Louise Parlons Bentata and Nestor Rueda-Vallejo had never met before joining the On Deck Climate Tech Fellowship. Through continual collaboration and accountability, they exited as co-founders building Bluemethane, a company looking to capture methane produced from hydropower dams to generate electricity.
How did you both meet and decide to become co-founders?
Louise: Our first conversation happened on Icebreaker (now rebranded as Gatheround), in the first week of the On Deck Climate Tech fellowship, and the software really helped make the introductions you had with complete strangers not feel contrived.
I had come into the program from a strong recommendation, but I was not expecting to find a co-founder at all.
Nestor: It was the opposite for me, I was hoping to find a co-founder in the program. I knew it was ambitious and unrealistic but I still listed as one of the goals I had going in alongside, building out a product and finding a group of advisors.
Our first conversation ended with us keeping one another accountable for the goals we had for the next 10 weeks. That first exchange of giving set the tone for our relationship. We would continue to check-in with one another and provide candid advice, and slowly it made sense that a working relationship was feasible.
Louise: All our meetings were focused on how we could give first. This mentality of giving allows you to see whether you have the complementary skills that make co-founder relationships so powerful.
What are you building and how did the idea start?
Nestor: My traditional background is working as a consulting engineer, particularly for hydropower and mining companies. Through my work, I realized that even though hydropower solutions were “clean energy,” there’s still some impact associated with the significant amount of methane that is produced at dams and that is not yet accounted for.
Louise: Bluemethane’s vision is to play a part in the reduction in global warming by capturing methane at hydropower dams and using it to generate electricity. Along with creating a more efficient disposal format, this could opens up an entire new source of clean energy.
What’s next on the roadmap for bluemethane?
Louise: We are working on our technology development, fundraise and then build our first pilot project on site at a dam. Hydropower is one of the greenest forms of energy and we want to help improve its environmental footprint whilst meeting ambitious energy targets.
Where did the ODCT community come into place?
Nestor: There’s not much I can complain about here. I listed three goals on my application going into the program: 1) finding a co-founder 2) building a prototype and 3) creating a group of advisors.
By the end of the program, I had reached all three thanks to the fellow’s sharing mindset. Their generosity with their time and feedback was crucial to meet my personal goals. For example, some conversations lead to follow ups that turned into some of the most insightful business lessons I’ve ever had, on pitching, on strategy, on product development and so on. We’re still in contact with many of the fellows discussing new strategies and future plans.
Louise: The access to people, experts and the expertise has saved us a lot of time in doing research and outreach just by centralizing a lot of knowledge in one place. Given Climate Change is such a broad problem to be tackling, Nestor and I had about 100 areas that we weren’t experts in (grant funding, intellectual property, etc.).
Our solution was two-fold, we first did a search in the introductions channel for the keyword we were looking for to see if there were subject-matter experts. This often led to the discovery of people within our network that could help, if this didn’t work, we would use the asks channel to see if fellows could put us in touch with people in their networks.