From Authority Magazine. Please visit https://medium.com/authority-magazine
“So many people in positions of power are remarkably resistant to change. I naively thought when I started, if this is a great solution that is economical and solves a lot of problems, why would people resist just for the sake of resisting. I came to learn that in major corporations worldwide, there’s a big disconnect between the vision and ideals at the leadership level and the mechanisms actually existing internally to make those come to life. If motivated people up and down the chain are not incentivized and empowered to make change, things will gravitate towards a mediocre status quo.”
As a part of our series about “Big Ideas That Might Change the World In The Next Few Years” we had the pleasure of interviewing Bjornulf Ostvik, CEO & Founder Ecogensus.
Bjornulf Ostvik is the Founder & CEO of Ecognesus, a technology company focused on alternative energy, sustainable materials manufacturing, resource recovery and advanced recycling methods. Since Bjornulf founded Ecogensus in 2015, the company has built a strong foundation in the alternative energy and sustainability space. Bjornul is also the Founder & CEO of VikingPeak Capital Group, a company focused on advancing technology development and transformative sustainable energy, natural resource and water infrastructure. With both companies, Bjornulf is focused on changing how the resource management and recycling market operates and finding solutions for global environmental needs. Bjornulf holds a BA and MPA from Cornell University, and later earned a JD from The George Washington University Law School.
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Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
One of the tech areas I was working on for a global aerospace company was bioenergy/biomass programs. The most challenging economic and logistics issue was always the feedstock, meaning where can one source reliable biomass — and, I thought, is that even a good use of land? In contrast, waste was a fascinating thing to me. Here, a carbon-rich substance that we already have a sophisticated logistics network in place for collections and transport — the only problem is, at the end of the route it goes into a hole in the ground. I thought, there must be a better way. So I set out to fix waste. The broader mission I have is about resources generally though. With a population increases and growing resource needs worldwide, determining new and sustainable resource solutions is “mission critical” for the whole world!
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I have a lot of interesting stories. One that comes to mind is when I was in my late 20s and was asked to sit down in a private meeting with a Base Commander regarding a U.S. base’s energy needs. I spent almost 30 hours in an airplane for a 45-minute meeting! We discussed renewable energy options, security concerns, and the base’s waste management issues. It was very humbling to be trusted to advise on new technology options for one of the most strategic of U.S. bases.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Integrity and doing the right thing, setting big goals, and staying focused on them no matter how difficult they become, and a relentless search and effort to work with people who have their heart in the right place.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change the World”?
The world generates 2 billion tons of garbage per year, a figure that has doubled in just the past decade or so and will come close to doubling again in our lifetime. It is a staggering volume of wasted materials causing enormous problems. We are on a pathway to end waste and put all these materials to use, efficiently and economically. It’s been the goal of recycling for 50 years, yet the vast majority of waste is still just landfilled or dumped. The idea is that it is possible to end garbage landfilling and dumping in about a decade, the solution is here now but we need a lot of support and will to do it.
How do you think this will change the world?
Ending landfill waste will solve one of the world’s too 3 largest human-caused methane sources, reduce disease transmission and other public health issues, help the environment including wildlife and unlock the value of billions of tons of resources.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?
Two things come to mind. First, when 2+ billion tons of material per year that are considered today to have zero value or negative value, suddenly become extremely valuable, it unfortunately creates an incentive for unscrupulous people to act unethically or unfairly. We’ve already encountered that sadly as people learn about our technologies and solutions. The other unintended consequence is more long-term and theoretical. As we create viable, economical circular pathways for materials and end waste, there’s a risk that complacency develops in terms of developing better re-use of materials in the decades to come. Even if we achieve 100% recycling and ending waste, I envision a future one day where materials are re-used or re-constituted (even at the household level) without ever going through the stage of being a “waste”.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
The tipping point was when I came up with the idea of maximizing the diversity of products available from waste. I was sitting in my home office — it was still the Covid times — and suddenly I had a vision of how to optimally use waste from our Rhino recyclers by looking at the material as building blocks — even at the molecular level. So was born a suite of new products ranging from sustainable composites with various feature enhancements, to powders for 3D printing and other manufacturing processes. I filed my first set of patent applications for these inventions in February 2021. That’s when I realized I had brought the idea of Ecogensus as a sustainable resources company to its true maximum potential.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
People and capital. Great people who are committed to solving our resource challenges in a sustainable, economical and efficient way. Capital partners who see the vision and are truly committed to bringing the waste industry into the 21st century and — as I call it — changing it to a sustainable resources industry.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. So many people in positions of power are remarkably resistant to change. I naively thought when I started, if this is a great solution that is economical and solves a lot of problems, why would people resist just for the sake of resisting. I came to learn that in major corporations worldwide, there’s a big disconnect between the vision and ideals at the leadership level and the mechanisms actually existing internally to make those come to life. If motivated people up and down the chain are not incentivized and empowered to make change, things will gravitate towards a mediocre status quo.
2. People’s greed is beyond anything I imagined. When you create value, somehow unscrupulous people come from out of the proverbial woodwork. Stay tuned for some incredible stories.
3. I already knew that sadly so much of technology investing focuses on the sizzle, not the steak…but I continue to be surprised that it barely seems any better now than it was 15 years ago. I set out to build a company on the fundamentals: sound engineering, excellence in design, solid supply chains and production capacity, broad IP protections.
4. You’ll have to turn down a lot opportunities — saying no. It’s against many founders’ instincts. I know it is against mine. Saying ‘no’ feels like closing the door on opportunity and that goes against the entire orientation of creators. However, when you suddenly find yourself with opportunities beyond what you possibly can manage — you realize that picking how you spend your time and resources is critical and you’ll have to say ‘no’ — a lot.
5. Human resources is very difficult but so important. Finding good people is one of the hardest things to do in running a business. Training people is easy to overlook or take for granted, but critical. Retaining good people is actually not that hard — often the best way to do that is just following the Golden Rule (treat others how you want to be treated).
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Persistence is #1 of them all. Everything will be harder and take longer than you expected. A lot harder with challenges you never could have foreseen. I think a lot of people who bring a company from founding to success say the key thing was staying persistent. Unless you’re incredibly lucky and one of the few, chances are that there will be a lot of difficult days and challenges that can even seem near impossible — persistence is the only way to achieve success. I could write a whole book on just persistence and the psychology behind it. Another mindset for success that I like to point out is to maintain one’s grounding in a positive, hope-filled place. Chances are, a founder or creator came to their business believing in their ability, solution, vision and dream. Continuing to come back to that vision and inspiration is key. Third, success requires people around you — supporters and colleagues — who care about the vision too and are committed to the hard work and resolve that are needed to achieve the vision.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
On the one hand, there are 2+ billion tons of material each year called garbage and assigned no value or even negative value. What if we could economically and sustainably unlock the value of this material and create a whole new class of resources. One that helps meet the world’s ever-growing demand for natural resources. On th other hand, landfills are a top 3 methane source and incredibly detrimental to environmental and public health. What if we could end waste in our life time, soon even, with an efficient new solution. Ecogensus can help address both of those challenges with our novel, patented solutions that create valuable products from waste. Ecogensus treats waste as a raw material, recycling as a manufacturing operation, and creates new sustainable resources from energy to consumer goods. Leveraging an ever-growing suite of 80+ issued patents and proven technologies, we are on a mission to rethink recycling and provide the solutions needed to change the waste industry…to the sustainable resources industry.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Website — http://ecogensus.com/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.www.medium.com/authority-magazine