Kevin Knobloch is stepping down as Greentown Labs CEO, effective on July 31. Photos courtesy

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

Kevin Knobloch will lead Greentown Labs as CEO. Photos courtesy

Former Obama Administration energy leader appointed CEO of Greentown Labs

at the helm

The largest climatetech incubator in North America has named an Obama Administration appointee as its next CEO.

Kevin Knobloch, who served as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term, will be CEO of Greentown Labs, effective September 5. In his role, Knobloch will oversee both Greentown locations in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, outside of Boston.

“Kevin has a proven and impressive track record of growing, operationalizing, and leading a dynamic mix of organizations at different stages and in various industries, all of which have aligned with his unwavering commitment to addressing the climate crisis,” Greentown Labs Board Chair Dawn James says in a news release. “On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I am thrilled to welcome Kevin as our next CEO. We are excited for what is to come under Kevin’s leadership and look forward to the positive impact he will undoubtedly have on our team, our startup community, and the ecosystem at large.”

With 30 years of experience across sectors, Knobloch most recently served as president of Knobloch Energy, an independent advisory and consulting firm. He also served as acting executive director of the National Offshore Wind Research & Development Consortium from June through December 2022. From 2018 to 2020, Knobloch was president of New York OceanGrid LLC, where he led Anbaric’s efforts to develop offshore wind transmission in New York.

“I’m honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to once again pass the leadership baton,” Greentown Co-Founder Jason Hanna says, who has been serving as interim CEO. “Especially so given Kevin’s incredible record of climate leadership. I’m excited for the future of this organization and the impact he can make as Greentown enters the second decade of its climate mission.”

The appointment follows an executive search that began after Greentown's previous CEO Emily Reichert announced she was stepping down in December.

“I’m delighted to be asked by Greentown Labs’ Board of Directors to be the next leader of this highly effective organization—and very excited to get to work,” Knobloch says in a statement. “I’ve long admired the critical role Greentown plays in supporting the growth and impact of early-stage climate and energy transition technology companies, as well as the impressive efforts by former longtime CEO Emily Reichert and the talented Board and staff to build Greentown into a national powerhouse and model for other incubators around the world. The climate crisis demands that we accelerate our collective pace of deployment and I look forward to collaborating with our startups, staff, and partners to support that acceleration.”

The announcement comes on the heels of Greentown naming its inaugural Houston general manager. Timmeko Moore Love was named to that new position last week.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Houston-based Solugen named among annual top disruptors

on the rise

Houston-based biotech startup Solugen is making waves among innovative companies.

Solugen appears at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, which highlights private companies that are “upending the classic definition of disruption.” Privately owned startups founded after January 1, 2009, were eligible for the Disruptor 50 list.

Founded in 2016, Solugen replaces petroleum-based products with plant-derived substitutes through its Bioforge manufacturing platform. For example, it uses engineered enzymes and metal catalysts to convert feedstocks like sugar into chemicals that have traditionally been made from fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas.

Solugen has raised $643 million in funding and now boasts a valuation of $2.2 billion.

“Sparked by a chance medical school poker game conversation in 2016, Solugen evolved from prototype to physical asset in five years, and production hit commercial scale shortly thereafter,” says CNBC.

Solugen co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt received the Entrepreneur of The Year 2023 National Award, presented by professional services giant EY.

“Solugen is a textbook startup launched by two partners with $10,000 in seed money that is revolutionizing the chemical refining industry. The innovation-driven company is tackling impactful, life-changing issues important to the planet,” Entrepreneur of The Year judges wrote.

In April 2024, Solugen broke ground on a Bioforge biomanufacturing plant in Marshall, Minnesota. The 500,000-square-foot, 34-acre facility arose through a Solugen partnership with ADM. Chicago-based ADM produces agricultural products, commodities, and ingredients. The plant is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

“Solugen’s … technology is a transformative force in sustainable chemical manufacturing,” says Hunt. “The new facility will significantly increase our existing capabilities, enabling us to expand the market share of low-carbon chemistries.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Tesla shareholders ask investors to vote against Musk's compensation package

just say no

A group of Texas-based Tesla's shareholders is asking investors to vote against a compensation package worth more than $40 billion for CEO Elon Musk, saying that it's not in the electric vehicle maker's best interest.

Tesla is struggling with falling global sales, slowing electric vehicle demand, an aging model lineup and a stock price that has tumbled 30 percent this year.

The shareholder group, which includes New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, SOC Investment Group and Amalgamated Bank, said in a letter to shareholders that ratification of Musk's pay package would do nothing to promote Tesla's long-term growth and stability.

There's also concern that approval of the pay package will potentially lead to lawsuits arguing that it is corporate waste. And Musk is viewed as a part-time CEO at Tesla, with his time increasingly being spent on other business commitments, the letter said.

“Shareholders should not pretend that this award has any kind of incentivizing effect—it does not. What it does have is an excessiveness problem, which has been glaringly apparent from the start,” the group said.

They noted that if shareholders ratify the compensation package, it's possible that another plan will be put forth next year.

“Given Tesla’s history of exponentially larger awards, Musk may well ask for another award,” the group said.

The group is also asking investors to vote against the reelection of board members Kimbal Musk, Elon's brother, and James Murdoch, a former executive at media company Twenty-First Century Fox.

Last month Tesla asked shareholders to restore Musk's pay package, which was valued at $56 billion at the time, that was rejected by a Delaware judge this year. At the time, it also asked to shift the company’s corporate home to Texas.

The changes will be voted on by stockholders at a June 13 annual meeting.

In a letter to shareholders released in a regulatory filing last month, Chairperson Robyn Denholm said that Musk has delivered on the growth it was looking for at the automaker, with Tesla meeting all of the stock value and operational targets in the 2018 package that was approved by shareholders. Shares at the time were up 571 percent since the pay package began.

“Because the Delaware Court second-guessed your decision, Elon has not been paid for any of his work for Tesla for the past six years that has helped to generate significant growth and stockholder value,” Denholm wrote. “That strikes us — and the many stockholders from whom we already have heard — as fundamentally unfair, and inconsistent with the will of the stockholders who voted for it.”

Tesla posted record deliveries of more than 1.8 million electric vehicles worldwide in 2023, but the value of its shares has eroded quickly this year as EV sales soften.

The company said it delivered 386,810 vehicles from January through March, nearly 9 percent fewer than it sold in the same period last year. Future growth is in doubt and it may be a challenge to get shareholders to back a fat pay package in an environment where competition has increased worldwide.

Starting last year, Tesla has cut prices as much as $20,000 on some models. The price cuts caused used electric vehicle values to drop and clipped Tesla’s profit margins.

In April, Tesla said that it was letting about 10 percent of its workers go, about 14,000 people.

Houston expert: How to make the EV switch while factoring in impact, cost

Guest Column

Americans are in the midst of getting to know electric cars up close and personal. The finer points of charging and battery technology are now becoming mainstream news.

However, there’s a secret about electric vehicles (EVs) that very few people know, because very few people have driven an electric car with 50,000 or 100,000 miles on it. Very often, EVs drive like new even if they’ve clocked up the miles. No rattles and no shakes, and importantly there is no loss of efficiency, unlike gas cars which tend to lose fuel efficiency as they age. Most strikingly, battery degradation and loss of range is often minimal — even after the odometer hits 6 digits.

What does this mean? At a time when car payments, repair costs and gas prices are all weighing on consumer wallets, we are about to enter an era when it will get easier than ever before for Americans to find a great driving, longer lasting car that saves on fuel costs and needs less maintenance.

This represents an amazing source of value for American drivers to be tapped into - plus even more positive changes for the auto sector, and the potential for new business models.

Narratives about EVs have focused on fears about battery degradation and today’s models becoming dated as technology rapidly advances. The fact that we are all habituated to replacing smartphone batteries that fade within 2 to 3 years doesn’t help.

Auto manufacturers have put 100,000 mile warranties on batteries, but this may have created the perception that this is a ceiling, rather than a floor, for what can be expected from an EV battery.

EV batteries are performing much better than your last smartphone battery. We know this with growing certainty because it’s backed up by evidence. Data reveals that older Teslas average only 12 percent loss of original range at 200,000 miles — double the warranty period.

Furthermore, battery advances are happening at an encouraging pace. You can expect that newer batteries will start with higher ranges and degrade even more slowly. And even after they do, the value shorter range will increase as charging infrastructure matures.

In other words, a 2024 Volkswagen ID.4 with 291 miles of range may be down to 260 miles by the time it has put on 100,000 miles. But in the 5 to 7 years that typically takes, the buildout of charging stations means that range will have much more utility than today.

So in sum, electric vehicles can be expected to last longer with lower maintenance. Over-the-air software upgrades, and perhaps even computing hardware upgrades, will keep them feeling modern. Charging infrastructure will improve much faster than range will degrade. And crucially for the value of these cars, the drive quality will remain great much further into product lifetime.

The trend for driving older cars is already here – the average age of a car on US roads is 12 years old and rising. But now this will shift towards better quality, plus fuel savings, for more people.

New business models and services will help customers take advantage — especially those customers for whom lower cost EVs will represent a step up and savings on the cost of living.

At Houston-based Octopus Electric Vehicles, we are doing this today with something virtually unheard of: leasing pre-owned cars. With electric cars that are 1 to 4 years old, with clean histories and in excellent cosmetic and mechanical condition but depreciated relative to new EV prices, we are frequently able to offer discounts of 30 percent or more, even against heavily incentivized lease offers from automakers. And, because EV maintenance needs are lower, we can throw in free scheduled maintenance with our monthly payment, delivered by a mobile mechanic service.

The secret value of higher-mileage EVs won’t stay secret for long. There’s no replacing first hand experience, and you can probably get that the next time you order an Uber or Lyft by choosing their EV ride options. Before your ride is up, try to guess what’s on the odometer. You may be surprised to hear from your driver that the car you thought was brand new has 50,000 or 100,000 miles on it.

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Nathan Wyeth is the United States co-lead at Octopus Electric Vehicles.