,000 MW demand flexibility goal, and the California Public Utilities Commission proposes to scale up the AgFIT dynamic rates pilot, which is based on the technology and market research underpinning Gridtractor’s platform.
I am excited about this direction (though the trepidation remains). I’d love to network with other tech founders following the non-VC path.
Wishing everyone a successful 2024!
(which I would immediately trade for the return of 123 hostages: #BringThemHome)