Flying High With Beta Technologies' Kyle Clark and Martine Rothblatt of United Therapeutics
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 mat...it'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 no...you 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 Venture.co 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 we...it 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