Designing with Purpose

Etosha Cave '06 CSO Opus 12

Etosha Cave, Ph.D., a graduate of Olin and Stanford University, led her team to victory at the Fortune’s Brainstorm E-Conference in Austin, Texas this November. Cave had this to say about how her time at Olin influenced her work, her company, and her winning project, the Opus 12.

Etosha Cave on stage at Brainstorm E!“The Opus 12 converts CO2 and water into higher valued products using electricity, with the help of an engineered metal catalyst. We are housed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, but the foundational work on the project was based on PhD research at Stanford University. We then worked as a project at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory through the Cyclotron Road Program. We will soon spin-out into a company.

There are three co-founders and three full time employees [Cave, Nicholas Flanders, and Kendra Kuhl, Ph.D.] I have the title of Chief Science Officer. I basically support the technology development in the lab as-well-as business development when needed.

I think we won [over the four other tech start ups at the Fortune Conference] because our company directly focuses on the utilization of CO2 emissions using industrially scalable solutions outside of biochemical technologies.

It feels great to have won. However, I do not want it to overshadow the many challenges, we still face with getting our technology out there. We are early stage and still have many milestones to reach in raising funds, understanding the industry, and developing the technology. We looking to scale-up our technology, which will take time. We also will apply to the CO2 utilization X-Prize, which will require us to raise funding and grow as a company in order to compete. If we win that competition, that would be huge!

At Olin, I learned the value of understanding the users of our technology. At the onset, it may seem self-evident what needs our technology can address. Nonetheless, we have spent lots of time and effort to understand what would motivate a CO2-emitting company to adapt our technology. There are specific capital expenditures that a company can manage and certain return on investments they look for. I also spend a healthy amount of time making presentations and communicating the technology to others, which was also a strong part of the Olin education.”

Etosha and her Opus 12 team were recently named to Smithsonian Magazine's list of "Eight Innovators to Watch in 2017" you can read the coverage HERE.