It all started when...
Duke University didn't have the entrepreneurial course offerings that a young man named Cody Harrison was looking for. After taking the one entrepreneurship class Duke offered at the time Cody decided to learn by doing and started a company. The purpose of this company would be to somehow address the vast wealth inequality inherent in the world today. Based on what he had learned it seemed to Cody that from bacteria up to humans when resources are abundant the trend is toward cooperation, but as resources become more scarce opportunism becomes more prevalent in the population. Of course, much of the scarcity today is artificial, but that would be a difficult problem to address. However, Cody thought that if he could help provide food, water, energy, housing, healthcare and education to everyone on the planet many of our societal problems would disappear.
The company was incorporated on December 27, 2010 after receiving some advice from then law student Casen Gregg. Casen recommended I start an LLC before signing a non-disclosure agreement with a startup company I had recently discovered in order to help protect myself from any potential backlash from the relationship (not that I foresaw any, but lawyers will be lawyers). That startup was Pilus Energy, and the idea was to license Pilus’s Electrogenic Bioreactor technology (bugs + battery that turns sewage into electricity and clean water). I hoped to use the technology to solve the swine waste (pig poo) problem eastern North Carolina is having thanks to about 7 million pigs it has cooped up in a very small area. The… effluent from these pigs is flushed outside the factory and into a lagoon (big plastic lined hole in the ground), where it sits for a period of time before being sprayed onto a nearby field as fertilizer. Don’t worry, only crops not for human consumption can be fertilized this way. This system is a problem for multiple reasons, leakage, odor, and pure wastefulness among them. That poo is chock full of energy.
So the idea was to get a standard 40′ storage container, outfit it with Pilus’s EBR technology, and suck up the waste from one lagoon at a time, turning it into electricity and clean water (the bugs can also produce valuable biogas). Once the lagoon was drained the farmer could decide if he wanted a smaller unit installed permanently to take care of daily waste, while the larger unit is packed onto a truck and moved to the next farm.
But for some reason simply turning pig poo into electricity wasn’t enough for me. So along with that, I wanted to offer the farmer a complementary “energy audit” of his property. I could go in and determine based on local resources, other places energy could be extracted, my preferred method of extraction being Open Source Ecology‘s Global Village Construction Set (GVCS).
One example I came up with after tagging along with a Duke U. carbon offset group on a field trip to a nearby swine farm that had implemented a similar technology to turn the waste into electricity but in a much less efficient manner than my idea (in my humble opinion). However, my wheels started turning and looking for ways to derive additional value from the property. This particular farm had decent elevation change (~200 vertical feet) over a relatively small horizontal area. The property was large, maybe 50 acres and in North Carolina that means it receives a lot of heat and sunshine (read: energy) over the year. Based on that information I came up with the following basic plan.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and the Pilus technology simply wasn’t far enough along at the time. On the bright side that led to a two year consulting engagement with Pilus, and Corona’s first client. Over those next two years I would have the company’s website redesigned, develop a whiteboard animation video to promote the company, plan and execute an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise money for R&D, see/participate in the Reverse Triangle Merger of Pilus with Tauriga Sciences, Inc, be made General Manager of Pilus Energy and given a VP title with Tauriga, attempt to lead a team of over 40 contractors and researchers in the commercialization of the Pilus technology, and then ultimately fail to do so due to lack of leadership on my part, and lack of funding. This was a really hard hit to my confidence and ego, by far the biggest failure of my entire life to date, which sounds melodramatic but it’s the truth. Essentially everything I had ever put my mind to in the past I had been able to excel at. Not this time.
Thankfully that wasn’t the only iron I had in the fire, so I kept myself busy working on a small real estate development venture I hoped to get off the ground in Southern California (Open Sourcing the Living Building Challenge), then began doing home energy assessments, sales, marketing, and customer engagement for Empower Gas & Electric, all while making preparations (including building a tiny house on wheels to move from Cincinnati to California, where I thought the market would be much better for a young sustainability professional. Plus it would allow me to work more closely on the Living Building Challenge project.
The story has continued, and I need to update this page... stay tuned