Brian Bauer brings extensive experience with running businesses and years of mentorship to the I-Corps program. As the Chief Operating Officer at Ecolectro, Brian has helped to scale the green hydrogen startup. In addition to his role as an I-Corps Instructor, Brian also shares his expertise as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the Center for Regional Economic Advancement at Cornell University.
During his 30-year career in the energy industry, Brian worked in oil, natural gas, chemicals, and renewables. He has run several international energy companies, gaining expertise in operations, strategy, business development, mergers and acquisitions, major project management, corporate governance and organizational change.
Brian earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell and his M.B.A. in Operations and Finance from the University of Chicago. On top of his entrepreneurial work, Brian teaches at Cornell and serves as an advisory board member for the Paleontological Research Institute.
We recently reached out to Brian to discuss the value he sees in the I-Corps program and how entrepreneurship can address real issues.
What motivated you to become an I-Corps instructor?
These days, I work full time as the COO of Ecolectro and part time with entrepreneurs and startups. I-Corps stands out because I get to work with incredibly smart people right at that moment when the spark of entrepreneurial spirit ignites. My work is focused on building entrepreneurial ecosystems, and the I-Corps program creates the upswelling of technologies and innovators that enrich the whole system.
What one piece of advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
The path to start a company can be really murky and stressful. I-Corps provides a mindset and an approach that really can help. Learning to really get out of the building and listen to your customers is a skill that you will use throughout your career.
Of the startup teams you have instructed, are there any success stories that come to mind? Where is/are those team(s) now?
One of my first entrepreneurial experiences was with a team and technology that looked to convert waste streams into biofuels. The team dynamic was not great and they did not find a good product/customer fit. I had the chance to work with that same technology and a new team a few years later. I was thrilled to see that when customer discovery was pursued with vigor, we really could find a customer who jumped across the table with excitement about the prospect of their problem being addressed. That technology, which I first saw in the lab, is now an active startup that has raised money and has technology in the field with customers.
After learning about so many different customer markets, can you share a market or customer problem that still requires a solution/has great demand?
I have coached a lot of teams that are working to capture and convert carbon dioxide and create a viable business. This area is full of startups that are solving a problem the planet has while still trying to find the key to solving a specific problem a customer has and is willing to pay for. Many people are motivated by the climate change crisis, but until we have a carbon trading system to monetize these businesses, it is really challenging to create capture carbon dioxide and make products out of it that will create a profitable business.