"I love remote work"
Ryan first came across Deep Science Ventures (DSV) during a research call. He was working as a carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) specialist at Bloomberg NEF, a research firm, at the time but he was “looking to apply his PhD to something a little more hands-on and entrepreneurial”.
He was based in New Jersey–where he still lives–but did not view that as a barrier. He reached out to the London-based team at DSV and he was vindicated: distance was not a dealbreaker at all but something they could work around.
From the day Ryan joined DSV as a Founder, he has done just that.
He doesn’t recall the initial period presenting any particular challenges. “I don't think I struggled with onboarding or recruiting at all” he says. “It was fairly seamless”.
A little over a year later, he is building a direct air carbon capture company with his co-founder, Aranza. She lives in Manchester, a different timezone, but is originally from Mexico, and spent time there, and in Brazil, over lockdown. Their company, Parallel Carbon has already secured pre-seed funding and is actively capturing carbon. It is also a case study in remote science-based venture creation–and one that is still very much unfolding
For Ryan, the arrangement is something of a no-brainer–one in which he is naturally suited. “I always loved working from home,” he says. “I love remote work".
He adds, “[being based remotely] really worked out well for me on a lifestyle and productivity basis” and enabled “some really great analysis, ideation and exploration”.
Being based in the US has also freed up his afternoons which he describes as his “most productive hours”, because he would only take DSV meetings in the morning.
The opportunity, in short, not only matched his preferences but also drove strong results.
What was also important, Ryan hastens to add, is that DSV also rewards Founders with a salary from the outset. “That's one of the things that's attracted me to DSV, de-risking the venture creation process”.
DSV was also how Ryan met Aranza, while he was in search of a Co-Founder for the venture. While their personalities seemed to match instinctively and organically and they were able to brainstorm effectively together, timing was initially not on their side.
“It's clear that she would be an excellent co-founder,” Ryan thought after they’d met, “but she was busy". Aranza at the time was in fact working on her own venture, trying to get it off the ground.
Meanwhile, Ryan persisted in his search for a co-founder, through which he intended to be “as inclusive and equitable as possible”. But he was aware of the very real limitations to his approach given he was mostly targeting electrochemists. “I met a few who were great on paper,” he says but who ultimately proved ill-suited to the role.
His search had ultimately been whittled down to one candidate who was also US-based, but when Ryan heard that Aranza had become free (her project, one of the more radical being developed at DSV, was found to have intractable challenges), he jumped at the opportunity and offered her the role instead.
He says, “Aranza also was six months pregnant, which we knew would put a small delay on how quickly we can start our company”.
But Ryan is convinced he made the right choice. “In the end we just get along so well: the way we work together, brainstorming and problem solving; we kind of think the same way so our communication is straightforward. She was a great choice”.
Asked how remote collaboration works for them, Ryan sums it up in one word: “Perfect”.
A lab in a suitcase
He is not fazed in the slightest by their arrangement. “We both got our remote labs set up. I'm down in my basement or out in my garage, she's in her kitchen or taking around her electrochemical testing devices from country to country”.
She once had to explain to a bewildered airport security person that she runs a direct air capture (DAC) company out of her suitcase. But apart from that, they have not had any issues with the remote arrangement.
The distance has also necessitated getting creative with their labs, which they assemble themselves from scratch. “The entire lab is pretty much built from Amazon” where they procure their components and chemicals “without any headaches related to hazardous chemical handling capabilities”.
Their goal is to build early MVPs from home. Until, that is, they must move to a commercial scale lab which Ryan estimates will occur in less than six months’ time. “But it's not a pressing need today. It works now: me in my basement, and Aranza in her kitchen”.
Ryan admits “we're lucky in this regard”. He doesn’t think a lot of people are in their position.
Part of the reason it works so well has to do with the nature of their DAC process which consists of the carbon capture and the liberation step: “I’m the capture expert and she’s the liberation expert so there’s not a lot of double buying (in terms of equipment),” adding that “even once we get to a commercial lab-scale, there are plenty of reasons to continue operating across timezones forever”.
Ryan adds that their complimentary skills means they can “act as each other’s customer; iterating and delivering components that meet our process demands”.
Meanwhile, Aranza was not only in the process of founding a business, she was also having a baby. In fact, the two events - the incorporation of the company and the birth of her daughter - ended up taking place during the same month. In her partner, co-founder and DSV, she has found a supportive network that champions people’s choices and does not view starting a company as in any way incompatible with starting a family.
So hopefully Ryan and Aranza’s story can help put to bed two myths: 1) You can’t build a science company remotely, and 2) You must choose between parenthood and co-founding a science business.
Both are false dilemmas that can often stand in the way of incredibly talented and capable individuals. Here at DSV, we do our best to remove these barriers, and nurture people’s individual and diverse preferences.