Flying High With Beta Technologies' Kyle Clark and Martine Rothblatt of United Therapeutics

Flying High With Beta Technologies' Kyle Clark and Martine Rothblatt of United Therapeutics

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Hi, thank you so much for coming to this year's  Vermont Tech Jam. My name is Cathy Resmer,   I'm the Deputy Publisher of Seven Days and am  one of the organizers. And I can't tell you,   I've been waiting for a couple years now to have  this space filled with all of you folks and our   our speakers tonight. So I'm really, really  happy to see you, thank you for coming.   I want to acknowledge a few folks  before we get started. First of all,   I want to acknowledge our hosts at  Hula, what an amazing building this is. Yeah, so I think Russ Scully and Rob lair,  Cassidy Petit, Jeff Henderson, Tim Wall...  

I think you folks are here, just want to thank  you guys very much, not only for for making this   amazing space and also being a partner on this  event helping us to plan it and sponsoring it and   couldn't have done it without your support. I  also want to thank a few of our other community   partners this year. We had Beta Technologies,  we'll hear more from in a bit. Biotek Agilent,   C2, Coldwell Banker Hickok and Boardman,  Data Innovations, Global Foundries, Marvell,   Mascoma Bank, Norwich University, OnLogic, VIP - yeah - Vermont Technology Council   and our organizing partner from the very beginning  the Vermont Technology Alliance, thank you. There are a few other folks  I feel like I should thank.   For providing security today Chocolate Thunder.   Atomic for our A/V during the day these  guys have miked us up and they've got these   video we're going to show you here. They are  also recording/filming this session which  

we'll have a recording available online in a  bit. I need to also thank some of my co-workers,   well the staff of Seven Days has  been here helping all day long   answering questions and doing registration  and it's just been fantastic but in particular   I want to single out Katie Hodges and Don  Eggert who really like put this all together. And I have to also acknowledge Paula Routly,  our publisher and uh and executive or   editor-in-chief, editor-in-chief and publisher. Paula had this vision for the Tech Jam from the   very beginning and she has been relentlessly  pursuing this day since like January of 2020 so,   thank you Paula. So those of you have been to Tech  Jam before know that we have never had a keynote  

speaker. We've never done it because we weren't  sure who to ask like who would be the perfect   keynote. They'd have to be someone with a  national reputation but also ties to Vermont.   We wanted someone who is solving real-world  problems that all of us can relate to.  

Not just necessarily in one specific industry and  we really wanted someone who could inspire us to   reach for the horizon and I am so excited because  our two guests tonight check all of those boxes.   And to introduce them uh to you I'm gonna bring  up Seven Days' staff writer Chelsea Edgar. Hello everyone, thank you so much for being  here today. I am super excited to introduce   our two guests Kyle Clark and Martine Rothblatt  who are building something incredibly cool here   in Vermont. Kyle is a native Vermonter,  he's a former professional hockey player,  

a licensed pilot, an entrepreneur and  the founder and CEO of Beta Technologies   which is an electric aviation startup based  here at Burlington International Airport.   Depending on where you live you may  have seen Beta's signature electric   aircraft ALIA cruising the skies over Chittenden  County during one of its practice flights.   In a few minutes we'll show you a short video  that will get you an even closer look at ALIA.

But Beta isn't just trying to develop a cool  electric plane, their goal is to transform the way   people and goods move around while minimizing the  greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.   And towards that goal they've already  earned some major votes of confidence   this year. Beta brought in $368  million dollars in investor funding   from major companies including  Amazon's climate pledge fund.  UPS has requested 10 ALIA planes for its shipment  routes by 2024 and since Beta launched in   2017 it's grown exponentially. Today it has 300  employees and a valuation of $1.4 billion dollars But before...yeah! Billion dollars!   But before all of that could happen, some  pretty important people had to believe in Kyle's   vision. And one of those people, Martine Rothblatt, will also be joining us in a few minutes.  

Martine's accomplishments are  kind of impossible to summarize   but I shall try. She's an author, a  lawyer, an entrepreneur, a futurist,   an airplane and helicopter pilot, a transgender  rights advocate. I'm sure I'm forgetting something   but she's also the founder of Sirius  Satellite Radio and a pioneer in the   field of digitizing human consciousness  through her Terasem Movement Foundation which she launched from her home  in Lincoln, Vermont in 2004.   And Terasem's most popular spokesperson is a  talking AI robot named Bina48 created using   the downloaded memories of Martine's wife Bina  and Bina48 has been a Tech Jam guest previously.   So in the 1990s Martine's and Bina's daughter  Jenesis was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial   hypertension which is a fatal disease. So in  an effort to save her daughter's life Martine  

researched possible treatments and launched a  biotechnology firm called United Therapeutics   to pursue them because that's what you do when you  are Martine Rothblatt. Today United Therapeutics   sells five FDA approved medicines to treat  the disease and Jenesis works for the company.   But the only cure is a lung transplant and  organs are in incredibly limited supply   so United Therapeutics plans to manufacture the  organs and deliver them to recipients using a   very special kind of aircraft which is where  Beta comes in. Martine put up $1.5 million   dollars in funding to help Kyle launch Beta  and she serves on Beta's board of directors.  

So I'm really looking forward to bringing  them both together for a conversation   in just a few minutes but first here is a  short video of the two of them flying ALIA. -Best day of my life, best day of my life. -Nice job! -Thank you. -That was awesome, yeah. Today's objective is uh obviously  we've got Martine Rothblatt here,   we're doing her checkout and  familiarization with the aircraft and we're also validating some tunes  made on the squeals for both drag   and some adjustments made to the tuning of the  front casters we'll do a quick roll call ALIA.

Sweet. So we're joined this morning by Martine  Rothblatt who's the founder and CEO of United   Therapeutics, they are our first customer  and Martine met Kyle four years ago and   and has been supporting him and this this  company and this quest ever since and today   she's gonna fly with him in this electric  aircraft that together they helped design. In a minute we're going to be finishing  up our pre-flight inspections and   loading batteries, we're going to push  them out and she and Kyle are going to   fly this aircraft and uh we're really excited to   see this happen. Her flying this aircraft is  a validation of that faith that she's put in  us and the hard work that  the team has put forward. She's just an amazing person, she's  shown me how much she cares about people   and about doing the right thing for the  planet and something she's always said   to me is you know there's there's always  time to do it right. She's never been like   let's do this, let's get this done. She says  specifically there's always time to do it right.  

So let's just take our time,  let's learn it the proper way. What piqued my interest in urban air mobility  is the work we do at United Therapeutics   in flying organs from one place to another. When  we make an organ it has to be used within hours,   like at the outset 12 hours. The only practical  way to get the product to the patient who needs it   is by flying. As we continue to help more  and more people with organ transplants has   to be gotten there by flight. And if we do  this all with regular aircraft we're going  

to be making a humongous carbon footprint. So  this is what got me thinking about electric   aircraft, what they call now like you  know EVA electric vertical aircraft   as a solution to being able to deliver  our organs without a carbon footprint. I mean this is an awesome day for for a lot of  people but for me as one of her flight instructors   and somebody that's flown with her and understands  her passion for flight and her passion for people   and the planet to see her able to fly  an airplane that she was instrumental in   the opportunity to build this  thing, it's it's awesome.   You're not fighting a machine through the air,  instead you're you're almost like surfing the air.  

It's also aesthetically very beautiful anywhere  like your angle of vision goes whether it's to the   beautiful booms you know or the the fuselage  the the way that you have like you know an   almost 360 degree you know field of vision  certainly more than 180 degree field of vision.   You're like, you're you're  sailing through the air in glass. Here we came up with this idea. Kyle sketched  it out on an iPad and the same shape the same  

dynamics the same you know aircraft that he had  sketched out on an iPad here exists in person and   I'm flying it through the air. I'm banking it,  I'm pitching it, I'm climbing, I'm taking off,   I'm landing, it's like holy christ,  can life get any better than this? Best sense of achievement and  accomplishment in my entire life. -That would be saying a lot. -Wow

Please keep it going for Kyle  Clark and Martine Rothblatt. Hello Martine, hello Kyle, so awesome to have  you with us, thank you so much for being here. So I'd like to start by asking you Kyle,   tell us about the day you and Martine first  met and how that led to the creation of Beta. She might correct me on a couple things but... It was um, it was March of uh 2017 and I was  asked to analyze another project that Martine   was working on which was a electric helicopter and  by a mutual colleague on in in North Carolina   and in going through this he uh he said hey would  you like to come to a meeting in Philadelphia   and present some findings but more importantly how  you may contribute to a project that Martine was   sponsoring in in electric aviation. And so I did  an analysis on the batteries and the motors, the   inverters and put that in together with another  analysis on the aerodynamics and structures that   other people had done and Martine was was there  to kind of evaluate the overall program and and   this is uh this is how i remember it. She she said  to me, she goes, who are you and why are you here?  

And and the one thing i definitively remember  you asking me, are you getting paid to be here   and i said well not yet, and she was, i can  tell because you just love this stuff.   Which was was was I think hopefully came across  in the way I was talking about just batteries and   motors and inverters which are just boring parts  but it was on an airplane and that's what was   exciting to me and uh and then as I had done,  since as my wife knows, over here since 2002   pitched her on the concept of Beta Air which  was a uh a way a more intuitive way to fly an   aircraft but it had a lot of fundamental  principles and and the way I, I see it is   she took this vision of Beta Air which I had  pitched at Peak Pitch the Road Pitch, everybody   that would listen here in Vermont and couldn't  find anybody to invest in it, and she she just gave me   a little quarter turn adjustment and she said how  about if we do it in this direction and she said   I've got a house in Lincoln, come up here this  Friday, which was Willa's birthday, my daughter, and   I was supposed to go up there for a nine o'clock  meeting in the morning and come back for Willa's   birthday party and she was 14 now she's 18 and  she uh I never showed up for the birthday party.   We started talking that's how we met and and  all that we could talk about all the stuff we   talked about for that entire day. I think I'd  get there at nine o'clock and I didn't get home   until midnight um but it was uh it was awesome  and that's what really kind of solidified in   my mind anyway that there was somebody who who  was thinking about physics and the world and the   interdependencies at a level way beyond which I'll  ever be able to do but at least in that little   area that I thought that I was thinking about and  I, I had 13, 14 years of thinking about it right um   and she got it immediately and said yeah let's  let's go do that. And I'll finish the story and   then I got home that night and I was all motivated  and she has an art curator and an artist by the   name of Bill Rock who designs our website and all  this stuff and I'm looking at this and i'm like   how do I write a proposal to Martine and and so I,  I got I sat down and and painted a watercolor-ish   made it into a couple slides wrote all over it  with pen and sent it to Martine and it was about 9   a.m and I was out in the in the wood shop actually  working on a motorcycle and Katie came out with my  

my phone and uh and she she held it in  front of me and there was just two words   from a text from Martine she said "you're  on" and that was that was the acceptance. So Martine what did you see in Kyle that  day that made you curious about him? I don't think it was so much a  matter of being curious about him as a matter of being like  blown away impressed by him. I saw an individual that had a, an ability  to merge art and engineering together,   he had a synergy of like left brain thinking and  right brain thinking that he understood all of the   aerodynamic and the electrodynamic principles that  would be needed for an electric vertical aircraft.  

But he also had an intuitive sense of  how to make something beautiful and in   in aviation design, beauty is is very important  because especially when you have limited power   as you will always have with an electric aircraft  compared to one powered by gasoline or jet a fuel   you have to rely on aerodynamics to a  much greater extent to go a long distance.   And the way you um rely on aerodynamics is you're  supposed to have a very good ratio of lift to drag   that means that the plane needs to kind of float  through the air as much as possible and not be   overly dominated by wind resistance from flying  through the air. Kyle understood that nature has   been well aware of this  principle for millions of years   and developed you know all kind of beautiful  birds that can fly very long distances and some   of them like frigates that can literally  fly, you know, a thousand and more miles   and he designed this beautiful ALIA aircraft,  as described in the in the video, and I saw, wow   this is an individual who truly merges art  and engineering who loves flying loves um   being able to take an idea and convert it to  practice. He's a maker in his soul, he would not   like to do something if he cannot make it. This  is kind of like if i can say the business soulmate   I've always been looking for ,and I, I really  fell in love with him to tell you the truth. That's beautiful You know on on that note just we were  actually out flying earlier today   and I was flying a 1942 piper cub and I had  the power firewalled on a 65 horsepower motor   maybe a little past the red lines, maybe was  putting out 70 horsepower, and I kept asking   Martine what they were pushing for kilowatts and  they they were putting about half the power into   the plane and outperforming my plane and and this  is where it is immediately obvious to us that when   we're building an electric plane or was obvious  to the folks that built the plane that we flew,   she flew this morning that that precious energy in  the batteries has to be sipped as as carefully and   purposefully as possible. And that means people  like where's Manon, right here, dude I knew  

you're over here somewhere you moved Manon who's  developing the propulsion system with a whole   bunch of smart people and the aerodynamicists who  did the the detailed competition fluid dynamics   are are are putting. They're not thinking okay  I just got to build an airplane, I got to build   an airplane the way that Tesla thought about  door handles. Like that's a little bit of drag   the underside of the Tesla who's crawled  underneath the Tesla and see that   it is almost perfectly smooth with a couple  of ridges all those little things matter   in order to make a system. And just today when  we were flying I was just chuckling to myself   while I was singing, because I sing when I fly a  lot and so does Katie, she was singing all the   night all the way back from last night from New  York into the microphone — What were you singing?   I was singing this silly song that Charlotte's  been playing on the ukulele over and over again   but anyway the point is you're happy you're  happy but what made me even happier was the   fact that that they're using half the power that  I'm using in an electric plane. it's just neat. So uh talk a little bit about  the evolution of Beta from   this sort of idea of aviation as a kind of  passenger-specific form of mobility to the   the cargo and logistics stuff  like how did that come about? Yeah it actually wasn't a transition from  passenger to cargo and logistics. The industry  

however has transitioned from a focus exclusively  on passenger to a realization that cargo medical   logistics is is the right point of departure  into this new technology. But for Beta and   this is where like the first directional clarity  that Martine provided us was look at this look   at this focal point, she gave us a spec with 10  points on it it was a 10 system spec and it was   600 pounds, 250 nautical miles, 100 greater than  100 knots, these are the performance portion spec,   recharge in less than an hour. We looked at that  specification and specification was designed   around moving organs in in these organ containment  systems well what's interesting about organs is   you can't really think of a more precious cargo or  a higher value cargo at least I can't. It's going   to save somebody's life, it's time dependent,  there's a lot of reasons and because of that   decision and then when we sat down and talked  about customers and how we were thinking about it.  

Focusing on cargo is the next point of  that was very very purposeful and it's a saying   that I first heard Martine say in a  board call that I listened to which was finding   a corridor of relative indifference and running  like hell down it. There's a lot of those in our   business but this was one of them. And it was  everybody's circling the light bulb of passenger   mobility, we all sit in traffic and the obvious  thing is hop over the traffic but if you if you   think for the last year how many packages came  to your house and how many times you got on an   airplane and what the volume of you is times those  airplane rides and those packages times the times   they came to your house. Cargo logistics is a  massive industry that's underneath everything.  

Hey Val, the uh this is my original mentor,  um the uh it's just it's it's so obvious that   that's the case but it's relatively indifferent to  our daily lives because the stuff just shows up.   So it was clear to Martine that that you take the  most precious cargo and that's our focal point and   then it became i was slow it took me a little  while we went through some relationships with   other companies that were looking at passenger  and we got renewed focused on doing this.   So when it came time to launch Beta  you both have strong ties to Vermont,   you have a house in Lincoln, you grew  up in Essex Kyle but why, why here? Why   launch Beta here in Vermont? What  makes this the right place for it? I mean there's a billion reasons  why it's the right place. I think the most important thing is the people  and the people that that are here in Vermont and it was said to me when when we  when we sold ITherm to Dynapower   um by this guy by Adam Knudsen, and he goes, big snowstorm, he goes I think more people show  up to work when we get a big snow snow storm   and and it's just this there's an undertone  of that, it's like, there's a challenge out   there we're going after it and and that's the  attitude that I see in a lot of Vermonters.

For me it was it's... You know it's it's very kind of full circle for  me in Vermont when our youngest daughter Jenesis   developed pulmonary arterial  hypertension as mentioned in the video.   One of the first things that the doctor said  is she was she first fainted and collapsed   on a ski trip in Telluride Colorado and our  family always took skiing trips together. The  

doctor said you cannot go above 5000 feet  altitude anymore it's going to cause her   arteries to constrict more and at any time it  could just cause her right heart to collapse.   So we gathered the kids around, we have four  kids, and we said well, we won't be going skiing   in Colorado anymore, we'll just have to go skiing  in like Maryland which is kind of like not skiing. So the three older brothers and sisters said  you know why can't Jenesis stay home and   we'll all go to Colorado I said no we're  not going there um so um I did research   I said you know there must be some place on  the East Coast which has Colorado-like snow   and there were like early versions of the internet  at this time, like in the 90s, and I came across   uh Jay Peak Vermont which had like you know  the number of inches of snow and the and the   um fluffiness and just you know beautiful ski  ability that you would find in Colorado so we   began going every winter to Jay Peak and Jenesis  was able to go there and continue skiing and then   our son, we were in Vermont so much he wanted to go  to Goddard College and went there, graduated from   UVM then got his masters from Goddard later. So we  developed like really strong ties for from Vermont  

but it started with our daughter. And so  when I meet Kyle and he says like you know   I'm from Vermont, my nascent company is from  Vermont, it kind of seemed to me like this   relationship with Kyle was to save Jenesis with  you know lung transplants that could be delivered   in a green fashion, and it kind of seemed like all  sort of like the energy flows of the universe were   coming together for Vermont. And I'm not trying  to be metaphysical, I'm like a total scientist   my mind frame but I will say that I think it has  worked out um very much like it was meant to be.

-Yeah yeah. -I think it's interesting you started with this analytical approach of  snowfall yes and we end up with altitude, yeah.   But look how beautiful it's worked out and so on  top of that I will say that um we have offices in   you know a dozen different states in the United  States, we have employees in almost every state.   I have um in my in my life, I have not met  a state that has a higher percentage of   of free thinking and hardworking and  honest people than the state of Vermont. So Kyle, in just about four years you've  taken Beta from a concept on an iPad sketch   to a company with more than 300 employees and  you know you have a, you've started businesses,   you're an entrepreneur. Martine has been at  it a little bit longer, what are some things  

that you've learned from Martine about  building a company from the ground up?   I would say like the the biggest thing is that  culture is king, is that culture eats strategy,   eats tactics every day. Really focus on  the culture and the number of employees   is like a's like a tertiary byproduct of  this. It's what what I'm most proud of is if you,   when we walk into our business today all the  people that are in the business and there's   tons of them here today. They know what they're  doing, they know what their purpose is, they   they feel good about it, they want to work with  their colleagues. And the second thing is focus,   it's here's what we're after, define it  very clearly and and it makes it easy for   all those people to get behind it. And yet as  you grow the business you've got to add people   but the objective is not to add people, that's not  the measure of progress in my mind. The measure  

of progress is what the output of those people  are. And I think the most extreme example is in   software where you can have a software engineer  like Artur Adib who has an office down here   who can put out about 10 times as much as another  software engineer next to him and and how is that   possible, what's possible with focus. And the same  thing's true in writing, we've all been in there,   we have three hours to write a 10-page report.  Somehow we get it done, last week it took us   two weeks to write the same 10-page report  but when you know there's a clear objective,   it's focused and you're not kind of sure that  maybe something might be in that direction.   It's that spec that i just you know 250 nautical  miles, charging less than an hour, 105 knots,   that's where we're going, there's ask  anybody in the business what our objectives are,  

it's clear. We're not going to get there in one  shot so I think that that that that's like the   one of the biggest lessons. 10 other, 100 other  lessons but that's the first one that comes to   mind. -- Would you like to, would you like to add  something, do you feel like there's anything   you've imparted to Kyle that you've seen him  take and run with to great effect at Beta?   I think there's a lot of things  I've actually learned from Beta   and learned from Kyle. One of those  is that no paper project ever fails.   If you want to do something you have to make it,  and I have been so impressed with Beta and Kyle   that every single idea they have within 24 hours  they're trying to make it, they have an idea for   a better motor. Manon is going to be in charge  of building it, she is like a hundred thousand   percent hands-on you know, if it's not real, it's  it's just fiction and um I was one of the um  ...

Right after i met Kyle we developed this idea of  why don't we try to persuade people in the country   that electric aviation is real by flying  an electric plane across the whole country   and so within again within days Kyle was building  it and we could have talked about it and it would   have never failed but it would have also never  taught anybody anything. Instead we started   building it it was and is the heaviest uh eVTOL that has ever been built and ever been flown   and it's flown up and down Plattsburgh Airport  countless times, vertically lifting transition   everything. But there was a time in building it  when we said you know this is something that we   built for the purpose of flying it across the country  it's not something that was built for the purpose   of getting it certified by the FAA approved by  the FAA and starting to fly people's organs to   different places to save them. So now that we've  learned everything that we can learn from this,   let's cancel that project and  move on to what's most important   that takes a great deal of fortitude to to come  up to a person who's funding you to do something   and to say, you know, maybe like um maybe I  made a mistake or maybe I'm changing course or   I want to do something different, I'm not doing  exactly what we all agreed we were going to do.  

But that made me believe in Kyle even a thousand  times more, because he was willing to question   authority and everybody at Beta is willing to  question authority. Whenever I take a participate   in a pre-flight review at Beta before anybody  gets in an aircraft at Beta to fly anywhere,   there's a whole room full of people that  everybody is supposed to stand up and challenge   any aspect of the flight plan, any aspect of the  aircraft it is the most questioned authority   culture that I've ever seen and I've been  myself tremendously inspired and educated by my   experience being a member of the Beta team. — It's  funny because as everybody here probably surmises   I remember like the weeks before presenting this  course correction with Martine like just just   sweating and thinking is this the right thing  and how do we go about thinking about this what   and and I started into this, like, well thought  out presentation to her and she goes, Stop Kyle.   if you're asking me if you fulfilled what you said  you were going to do the answer is yes. And I said  

okay, well how should we move forward? And she goes  keep your promises and think about the patients.   And those two things and there's a certain  time when I think I learned from Martine there's a   leader has to get into every little detail and and  make sure that you're right there doing everything   and there's another time when you provide clarity  by saying, "This is our objective," and and thinking   about the patients of course is translating to how  does this thing save lives and and what are the   right steps today. Was it flying across country or  was it transitioning to something that was going   to actually make that happen? It's a longer  road you have to have a whole lot of patience   which is a weird thing to think about but that  patience can't come without this like absolute   like determination that you're going to succeed at  this. But it was readjusting what success was and   it was the patients and keeping your promises and  what was our promise and fundamentally our promise   was to elicit critical thinking of aviation that  was our first objective. Yeah of course flying  

across the country on an electric plane was going  to elicit a lot of critical thinking because it   wasn't a paper project and we were going to fail  and when we walk into flight tests aside from what   Martine says is this challenge culture that  we've attempted to really really encourage is   the con the concept of not let's go have a perfect flight test it's let's go   expose the issues let's go find out what's wrong  because that gives us the next thing to address.   I always find it very odd when people don't  want to be questioned or challenged because   I have this image in my mind that when those  of us who are trying to create new technologies   we're always walking along a cliff line because  the technology might fail it's like you fall off   the cliff and the people who challenge you and  question you and criticize you, they're your best   friends. They're the ones telling you you know you  might be about to step off a cliff behind you so   the main kind of you know guidance that I always  tell people is you know embrace challenge,   embrace questioning, embrace criticism, if it's  something that's not true or you don't believe in   it then it's just like water off  a duck's back. But this is why I'm confident that   Beta will succeed when all of these other electric  vertical companies will not succeed because it's   really hard for me to imagine that there is more  of a challenge culture than you see at Beta. I just   recently had the pleasure to be on the stage with  the head of the FAA who was the individual who   oversaw bringing the 737 Max back into flight  and as some of you may know from reading the   papers, at Boeing, you know a name that's synonymous  with aviation, there was a lack of this challenge   culture and people knew that things were wrong  in the software and they were afraid to tell   their boss or you know whatever and it was like a  whole big hierarchy. And look unfortunately all the   lives that were lost in in that. The new head of  the FAA Steve Dixon I think is a very solid guy  

and he told me how he personally made sure that  before the 737 Max was brought back into flight   he personally flew it. He is a former F-15 pilot so  he he knows how to fly but he said before he was   going to put Americans and other people back in  that plane he was personally going to fly it and   he was going to challenge and question everybody  at Boeing in the hierarchy about it. And that's   what Kyle does. Kyle is is our Steve Dixon and  this is why i'm confident that Beta will succeed.   So what are some of the the qualities that  you're looking for in employees, aside from   this willingness to question and challenge, you  know, just what is what is sort of the the kind of   um what are the kinds of people that you are  seeking right now. — I feel like i'm going to   give away all of our secret interview techniques.  The — a couple things I, and this was this   was like the theme of Designbook and which was my former business here in town,  

which was common passions and complementary skill  sets. Like fundamentally, you have to have a team   that is built up of different puzzle pieces of  people who do different things, are experts in   different things but what makes those people  really powerful is having a common passion so   when people come in, I will ask questions that will  expose whether they care about sustainability, they   are just just intensely curious about technology,  and if they love aviation. And if everybody in   the business has two out of those three, then you  always share a common passion with your colleague   which makes your work better. That's the first one.  The the second thing is something I learned from   Martine is is that artists that are engineers  that love what they do make better employees.   It's, and so the subtlety there is that art  comes in many many different forms and and you   expose this when we talk to people about you  know you just start asking what do you love to do,   is it something that is creatively driven, is it  something that's analytically driven, is it trade   stocks, I don't know. Nothing against brokers in  here but it's like if if you love creating things   and you have this like ability to see beauty and  and and it's and it's in many different forms like   structural beauty and load paths are  different than aesthetic beauty and form   are different than beauty in in certain  forms of art or decoration or whatever   but you you see things as a system when you see  see things beautiful. And that systems thinking can  

be kind of mixed in with art because it all has  to fit and be be you know, I don't want to say symmetrical   but it has to be in harmony, I think is the right  way. So it's those two things it's it's common   passions, complex skill sets and it's the engineer  artist who loves what they do. — Yeah, yeah. And you   know in terms of the the workplace culture, also  uh, it's it's for instance employees don't have to   get vacation time cleared with their supervisors,  right, they can just check in with their teammates   and say hey how's this project going is it cool if  i take off? Why that particular vibe? Like why is   that right for what you're trying to accomplish  at Beta? — I think that that you know, when you   give somebody the authority and the respect  to make a decision and and I liken it to   Chamberlain's farm market out by our house in  Underhill where you go up there and in the in   the fall during harvest season there's a coffee  can that's packed full of three thousand dollars   by the end of the day and you make your own  change and look Paul do people steal from you?   He's like first of all, it costs me more to  put somebody here watching over everybody   but when you go up there and you make your own  change, it's the respect he's given you to make   your own change and it's a good example I think  of of the vacation thing. Nobody knows better than  

me buying the vegetables or me as the employee  if my trade with the business is in harmony, if   what I'm taking away not from this building and  the money over there but all my colleagues, that's   the business all my colleagues who care about  making this successful, and what I'm giving into it   and that trade can come in all different forms  of compensation, equity compensation, getting free   flight training, cash compensation, just the fact  that I'm being part of something that's meaningful.   And what am I doing with what comes out of  that, and my vacation, and how much time I put into   it affects those people. So the idea is you want  to go on vacation? Well you make sure the person   you're working right next to every day you're not  going to leave them high and dry. That you   check in with them because whoever is the quote  manager doesn't know [ __ ] about like whether or   not you're letting your colleagues down. They have  a vantage point they have a particular perception   so go to your colleagues and and everybody who's  a colleague if you've earned that they give you   a high five and say yeah absolutely, I'm happy  that you're going to do that so that's the idea   behind the respect that's given to make those  decisions and also the philosophy that vacation   is as a thing which is really inseparable  from whether you leave early or whatever   it's just a concept of what you're giving and what  you're taking it has to be in balance. Yeah yeah  

so switching gears a little bit uh just this week  doctors at NYU completed the first successful   transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney  which was developed by United Therapeutics so yeah   and you know just this past year and a half we've  seen pretty incredible scientific breakthroughs   with the rapid development of safe effective  Covid vaccines but we've also seen how those   developments don't always trickle down where  they're needed most and so I'm curious about   how you two are thinking about equity in terms  of delivering life-saving interventions to people.   So speaking for United Therapeutics from the  start of the company just it is not in our   dna um it's not in our value system for anybody  to be denied medicine because they can't pay for   it and I think, you know, another reason I  just feel so comfortable in Vermont is because   really Bernie Sanders' values are my  values, so, you know, I like those values.   And so we decided at the beginning of the company  anybody that couldn't afford our medicines we   would give it to them. And we have been doing  that for 20 years, and we've never turned   a patient away. Later on, it turned out before the  laws were changed there used to be lifetime caps   to insurance contracts. You could have insurance,  a way to pay for a medicine, but it could use up  

um if it used up all of your insurance cap and  then you needed a transplant which is ultimately   needed for many patients, then you wouldn't  have the money available for a transplant.   And so we said okay you know even if you uh  have um $300,000 left in your insurance contract   we'll still give you the medicines for free. You  know some people thought oh wow well your business   is going to go right down the tubes because you're  giving all the medicine away for free, but in fact   we've never uh had more than five percent of our  patients without a way to pay for their medicines   between medicare, medicaid and private insurance.  And the other five percent um get the medicines   for free. We've now saved over uh 200 people's  lives with refurbished lung transplants, lungs that  

were donated kindly by people but doctors said the  lung was so beat up or full of mucus otherwise not   transplantable they were going to throw it  away. We've told them send them to our lung   rejuvenation center in Silver Spring Maryland and  another one at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.   We refurbished these lungs 200  times, we've now been able to   save people's lungs with lungs that were going to  be thrown away no cost to the patients whatsoever.

So you know in my way of thinking if we can  spend you know - i'll just use round figures   as people do these days - you know a trillion  dollars a year on national defense, dropped two   trillion dollars of bombs in Iraq, three  trillion in Afghanistan um why the heck   can't we provide health care to  everybody for free? I don't get it. Yeah you know when I when I remember the  day you sent me the article that said we just   transplanted our first refurbished lung it wasn't  that long it was three years ago, three and a half   years ago and then I remember you sending me not  too long ago, maybe a year ago we did two in one   day. Yes. And it's just this accelerating curve of  adding and and this isn't an insignificant number   -How many lungs are transplanted a year? -About 2,000 so we're now like up to like...10% improve...  

Everybody thought it was impossible. I will  tell you that coast to coast people said that you   cannot have a lung out of the body for more than  eight to ten hours at most and we have to have it   out of the body from wherever the person died.  Fly it all the way to Maryland or to Jacksonville   still out of the body, so that that right there  uses up your eight to ten hours. Then we have   to refurbish it which takes four hours then we  have to fly it again to wherever it's going to   be transplanted. So you're kind of beginning to see  why I need this electric vertical aircraft because  

we fly these organs around a lot. Yeah and um you know you've long been an advocate for the ethical application of technology to transcend our  biological limitations and so there's a very clear   link there um but you know I'm interested just  in hearing more about how electric aviation and   Beta figures into that for you. Sure so United Therapeutics is what you call a public benefit company. It means that profits are important but  are no more important than patients. And profits   and patients are no more important than the planet. So all three of these things are like equally   weighted in our decision making and we've always  thought that you know it doesn't really make a   whole lot of sense to like trash the environment  in order to save lives because ultimately   that's going to hurt a lot more lives. People  kind of forget that 8 million people die a year  

from a greenhouse gas emissions um especially  like sulfates and stuff in uh from burning coal.   Eight million a year that's like a hell that's a  that's a holocaust of people you know every year.   And so when we build our buildings our buildings  are all zero carbon footprint buildings we've now   finished a couple years ago um Kyle was at the  grand opening for it the world's largest zero   carbon footprint building. It's where we do our  clinical trial research it's called the Unisphere   in Silver Spring Maryland. 150,000 square feet, all  of the heating, cooling and electrical loads are   all produced right on the side on the site of the  building itself in in Maryland and so our belief   is that companies have an obligation to um to  basically zero out, zero out their greenhouse gases.  

You know it's in in Martine's vision is having  obviously a big impact on the decisions we make   of Beta and the way as she was talking I was  just kind of constructing this thing in my head   which is the company is made up of the people we  as humans are let's call ourselves triple bottom   line but I know there's a lot more we don't simply...  How many people work here just for a paycheck? Not   a lot of hands right. We care about the culture, we  care about the people, we care about the people we   work with, care about let's see our environmental  footprint because we care about our kids and our   colleagues and people that may not may may not  be as robust to an environment that isn't awesome   whether it be the air we breathe, water we drink  or anything like that. But if you take the boil   that back and you say the company is a people we  all are a triple bottom line company whether a PVC   or not. PVC openly says we're allowed to do that  within FCC rules and all that other stuff. But  

I went to Martine not too long ago and I started  thinking about our new production facility here   in Burlington and we said are we going to put in  300 thermal wells to the cost of 13 million bucks   and we are like we are we are in a space race  we're trying to make it here we got to get this   aircraft certified does that help us do this and  she goes well I think what you're forgetting Kyle   is it'll help you get good people that are aligned  with your values so just in recruiting that will   pay for itself which is a total twist on like this  and it was speaking to the the awareness of people   to be multiple bottom line people. And you know I've been able to do like a scientific experiment on that so when we built the Unisphere and people  challenged us why are you? It turns out to do a   zero carbon footprint building it costs about  20 percent more than to do a polluting building   and you know that adds up to millions of  dollars when you're building big buildings.   And somebody some people said to me why are you  spending the extra money? I said well first of   all it's the right thing to do. You should  do things because they're the right thing   to do but I said secondly I believe that we will  retain our people better and hire better people.   Now it's in biotechnology right now is a extremely  competitive market like you were talking about the   covid vaccines and everything and um two so we be  and more than half our employees are millennials.  

So we began asking people you know why are you  working here instead of at any number of other   biotech companies. The number one reason that came  up is because I enjoy working in a zero carbon   footprint building, I enjoy feeling that my life  is not contributing to climate change and we also   have the lowest turnover of any of our  biotech peers. Now that can't be by coincidence.   So I think lastly we've got time for one more  question and then we'll take some questions from   you guys um but you guys just broke ground  on the new production facility at the airport   and that will be able to accommodate how  many how many more people? When fully staffed will be about 800 new people  there.

Yes, I love it, I love it. And for those that are looking for situational  awareness there's, where like it was kind of the   dumping grounds when they did the F-35 upgrades  to the airport, it's we call it the south 40.   It's down off the South End behind Pete's RV back  there and it's uh it's within line   of sight of our research and development facility  and a new cultural center that's going in and some   commercial buildings that will host uh child care,  early childhood. We, was it, maybe - all right - um just   maybe a month ago Russ hosted a bunch of us here  to talk about the importance of of of diversity   in the workplace and the thing that that kept  resonating I should have said something that night.  

I regret so I'm gonna say it now is that one of  the ways that we have to think about diversity in   the workplace is enabling a diverse work force and  to unblock people let's say it's a single mother   to work or a family that is is is not necessarily  doesn't have the the cash to go and pay for a   nanny to come and work there is to unblock it.  So it's before like I mean workforce development   of course training whatever but it's the the  non-obvious thing is to just to give them the   ability because every nobody would disagree  here that that a kid from from you know six   months to five years that development is super  super important no matter who you are right. And   people care a lot about their kids turns out right?  So they, to give them the ability to have that   while they pursue a career, help the environment,  build their own, you know, be a part of something   big was a big deal. So that's what we're building  and it's not just a building to build airplanes is   my point. It's a place for cultural alignment  on sustainability on aviation and technology,  

learning things and and taking care of of people  and kids having a diverse work space and it's a   systems thinking about how we grow here in Vermont.  And one of the key reasons we're doing it here   in Vermont and this was solidified and talking to  actually Martine about this which was we have 300   and something people. A lot of them are engineers  who have learned through a lot of mistakes this   product and the development of the product and the  early manufacturing of the product. To take that   and plop that somewhere else and then ask those  people to relearn all the mistakes that we've made   it. And then the stress on the employee base  to say you need a permission slip not to be   in our Missouri facility or whatever because it  was a little bit cheaper didn't make any sense.  

And having the engineers close to  that initial production line is key We've got time for some from some questions  from you guys if you anybody has anything they'd   like to ask Martine or Kyle. Cathy's got  the mic right there, yeah just approach the mic and you could form a a queue. How you doing, my name's Wayne. Your opening question about the piper cub and the power you're using now with the  weight of the piper cub compared to the weight   the electric helicopter and the kilowatt you're  doing, you're a lot more efficient correct?    Well so what we were flying this morning were two  equally sized planes, we weren't flying that one.   Martine was flying a different electric plane that  was still about 1,300 pounds masking her takeoff weight,   piper cub obviously about that. 960 or something  plus my big butt in there um the uh but yeah it   was a very similar weight uh but my point was  drastic differences in l over d are one of the   things that enable electric propulsion being  smart about the whole system.

Very good thank you and also I'm a kidney donor as well so you  guys are doing a great job with your work. Hi my name is Peter, incredibly  inspiring, thank you for that.   So just two part question one was Leonardo da  Vinci an inspiration you think about art and also   where do you see the company and the technology in  ten years, thanks. I'm gonna do something a little weird. This is Leonardo da Vinci, this is the natural wing, this is the biomimicry and and that's that's the form of ALIA and there's a  hand here that's drawing those lines together and   it's it's looking... -I love it. -A little bit weird and by the way the no paper projects ever fail is here.

-Keep Vermont weird. -Yes Leonardo da Vinci, I mean way way before his   time thought of these things and the way the world  was working, looked uniquely at how physics worked   and created these machines for many many different  purposes with this fundamental understanding of   how things how things worked and how things  came together is something that Martine and   I talk about quite a bit. It's like that that  vision is is like the the genetic sequencing   and we've got this type of understanding, this type  of computing power, we've got this type of biology.   Wait we can put all that together, the physics  are here, we understand them now and mother   nature is going to let us do it and we've got  this technology it it's not just one plus one.   It's like eight different abcd coming together to  create something different and and I think that's   really I think a unique unique skill. I forgot  your second question. Where would the company be in 10 years? Oh where will the company be in 10  years? In Burlington Vermont but the uh yeah we're we're building a uh a a aerospace company and  you know what I when when when uh Martine was   getting introduced and she they said we  have five, she's five FDA approved drugs.  

I leaned over to her and said okay that's  our new goal five FAA approved airplanes.   So we we want to make, we're building an aerospace  company, we're not building a single airplane   or a recharging pad company. This is a stepping  stone. The application it's after is a point of   departure and we use those terms very specifically. And Burt Rutan used to always say people say   what's your favorite airplane - designed hundreds  of airplanes - my next airplane. And and it was a   thought that yeah you you've got to make it  real today but I know I can make it better.  

Kyle can you talk for a minute about the  nationwide network of recharging pads and how that   serves as a storage for recycling batteries and  for storing renewable energy. Yeah yeah for sure   so in Burlington if you go into the main  terminal you look to the right you'll   see some shipping containers an elevated heli  deck and a bunch of containers off to the side   in some of those containers off to the side are  arbitrage batteries — batteries that were previously   used for a different purpose. You can see where  this is going. When we fly with airplanes with   batteries in them they'll have some degradation.  They degrade to a point where they're no longer   really good for flying organs but they still  have 10 years of life on the grid. Meanwhile we  

need to charge up a whole lot of airplanes and  our electric grid has a quite a sense of humor   when it comes to like getting bigger and and  and and pushing more total energy through it.   As we spread it out doesn't have much of a sense  of humor to say I want these super peaky loads   and charging airplanes has these super peaky loads  so with those arbitrage batteries we're able to   suck energy off the grid at the right times during  the day store it up and when the airplane lands we   slosh that energy from our recycled or reused  batteries into the airplane. The grid's happy   because it's a nice stable off taker we don't have  to put diesel peaker plants on it and the planes   happy because it charges really quick. We get the  organs where they need to go so we started that   in Burlington went over to Plattsburgh New York,  down to Rutland, over to Rome, New York, all across   Pennsylvania, down to uh down to Dayton Ohio. And  then we went further we went all the way down   to Arkansas. And now Martine is putting in the first  seven pads at hospitals, I can't rattle them off, it  

goes all the way to Florida, yeah Mayo Clinic, etc.  I believe in in 10 years there will be hundreds   ALIA aircraft flying in the air and in  the 2030s, by the end of the 2030s, the most common   aircraft that anybody will see in the air will  be an electric aircraft from Beta Technologies. Hey Kyle, good to see you. Yep good to see you. ALIA wasn't the first airplane you built. I think you were trying to construct one at home  and you didn't have FAA approval but somehow   your mother was serving in that capacity, can you  talk about that. I can talk about it's a sensitive subject.

I started building an airplane, my  dad ran the instrumentation model facility here   in Burlington, he's retiring now so he probably can't  get in trouble for this or he says he's retiring.   The instrumentation model facility at UVM and  I was building aluminum airplane parts there   and I actually still have the aluminum airplane  parts that I was making we called it g-jobs on   the side right and at home I was trying to build  the wood parts of the airplane and Flanders in   Essex Vermont didn't sell sitka spruce so I went  down there and I bought douglas fir. The grains   were long it looked a lot like sitka spruce  and I said I'm going to build an airplane. So I   started building these pieces and constructing  it was out of like the back of Popular Mechanics   and uh and my mother got wind of this and  she didn't like the idea at all and uh   mom where did where did my airplane pieces go? Well  they're burned gone gone and then she brought me   down to John Abele's farm down here and introduced  me to some people that were built that had built   challengers, which by the way was probably a  good decision. If I had built and flown this I  probably would have killed myself so. What brought me down  to John Abele's farm down here to somebody who was  

building challengers and uh and that was my first  introduction to the experimental aviation world.   And that led me up to George Coy in in uh  in northern vermont who took me up flying   in aerobatic planes and it was over after that  it was over but yeah I'm regrettedly happy   that I only have pieces of that airplane in  a box as opposed to scattered about a field. hi Kyle um you talked about there are  approximately 300 people in your company   and most of them are engineers. I'd love to know  how many are artists? Second part of my question   can you describe a little bit more what the  cultural center that's going to be a part of Beta   in the future and what does that look like. Yeah  thanks. — I don't know that I'm the best person to   talk all about there's a lot of people here from  Beta that are working on that but the the cultural   center. We know we need a training academy. There's  a different type of airplane to fly. We know that  

we want to provide a place for our own employees  to learn to fly to get into the flying culture   and that that all of those things that make  somebody really love a business and want to   be there need to be a part of that. So we sponsor  or commission I don't know what the right word is   art containers for example to inspire people to  think differently about stuff we we think about   the science behind electric aviation and John  Cohn who's here, I saw him earlier, is coming   up with all these ways of getting people thinking  differently about it. So when thinking about how to   describe a training academy that inspires people  that gets people into aviation allows them if they   already love aviation to go and practice that  sustainability and all the things around it we   said you know what let's just call it a cultural  center because that's a culture of our business.   And it could be misconstrued with is it like  an international cultural that's not what it is.  

It's a cultural center that centered around the  values of our business sustainability technical   innovation aviation and that's going to be right  over by the valley west apron and on the airport. Thank you both for being here um clearly  both of you are a force of nature.   I wanted to step back a bit and broaden the  question how does Vermont become a force of   nature how do we create the ecosystem that  impacts the world here in Vermont because it   strikes me because we're such a small state that  we can work together to tackle very large issues. I think it starts really with education.  Ensuring that everybody in Vermont gets an  awesome education from the earliest years.  

That um that education is free for everybody that  nobody has to think that they have to take on.   You know tens of thousands of dollars of debt or  hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to college.   That to me is the very definition  of cutting off your nose to spite your face.   There's a great uh number of  brilliant mentors in Vermont that we need to   kind of multiply. One of my colleagues Dan Weiss  is at UVM head of the regenerative medicine lab  

he's one of the world's leaders in figuring out  how to help the body regrow any parts of it that   um are beginning to fall ill and and feeble. So  getting people like Dan Weiss to you know mentor   ten different Dan Weisses and then having  those ten Dan Weisses mentor each of them   10 others. Just you know multiplying it out. It's uh,  I think education is is a necessary and sufficient   basis for being awesome. In terms of Beta  Technologies what is the most important things  

you disagree on and how do you run with that  disagreement. — Oh it's a provocative question. You know I'm thinking back to  like board meetings and other things.   I can't think of something where we  ended up disagreeing on something, I can   think of places where I was completely unsure  on a direction to take and Martine provided   clarity on it um what are we doing wrong. I  don't think that we're doing anything wrong,   I think we're we're always self-correcting. i  mean we definitely make mistakes and then we   self-correct, we make mistakes and self-correct  but it's a it's a um I want to give a fair and   transparent answer to your question so and I  don't know whether Kyle's right or or I'm right   but um Kyle is amongst other things and it's  not just him it's his entire uh management   team at Beta they are amazing entrepreneurs you  cannot grow exponentially as you pointed out in   such a short period of time and you know grow to  you know over a billion dollar market valuation   without being really good entrepreneurs.  A certain part of that um I think both  

I think propels them to publicize what they're  doing a lot and to garner headlines garner news   media coverage and uh and that sort of thing and  they've been I think pretty good at it. There are   other electric aviation companies that are much  more so like they're just constantly trying to   hype themselves to get their names in the press  whereas I think with Beta it's always based on   substance, they've really accomplished something  and then they get an article written about them.   But I'm a little bit uh I'm a  little bit more cautious about that.   We often joke that at United Therapeutics  um our ticker symbol which is uh uthr   on Nasdaq that

2021-11-06 10:07

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