10: From for-profit into impact entrepreneur. Interview with Christian Vollmann - founder C1
Christian Vollmann (born 1977) is a passionate entrepreneur. He has successfully founded several companies (iLove, MyVideo, eDarling) and most recently established nebenan.de, a social network for good neighbourhoods. Connecting 2.5 million neighbours in 10,000 neighbourhoods throughout Germany, helping each other and thus strengthening the centre of society. Christian also invests in the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. He was involved in over 80 start-ups (e.g. SumUp, Trivago, Inkitt, and many more) and was named Business Angel of the Year 2017.
Currently, Christian is CEO of C1 Green Chemicals AG. Together with a team of researchers from Berlin-Adlershof, he wants to produce green methanol and thereby cut the dependencies on fossil fuels of the chemical industry and shipping industry. Christian is a supporter of Ashoka, a non-profit organization for the promotion of social entrepreneurs. He sits on the board of Allego, the leading provider of charging infrastructure for electric cars in Europe.
Book Recommendation: Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work that Matters, and Make Smarter Choices about Giving Back
Personal vision: Try to make a small dent in the universe (and it better be a positive one).
Company Vision: Establish closed carbon cycles in shipping and chemical production via green methanol.
Fun Fact: I cry like a baby when watching a movie on a long-distance flight
Biggest Struggle: Turning from a "for-profit" entrepreneur into an "impact entrepreneur".
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What is Green Methanol?
Green methanol is a low-carbon fuel that can be made from either biomass gasification or renewable electricity and captured carbon dioxide (CO2).
The shipping industry is under increasing pressure from regulators and consumers to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Maersk’s recent announcement that it will launch a feeder ship in 2023 that will run on “green” methanol is driving the industry into green methanol.
It’s important to note that most methanol produced today is derived from fossil fuels, primarily natural gas. The four primary kinds of methanol are: grey methanol derived from natural gas; blue methanol derived from natural gas combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS); bio-methanol derived from biomass feedstocks; and e-methanol derived from renewable electricity and captured CO2. The latter two fuels can be considered “green.”
Source: The ICCT
Carbon One is focusing in the first step on green methanol derived from biomass and in the second step from CO2.
"Our proprietary methanol production chemistry consists of a new catalyst system, working at significantly lower pressures and temperatures. The catalyst is deployed in a cutting-edge reactor, designed specifically for the use of green feedstocks. The resulting economic and technical advantages enable us to use renewable feedstocks to produce green methanol."
Source: Carbon One Website
In this episode we are addressing the following questions:
“Turning from "for-profit" entrepreneur into "impact entrepreneur". Can you please explain what you mean by that? 2:01
What was the moment you realized that you need to change from a digital entrepreneur into an impact entrepreneur? 4:49
What kind of skills can you use in that new industry? Or any other digital entrepreneur who is turning to impact 7:21
What makes you in general optimistic that we will solve the climate crisis? 9:51
What are the biggest challenges in solving the climate crisis in your own words?11:23
Coming now to Carbon One. The vision of the company is "Establish closed carbon cycles in shipping and chemical production via green methanol". Can you please explain the vision and how you want to achieve it? 16:16
What is the input you need (biomass, capture co2, etc.) to create 63’000 gallons of green methanol fuel? 21:26
What is the biggest challenge in the production process? 27:01
Why not electrify container ships or use hydrogen? 28:13
What are the converting costs of old container ships? 32:41
How do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of things within your role? 39:06
I read that investor communication is a key for your success - in general communication. You are writing every month to your investors. Are you still doing that? Can you share some insights on how you do it? 41:59
How can people contact you? 45:31
Great quotes from the episode by Christian:
“I always tell my team, mainly consisting of chemists and chemical engineers, you need to deliver what I promise”
“What makes me optimistic is the next generation. I see my kids but also teenagers being fully aware of the problem, pushing hard for solutions. The new generation is very impact-driven.”
“With our technology, we can produce methanol not from a fossil source but from a biogenic carbon source”
“In the long run we want to repurpose CO2 into green methanol, and green methanol holds the key to de-fossilizing both the container shipping industry and carbon-based chemical production”
“A lot is theoretically possible but the question is will it ever make economic sense”
“All my investors get the same reporting as well as all employees - full transparency and I’ve faired well with that strategy.”