Ep. 1: Bob Mumgaard, Commonwealth Fusion Systems
Show notes included
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📝 Show Notes Below
🎧 New podcast episode:
Bob Mumgaard, Co-founder and CEO, Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS)
“We’re building a machine we call Spark, where you show up and you push a button. This thing turns on and it makes hundreds of megawatts of thermal energy from effectively nothing.” -Bob Mumgaard
Bob Mumgaardis Co-founder and CEO of Commonwealth Fusion Systems (@CFS_energy), where Bob leads the strategic vision for the company. He received his PhD in plasma physics at MIT, focusing his work on developing techniques to measure the magnetic field inside tokamak plasmas.
🍹 What we drank during the episode: Dark 'N' Stormy
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Enjoy the show!
🥃 Bay Area happy hour:
🥃 NYC happy hour:
Friday, July 23rd. 5:30-7:30pm in Soho.Katie Hoffman, Partner, Regeneration.vc andJaha Dukureh, CEO, Safe Hands for Girlsare co-hosting to celebrate the release ofAndras Forgacs, Co-founder and Director, Modern Meadow’s CTC session. More info coming soon.
Books mentioned during the show:
People/places/things mentioned during the episode
Prior to CFS, Bob used to bum around on racing sailboats [3:03]
What is a Nebraskan and how would you describe Nebraska? [5:49]
How does someone go from growing up and studying in Nebraska to launching a fusion company? [7:17]
How Bob got into climate. [9:09]
The history of fusion [10:16]
What was happening in the 50’s? Fusion vs fission vs fossils [13:53]
What’s happened the last 5-10 years that's taken us from pretty much a science problem to fusion being now an engineering problem, culminating with the construction of ITER in France. [16:28]
Bob’s time at MIT, and how he goes from studying applied plasma physics to starting a company [18:46]
So how did you meet your team, your co-founders and how did you come up with this idea and approach with them? [21:52]
It wasn’t until 2016 that climate investors came along, people like Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Khosla, and big oil and gas like ENI [24:16]
Prior to the venture funding CFS had technicians working on pink slips and would go to the basement to find scrap metal to sell to pay the MIT bills. This went on for two years. [24:44]
Was there any company or companies you modeled CFS after? [26:29]
The idea that venture capital is naturally just a software place is total BS. [27:16]
If I had to pick one time to transport myself back to it'd be early Intel realizing the computer microprocessor was the future and that they should give up on memory and just go into making computing chips. [28:11]
Do you think we’re in the midst of a 10x shift in energy? [29:34]
Where does fusion fit in with this 10x shift and why is it the holy grail in solving climate change? [31:20]
The way that we get all of our energy today is basically like hunter gatherer mode. We go out and we dig it. We search for it in the dirt, or we sit there and we wait for it to come by, like the wind or the sun. [32:12]
Where is CFS now? And what does the next three to five years look like? [33:57]
CFS has developed a brand new magnet technology and is building its first demonstration project. [35:56]
What does this look like? How large is this? [36:17]
It's a machine we call spark where you show up and you push a button and this thing turns on and it makes energy from effectively, nothing, hundreds of megawatts of thermal. [37:32]
So you press the button in 2025. It works. Q is greater than one. Where do we go from there? [38:43]
We have to build 10,000 power plants. I didn't say fusion power plants. I just said power plants, 10,000. That's what it takes to solve the problem. [40:40]
Who or what are 3 founders or startups that greatly influenced you, and are there a few books that people should pick up to learn about these entrepreneurs? [42:40]
When do you predict fusion will be accepted as possible and take off? [47:47]
Would you say you’re a person of deep convictions? [49:10]
We were at a BBQ join in Austin, Texas and wrote down on a napkin what became the spark machine [50:26]
I want to give you the opportunity to say anything that's been unsaid from this conversation. Is there anything that you'd like to leave everybody with? [51:32]