Compost-to-energy and the trial of entrepreneurship

Do one simple thing today. Buy this book and help support a talented entrepreneur to drive innovation for our world.
Do one simple thing today. Buy this book and help support a talented entrepreneur to drive innovation for our world.

To say being an entrepreneur is painful is an understatement. Sure, not every business needs to be brutal. I can think of many types of services businesses that can be started easily, and grown consistently over time at a very manageable pace.

But that pace isn’t usually what produces real breakthroughs. The technologies and concepts that change our world and ultimately scale to drive whole industries and jobs rarely come with mediocre effort.  That’s because they are based on crazy ideas that usually the current structure isn’t ready for yet.

It takes a large amount of physical, intellectual and emotional energy to break through and drive innovation. It takes lots of people and lots of time.

It takes chunks of people’s lives. Chunks that they rarely get back.

Every once in a while someone remarks to me about how awesome it must be to have been a founder of multiple startups. I can tell they are imagining it all  – me flush with investor funding and swarms of creative partners and team members – going from press meetings and award banquets while a team works tirelessly on the next big thing in between massive doses of coffee.

And I do have a great life. A dream life really. Only made possible through being an entrepreneur.

But honestly, it’s never been like what most people imagine. Honestly it’s been years of immense physical and emotional pain. I have seen foreclosure, near bankruptcy, issues with employees, divorce, poor health, bad deals and everything in between.

Even in times of great success it’s been hard.

(I once had to borrow $20 from a customer to pay my airport parking after an important meeting with FedEx!)

Hardly glamorous.

But just as I’m usually about to break out the dreaded ‘resume’ and throw in the towel on some venture – the business starts to work. Money flows from someone (other than me) into the business bank account. It’s always a salient moment. I remember each day clearly. That is such a great feeling.

And with that flow of currency comes some retribution for times gone by. With that flow comes the most sure investment of all – a company that you own and control that is growing under your guidance. A moving, working organism that not only makes money but impacts the world. There is a real power in that first transaction and there is even more power in the first $1 Million. But entrepreneurs never get their lives back.

But this isn’t a blog post about me. It is actually a blog post about my friend Gaelan Brown. Gaelan is crazy. He’s also tougher and braver than I am. He believes the world can be changed and in fact he’s already changed it significantly. He tries things that are nearly impossible.

We met as kids growing up together in the beautiful area of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont.  We ultimately went on to live in a VW bus together while co-founding Infopia in the late ’90s with Eric Maas and Bjorn Espenes.

A funny little fact is that Gaelan and I worked on the weekends as skiing Bear and Moose mascots at the Canyon Ski Area in Park City to get free food and ski tickets. But Gaelan is no ski bum.

He is an extremely experienced, well-educated and talented guy with a vision for a new world. After Infopia was well on it’s way he then went on to help pioneer the K-Cup revolution at Green Mountain Coffee before becoming one of the world’s top advocates for renewable energy. I remember asking him once about the K-Cup experience and he was so upset that while they were a huge money maker (recurring revenue) they weren’t recyclable. Gaelan is the type of passionate guy that is bothered by such a detail.

Fast forward. Today he’s 6-7 years into a technology that literally turns compost into energy.

And he needs your help.

You see he and his team at Agrilab Technologies have figured out how to turn poop into power.

For free.

At scale.

Want proof? Below is a picture of someone heating a hot tub up to 120 degrees in the middle of winter but that’s just one application. The implications could be huge. It’s not a matter of if we’ll need this as a society – it’s when!

Gaelan Brown: Pioneering technologies that turn compost into energy.
Gaelan Brown: Pioneering technologies that turn compost into energy.


So why is it that Gaelan’s startup company doesn’t yet have major financial backing from big money investors and thousands of farms and compost sites calling him to get this game changing technology? It’s because change is hard. It comes slowly. It requires making that intimidating call you don’t want to make and finding a way to get on that plane. It requires believing you are on to something when pretty much everyone else thinks you are ‘out there’. It sometimes involves just waiting for the market to be ready. 

Regardless of the trajectory it usually involves investing everything you have – literally. Don’t believe me? Ask my chiropractor and doctor and road bike and family and friends and pets and significant others. Ask them about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Ask Gaelan’s closest friends and family. They’ll all tell you it takes a toll.

But it’s worth it.

And after almost 20 years it’s all I know and while the struggle is ALWAYS momentus, the rewards are unfathomable.  As an entrepreneur not only are you your own boss in every possible sense of the word – you are creating change that you can see in front of you. And no other profession gives you a life of endless possibilities.

But back to my friend Gaelan. All Gaelan really needs is for people to  buy his book. It’s that simple. Sure he needs investors and team members and distribution partners, but really all he needs from you is a little support.

When you spend the $12.95 on Amazon, not only will you learn exactly how to create your own compost-powered hot water system, you’ll be supporting change. You’ll also get inspired about a generation of people like Gaelan who are working to see these impossibilities become possible.

He only gets $1 when you buy the book. And regardless he’ll be covering his mortgage for months before he sees any of the money. But it helps. It sends a message to Gaelan that people out there are listening and they have his back and that they believe that our world needs entrepreneurs out there figuring out really really hard problems.

Because entrepreneurship isn’t easy.

But it’s what makes the world go round and now, more than ever….

The world needs it.