For Aranza, coming across Deep Science Ventures (DSV) in the middle of a pandemic felt like one of those rare moments in life where everything just seems to line up. She had recently completed her PhD in Electrochemical Engineering at the University of Manchester and was keen to apply her knowledge in an entrepreneurial way–precisely, that is, the intersection of key skills and drive that many DSV founders embody.
“It was perfect for me because this is what I've always dreamed of doing,” Aranza says. “I love science and I've always wanted to build something of my own, like building my own lab.”
Aranza is now building much more than a lab, having launched Parallel Carbon, a direct-air-capture company, with Ryan Anderson in 2021, a year after she joined DSV. She is also building a family: her daughter was in fact born in the same month as her business!
But to call that a rare life moment would be something of an understatement. “My two biggest dreams in life,” she says, “having my own company and becoming a mother— in the same month? It’s a roller coaster!”
A catalyst to that journey–and that incredible moment–was no doubt her curiosity and natural entrepreneurial drive.
👩🔬 FROM SCIENTIST TO ENTREPRENEUR
While she relished her studies, Aranza confesses that she always wanted to go beyond the world of academia where “most things just stay in a paper”. She therefore participated in several entrepreneurship programmes and summer courses, never shying away from an opportunity to apply science and explore the business side of things.
It was through those experiences that a friend of hers recommended DSV for a company that was exploring the prospect of producing clean energy underground. With her deep electrochemistry background, Aranza was a natural fit: she promptly joined the team.
For context, founders join DSV as either Founding Analysts–researching entire fields to determine the best scientific and commercial routes to achieve a given outcome–or as Co-Founders, after those approaches have been identified. Aranza joined as a Co-Founder and, even though she had commercial experience through working at DuPont prior to her PhD, there was plenty that was new.
But Aranza really welcomed the challenges. “[Learning] how to manage myself,” she says, “how investors evaluate businesses in the UK and what they were looking for. I learnt a lot by being at DSV and seeing how the team was analysing different markets or evaluating constraints.”
While the project to produce clean energy underground ultimately proved unviable, this was by no means seen as a failure. It is in fact an integral part of the venture creation process that DSV Founding Analysts and Co-Founders go through. The aim is precisely to identify constraints at the outset, early on, when there is ample opportunity to pivot, as opposed to two years into the venture–at which point the sunk costs are much larger.
Aranza is also far from alone in that process. There are typically 10 or more DSV Founding Analysts or Co-Founders at any given time who are going through the same process. While it is an intense and challenging time, it also makes for a highly collaborative environment.
Aranza says: “The founders really understand each other and the community is there. So, you reach out and everybody's always super open to lending a hand.”
Ryan was a Founding Analyst, investigating direct-air-capture technologies and met Aranza through a chance discussion when some of their projects overlapped.
“My first contact with Ryan was because he realised that he might need an electrochemical perspective for his venture and asked me to be his sounding board. In our first call, we hit it off right away.”
And when Ryan pitched his venture to her…“I found it groundbreaking, with potentially a great impact, so I asked to interview as a cofounder. That’s when we realised our work ethic, values and vision were very aligned.”
While they converged on values, Ryan and Aranza complemented each other on their skills–which is often the key to a constructive partnership: unlike Aranza, Ryan had extensive experience in the field, from decarbonization economics to carbon markets.
“I know a lot about water economics,” Aranza says, “but not carbon markets. I’ve been reading everything and talking to Ryan a lot. Of course, my basic electrochemical understanding comes from water. So the application is basically the same — I'm still using electrolysis, I’m just adding the part of carbon economics.”
Almost a year into its formation, their venture has hit several positive milestones. They’ve secured pre-seed funding and are actively capturing carbon, albeit still at lab scale to prove the technology prior to building a larger-scale pilot plant.
“It's exhilarating because, being scientists, we both like moving from the computer to building something, testing and seeing that everything is working as expected! This excitement makes you want to keep moving forward and keep going faster! To be honest, the only thing that delayed me is that I became a mom last July!”
👶 BECOMING A MOTHER
But of course Parallel Carbon is not the only major commitment in Aranza’s life.
When she joined Ryan as a cofounder, she was in fact already seven months pregnant and confesses feeling apprehensive about how that would be perceived, both from her cofounder and from the wider team at DSV.
“I've always been terrified of being a mom and having a career. I didn't know how people would take it and if they would see it as a liability - I've seen that before in a lot of companies.”
But people’s reactions and the support she received quickly put her at ease. “When I saw their reaction, it was amazing; ‘I was like: What!? You guys are happy for me? They were really supportive!”
She describes this chapter of her life as an incredible learning experience–one that is still very much unfolding–that has really put things and priorities in perspective. She says, “For most of my life, I prioritised work over my personal life. Even though I love my job, it’s impactful and I have investors that I report to, my daughter will always come first… so my sleep is the thing that always comes last!”
At the same time, she discovered untapped reserves of grit and resourcefulness. “I learnt that I am more resilient,” she says, “than I thought and that I can be very inventive,” adding that this came with key lessons in time management and, crucially, the ability to ask for help both within her business and her family.
“My mom is here to help me manage the baby while I'm working and I give myself breaks to spend time with her when she's awake,” she says.
Aranza believes that, ultimately, running a business and starting a family are fundamentally similar in several ways. That is why she takes the same approach that has helped her build a startup and applied it to her family life.
“Start planning,” she says, “before you get pregnant: build your support system, decide how you’re going to take care of the baby and what type of decisions you want to make, such as getting help with house cleaning or cooking. Have those discussions with your partner and divide the work.”
Asked if she had any advice for other founders who are thinking of starting their own family, she says: “It takes a village to raise a kid, it really does. It doesn’t have to be done by yourself alone or also with your partner. To balance everything, including your mental health, you definitely need to ask for help. Don’t feel like you need to be superwoman!”
And at DSV, we strive to provide people with a community founded on deep trust, so that all our founders and teams can be supported through their diverse life experiences and goals.