Jon Shanahan is the cofounder and Chief Marketing Officer for Stryx, a cosmetics and skincare company focused on serving men.
Jon has helped the company earn over 120 million organic views on TikTok, scale to millions in revenue, and launch in major retailers including Target, Nordstrom, and CVS.
Prior to founding the company, Jon built a brand and YouTube channel called The Kavalier focused on men’s fashion where he reviews menswear and helps his viewers look great.
In this episode, Jon and Aaron discuss the vision of Stryx, how he’s blended skills to market & sell, and how he pitched on Shark Tank.
Jon’s Challenge; Try something new that makes you uncomfortable.
Connect with Jon Shanahan
If you liked this interview, check out episode 386 with Jon where we discuss his first breakthrough on tastes, trends and style through his website The Kavalier.
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Watson: Jon Shanahan. Welcome back to Going Deep with Aaron Watson man.
Shanahan: Thanks. Happy to be a repeat guest now.
Watson: Yes, the privileged few. We should like publish a list, accompanied with this, of the folks that we wanted to bring back. Um, and sometimes it's like, let's go deeper on the same topic. And in rare instances, it's like a completely distinct new endeavor.
Last time we talked about your YouTube channel, The Cavalier. Basically right around that time, you co-founded a new company Stryx. So for the folks that are not familiar, haven't recently seen you on shark tank, let's give them an update on what the company is, what the mission is and what you guys are working on.
Shanahan: Sure. So still run The Cavalier.
That's kind of like the basis for everything that I do. And that was what allowed me, I think we talked about it at the time, to quit my job and go full-time into content creation. And had I known at the time that this is the path it would take me on, I would not have believed you, but here we are a couple of years later.
Uh, so Stryx is the, we're trying to build the first, essentially men's beauty brand. We build skincare and cosmetic products for men. We launched DTC. We went into CBS in 2020 Nordstrom in 2021. And then just in March, we launched nationwide in Target. So we're putting a concealer on the shelves next to razors and deodorant and other skincare essentials.
So breaking some barriers and stigmas there. And also we're very active on TikToK, which is entirely your doing, which, I gotta give you all the credit in the world for, one time we had lunch and Aaron said, you know, TikTok’s pretty interesting. It's a very powerful editing platform and distribution platform.
This was November of 2019 and I went home and I was like, all right, I'll fuck around with this TikTok thing. And now it is the number one driver of the growth of our company in a massive way. We've had about 120 million organic views since I started. And it's changed everything.
So we can dig into any of those points. And, like you mentioned, we were just on shark tank, May 13th which was also a crazy process. So, if we're going deep, you tell me where you want to start.
Watson: Yeah. We'll get to shark tank. That's partially bearing the lead so that people listen all the way through. And partially there's a lot of interviews where they're like, what's shark tank like. We don't want to just completely rehash. There's specific things to your store that we're going to make sure we covered. Have you come across Alex Hormozi yet?
Watson: So he has a really, he has a ton of fantastic frameworks, but one that he's said that I've really tried to internalize is people will buy it online course, or there they'll go build a specific skill set, and then it won't immediately translate into success.
And they'll be like, that course didn't work when in reality it's like, that was one of the things they were missing maybe, but they're actually missing other things before, you know, everything kind of clicks into place and wow. You know, maybe I get some micro modicum of credit for pointing you in the direction of TikTok first.
The reality is, is that the basis for that 120 million organic views, and that is a valid marketing channel, is this amazing venn diagram of you already had video production skills, content creation skills, marketing basics, a track record of speaking to men about their aesthetic, their look. And when that was married to TikTok’s super easy content creation engine and the loads of organic distribution that come with a social network on the rise that creators haven't yet hopped onto you get this really special opportunity that's driven, you know, I'm sure that's part of the entree into all these retailers that you've listed and the direct-to-consumer sales and success in fundraising and all those other things.
So, talk a little bit just about that experience of being like, yo, my skillset and the opportunity, the thing right in front of you is so almost like perfectly like the Venn diagram is like almost the two circles are perfectly over top of one another. What's that like, because that is kind of the thing that the folks that haven't yet found it, it's not product market fit and it's almost like career opportunity fit is the way I would say it.
Shanahan: Yeah. Yeah. Leave it to you to tie all those things together in a way that I hadn't totally done before. Because I think even when we talked last time, like the reason that I started a YouTube channel is that I took a video production class in high school, and that ended up leading to the YouTube channel.
And then at the same time, the other thing that happened with TikToK and YouTube in particular was there was an arms race and there still is for how polished you can make a video. And then that gets you into a deeply technical side of video production that I've never been as much of a fan of. And TikTok is like run and gun, shoot it on the front of your phone, post it as quick as you can. And so that also kind of played in my favor within there. I think on the last one too, let me get a two for here of quoting Steve jobs. “You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards,” where he says, you can't connect the dots, looking forward, only looking backward.
And it's very true. Everything that I attempted, tried, failed at, did okay at, it all ended up leading into this thing, but it's also about seasoning opportunities. So when I went home from the lunch that we had, I posted the video. Tt's still up on the TikTok,iIf you scroll back far enough. It takes a while to scroll back now, but it was half done and it had like 300,000 views, the very first thing.
And I was like, there's something here. Let me keep figuring it out. And then it wasn't, from there, it was not just like I started posting and we’re like getting a ton of sales and everything, but there's enough of a signal that I was like, okay, I'm getting views, but I haven't really figured it out. I'm enjoying making the content more on this platform than I am on YouTube.
And then there was a lot of experimentation. And so, I think our first 10 or 15,000 followers happened really fast. And then it felt, I mean, I could probably find the stat somewhere. It probably took us eight or nine months to go from 20,000 to 50,000 followers. And then again, there was like this plateau each time and it reminded me, when I was a swimmer in high school, I would get faster and I beat my time and that I would just spend like weeks where I couldn't beat it again. And I wasn't at that level again, but it was just like, if you just keep pushing through and you just, you know, there's a mentality to it that you have to have a little bit, and that's what ended up getting us to this point.
Because if I had given up the first time we plateaud, wouldn't be here. If I given up the second time I plateaued and even like right now, you know, we were sitting around 175,000 for three or four months and I was just like, I'm just going to keep going. Cause you know, there's definitely still something here to the wider platform, which is interesting too.
Watson: What about the message specifically of cosmetics and skincare for men partially that drew you in as an opportunity worth pursuing, but then kind of marry that to how you actually talk about that because it isn't, you know, maybe there's other people like a Gary Vee we've talked about, that kind of see something like that coming, but the vast majority of people, that's still a shift.
There's still stigma. There's still ideas that kind of restrain folks from really wrapping their mind around it.
Shanahan: I'd say that is one of the things that gives us a leg up on TikTok is the controversial nature of what we're doing. Like I talked to other founders that run apparel brands or they run like other brands that they just don't get the same engagement as we do. Which, for better or worse.
I mean the negative comments that we get are, I'm sure you've seen some of them, they're pretty insane. But also, it comes back to a deeply personal thing where it was something that I experienced and I saw that there could be a change. And code, make the change that you want to be is really what ended up pushing me into this, and so from the clothing thing, it was like, I couldn't find YouTube videos that I wanted to watch about the clothing that I wanted to buy. And then with this, it was okay, there literally is not another product out there that can accomplish the same thing that is also making the barrier lower for men, so how do I seize on that opportunity. And I also got extremely lucky that a lot of the legwork and a lot of the design and R&D and everything was done by the Stryx founding team, and then they had kind of targeted me as like a really good person going forward to help spread the message and really communicate it in a way that I think I've done pretty well with.
Watson: And the controversy is kind of this wonderful double-edged sword, like you're saying, from an engagement standpoint, but also just from like a psychological standpoint, you have a community, a tribe can only be so coalesced without an enemy. It's like everyone can kind of turn into infighting or not really care, or be that interested, but when there's an enemy at the gate, we rally around one another and kind of all point our spheres in the same direction, for lack of a better metaphor. And so there's the raw engagement of you're getting more comments, cause I'm sure there’s all sorts of ridiculous hate coming on every video that goes up, but it's also the type of thing that the folks that do resonate with it see, and you know, a friend in need is a friend in need. And that's kind of the psychological trigger.
Shanahan: Yeah. There's that. And then there's also, again, talking to other founders that want to make more tickets.
I also had a thick enough skin from being a YouTuber at that point for four years that I didn't take any of the comments personally, even though you definitely can. It can definitely send you down a spiral. I know right now, what is it like? Uh, the number one career that kids want in middle school right now is to be like a YouTuber.
And it's like, you don't really know what's out there until you put yourself out there in a big way. And so part of pushing through a lot of it is understanding where it's coming from, the fact that you can't really take it personally, and then you also find what the right messages within there, that aligns with everything you're trying to do. And so you also have to kind of navigate that.
Watson: So, tell folks just like a little bit more company history, the initial idea, there was an initial product, and then you're now up to, I don't even know if it's a dozen or where you guys have landed with the amount of products that you guys are selling.
Shanahan: Yeah, we're a little over 12 now, but when the company launched and I was the first YouTube video for it. It was a concealer and a tinted moisturizer, because those were the two products that most guys were most open to using or have used before, but there was not an analogous version on the market for guys.
And I remember, what was the diner that we sat in, in the Strip District where I was like, this is a concealer and this is a tinted moisturizer. And you're like, I get it. I get the concealer. Tinted moisturizer? You know, there's a bigger barrier there to understand what it is. The legibility wasn't as high.
And so, then as we've continued to go forward, it's always been about blending cosmetics and skincare. And so the additional products that we built were both partially out of what do we see as a gap in the market, but also, what are our customers asking for? So like that my favorite example is the gel cleanser that we have, we developed because guys we're using the concealer, but they either weren't washing their face at night or the cleanser they were using couldn't remove the concealer, so they were getting pigment on their pillow and complaining to us. And so it was like, we created a problem that we had to then solve, but this is like the things you don't really, you know, think about.
And then like our eye tool is one of our best sellers. Guys have a lot of issues around their eyes, they want to fix that, daily SPF. And so the more that we can combine those two, and because we always talk about too, there's a lot of companies that do shampoo and soap and cologne. There's a lot of products for guys that are already out there, but nobody's really tackling the makeup stuff and like that's our opportunity to really seiz and not get distracted by other product categories. That would be easier to jump into.
Watson: Can you convey to people how big the cosmetics industry is generally. Cause I, that's something that, unless you're like a business nerd, you don't really appreciate how big it is and how profitable it is.
Shanahan: Yeah. So the CPG industry is larger than tech, and companies that are being acquired and in that space have the same or higher multiples than tech companies, but it's not as new of a space, I think why it is why it doesn't get the same attention. But if you look at the major conglomerates that own every CPG brand, they're snapping up companies the same way tech companies do. And I remember I had that realization one time when I was still at First Insight. I think it was when muscle milk was acquired by Pepsi, it was one of those type of transactions that was for like $250 million. And I was like, wow. I was like, you can build a food brand and sell it to a major conglomerate. And then, in the beauty industry it's even more active because there are so many new innovations in the beauty space that major companies can't really get right with a level of authenticity. And so they just want to pick up the company that did it correctly and then bring it into the fold. Schmidt's deodorant is a great example. I know you follow those guys on Twitter. So Jamie and Chris, they built Schmitz which was a natural deodorant or Moise, with native sold to P&G.
But, yeah. The beauty industry in particular, I want to say is $35 billion. Like it's big and that's all women's. And then in the men's space, men's personal care is somewhere around 5 billion, but men's is the fastest growing sector of CPG overall, which I always attribute to, or riding the wave of like the mad men era, like mad men showed guys that skinny ties and my suits are nice or like get a nice haircut. And then there was a beard era where everybody wanted to get their beard products and like beard grooming became more acceptable. Now we're in the manscaped era. And like, our bet is that the next logical progression of that is like, all right, you've got your beard and you've got your haircut on lock your beard on lock.
You're doing your skincare routine, but no matter how much good skincare you do, you're still gonna get a blemish or something and you need that instant fix. And so that's where we try to fit in.
Watson: And the other thing that, you know, so full disclosure here, listeners, I've only ever made, my wife and I have only ever made one angel investment and it's into Stryx.
And the first basis for that decision was, you know, I don't have the experience to speak to this, but every great angel investor always talks about it starts with who the actual entrepreneur is. And you are just one of the entrepreneurs that is on the short list of like, whatever you're into I'm into, because I just know that you have the kind of discipline, the creativity, the work ethic to create really cool results.
But the second thing, in addition to the TikTok thing really working, that's like a distribution channel for marketing that really like, I don't want to reduce the hard work of building this company to something, you know, very simple, but the concept of this product line that you guys are laying out is we already know that cosmetics is enormous. Like we have these enormous CPG companies, but also like, you know, beauty and luxury are like also tied together and, these enormous conglomerates, just, you know, they gobble up the Kardashians or the, or Rhianna's different beauty lines because those things are just cash cows if you have the customers coming in, because of the margin structure. And, the setup of products, maybe lipstick isn't on some sort of short time horizon for the type of cosmetics that men would potentially be using. But the universe of potential products is already legible.
The job is basically, find the ones that are most relevant, reformat them to this male audience that you're engaging with, and any sort of risks it's about like product is, I don't want to say completely off the table, but massively reduced relative to other types of startups that might be in a similar stage to you where you are. We're still not sure if we can get this product to work, or there is enough market appetite or what have you. Does that register with you where it's like, hey, we kind of look to this universe of cosmetics products that are already in place for the women's market and just figuring out, kind of plucking the ones that would be best for this audience that we're speaking to.
Shanahan: Yeah. Cause the, the biggest thing in the women's space is it's very saturated. I mean, women spend way more on their face than men ever have, and you know, the idea is that they'll get there. But in order to innovate in the women's space is very difficult, because every product is made.
In the men's space, it's kind of this green open pasture where the products really just need particular tweaks to make them more for guys, whether it be accounting for guys oilier skin, or the fact that guys don't have a beauty routine.We can't assume that a guy's going to have a beauty blender and a setting powder.
Like there's formulation tweaks to that, but we know that there's products guys are already stealing from their wives or girlfriends or their partners, and they want to have a brand that speaks to them and a product that is a little more tailored to them. And so, yes, there's just, there's so much low hanging fruit in this space. It's curious to me why it hasn't been tackled, but then it's like, that's the opportunity for us to build that defining brand in this space.
Watson: Do you think part of the why is just in general, how much more everyone sees themselves? Itt used to be just your mirror in the morning and then like, oh, I'm passing by a window. Oh, I don't have mud on my clothes or something. And then now it's, you know, we're on a remote call right now. People are used to looking at zoom, used to seeing themselves in an Instagram story or a FaceTime or what have you. There's just a greater kind of conscientiousness brought to one's appearance.
Is that what you see as a primary driver?
Shanahan: Yeah. It's more, self-awareness, not just it's zoom call. It's like when you go out to lunch with your friends, it's going to go on Instagram. It's like, everybody's on camera in really nice cameras now. It's not flip phone cameras and low quality stuff.
You're seeing yourself a lot more than you ever were, but there's also a better understanding now that you can do things about it. A lot of the comments that we get, they’re like what is a concealer? I had no idea you could even do this. Or it's like, you're telling me I can hide my dark under eye circles? Tell me more about that. There's just a lack of awareness and education for men in this space, that I experienced firsthand, and so that's part of why social has been such a big thing. Like you can just really explain this stuff and then leave it to them. We're not saying you have to use this stuff, but a lot of guys want it. They just don't know what's out there. And the flip side of that is, they've used these products before, because like the one we hear the most common is like, man, I had a black eye once for picture day, and my mom put concealer on. That stuff's amazing! And it's like, yeah, that's the thing a lot of guys have, whether it's, you know, from a partner or something else, and just making that more tailored to guys is really what has opened this up.
Watson: Right on. So, we're about to get to shark tank, but first you referenced CVS, Nordstrom, Target… and what was the fourth retailer that you guys are in?
Shanahan: We're in a few othersmaller retailers, but I mean, those are the main ones.
Watson: The big dogs. So can you talk, so this is really of a different era, but when the whole direct to consumer boom started, and we saw some of these early, Casper, companies like that get funded, there was this initial, oh, this is a completely new paradigm. Everyone's just going to go to your website, order from you, you're going to ship it to them. Never need a storefront, never need any sort of physical presence. And now these days, like you walk in to Target and there's an end cap for all those DTC companies in their respective section of target to, you know, be able to reach more prospective buyers.
I can't tell you how many runs I've made to Target in the last couple of months for things that we needed at some point in time. So can you talk specifically about the upstart CPG company playbook for earning a spot or paying for a spot or gaining relevance in some of these big retailers and just what that kind of step-by-step processes from getting in and getting your foot in the door to having the foot traffic and sales to garner greater presence in those retailers.
Shanahan: Yeah. So DTC was quickly associated as a new business model versus being what it is, which is a distribution model. But yeah, ou're right. There was a whole era of brands, and I think you could probably find the quotes from like Warby Parker or, you know, name a DTC brand that were like, we will never be in retail. They were like, that's just how it is. And their tune has changed. But, to use DTC as a way to kick things off, the barrier to entry is very low, you can get a Shopify set up really easily, build a brand and then prove the concept. But ultimately, e-commerce penetration is like 30 ish percent, right. Give or take what it is right now. I think it's contracting right now, you know, for macro reasons. So, you can only reach 30% of consumers that are going to buy online. 70% of retail still happens in physical brick and mortar stores. And so that's kind of the thesis for why we went early. The other side of it is specific to our product and our category.
We feel that we need to be in those stores on the shelves next to established brands and products to show that guys can use these. There's a stigma -reaking to it, which is why we're in the men's section, not in the beauty section. But to get into retail. I mean, it's very tough. Everybody wants to get into retail.
So there's buyers at these companies that all they do is evaluate new products, new brands, and figure out what's in the market. I would say 1% of brands get plucked right from, you know, if they're growing fast enough, a retailer will reach out and be like, hey we love what you're doing. Come on in. Everything else is relationships and sales. And that's part of, when you're talking about connecting the dots, my experience doing business development and sales at First Insight is when entirely informed the way that I sold into retailers and investors, for Stryx. And so with CVS in particular, they looked at Target and said, Target is bringing in cool brands is bringing ina cool consumer, like you know, younger consumers.
How do we do that on our side? And so that made it easy for us too, because we were also, I mean, none of this is easy, but our positioning, because you have to also position to the retailer what you're bringing to the table, is you can put another beard oil or another razor on your shelf, but you're not growing the category. We are bringing in, our product is sitting alongside these other products. We have enough customer data. You have these similar products in your store. And so, hey, this is a way to grow the category. You're growing the whole pie. And so you have to figure out what your story is to the retailer, for how you're going to bring that unique value.
One of the brands that I've become close with is Quip and what they said their story to Target, is that something like 80% of Quip customers, they're an electric toothbrush, were coming from standard non electric toothbrushes. And so, they were able to go to Target and say, you know, if we capture 30% of the toothbrush buyers that were coming in for a non electric toothbrush, we can convert them. We’re showing we can convert them, and your margins and your sales revenues can be this much higher because these are the customers that are coming in to buy from us online. And they’ve been extremely successful Target from that positioning. So it's really about figuring out what the retailers initiatives are and how you can then supplement and add to that, and bring those in.
So part of that is traction on your DTC, on your website, or if you have smaller, especially in food, it's really common to go to smaller local shops, and then you can start to work your way into the whole foods and in the larger stores like that. But ultimately, I keep telling people, it's smiling and dialing.
It's finding the right person, the right buyer to take a chance on you, and also not giving up because there's a lot of brands that will apply three, four or five times, and it's just not the right time. And you just gotta keep building and growing and then go back and it will be the right time.
Watson: So consistency and effort underpins all, kind of sales attempts.
But I really want to just try to rehash some of the things you said, and you can correct me if I'm wrong on any of these points, because I also talk to people where they want to sell, they want to be better salespeople, but, you know, do I have the right talking points? Do I actually know the levers that make things happen?
So one of them is, if you can just prove sales in some way, shape or form. Hey, we were in this small boutique retailer and we sold out, or we had really great numbers. Two, we have this thesis for how we drive value to you. We're deeply empathetic to you, the retailer and your goals and our ability to, not, hey, we would love to have our “yada yada” sold there, but it would help you accomplish goal X, Y, or B. And then once you're actually in the door, it's always going to be some form of, a kind of limited run test. Actually following through and saying, hey, this was the thesis we had. This was the result. And that's going to be distinct to each product, really, because sometimes it is about better capitalizing the average toothbrush buyer, and in other cases, it's, hey, you know, no one comes in and buys three different razors, but there will be people who buy a razor and a Stryx concealer.
Shanahan: Yes. Yes, exactly.
Watson: All of that tied together to make you guys a worthy subject for Shark Tank. Tell us a little bit about the story of how that came together, and then we can talk about the deal that you guys closed.
Shanahan: Yeah,what’s crazy is when we started the Shark Tank process, we weren't in Target yet. We actually had, the same week that we had our initial call with Target, we had our initial call with the Shark Tank producers. And so those two things were always kind of running in parallel.
And it was crazy that they ended up coming to life so close together. So yeah, we got in touch with the producer. Shark Tank, in the contrary to retailers, Shark Tank does reach out to a lot of companies. I mean their ultimate goal is to fill their pipeline with cool, interesting companies, products and founders, and then get them whittled down to like a really solid lineup.
And so I do know of a lot more companies that have been reached out to from Shark Tank, but I also know a lot of companies that just go through the website like us. It's like you apply on the website, you say your cool thing and you just hope you get a call back. And there's a lot of companies that will get that.
And then the process is, you know, you go through a real process, you put a reel together and then you get approved and then you do the producer thing, and you start to refine your pitch, and then ultimately you get to film.What's crazy is, something like 20, 25% of filmed pitches still never see the light of day.
I know four other companies that filmed this season, that their episode will never see the light of day. And so, there's all these break points where you could not end up, you know, seeing the filming at all or ever seeing your episode.
Watson: Tons of companies get it filmed. Never see your stuff on the episode.
Shanahan: Yeah. So there's all these break points where you could end up never seeing the light of day. And they're very clear about that too. Basically they say until you are walking through those doors on national television, your episode's not guaranteed to air. Because there's a lot of work.
There's like there's tons of paperwork and backend stuff that you have to do to get on there. And so I'm sure there's companies that go to that process and they get frustrated with them that it never ended up airing.
Watson: I believe it. So, part of that has to be like, let's make this pitch really entertaining in addition to having great product. It probably helps to either get a really good deal done or be like shut down by everyone in a really fascinating way.
So, you know, just give us what your strategy was going into that, how you thought about preparing for something. I've heard, you know, you actually record for an hour plus to get that distilled down into the highlights that they're actually going to show. So what was that like?
Shanahan: Yeah. I think the thing to remember is that the goal of the show is to make the sharks look really good and everything else is kind of like serving that purpose and ultimately showing, you know, the products and everything and the entrepreneurs, but the goal of the is to make the sharks look good. And what we are preparing, yeah we filmed for about an hour. The only thing that's scripted is that first 30 or 60 seconds, right? It's the pitch. And then it's a free for all. And luckily, we had raised money in the past, so we've like gone through those meetings, but the difference was Shark Tank is every question that we wanted to answer, we essentially had to answer to the audience first, the sharks second, and then like investors third. So like, when we were thinking about the way we would respond to some of the questions that we typically get, it’s like how do we answer it so that it answers the audience watching, because they're the ones that are ultimately the most important on the show.
And then also answers the sharks question. And then the other thing too is you've got five big personalities in the room. They're all trying to make great TV. So they're all trying to talk over each other, interrupt you see, if you're good on your feet. And so you kind of have to like, choose who you're going to answer.
And what got edited out, which was a lot of stuff that got edited out of the episode, but we didn't answer the revenue question for like 20 minutes. And Kevin, he was like red in the face. He was like, what is happening here? Which is why, in our episode, Robert goes, I knew it because we kept ignoring Kevin. He was like revenue.
And then Damon was like revenue, revenue. And then when we finally answered it, they're all like, oh, okay. That makes sense. And so, just having that in the back of your mind of like, how do you also just make this as entertaining as possible? You have to keep that in mind too, because that's what they want. You know, they want to make great TV.
Watson: Once again, it helps to have years and years of content creation experience going into that, but not every company has.
Shanahan: Yeah. I joke with people all the time. Like I spend my whole day talking to a camera, so it's like, it's great to do. It's great to do stuff like this and have somebody else to talk to.
Watson: Yeah. To bounce off of.
So you landed a deal, Robert Herjavec. I literally tried to say his name and I still have like some sort of blockage. What has kind of been the result so far? So, you know, one of those things with company's not getting on the show, they don't get the, accompanying sales bump that tends to come with everyone rushing to the site after watching the show. But also you've got a shark on your balance sheet. You have fresh capital to continue to deploy. What's that look like?
Shanahan: Yeah. So they ended up editing out some of the negotiations too, which I thought were entertaining. It's like they encourage that. Um, ultimately Robert has not come through on some of the promises. I don't know how much more to talk about there, but we've grown the company we've stopped burning cash and we landed, target all without additional help. We would love to have him on board because I know there's a lot of benefit to having those, but ultimately, yeah, it just hasn't been one of the factors that has led to the growth, which is reassuring and exciting, but also, maybe we would have gone faster if we had the additional cash and had the additional guidance on there. But I think that's all I can say.
Watson: Fair enough. What about just like when the show aired, did you see like a crazy spike in traffic to the website, to the TikTok account? What did that look like?
Shanahan: Yeah, what's crazy is we were on a list for Q1 of the fastest growing D to C brands that's tracked by similar web and that ended in March.
And so I'm really curious if we'll hit that again. But in, in Q2 because yeah, the traffic to the site was crazy. We 've never been close to that many concurrent sessions, and it’s as soon as we walked out into the tank, right, you just saw the spike because we had our logos on our shirts, people Google it.
And the what's also interesting, because I know other founders had been on previous seasons, is because streaming is so prevalent now it isn't just that 8:00 PM on a Friday night thing. It's once it hits Hulu 24 hours later, then Saturday, then Sunday. And like, I'm still getting texts today like, I just got around to watching your episodes where, since the appointment viewing is such a thing now, people are going to pick up on shark tank throughout the week.
And so I think, whereas before it used to be really intense on that one, you know, two hour segment, when the episode airs, it's kind of spread out across a few days, which I think is great. And you know, we've definitely seen that continue and we've ultimately just hit like a new daily baseline of revenue post Shark Tank, which I'm hoping doesn't slow down. It's been really good. But at the same time, we also, I had like three different videos do over a million views that same weekend. So it was just like, everything is just, it's just rising. And it's been crazy to try and continue that momentum. And, we hired a head of growth in January and part of the edict with him was like, look, we got, TikTok really cranking here, but we need other stuff to be working because all of our attention is going into this one channel. And we saw that for the first time in March, where we had a viral video in March and we had this really long tail that we never had on our TikToks before.
And it's the same thing with Shark Tank where it's like, all right, so. You know, Shark Tank is going to be a huge traffic driver, but how do we then leverage that into, you know, spinning up every other channel? We want to make sure if people are Googling for what they saw, if they're Googling for men's shark tank concealer, got to hit there and then how do we then leverage, you know, the shark tank appearance into, to the more social validation that it's worth.
And so that's been the other thing to kind of lean into.
Watson: Yeah, one of the other, I mean, it was prudent to have that growth person ready to go. And I'd be curious to learn more about just like how you evaluate for someone like that. But the other thing that just brings to mind where you could see that kind of lift moving into the future. It's almost like the Volkswagen, in fact, where they say like, you, you go buy a Volkswagen and all of a sudden you see all the other Volkswagens that are on the road with you. And to that same effect, if you do have the placement in Target, CVS, Nordstrom, someone who otherwise would walk by and it just, it would, it would be part of that morass of things that cross your visual spectrum, that you never actually consciously recognize, your ability to now jump out to them amongst that morass because of the fact that they listened to you guys pitch for whatever it was eight minutes on shark tank potentially creates a bit more of that lift now into the future, because then someone could watch that and then come back however many weeks later and see it. And that, you know, maybe that translates to sales and maybe that translates to them telling someone about it so on and so forth.
Shanahan: Yeah, I think that's one of the biggest lessons is there's been a lot of decision points in the company where we're like, all right, if we do this, we will be here or we will accomplish this.
And you want everything to be the silver bullet, right? It's like, we'll get on shark tank and then boom, we're off to the races forever. And it's like, there really aren't, those things don't really exist. Every single thing is a stepping stone. Like even we got into CVS, we're like, you know, we'll go into CVS and then boom, you know, we'll triple a company or whatever, what will happen there.
And there was like, no, like we went to CVS, we sold well. And like, you can just continue, but the real work begins there. And it was very much that way with shark tank where it was like, we did all this work to get up to shark tank and get to the air date, but then. They was like, that's when the real work begins and it just becomes another stair-step on this thing and like everything, I think we were just looking for that silver bullet, but it's really just, just continuing to put in the time and the effort, from there.
Well, it's the perfect kind of lesson or insight to, uh, wrap up with here. John, anything else you were hoping to share today that I didn't give you a chance to, before we ask the last few question?
Shanahan: No. I think I said on the last episode is like, oh, so I listened to these every week. I feel like I might be one of the most avid listeners to the podcast.
I think you do great work. And I think your ability to pluck interesting people that I haven't heard, cause I feel like I see a lot of the same people in some of the podcast circuits, but your ability to, to pluck them and then also ask really insightful questions is what keeps me coming back. So a very public kudos to you on continuing.
Watson: Very kind of you. Thank you. For folks that want to learn more about Stryx, follow all the things that you guys are doing, what digital coordinates can we provide for people to learn?
Shanahan: We are stryx_official everywhere. Yeah, we do the most stuff on TikTok. And then we're trying to get a little bit better about putting stuff on LinkedIn, just because there's some cool stuff happening.
And so, yeah, stryx_official pretty much everywhere.
Watson: Uh, one of the other things I wanted to ask you about before we go to the challenge here is earlier in the life of Stryx, one of the kind of company values was subtlety, I believe, or maybe that's discreet. And you know, it, that's kind of the premise of, you know, covering up some small blemishes on your face.
And so there was this like, weird tension between wanting to tell everyone about what you're doing and also kind of having some discretion about details of the company. Obviously there's one question here earlier where that was was touched upon, but is that still a value have maybe like something that has been shed to some degree?
How are you thinking about that in the context of building a brand?
Shanahan: Yeah, it probably creates the most discomfort for me because I'm also that way personally. Spending time to put up stuff on LinkedIn and like brag humbly or not so humbly is like very uncomfortable. And so it’s part of the reason that the brand values discrete is because it very much comes from the founders and my co-founder is the same way as well.
Like, we've never really announced a fundraising round because that doesn't to us it to drive the company or the mission forward. And so, with all of our products, you know, the discreet nature remains, but there is that kind of tension where you have to be like, you have to announce these things.
You have to be very public about it, but also at the same time, like how do we keep our heads down and just continue grinding on those. That's definitely one of the kind of balances that we're always looking for.
Watson: Well, we're going to link to all the scripthere in the show notes, you can find in the podcast app or going to be there and.com/podcast for every single episode of the show.
But before I let you go, John, I would like to give you the mic one final time to issue a challenge to the audience.
Shanahan: I think you had to try something new that makes you uncomfortable. And like in the context of Stryx, it's, you know, guys try and concealer, but you know, if there's something that you've been interested in doing, it's like take that little leap and try it because for me, and that wasTikTok.
I mean, there's a lot of things I've done in the past couple of years that have been that way. Um, but you have growth happens in discomfort. And if you're not making an effort to do that more often, I think you'll be surprised at the results.
Watson: Yeah, I can tell you that, we just hired, and I mentioned this a couple episodes ago, an ops person, and that was very uncomfortable for me because every previous hire for Piper had been exclusively video editors.
And I was like very, discreet in a different sense of the word where it's like, I knew what it took to be a good one. I kind of knew how to evaluate whether or not they were good, but like the ops thing, I was like, I don't really have a clear definition of the things that need done because I'm all over the place administratively.
And it's been a wonderfully beneficial challenge so far that definitely pushed me outside my comfort zone, but has already yielded some positive stuff. So I love that challenge. And I think that everyone should take it.
Shanahan: Yeah, it could be hiring or it could be, go run a little bit further tomorrow. Just be uncomfortable.
Watson: Amen to that. John this has been fantastic. Thanks for coming on the show, man.
Shanahan: Of course. And congratulations on the baby. Haven’t said that publicly either. It's great to see you a growing in the dad life.
Watson: Thank you. We just went deep with Jon Shanahan. Hope everyone out there has a fantastic day. Hey, thanks for watching to the end of my interview with John. If you found it insightful and want more insights from him specific to building his YouTube channel with over a hundred thousand subscribers, check out our past interview from a couple of years ago, right as he was at the precipice of founding Stryx, we talked about his YouTube channel, The Cavalier.
Jake Thomas is an expert at writing YouTube video titles. He has parlayed his experience writing more than 4,000 titles into his company, Creator Hooks.
Prior to founding Creator Hooks, Jake helped build a channel from 70 to 200k subscribers
After leaving to start his firm, he landed clients that include Hubspot cofounder Dharmesh Shah's personal channel and The Infographics Show.
In this episode, Jake and Aaron discuss his framework for writing a title, how to create more curiosity, and the power of owning a niche.
Jake Thomas’ Challenge; Develop your Model 100. Create a spreadsheet of the hundred channels with a similar style to yours.
Connect with Jake Thomas
Adam Haritan is the founder of Learn Your Land, as well as a wild food enthusiast, researcher, and forager. He is launching a new course, Trees in All Seasons.
He learned the value of wild food foraging while studying nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh, where he discovered just how beneficial wild foods could be in optimizing human health.
Wild plants, on average, are more nutritious than their cultivated counterparts (i.e. wild blueberries vs. domesticated blueberries, wild lettuce vs. iceberg lettuce). The wild food diet is the diet that we, as Homo sapiens, have been consuming for the majority of our time on this planet, and it is the diet that we are most adapted to consume.
Today, very few Americans consume any wild foods, and instead subsist on nutrient-deficient products that scarcely resemble anything real or natural. It’s no wonder that degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, and chronic inflammation are so prevalent. We have abandoned our natural diet and are suffering as a result.
In this episode, Adam and Aaron discuss trees, his new course, and commitment to quality.
Adam Haritan’s Challenge; Find a tree growing close to your home and identify it.
Connect with Adam Haritan
If you liked this interview, check out when Adam visited Piper Creative to talk about business strategy.
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Matt Blocki is the founder and CEO of Equilibrium Wealth Advisors. Matt is also a co-founder of Wealth Advisor Training, which was founded in 2022 to help provide resources to the top wealth advisors around the country. Wealth Advisor Training gives advisors a comprehensive education platform to give better proactive advice and develop systems to scale their business.
Matt regularly speaks in the financial planning industry, including to top firms Thrivent and Mass Mutual.
In this interview, Matt and Aaron discuss Matt’s career trajectory, how to attract great clients, and their plans for WealthAdvisorTraining.com.
Matt Blocki’s Challenge; Rate all facets of your life and do the requisite work to improve the lowest rated pieces.
Connect with Matt Blocki
If you liked this interview, check out our conversation with Brent Johnson where we discuss Dollar Milkshake Theory and his early career at Credit Suisse.
Underwritten by Piper Creative
Piper Creative makes creating podcasts, vlogs, and videos easy.
How? Click here and Learn more.
We work with Fortune 500s, medium-sized companies, and entrepreneurs.
Follow Piper as we grow
Subscribe on iTunes | Stitcher | Overcast | Spotify
Watson: Matt Blocki. Welcome to the podcast, man.
Blocki: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Watson: So let's kick things off. People, you know, they hear about financial services, but there are so many different manifestations of a business that is in finance. You've started your own firm, “Equilibrium Wealth Advisors”. Talk to everyone just about the services that you provide and the scale that you've accomplished.
Blocki: Yeah. Great. So I've been in the industry… I was actually started as an intern at a big, broker dealer insurance company back in 2008, 2009. So, I’ve been in the industry now for almost 14 years, and I found that a lot of the industry is now very commoditized.
There are certain products, there's certain investment strategies, but what we've tried to really build out, is having the process behind decision fatigue. So on a daily basis, a lot of clients have to make thousands of decisions from what they dressed or what they wear, what they listen to. And from a financial standpoint, it's very overwhelming with how many options there are out there. When it really boils down to it, clients have maybe 3 or 4 extremely important, non-negotiable, goals that they want to accomplish maybe in the long-term basis, maybe on a short-term basis. So, our firm is really meant to cut out the noise, make the complex simple, and make sure our clients are reaching those goals.
We do everything else from wealth management, risk management, giving advice on tax and estate planning. But I would boil it down our biggest value proposition as just really being there when it matters and making sure that we reduce the stress and remove the decision fatigue behind financial decisions.
Watson: And it's really interesting that you said that the industry has the likelihood of the potential to be commoditized because I always kind of look at the world in these two different extremes. There are people that play in the exact same space. If you're in the restaurant game, like there's a lot of restaurants it's insanely competitive. And if your restaurant actually stands out, that's a huge deal. In the same case, with a field like wealth advising, or you can be like the only person who's literally like sending rockets into space and landing them back on. Those two extremes, both take exceptional entrepreneurs, but they're playing a somewhat different game in order to accomplish that. So, can you talk a little bit more just about what makes the wealth advising financial advising space commoditized, and when the kind of light bulb went on that you had to push to differentiate yourself really hard?
Blocki: Yeah, for sure.
So there's many studies that have shown, you know, from a performance perspective, it's nearly impossible to outpace indexes. So then, you know, investors will Google “well, why not just put our money in index funds?” That's a perfect example, and I'm a big advocate of keeping costs low and indexing in most cases.
And then, there are so many FinTech companies that have come out such as robo-advisors that can automatically manage and rebalance portfolios and then other softwares from budgeting and cashflow and tax planning that when it really boils down to it, we're still all humans and humans are very emotional creatures, and sometimes very important long-term decisions become emotional ones.
So we mirror and use all of those technologies and important philosophies, that are available to the general public, to scale. We're a very unique industry and that, finances, are the number one stress in most people's lives and mostly why marriages end, why people do, or don't, fund their kids' education, or have a legacy that they wish to have for their kids. And having an advisor guide them through those decisions, not just manage a portfolio or fill out a tax return or make a trade for them, but it's, it's putting all of that complexity together in a financial plan. So, I mean, I always use the analogy, “our clients are the CEO of their lives.” They decide what they want to do, how they want to live.
We're the CFO, meaning they've delegated as much as possible to us from an implementation standpoint to save their only non-renewable resource, which is their time. But more importantly, it's reporting to the CEO. It's keeping them informed and making sure that the plan gets calibrated as their life changes and making sure they're really not hurting themselves, making any emotional decisions.
Watson: And what I've always thought is, if I'm like picturing in my mind and the experience of either using the robo-advisor or just buying your collection of index funds or ETFs on Vanguard yourself, is you're still kind of sitting in one of your rooms of your house probably doing that by yourself.
And, like you're saying, as emotional social creatures, there's a degree to which you still kind of, look at the walls like, oh, that was not the wrong call. I hope I didn't, you know, take this thing off the road by making just some sort of easy unforced error, and the peace of mind that comes from just like, okay, this person thinks about it all the time.
I think about it one-hundreth of my time, because I'm juggling these other 18 balls in the air.
Blocki: For sure. Yeah, I think the biggest mistake that… a lot of our clientele, alright, we're focusing, we'll talk about a new business we’re starting for just increasing financial literacy in general. But a lot of our clientele are affluent, meaning they're, probably already on track. They have the resources to stay on track.
So there's an artwork behind financial planning that I don't think a computer can ever replicate. What I mean by that is, you know, just we have many clients that are retired currently, and that are basically have over cumulated assets, I would argue. Getting their perspective, looking back on the last 30 years has been incredible.
So, perfect example, just pick two doctors. They've accumulated between 10 to $20 million of net worth, some health concerns on the table. So when we talk about retirement and, they don't want to talk about it, you know, at that at 65 years old, their kids have grown up, they have more time on their hands than ever, their intellectual capacity as literally at an all time high.
They love what they do. They love being doctors. They don't need to work. They want to work. So they typically still do as long as their health allows. And so, you know, thinking back on the advice we could've given them last 30 years, I'm just thinking of a couple of clients specifically, they never traveled to where they wanted to. They didn't think they could go out to eat. They didn't think they could, you know, do a fancy vacation. They didn't think they could, you know, fill in a hundred different excuses. So, we see clients, situations become so lopsided, the best savers are the worst spenders. And so having someone help navigate…
Those clients can't get those 30 years back, but legitimately, if those clients had $5 million in retirement, they're going to live the same lifestyle than they had at 20 million. But think about how different their thirties, forties, and fifties could have been when their kids were under their roof, when they were young and healthy and could have done some of their bucket list items, had they had that human interaction. And, you know, that reduction of decision fatigue and really that reduction of fear of thinking we have to save everything, coupon everything, and they've just over accumulated wealth. Now they're in a good position. A lot of people are like, well, “boohoo.”
You can't get those. You can't get that time back. And that's the crazy thing about life and how finances fit into it is every decision has a result to it.
Watson: And it also sounds like for a character like that, even those clients that are in retirement, getting the permission from the extra set of eyes, it's just like, “Hey, you can you can go spend some of this and you're not gonna run out of money at the end of your life,” which can be its own whole set of fears and, you know, feel relatively confident that this is just not, you know, blowing all the work that you did to save.
Blocki: There's no question. There's no question.
Watson: So, let's talk about, you starting with the large broker dealer, leaving to start your own firm, the challenges associated with that, and the successes that you've had since that occurred, because, you know, just, to make it I believe it's 14 years in the industry makes you an exception to the rule, but to then leave and start your own firm successfully outside the bounds of the broker dealer you started with is this extra layer of exceptionalism inside of a very competitive industry. So can you talk about specifically that decision, the challenges that came along with it, and what the result was?
Blocki: Yeah. No, absolutely. So that, the broker dealer was an incredible place to learn, you know, systems and disciplines and be taught a lot about financial planning 101. When it comes down to it, and especially in the financial planning industry, what we found is that the advice that you can provide, and just getting everything possible delegated to you is the biggest thing a client looks for, especially in the type of clientele that we work for.
And so, ultimately at a broker dealer there's, for, for big companies to exist, they have certain products they have to sell and, you know, certain metrics they have to hit to, you know, to report to their, whether it's privately or publicly held. And we found at a certain point, we really just wanted to focus on advice and implementation for our clients, and just being able to wear one hat for our clients became the deciding factor in starting our own RIA. And RIA by mere definition just means you're a fiduciary. Everything you do, say, act is in the best interest of the clients. It’s not just at the time of the transaction, but every moment, during the existence of that relationship.
Watson: And how does that change the actual business model of your firm going from the old model to the RIA? Like, where are your fees being collected? Where's your revenue coming from when that shift occurrs?
Blocki: Yeah, that's a great question. So there's basically, there’s three types of advisors out there right now. There's fee-only, hourly people. There's a hybrid advisors that may maybe collect flat percentages of AUM and also do a commission business from an investment standpoint. And then there's the fee only from an investment standpoint where it's just a wrap fee, just a percentage of investments managed and we operate in that third tier. And the reason behind that, we've made a decision to actually drop our commission licenses when we left our prior broker dealer and started our RIA, we wanted to keep things simple, transparent, and we really wanted to work with a simple, we really wanted to work with a certain kind of clientele where we have all of these services.
And one of the biggest reasons we decided to do this and not hourly, is a lot of times with emotion. You know, I only call my attorney when I need my attorney. Cause she's, you know, almost $600 an hour. And there's probably a lot of times I need my attorney where I'm not calling her and trying to make, become an attorney myself, because I want to save that fee.
So with, with finances, we don't ever want to think about having that on the table. So we charge a flat percentage. It drops the more you have. And we want to be there when clients need us. So if, if we're in between a regular scheduled quarterly or semi-annual review and a client has a question, you know, we're there. And that, that set up is very intentional and thoughtful based on the clientele that we work with.
Watson: And that's also, that's a time with us. In whether you're running an agency like me and Hannah, a wealth services firm, like you, or any sort of service provider. You are partially going to get the clients that you have optimized for with the way that you're structuring your business and those fees.
So if you are just trying to be the bargain basement, lowest fee player, you're getting the people that shop around and kick tires and are trying to kind of squeeze as much juice out of every fruit that they come across versus these folks where it's not that they're completely price insensitive, but they're looking for the kind of higher end high touch type of service offering.
And they understand that that trade-off of maybe paying a little bit more to you guys on an annualized basis, basically ensures peace of mind, these kind of things that you're positioning the service to be able to do.
Blocki: No question. I think all three models have pros and cons to them. I think that the first model, the hourly model, why we steer clear of that is we didn't want to have that attorney feel where we're, you know, and nothing against attorneys, my attorney is worth 10 times, you know, her fee, for sure in just giving good advice and giving good implementation, but, in financial planning world, a lot of times, we've sat with a prospective client. They've gone through an hourly fee engagement. They have this big booklet and say, okay, this is great. There's good advice in here. So tell me what have you done?
And they've done nothing. And that just, that personally drives me crazy because the plan is not a plan unless it's implemented. And I'd say the second biggest part of our value proposition is our follow-through and getting stuff done. You can never discount a quarterback that is coordinating your taxes and your attorney and your wills, and actually getting all of these moving pieces across over the finish line, because the type of clientele that we work with, they don't have time to think about this stuff, let alone to do the necessary steps to get it done.
And that's how our firm is set up and why we've chosen that model. But not saying the other models don't work. The second model of the commissions, ultimately, there's conflicts of interest in every model. But I think the conflict of interest exist the highest in that number two, where you're partially fee-only, you're partially commission and we tilt the scales towards the ways that gets you way more.
Blocki: And the companies that have those models can tilt the scales and adjust things. So, you know, the people selling the products have to hit certain metrics to keep the company's numbers going.
Watson: So what's really interesting, and I guess you can tell me if you think about it in the same way, the per hour model for something like wealth advising, it is not a discreet, you know, finite game when talking about wealth management, because there's the accumulation, there's the steps along the way, there is the then into retirement. How do I actually descend from this pile that I’ve built for myself? Whereas, and this isn't the case with all attorneys, it's great to have an attorney with really high context that's been working with you for a super long time and get the kind of compounding knowledge base there, but they could have a discrete task of, okay, I need this contract written, I need this deal completed, in those terms, and, you know, the deals completed, the contract signed, or what have you it. The, you know, the will is written. And it's finite, it's finished.
Whereas the service here, it’s really, you know, maybe you deliver that book and every piece of the plan is implemented and now it's ready to roll, but things are gonna change down the line. Unfortunately, you know, people have more children, people get divorced, people have, you know, sales of their business and other events like that.
Blocki: Every time I've thought, oh, that client's good. We don't, you know, probably not a reason to be, but we're going to offer that anytime. You know, it's always those meetings where I think everything’s good. But we're always going to meet. We never want to meet to meet, but every person appreciates a check-in, hug and just making sure, you know, a report is made. How's my plan doing? It's always those meetings that have 10 or 20 follow-ups, because so much has changed. I mean, life, life happens so quickly.
Watson: Yeah. So can you give people your perspective? I mean, one of my favorite things is, I know that you're an NBA fan too, is when, lone of the stars of the league will shout out some young player.
So like it was Kevin Durant, shouted out, Devin Booker as like the next guy, like he's someone to watch. He's got it. Whatever it-factor is. And you know, he was right before a ton of people because he just knows from actually being in the game, what's going on with that space. You are one of the ascendant, high performing wealth advisors in the entire country.
I'll do the brag on your behalf here. Can you talk about just giving people, not in a disparaging way, but a picture of the whole spectrum from, you know, the newest people coming up, the challenges that they're facing, the folks in the middle, the folks who have been in the game for a while, what the state of wealth advising kind of looks like from your purview and, you know, maybe not necessarily, “Hey listeners, like what type of wealth advisor you should go with,” but just what the kind of different trade offs are from those different types of businesses that are being run.
Blocki: Yeah, for sure. So there's the big broker dealers from the insurance world who have, good business models. And I say business models because they're very profitable for the companies. They have the deep pocket books. They're going to recruit, you know, kids right out of college. Come into our company, you know, you're going to get this entrepreneurship, unlimited opportunity, you're going to run your own business, and in reality they’ve got to call their friends and families and try to solicit business, which is tough. I mean, I had to do that. I would never wish that on anybody, ever. Um, I don't know if I would go back and do it again.
I obviously would, but it was tough. So that's where, you know, the majority, if we look at how many advisors are getting recruited in the industry, where it's happening right now and I think the statistic is like 3 or 4% of those. So three or four out of a hundred of those advisors are really, are successful, and make it as a career.
Um, the other 96, 97% fail out. And the companies that recruited them, keep the friends and the family as clients and keep those policies or investment accounts on the books forever, and they may become a hundred percent, you know, almost a hundred percent profit. So very good business model, uh, in my opinion, not great for the industry, especially with the personalities of, you know, whatever generation millennials or whatever's under that. I don't keep up with that.
But, um, I found that, you know, that kids out of college are very talented. There's obviously, um, most kids coming out of college right now, you know, they want a base salary. They want to have a career trajectory. They want to know, they don't necessarily want to go call their friends and families or go right into sales.
Um, so there has been a big movement to the RIA world, um, or for some of the biggest teams have transitioned away from big broker dealers. So to start their own private company, that's directly registered with the SCC. And those companies are presenting opportunities to younger people to be a junior advisor, and then eventually be a lead advisor and to really learn financial planning. Um, so those are really the two, there's the kind of the cutthroat model. You either make it, or you don’t. Or there's the go get mentored by an existing mature advisor, a team, and then be successful that way.
Watson: And there's also a generation of advisors that have been in the game for 20 to 30 years. And because of their ability to just kind of, you know, continue to collect those fees are to some degree on autopilot. They're not necessarily growing. They have their folks that they're managing and they're not even necessarily going out and soliciting new business because it's just got its momentum going.
Blocki: It's very relationship driven. So I would say there's a lot of advice out there that is sitting on assets, you know, collecting fees, providing some value, but you know, not necessarily as much as someone young and hungry that could do 10 aspects of their financial plan instead of just the investment management.
Watson: So another thing that's contributed to your disproportionate success is your ability to do exactly what you said in that second model, bring the young junior advisors on, start to have them service your lineup of clients, provide, you know, high touch where you can't scale yourself infinitely and also level up into a really great job where they get to, uh, provide this type of financial planning.
Can you talk about how you've done that?
Blocki: Yeah. So, I've done this by trial and error. Um, there's, you know, first we found that everyone in any company that you run, it's important, if everyone's running, rowing in the same direction on one ship, you can't have the mothership and then a side, little paddle boat that maybe that advisers paddling a different direction.
And it's, it's a really, they're going to get dragged along, but it's a lot of friction. So if everyone's on the main boat and paddling in the same direction, they just have to make sure that there's alignment. There's shared philosophy, shared values. So there's a huge psychological aspect to guarantee the success.
And, um, right now we have three, uh, lead advisors on our team and all three of those have come from the, the arrangement that I've discussed, you know, trying to, uh, to start their own practice on their own. And, in that company’s eyes, we're not that top performers, but in our company's eyes are by far the top performers because they have, uh, extremely passionate about financial planning, about helping people, doing what's in the best interest.
Some of them, you know, can close and sell, but that's not what their job is. Their job here is we want the whole firm to be the “Rainmaker” where our service and, uh, the advice we provide and just the process that we provide for our clients, they love that so much, that word of mouth is going to naturally spread for referrals and all of our advisors on our team, we just want them to, you know, hug and service and provide the best possible value to our clients. And just taking on that mentality shift has made this successful versus saying, “Hey, come in as an advisor, go get a hundred clients, and you'll get paid to do that.” No, it's “Hey, you're gonna get paid no matter. Just take care of our people that we have and take care of them in the best way possible.
Watson: So retention is a really big metric now with an established business like yours?
Blocki: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Watson: And that's, you know, part of the reason that kind of insane number that I'll say again, uh, 96 to 97% of folks that start in the industry churn out in some sort of timeline because you have number one, if you're starting, when you're really young, all of your friends and family that you're calling on, some portion of them are literally also young with no assets under management, no capacity to do much financial planning and further you don't have the reputation or, you know, candidly there's people that are put at ease by seeing some person with gray hair, telling them what to do with their money. Just cause like, hey, this person has been around. They've seen a few rodeos, this young person in a suit that barely fits. Like it's probably not necessarily having all the contexts, that one would need to put a great financial plan together.
But when they join an established RIA like yours, there is not only the book of clients that’s already there, but the referrability already baked in. You're getting an inbound lead because of the years of quality work that's been done. And that's this wind at your back to actually, you know, continue to grow.
Blocki: For sure.
And I think it's the responsibility of the owner of the firm and make sure that the values are followed, but just make sure that the incentive is everything's a team win. It doesn't matter if this advisor, this advisor is bringing in, everyone grows as the ship prizes. Um, but I cannot tell you how important that is for any business model, just to making sure that, um, incentives, alignments, values, philosophy have to be aligned. If they're not, and they say they are, eventually it will come out that they're not.
Watson: So there's some advisors that are just cruising on assets under management. They're not really pushing the ball hard too much. And there's folks like you that are continue to grow the business, continue to bring on new advisors, continuing to scale.
And there's plenty of people that say, hey, that's enough. You're not one of those people. You decided to start another business. So can you talk about the idea there.
Blocki: About starting the other business or just the mindset?
Watson: This is the, open the door to wealth advisor training.
Blocki: Wealth advisor training.
Yeah, I think, you know, one of the most important, um, things I've learned is that when trying to go after a goal, if you're so focused on that goal, um, you're going to forget people, you're gonna forget the journey. And when the goal is achieved, um, which I've, I'm a big believer in goals don't get me wrong. You know, write them down, read them every day and every time I've done that, I'd say 99% of the time I've hit my goals. What I found when I become so laser focused on those goals, that, that goal, the celebration of that, you know, maybe you're on a stage, maybe you're giving a talk, it lasts for 10 minutes.
And then typically if it's so celebrated, it leads to problems. It leads to attention. Now, suddenly your calendar gets filled up with other people that want your time and your advice, et cetera. So I found that now focusing on the process and the journey is so much more important than the goal.
And so, I'm a very competitive person, but if you're just competing for the sake of competing, um, you're gonna end up going down rabbit trails. But if you have a clear purpose for your company, a clear mission, and the competition is a catalyst to help that purpose arrive, then that's a very healthy thing in my opinion, but it's very easy to get those things out of balance.
It's very easy for our goals to get your present life out of balance is something I really think about every day. I try to remain present. Um, we'll also go more into trying to enjoy the journey. Also focusing on the future. I think financial planning has paradoxes like that as well. So for those reasons, we have some very big goals for EWA of how to scale and grow and, uh, stay a top firm and reach, you know, the top firm just to make sure that we can provide the best interest and, and scale for our clients.
And a lot of advisors have reached out with, you know, how do I do this? Or how do I do that? And so now we're excited to launch a new business called Wealth Advisor Training. And this is going to basically have every, uh, transparent look into what happens behind the scenes of EWA. How do we train our advisors? Um, how do we get new business on the books? How do we retain the business? How do we, you know, team up with older advisors as they retire and get their business retain on our books? Every problem that I've seen in the industry, we want to address through video format and scale and make this available to the public and help other advisors grow their practices and become the best version of themselves for their clients.
I found that, you know, we've done a couple exercises of why is what we do important. Then you kind of do why, why, why? And you go seven or eight layers deep. And it ultimately, I believe in financial planning, it's a huge deal. Not just to get a great rate of return or grow someone's balance sheet. But if you're relieving financial stress to a doctor or executive, and that doctor's impacting thousands of patient lives and that person's able to do their job so much better, cause he relieved financial stress, same thing for a business owner, that's incredible value that can get passed on from family to community, uh, and impact so many lives. So we want to take that to scale and help other advisors grow their practice and provide the best possible advice.
Watson: And, you know, you referenced it before, finances being the potentially number one stress on marriages as well.
And it's very hard. Like you can't necessarily like, put check marks on your book of like marriages saved explicitly, but implicitly by relieving that financial stress for people making it not a problem or a much, much smaller concern to them, you are helping families in the same way.
Blocki: Applications are endless. I completely agree.
Watson: So Wealth advisor Training. We are partners on that business.
Blocki: I couldn't be more excited.
Watson: Um, talk specifically about how a team for a new business, like this comes together, given that you've started businesses in the past. So when you're thinking about a founding team, when you're thinking about the component pieces, you know, the simultaneous instinct to, you know, get your share of the business, but also make sure that the right partners are in place. People are properly incentivized. You talk about incentives with, you know, bringing junior advisors onto your wealth management firm. This is a different business, but you're also thinking through these incentives and what type of actions and interactions will be born from that.
Blocki: Yeah, for sure. So when starting a new business, the, uh, the partners and the players are absolutely key. I think that the culture that you have, everyone has to be aligned with the, you know, we have always talk about a 10 year vision, three-year vision, one year vision, then back that down to a quarterly rocks and then even a weekly scorecard.
So making sure that everyone's on board with first, what's the purpose behind the business? Is everyone aligned? Is everyone motivated, excited about that? With any start up it's it requires, uh, tons of problem-solving obviously I've heard the quote, “Everyone is a problem finder. Very few people are solution oriented.”
So picking partners that actually can, uh, solve the problems, not just come up with the problems I would say is the number one, number one factor.
Watson: So, what is your, can you talk about how we're rolling it out? How, um, you know, the thought process to getting something like this off the ground? Is it completely built and it's, you know, now they will come. Is it being, you know, assembling the jet as we're falling, assembling the parachute as we're falling out of the plane?
Blocki: Yeah, a little bit of both. I think, you know, the most important part, you have to have a really good structure, a really good base. Um, but it's a learning process to figure out what does the customer want and need. Um, and then in this type of business retention is key. So there's, there's no contract. If you're paying a monthly subscription fee, there has to be enough value for the clients to be retained. And getting continuous feedback and calibrating on a daily, weekly basis is going to be key to the success.
Watson: As we were putting together the video platform. The thing that was most interesting to me was how many of these just basic financial planning topics, uh, budget, uh, the decision to rent versus own a home. These types of things that, you know, the broker dealer isn't necessarily incentivized to put at the top of the education for that new advisor to get them fully steep and have a financial plan just because of the incentives that are there and candidly the constraints on time. But if someone is, you know, the junior advisor at the RIA, and you're thinking about ramping them up to be, you know, a senior advisor who can fully serve a lineup of clients, the ability to speak to each of those points, and also just kind of mimic the language of someone who has been in it for a while. So you not only have been in for 14 years, how many designations do you have? Like it's just alphabet soup after your name.
Blocki: There's continuing education as a board, but three right now.
Watson: Yeah. So you've done the work to assemble a real point of view on these different principles of designing your financial life, and it's not that you're saying, this is the only way to think about paying off student loans or the only way to think about something like that, but here's the principles that inform this specific recommendation that we tend to make to clients, why we think about it that way, and here's how we actually say it to them.
So that we can go like, into the theory of the philosophy, you know, I'm glad the professors get together and talk about like, what type of cell is involved in this nuanced type of cancer. I just want to know what the treatment is, what the likelihood of success is and what it's actually going to be like to go through that treatment.
Blocki: Yeah. Couple of things to piggyback off that Aaron. So I would say, when I went through the training at my prior company, I probably ended up using, let's say between 2 to 5% of what they trained me on. And both very product driven. Um, the other 95% I either had to learn by myself, while, keeping, you know, 60 to 80 appointments a month without having an assistant flying by the seat of my pants and/or attending talks of actual advisors that had been in the business for 10 or 20 years.
And those talks and the research, uh, as painful as it was, where the most impactful things, that's where I, you know, 95% of what I said to clients or the advice we got, or just general education got derived from. And there's this old model you're basically handed like a shoe box and you put all your contacts in it and you have to call them every six months and that's product driven. That's if you're selling insurance.
Well, that same system exists today, for a financial planner. And the numbers and the ratios are just not the same, if you're just trying to sell a product versus if you're engaging as the quarterback, financial planners have a very intimate relationship with a client. Most likely they're going to refer you to their friends and family if they're doing good.
Um, asking for that may ruin the chance for that, but just doing a good job and letting the relationship evolve, good things will come. So part of the reason for establishing this business is there's this old model that hasn't been updated really for 50 years. And then there's the reality now that these insurance agents, tax advice, financial planning, investment managers really have some firms have merged those all into one, but there's really no formula or system behind, you know, how do we get new clients or how do we do this? And it will drive someone crazy if you're a good financial planner, trying to follow these numbers, because you're going to find yourself buried in work and not just never being able to keep up.
So, um, that alone is one of the reasons, is just giving people a clear pathway if they want to do financial planning and not just be a product person, what are the systems and habits and what, what are the advice you need to follow?
And then a lot of it's the conviction, because I was told. A lot of things that weren't true, but one of the things was, if you don't get referrals, you're going to fail out of the business. I focus on advice and education, and I found that if I got one or two referrals that caught me, that was the same value as you know, Johnny next door adviser who got 200 referrals that were forced out of somebody's cell phone.
Watson: That's an important nuance because if folks are not in the industry, they don't really know the subtlety of what you just said there. So I'm just going to re-say that a different way, is, part of the training is, at the end of the meeting at the end of every meeting you ask, who can you introduce me to? Introduce me to three people, four people, five people. And it's this like, let me pull, you know, it's like a, what's the surgery game where you like, pull the like thing out of it. Like you're going in there, like trying to extract. Right?
And what you're saying is not only is it different when someone is, just because of the quality of service, deciding to introduce you to their friend, but also we talk about this a lot, Hannah, and I. There's like this asymmetric difference when they have chosen to call you versus you have chosen to them, like it's fundamentally a different type of person or a person in a different frame of mind when you have come to them with the offer, versus they've already opted into at least hearing your spiel, seeing what you do. Trying to learn more about you.
It's, it's this window, you’re saying, we have basically a hundred percent inbound leads for Piper, and it just changes everything about what we do operationally. It's the number of meetings to a close it's the way in which someone is onboarded into the service offering, because they've already seen a video that we've made.
They've already heard this good thing from their friend who also ran a business and we help them produce Instagram reels at a incredibly, kind of, efficient rate.
Blocki: Yeah, couldn't agree more. When you have someone calling you consistently, you're able to make higher decisions. You're able to scale. You're able to make revenue projections versus if it's one person's ability to, to siphon names out of someone's cell phone, and usually the person giving you those names, it's like, okay, I really don't care if these three people get pissed at me cause they're not really my friends. I don't really know them. And that, that ends up happening. So I think there's, there's going to be, and there's continually going to be a huge shift in the, you know, the insurance world transitioning into the profession of, uh, you know, for example, a certified financial planning profession or, you know, where you're really focused on the client's best interest and the advice that needs to happen.
So I'm excited to be on the forefront of that and provide a resource for those that need it.
Watson: So, I think we can have fun with this as kind of the last point discussion here before I let you go. One of my like core thesis. This is actually like, really central to almost everything Piper does is I think that business is moving in the direction culturally of sports.
So I grew up, you probably were the same way, like I'd either before I left for school or got home from school, watched Sports Center. So I could see, you know, the highlights, follow this athlete that athlete. But folks that come up in, you know, into basketball, for example, Jason Tatum, the best player in the Boston Celtics, talks about like studying Kobe and Kobe's footwork and that informing what he does now.
And he's, he's polished to a different level because he had YouTube, to like, actually just watch that video over and over and over again. I kind of think of business working in the same way where it's no, it's no shade at the folks that built their businesses in the sixties and the seventies, but it was just a different environment with different competition.
There wasn't the internet there wasn't these other things, you know, like you're saying, you're competing with not just other advisors, robo-advisors, Vanguard, all these other things that advisors from that point in time, didn't have to go through. Um, and it's true with marketing firms like ours, it's true with all sorts of businesses.
And one of the things that, you know, I would guess a lot of, uh, business folks don't necessarily consider is, am I also watching film outside of the day-to-day work? Am I also doing these extra types of practice to take my game to the next level in order to compete? And what excited me when you brought the idea for Wealth Ddvisor Training to us, was this notion that this is basically, if you were thinking of someone trying to build their wealth advisor business as an athlete, this is their film study. They don't really have film study in this way in an accessible manner. They really can only get reps in the meetings or shadowing someone in some way, shape or form and, you know, any athlete would tell you, if your only practices in the game, you're going to lose to the person who's been on the practice field.
And if you've only been on the practice field and in the game, you're going to be at a disadvantage compared to the person that's watched all the film study and actually done those mental reps when they couldn't necessarily get in there in person. And especially if you're struggling to book meetings, you can't necessarily create more meetings out of thin air. You need to have something that's actually creating those.
So I think that that's the other thing that for me, was just kind of a light bulb for why this business could be impactful, was there really hasn't been an outlet for film study for someone in financial services like this, and this is gonna allow them to do that.
What do you think about that analogy?
Blocki: I completely agree that in the video content and how we initially established our professional relationship is, you know, your company does all of the filming for EWA. We do quarterly videos then we do 80 educational videos a year. Um, I didn't know just how impactful that was.
I first thought, okay. If a client's asking us more than 10 times, we should do a video so we can scale it. We're still gonna have a personalized conversation, but then at least the client then could rewatch rewatch, rewatch, and not have to remember everything that was said during a meeting. That's been incredibly impactful, but now the social media aspect of that, you know, the average, person's like four to six hours a day on the social media.
So just posting those and doing good in the world, that's really helped our business grow. And I don't know exactly how many inbound referrals are cause they saw video or not. I just know that when we left we had a seven figure business, and we doubled that within a year. The only thing we did differently was the video production, so highly recommend any business owner, that thinks, “I don't need video.” Video content is the future. It's going to really help you scale and stay front of mind, because every company right now is fighting for your attention. Your time. And that's one way to do it for free is through social media platforms.
It's just creating the video, scaling the business, scaling conversations, and then also, you know, it's really free advertising at the end of the day.
Watson: What do you do to keep your game at an A-plus level. Like, if we're using this analogy, practice, being on the field and the game, watching film. What are the things that you're doing?
You've had this disproportionate success with your business. You talked about going and finding these mentors. You talked about reading these kind of different books and texts. Are there other things that you're just doing to kind of keep yourself operating at a high level consistently?
Blocki: Yeah, I'd say a couple of things is having extremely good mentors and coaches.
So, you know, right now I have two coaches. And they keep me accountable to goals, accountable to making sure I'm taking care of myself, et cetera. Having, you know, routines are extremely important. There's a, I think an equilibrium and that's the name of our firm, but there's a paradox of, you need to have space to have creativity and then you also need to have routines for discipline and for success.
It's fighting that, you know, if you could get from a 1 to a 10, if you get to a 9 rather quickly, and it's gonna take you 10 times the amount of time to get to 9 to 10, stop at a nine. So figuring out the paradox points of when does disciplines ruin creativity and when does creativity ruin discipline? That’s just an example.
So really just thinking through what are my greatest strengths. How can those flip to my worst weaknesses, unless I'm intentional and proactive about those. So that's one of the biggest ways I think of staying on the top of your game is it just being really self-aware, having the right disciplines, giving your space for creativity, reading a book a month.
And then it's just who you surround yourself with. Surround yourself with people that talk about big ideas, that don't talk about the people.
Watson: All right. And then I'm actually going to add a selfish question to the end. I always say this for the end. So, we just hired a new head of operations. She's finished, I guess this is the start of her fourth week. She's doing a great job.
How do I not mess it up?
Blocki: That's a great question. You're probably asking the wrong person. But, just continuously asking for feedback and giving feedback. What's obvious to me and a lot of the team members at EWA is sometimes not obvious. I mean, just having a very proactive, I think just having direct conversations, because there's no real downside to that, but there's only upside.
Blocki: There’s never a downside for having a direct conversation, but there's a huge upside to it. And there is a downside if you miss one.
Watson: I think I was hesitant, because I was so, we should have done it sooner. We should've done it sooner. I was hesitant because previously, the only folks that we'd ever hired were video editors. And I was like, okay, I know what a good video video editor is. I can kind of like, here's the check box. Here's the check box here. Here's the check box that they're up to a certain threshold. But ops, it was like, basically I'm letting someone into my really crappy system to look at it and be like, whoa, this needs some work.
And I don't like, I don't even know how to fix them. Because if I could fix them, I would. They would be better than the way they are now. So it's definitely something where I know that it's me that needs to grow in order for everything to be as good as it can be, but it is daunting.
Blocki: And every business owner, I’ve found, myself included takes over-responsibility for everything in the business. Because, you know, we're always thinking about all the time. So, letting that person make mistakes and fail and learn from that will allow them to grow 10 times quicker than micromanaging.
Watson: Matt has been, this has been fantastic. I want to make sure that folks can check out all the things that you're up to in the digital world.
Maybe see some of the videos that we've made for you guys. What coordinates can we point people towards if they want to learn more?
Blocki: ewa-llc.com is the number one. And then we're on all social media platforms as well. LinkedIn. Facebook. I am not personally on Instagram, but the company is.
Watson: Right on. Spam your LinkedIn?
Blocki: Go ahead
Watson: Um, cool. We're going to link all that in the show notes available at goingdeepwithaaron.com/podcast for every episode of the show and in the podcast player, where you’re probably listening to this right now, down in the show notes. But before I let you go, Matt, I'd like to give you the mic one final time to issue an actionable personal challenge to the audience.
Blocki: Well, get video created. Hire Piper. Uh, no, that's serious. I would say the second thing is, an exercise I recently went through with one of my coaches is, basically it's called the “wheel of life. So you rank, every section of your life is like a little wedge that creates a wheel. So there's, you know, financial, there's personal relationships, there's a spiritual health, there's business goals, and there's like six or seven of them. So, I went through and I was told, she said, you know, rank everyone one 1-10. Maybe I ranked personal or relationships at an 8, and then you ask yourself, how could I get that, what would it look like to get from an eight to a 10? And then what steps would get me there in the next 12 months? And then looking through my wheel, everything was an eight or above, except there's one or two that were off. And then the visualization was like, okay, imagine you have, one's a six, one’s a five.The rest are eights. That wheel's not going to run smoothly.
So just doing it, taking the time to do self-reflection and making sure you're living a balanced life, that's personally helped me calibrate and make better decisions. Maybe get everything to a nine. I'd much rather have everything at nine than two tens and five threes. So just living a balanced life and having self-reflection and self-awareness to go through those exercises every couple of months has been very impactful.
Watson: I like that because number one, it forces you to make it actually legible. You could say, I guess something like a five or six, but you actually have to place a number and give it that real considerate thought. And, yeah, I think if you're out of balance you’re going to fall in a bit of trouble.
Blocki: No question. Thanks for having me.
Watson: Matt, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. We just went deep with Matt Blocki. Hope everyone out there has a fantastic day.
Hey, thanks for watching to the end of my interview with Matt. Go check out wealthadvisortraining.com to learn more about that business. And, while you're here on YouTube, check out our past interview with Brent Johnson, where we break down the origins of his Dollar Milkshake Theory.
We talk about his background at Credit Suisse in the early days before he found the path he's on now, and we break down the implications of a rising dollar for entrepreneurs everywhere.
Check it out.
Mark Nelson is the managing director of the Radiant Energy Fund, which advises governments, nonprofits, and industry about nuclear energy.
Mark works tirelessly to prevent early closures of nuclear plants around the world and has attended the UN climate conference in Glasgow as a delegate from the American Nuclear Society. His efforts span the globe, working to save nuclear plants from Germany to California.
Mark holds an MPhil in Nuclear Engineering from Cambridge University and degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Russian Language and Literature from Oklahoma State University.
In this episode, Mark and Aaron discuss the differences between France & Germany, the complexity of the US electric grid, and reasons for hope.
Mark Nelson’s Challenge; Find out where you get your power from, what nuclear plants are nearby, and communicate to politicians that you don’t want them shut down.
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Mark Nelson: Nuclear is a big cone of silence and secrecy. Not because there's embarrassing things to hide, but because of fear of the public, that's
Aaron Watson: a very, a very interesting jumping off point. So, so maybe let's just kind of explore that. Let's, let's try to just paint a picture for people of the state of nuclear, because I would actually say you're talking about a cone of silence.
I would say that almost as a starting point it's. The thing that's grabbing the headlines. It's really the extremes. I would say of either, you know, wind and solar being the end, all be all savior or, you know, dirty coal oil prices. Like to me, I see nuclear as being lower in the kind of popular zeitgeist conversations, unless you're really paying attention to the space.
So, so what's actually just kind of going on with nuclear. Where is it growing? Where's it being shut down? Where are there, uh, you know, trends that we need to be paying attention?
Mark Nelson: Well, Aaron, first of all, thanks for having me on to talk about nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is the strangest most interesting topic in the world, in my opinion, because it way beyond the technical information, it gets to the darkest core about what it means to be a human, what it means to have a society, what it means to think about one's own death or the death of the world, nuclear energy.
Is the most powerful force that we have and the public understands this, what the public is trying to figure out for itself is whether it's powerful, more for good or powerful, more for evil. And that's the tension of the heart of nuclear energy. And I think I should mention something, a fundamental fact that almost everything about nuclear energy ends up following on from, and that's this, when you split.
One uranium atom nuclear fission is what this is called scientific term. That means you're taking a really big chubby atom and you're splitting it apart. And in splitting it, you release more energy fusion, which I suspect you may have a show on. Eventually is when you take little tiny atoms and you shove them together into one, one slightly larger Adam, that releases energy.
And so large atom splitting is what we mean with nuclear efficient. When you split, you break apart one Uranian, atom, you release a lot of energy. How much energy? Well, one of the ways that physicists can talk about energy of a reaction is to use a very, very small unit called an electron volt. It's a unit of energy.
So. When you burn one natural gas molecule, when you burn one molecule of methane, C H for one carbon or hydrogen, uh, atoms put together. When you burn that you release 10 electron volts, approximately of energy to get a lot of energy. You burn a lot of those molecules. When you break one uranium, atom, you release about 200 million.
So we're talking about 200 million in one reaction. And in the other reaction, 10, these are very far apart. That's what seven, eight orders of magnitude. Apart in that, in that one little fact, which I know is maybe not as useful because it's using strange units and it's, it's a little bit too technical.
That is the power of nuclear. Capturing that energy is a whole process like that that's more difficult. And then what you do afterwards, what you do to fuel it. Those are all, um, definitely issues that people bring up. But the central fact is that the amount of energy release with a tiny bit of manipulating matter is immense.
Aaron Watson: And that density has a number of implications. Number one, you know, as we're looking at something like the Ukraine, Russia conflict, and the inability to get tankers of petrol out to all of the other markets that are accustomed to, uh, having access to it, needing in some capacity, there's a whole transportation mechanism there that is, uh, cumbersome, you know, specific ships capable of doing that.
Targets because they move incredibly slow across the water, um, or, or, uh, you know, pipelines that make that possible. Or in the case of, you know, wind farms or solar farms and enormous amount of real estate that needs to be, uh, dedicated to something like this. A nuclear plant requires its own real estate and there's conflicts, you know, people don't necessarily want to live right next door to that.
But when you're actually talking about the, the energy units itself, it is an unparalleled amount of density to be able to. Power homes, power, these things that make society possible.
Mark Nelson: Yeah. I mean, let's put it this way. Let's say a hypothetical European country of 10 million people could be almost completely powered in electricity by just a few nuclear reactors.
And those nuclear reactors can be fueled with say one cargo jet, uh, or two per year of fuel. Or if you're, if you're sailing it by ship one, barge one, a few trucks. Right. So when people say clear, maybe very energy dense, but we're still getting the uranium from this country or that country. Well, the truth is that if you like, you can stockpile as a national policy for your little country of 10 million people.
You can stockpile many years of fuel for all of the electricity in your country in a fairly short period. You just have to spend a little bit and stack them up, but if you won't go bad, you can just store it. And some countries do this. In other words, it's the most independent of the energy. Uh,
Aaron Watson: So you referenced Europe and in the case of nuclear energy, we actually have these two countries right next to one, another, a lot of history who are going from my perception in very different trajectories, as it pertains to nuclear, France, and Germany, Germany has been reporting or planning to close different nuclear facilities.
Uh, they find themselves now. At, uh, basically under the control of Russian's willingness to release natural gas to them in order to power, a lot of their economy and meanwhile, France, which has had a kind of more consistent commitment to nuclear and the building out of nuclear, uh, finds themselves in a different position.
So can you basically use these two countries? Uh, same geography. Relatively similar kind of, uh, economic might population size. I know it's not perfect, but th th it's it's not like we're comparing, you know, the U S to some island out in the Pacific here. Um, can you just kind of use those to, to, to paint two pictures of how different, uh, countries are utilizing nuclear and what that is enabling for them?
Mark Nelson: Sure. Okay. So only 20 years ago, Germany got almost a third of its electricity from nuclear. If Germany had kept that nuclear power, we'd be having a very different discussion. Now, there might not even be a Ukraine war right now. France had a nuclear program. Clearly Germany did if they got up to 30% at the year 2000, but what happened in France is that after the oil shock, it had an almost total commitment at the highest levels of French society of government to just a top-down demand.
We're going to build nuclear and it's going to be all of our electricity and they went for it and they had very capable managers who made decisions that in hindsight were very correct, but were extremely controversial at the time. Here's one, they gave up the so-called French reactor program and bought licenses to build American reactor.
And then they made it French and called it a French name and all sorts of other French things. But, but they fundamentally chose a reactor system that it wasn't, that it was necessarily going to be the best technology ever. It wasn't that the French understood it best. It was just, they knew it worked and they knew people were going to ask for it as an export.
And France had this image of itself being a power player in the energy world, even though it has almost no energy resources by modern, uh, point of. Not that many forests to burn some dams in the, in the Alps, but not like an amazing number. And it doesn't have the coal deposits that Germany has. Germany has massive, really filthy, dirty, ugly coal deposits, but they've got them right.
So. Uh, there wasn't really a choice in the eye of the French leaders. They wanted France to be France, to be grand. They wanted it to be independent. They wanted it to be powerful. They wanted it to be a shining light to the whole world. And they knew that that meant that they had to go with nuclear energy and they happened to do a really good job.
That means that France should be getting about 75 to 80% of its electricity from nuclear. They have severely squandered their nuclear program. They have severely squandered, their nuclear advantage and they're struggling. Fleet barely hit 70% availability. It's it's really terrible. I have to have to tell you the French, the modern French generation.
Um, wasted and abused their nuclear fleet and it's doing really poorly, but that still leaves it with about 70% nuclear electricity and that nuclear, electricity didn't change costs just because there was a war in Ukraine and commodity prices went crazy. In fact, France is able to, uh, subsidize their entire nation's electricity bills just by expropriating earnings from the, from their national nuclear.
Now that means that money isn't going to build nor nuclear or maintain it. But you know, you don't win them all Aaron. So over in Germany, Anti-nuclear movement was able to take much deeper roots than the same anti-nuclear movement did in France. There are theories about why this happened. You can look at the German national culture or the French national culture can definitely get into trouble making generalizations about Germans versus French people and, and the basis of not proceed national character.
Let's just say. France had nuclear weapons. And it meant that at the deepest level, some part of the nation, the state was always going to be dedicated to nuclear technologies in Germany. They did not have nuclear weapons. There's an ongoing debate at the highest levels of German politics about whether Germany should get nuclear weapons, but as it is during the cold war with a split right down the middle and crawling with spies and counter intelligence agents and propaganda of all types and both east and west Germany.
Germany did not have nuclear weapons, but had nuclear weapons pointed at it. Germany lost world war II was humbled and disgraced before the world. So Germany could only build back peacefully. What this meant for nuclear energy is that as brilliant as the Germans were at building and managing nuclear plants, it did not take root in the culture and the M the state as deeply as it did.
Uh, France. And then when, um, Russian, you know, the Soviet union fell and Russian natural gas money came, Russia was able to purchase key German decision-makers for relatively cheap amounts of money and make sure that any of the anti nuclear tendencies in German politics were acted on to shut off. German nuclear energy and turn on gas pipelines from Russia.
I think it was a brilliant move from Russia. A lot of respect from, from there for their ruthlessness and effectiveness and in getting Germany off its own energy supplies and onto Russian energy supplies. The turning point was really when the major pro-nuclear party, the Christian Democrats headed by Angela.
The turning point came when she saw how stressful and difficult it was for leaders in Japan after their nuclear meltdown and decided that that was enough of a reason for her to not want to deal with that problem. If there was some disaster in Germany and she decided that. Greatly accelerate the getting out of nuclear energy.
And since she's part of that crowd of politicians, who's totally fine. With a hundred percent dependence, if necessary on Russian fuels directly straight from Russia, it was a natural, it was a natural thing. Oh yeah. All that stuff about renewables, this and that. None of the really serious people actually think.
Uh, anywhere it's just a, it's just words. The real thing is the energy that's on demand and turns on and powers industries. That's going to be, you know, uranium or, or gas or coal or.
Aaron Watson: And to put a really fine point on something that you said, uh, more on the French side is, you know, we've seen explosive amounts of inflation.
I was actually literally just looking at something here before the interview started about, uh, inflation in Spain at being at like 46% or something. People that listen to shows like this can sometimes be, uh, to some degree insulated from the harsh realities of the cost of energy. Going up, when we're talking about electricity or heating your home prices going up, there are people who live on the margins, who that means, you know, the, the furnace, it doesn't come.
And, and people are really cold in the winter. That means that, uh, you know, the bill for the refrigerator and basic things to keep people going are either taking up the entirety of the budget. And then that has downstream ramifications on the rest of what little is left over or just not being able to access things.
Most of the people at the, you know, middle-class and above parts of the developed world completely take for granted. And so when these choices are being made, we can look at it at the abstract, you know, geopolitical contest level. We can look at it at the machinations of this politician, in that politicians policy position, but fundamentally what.
I've always. And I've heard that I've listened to a wide range of different energy folks, coal people, oil people, natural gas, people, nuclear people, wind solar people. They really boil down to two things. Are we in some way, shape or form reducing the amount of carbon that is being emitted up into the air.
And are we using, or making energy accessible to people who do not have the kind of financial might to weather wild fluctuations in its.
Mark Nelson: Yeah, so a lot to unpack there. First, I want to say that, um, Spain was on the fringe path of nuclear. They were building nuclear as rapidly and intensely as France was, but with a lot less centralized approach, different designs, different companies, they were also doing it under a, a dictator of, uh, general Franco.
And when he was kicked out, Um, the pushback on nuclear was intense. We've seen this a lot of places where a bunch of dictators fell around the late eighties around the same time as Chernobyl and a bunch of pro-democracy or, um, popular movements, defined nuclear as dictatorship and getting rid of nuclear as public, uh, public.
Now that was a really unfortunate, I think a really unfortunate timing because it meant from countries from Spain to Philippines to, uh, you know, Eastern Europe, Bulgaria Czechia Hungary, Poland may have had nuclear by now, for example, without this association of that hated dictators or the hated state with new.
And us, the people, the Democrats with votes, with openness and without nuclear, without necessarily saying, you know, what's going to replace nuclear. So in Spain, nuclear became such an intense partisan issues. That is one of the few places where separatists, uh, terrorist groups, as a matter of policy, kidnapped nuclear plant construction directors and execute.
Um, and, and, you know, there was a weird overlap with like eco stuff and that kind of terrorism. Um, there was ecoterrorism against nuclear people in nuclear facilities in France, for example. And I'm not trying to say you have to be an eco terrorist to be against nuclear. It was just, it was the times man era, and it just felt right.
You know, you could, you could protest Vietnam, protest capitalism, protest, environmental destruction by attacking a nuclear plant and tackling a nuclear program either at the ballot box. Or in the schools or on the construction site. I mean, you could, you could act and feel like you were doing the right thing.
It turns out it was the wrong thing, but old ways of thinking die hard in Spain, they have an issue in that they don't produce their own fossil fuels. Yup. So they're not going to get that cheap fossil fuel costs next they've got powerful wins and a lot of. It tricked them into thinking that that made cheap electricity?
No, it makes cheap projects like the so on or the wind farm is going to be able to maybe build less equipment for more output, but that doesn't make cheap electricity for consumers. It's like saying if somebody gives you an amazing deal on a truck, because they say that they got an excellent price on the interior, the seat cushions and the steering wheel, like leather and stuff like that.
You'd say, oh, well, that's amazing. That should save us some money. How much does the truck costs though? That's the grit, the whole product, the whole system and its cost to build, maintain, and operate is not, it doesn't appear now that that cost goes down just because your wind and solar is cheap. And that's the trap that Spain came into.
But Spain had it even worse because the amount that they paid for the solar and wind that they do have was extremely. I don't know whether it's corruption or badly designed programs, but Spain had horrible, horrible pricing on the wind and solar that they did have. And so you roll all of this together, stopping the nuclear, which is the way that Spain gets cheap electric.
Um, too much wind and solar that isn't part of this complete breakfast. Isn't a total, the person using the grid. They can't just use wind and solar. They have to use a mix of everything. And that means fossil fuels. If you haven't a nuclear in your building, that intermittent on off seasonal wind and solar, you put all that together and you get an awful wreck in Spain.
You mentioned inflation. Where does electricity come back to you and inflation? The answer? Aaron is absolutely everywhere. Can you get inflation without energy costs going up? Sure. That we've seen this sometimes. Can you get energy costs going up without inflation? It appears no. And it appears much more severe because let's say the cost to go on a vacation goes up.
You may, you may not be able to go on vacations if the cost to not live in squalor, if the cost to be a member of . Your refrigerator to have lighting whenever you need it in the evenings to, to be able to participate in the national dialogue or national events by watching a TV with, um, you know, that's on during, when the game is on, not just when their electricity is cheap, because the sun's up or something like that.
Like those are things that have been a great gift of grid, electricity service, and that service being cheap. That possibly falling apart in countries like Spain. This is a very, it's a very dark tiding for what's coming up in the next 10 years or so, because if, if, think about this, if it took strong right-wing dictatorship governments to build something like nuclear that made cheap electricity, what happens when the elected democracies fall?
Because they couldn't keep the electricity cheap. Do we do we get whatever government with whatever social or environmental policies is willing to say, we will do whatever it takes to make cheap energy. We don't care if that's coal and we're going to get rid of any laws that stop us from doing that because the last guys, they broke the grid.
If you break the grid, that becomes the single most important thing about the times about your government, about, about life, right? Everything else becomes less important. And I think we're coming to. Of change in Europe, that's having to, uh, decide which direction to go on energy. And they're going to decide it in ways that are going to be surprising or unpleasant for.
Other things in society.
Aaron Watson: And, and this has ramifications everywhere. Energy is not a cheap or a completely, you know, non consideration outside of maybe like the Persian Gulf locally. They care about the exports of it. But, you know, Saudi Arabia is not gonna worry about powering their own, uh, lifeforce. They have other things to worry about.
I guess maybe your face suggests maybe we could debate that to some degree, but, um, you have some interesting.
Mark Nelson: Yeah, that's right. And it's that, um, the Gulf states are going towards nuclear as hard and as fast as possible. And we need to understand why, because it's too lazy to say, oh, because of the geopolitical strategy of being a nuclear state, and maybe if they get nuclear reactors, they'll be able to get nuclear defense.
I'm not going to say that there's zero interaction between, you know, the ideas of nuclear defense and nuclear energy among the Gulf states. Certainly they must be thinking. Historically, almost every country that has gotten nuclear energy has done it while thinking about considering or acting on getting nuclear defense.
However, leaving that aside, the United Arab Emirates took a very risky move in deciding to get a giant nuclear plant. In 2005, they got the idea 2006 and seven. They started setting up the contracts to deliver the. In 2000 8, 9, 10, they'd selected a reactor builder, 2012. They started official construction and Korea built them over the next 8, 9, 10 years for colossal nuclear reactors on the Persian Gulf.
Those reactors are turning on now and they are an obvious, extreme success, both in terms of UAE, getting to tell America. Bugger off and that UAE deciding exactly what it will or won't do based on its own needs. Also, it was a success in this way. Cutter thought about getting nuclear failed to do it, and then used Al-Jazeera to attack UAE over its nuclear program.
For years now, they're having to turn around. They're going to go ahead and I'm almost certainly work towards a nuclear program. They'll still have to do it effectively. And competently like UAE. Did they want to see success like UAA did, but for example, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia is absolutely going to get a nuclear program and they're going to do it very rapidly and they're going from today and they will move as fast as they can.
And they have a model directly next to. And now a whole industry of people that can work with Arabic and to work on nuclear with the, with the cultures and the languages and the, in the Gulf. And
Aaron Watson: that's helpful for desalination of water and all sorts of other things that, that are highly energy intensive, but, um, just to bring it back.
Mark Nelson: Every, every barrel of oil you use or every bit of natural gas you use in Saudi Arabia is oil and gas that you can't sell at much higher prices abroad.
Aaron Watson: Right. Um, less existential, more about profits, but that was a good clarification there. So I'm going to take this back to mark your story. I want to clarify for folks, what is radiant energy fund basically?
Like, what is your role in all this? Because. Um, you know, in a certain corner of energy, this like folks that don't really want to talk about it, they don't want to, um, candidly like make themselves a target of, uh, you know, the, the media hailstorms and the lobbyists and the other, uh, weapons, uh, of this type of space, so to speak.
There is also all sorts of folks who candidly are talking their own book, right? Like that's, that's one of the rules of wall street is, you know, whoever pops up on CNBC, I can, I can't necessarily be sure much, but I can be sure that they're going to talk their own book because that's kind of the nature of having your incentives aligned towards a specific
Mark Nelson: endeavors, a specific enterprise.
So I have two organizations, radiant energy fund and radiant. Radiant energy fund is not a fund. I'm sorry. I've disappointed. A lot of people who asked if they could be an LP. And I said, I had to say just like environmental defense fund. I mean, they don't really defend the environment that much, in my opinion, but that that's the name of their group.
It's like this sort of sixties and seventies, mainstream environmental groups named after, uh, things that sound corporate or very respectable, even if they pursued radical politics, radiant energy fund is an attempt to save nuclear plants all around. You'd be shocked. How, how poor of a business thing that is basically, if you're fighting to save a nuclear plant, it either means that it's being shut down at the pleasure of its owner.
In which case you're fighting the owner of a nuclear plant to save a facility that. No, uh, not, not a lot of Gloria fortunate in doing that. I'm afraid Aaron or your fighting a government you're fighting, uh, other NGOs or special interest groups. It's kind of an ugly world. We want to talk to anyone in society around a nuclear plant who wants to save that plant, find ways to work with them.
Find, find where they're being effective. Learn from them, help them get with stories about all the other nuclear plants. We fight, fought to save some we've saved some. And it's a, it's an organization dedicated to, um, stopping this world. I described in Spain where we're losing the gift of Darren modernity D at the very moment, we need it most, um, due to, you know, changing climate, changing weather conditions, changing, uh, inequality.
If that's an issue that people are blaming for, um, bad conditions for the working poor. So radiant energy. Is my, is what I do with soul in the game, rather than skin in the game. It's what I wake up each morning to fight on. Right? Radiant energy group is an advisory firm, an independent advisory firm and consultancy.
And I advise governments, industry and nonprofits on clean energy on electricity, electrification, uh, nuclear wind, solar, fossil fuels. And
Aaron Watson: so in. Part of that, that I'd like to dig into a little bit more is the nature of our utilities. So we're, we're used to having these conversations about either to an extreme degree, nationalization.
This is a completely, you know, uh, market or industry that is, is managed entirely by the government or these other, uh, you know, industries that tend to more towards something like a free market or free enterprise. And then there's candidly all sorts of, uh, industries that fall somewhere in between. Uh, utilities being one of the, kind of, um, more peculiar ones.
So can you talk just a little bit about some of the, either a common myths or, or the, the nature of the market itself that makes it a peculiar and candidly worthy of clarification to the officials who are actually making these policy decisions, because it can be opaque and they're managing 18 other things and need
Mark Nelson: someone to help bring some.
Yeah, so that you've opened up about five different cans of worms at once. And the worms are already starting to crawl out and fight each other for supremacy. Let me say this. Anybody coming with economic etiology to the subject of electricity will eventually make stupid and potentially dangerous errors.
Okay. Electricity is not like anything else. It is a network. It is a system that has. Extremely tight, physical coordination, over thousands of miles, linear distance and, and millions of square miles. Let me give an example. If you plug in an electricity monitoring tool, like a volt meter down in Southern Florida, and you plug one in, in Ottawa, Canada, you will see the same wave form.
Okay. There might be tiny, tiny differences in that frequency, but what you're seeing fundamentally is one giant mission. Connecting those two ends over, you know, what, 160, 170, 180 million people on one grid. And there are different authorities that make sure that it's staying in balance in different regions.
Um, sometimes you have cascading failures where, you know, a squirrel sneezing in Ohio's leads to. Uh, a thing that happens and it links up to another bad thing and another bad thing and another bad thing and another bad thing. And suddenly tens of millions of people have lost power. The last time, something really giant like that happened on the Eastern grid that I'm.
In our example here that was in, uh, I think 2003 and tree branch following in Ohio led to the disconnect of a nuclear plant that led to overwhelming the, uh, the backup power systems across this massive area. And a lot of changes of common. So the reason why I'm just describing some of those physical quirks of the grid is because it's not like other systems and trying to regulate it as if it were a, this type of company, but it's actually the.
Eventually fails saying that my free market principles say we ought to do X that we'll fail saying I believe in state power. Therefore the only stopping of getting whatever energy mix that I want is that the state hasn't taken enough power. That's wrong too. So there's a lot of public power people who are obsessed with public power in New York.
And didn't even notice when the biggest single chunk of new York's power supply, Indian point nuclear plant got shut down. And then everybody's bills skyrocketing. And if they had gotten their wish and it was all like run by the state, then the state would have gotten the full blame for any way I could go on and on and on almost everybody with a bone to pick who doesn't get electricity is going to fail or cause problems if they're ever in a position of power influence.
So very, very broadly what happened was about a hundred years of electricity. Being, uh, invented by private entrepreneurs, little bit ad hoc systems rising up mainly in cities first, starting to grow outwards and connect with each other democratic, uh, new deal politics, forcing electricity companies to connect rural consumers that ending up working way better than economist or the electricity companies ever dreamed, because it turns out that when you electrify a farm, they fight.
A hundred different, amazing things to do with electricity. And as you grow the system, it got cheaper per unit of energy for everybody. Then in the sixties and seventies, the anti-nuclear movement combined with the environmental movement. And they said that the grid was bad and wasteful, and that the only way to save the earth was efficiency, whatever that means.
And then that anti-nuclear pro efficiency movement got caught up in the electricity deregulation. So electricity and deregulation regulation. What are we talking about? Well, these utilities that were getting bigger and bigger and bigger and starting to link up, it led to a completely different type of governance.
Where in exchange for the state, either a state or the country accepting the physical reality that an electricity grid is a physical monopoly. You shouldn't have like three different companies competing to put their own power lines through the air for their own brand of electricity. That doesn't, that's completely preposterous.
Everybody has always known it. So in exchange for accepting that this is a monopoly. States then took public regulatory control over the utilities where the voters vote for parties or for elected officials who will choose regulators or voters choose the regulator directly on their ballots, who will be in these public utility commissions to monitor the electricity.
Right? So that system came up against the people who were saying, well, if we destroy the utilities and we destroy the grid, then we can get rid of nuclear. So there was a wave of, of brilliant economists who had never even been to power plants in their entire life, much less worked a real job, claiming that they had cool economic theories about how to run the grid, which they didn't understand.
Didn't need to understand because they have. The power of economics, right? The science of economics. So the deregulation movement was then kind of sponsored by the anti nuclear guys, um, and the natural gas guys, because if you build all the nuclear plants and all the coal plants that you seem to need, then somebody discovers a bunch of natural gas and they say, Hey guys, we've got cheap, natural gas.
You should build it. Natural gas plants to burn it. Well, if you already have the power plants you need. And they're not burning natural gas. How can you justify tearing down a power plant? You already have just to build another plant and then power it off of a commodity like natural gas. That's highly, uh, chaotic and it's pricing.
Right? Why would you do that as utility? Well, if you're forced to do it, that's one reason. So public utility commission. Demanding that you do it, but a much better way is if you break the utility and you separate out the power generation from the lines and wires and billing, and then you say we're going to have an open market, anybody who, and comes up with money to build a power plant of any type anywhere, we'll just, you know, they'll pay a fee to connect to the grid and then they can, they can have the right to put their power on whenever they.
That system broke the backs of a lot of the utilities, at least so far as making their own electricity goes. The deregulation movement also called the restructuring movement emerged in the late nineties and continues today. That's the push to make it to where utilities have fewer and fewer monopoly functions.
Ideally in many people's mind, they should have no functions beyond. I dunno, the most basic or maybe they shouldn't even say so utilities shouldn't exist instead we should have. Variety of companies with a very different levels of cash reserves and credit worthiness compete to build a nuclear plan or go bankrupt or buy other power plants or build gas plants.
I mean, really this system was about making the decision-making horizon of electricity so short that only a few technologies could actually ever get built. That would be the wind, the solar and the natural. It turns out that this doesn't actually make cheaper electricity. And then when the natural gas prices go up, it turns out it makes brutally expensive electricity, but it's too late.
We're kind of stuck with this system for most of the population in the UK. The areas that got liberalized and their electricity market are that Eastern seaboard, Midwest, um, plain states, Texas, and, uh, California, the states that have resisted this system, which I think your listeners are going to be able to tell.
I don't really care for it. Well, those have been the Southern states, um, some of the Midwest and the west much of the west. So those are states where it's still a utility commission. Monitors and regulates the actions of the big, uh, utilities and says, no, we don't like this plan. Come up with a new plan.
Utility comes up with a new plan. The regulator says, okay, we'll let you do 70% of that plan. You can bill. Your customers are voters. You can bill your customers and pay for the upgrades you need as you go. So that's the, I think that's an immense amount that we could have. 10 different shows on any number of those sentences that I said, and we wouldn't run out of a material, but broadly speaking electricity is complicated enough that it can be broken and destroyed politically behind the scenes.
And nobody will notice until their power bill starts soaring. That's the world we're in today. Also nuclear ends up making very cheap electricity. It makes for a cheap electricity system, but it is expensive to be. Uh, if you cannot spread the construction cost over consumers early, which some people say you shouldn't, shouldn't be allowed to, then you're not probably going to build a nuclear plant and we're going to be stuck on whatever technologies cheap or expensive happened to fit the, the financing that's available.
And in that case, in the U S it's mostly gas and wind and solar, which combined to produce extremely expensive electricity when gas prices.
Aaron Watson: Powerful mark. I want to be respectful of your time here and aim towards wrapping up. But, uh, basically what you're saying here, we we've heard also from Dr. Rita barren wall, um, in, in, in our last interview about nuclear, which is something that, for me, I've worked really hard to kind of train myself to, to.
Um, flip the incentive structure. So I'd rather take the kind of short-term pain for the long-term gain, but it's candidly the hardest thing to sell, particularly as a politician to, um, you know, sell that to constituents when it's like, Hey, I can bring cheap energy. Well, Hey, I can bring more expensive energy in the short term right now.
Down the line. It's going to be great. That's, that's always the hardest sale, uh, for someone to make. So I think that's why my ears perk up when I learn more about this space. Um, and before we kind of wrap up with our standard, last questions, I wanted to see if there were, you know, notes of optimism, notes of hope, uh, generally that you think can, um, you know, start to tend to stem this tide as it pertains to creating more affordable energy for folks, but also.
Uh, contributing to these goals that a lot of people have have of decarbonizing the economy and, and making
Mark Nelson: things a little bit better. Sure. Here's the notes of hope. Young people like nuclear. Once from the moment they hear about it and they continue to like it. Old people are often against nuclear, but can convert almost.
No one is converting away from nuclear, almost all of the, the direction on nuclear around the entire world is towards it becoming more popular and more people liking it. Uh, nuclear gives people hope because once it, once it does work, it works extremely well. And for extremely long periods of time, Um, I think some people are a little nervous.
Are we leaving a bad legacy with nuclear waste, but then they see anybody who gets to tour a nuclear way facility. We'll never think that again, it's a, it's an example of a, a scary image or a scary phrase, haunting people's minds. That's banished. The second you see a nuclear war, nice facility. You're you're just totally fine.
There's a, there's an absolutely gorgeous one in the Netherlands that I am recommending people go seek. They built it for tours. They built a museum and they have a cafe. I mean, it's, it's designed for the public to see their own, uh, highly radioactive nuclear waste. And we get to interact with it in a safe manner that helps them realize that nuclear is a permanent solution, not a temporary solution, it's a permanent solution.
So I think the optimism that people can see and, and, and, uh, good science fiction, they can find an outlet for that optimism in nuclear. When they hear things like, oh, nuclear is a problem because it's expensive and we can't build it. Well, they think, well, how about we build it? Well, right. It's like somebody telling you don't be interested in space.
Rockets are expensive. So your answer might be, let's make rockets cheap. I'm not giving up space. And in the case of nuclear, we're not giving up living a good life. We're not, we're not saying that because so many of the ways we make energy may be limited by what the fuel narratives cross we should give up.
And there's enough fuel towards, until the sun expands and cooks the earth to a crisp there's no fuel for nuclear. So why not think of beautiful things? Why not think of big things you mentioned the land use? Well, once people hear that nuclear takes a tiny, tiny fraction of the space needed for wind and solar for the same amount of energy.
I think a light bulb goes off. Wait, what if we released a lot of. Footprint for industrialized, uh, nature. And we just released it and did a little bit of nuclear. And then we did other things to shrink our footprint and then built our cities upwards, or even made the suburbs a little bit, not, not skyscrapers everywhere, but you know, a little thicker.
Those are the sorts of dreams that pair perfectly well with nuclear, almost like a miracle technology. And I think that the optimism I can share with your viewers is that a lot more people are discussing. Yeah. Like how 40, 40%, 40%. I think it is of electricity in, uh, Pennsylvania comes from a few old nuclear plants and we're finding that that nuclear plants that are old, they're not old.
It turns out they can last probably for a century or even longer. Meaning if you build well today, you've created an environmentally beautiful solution, a socially beautiful solution for the ultra long future. So anyone with a desire to build. For the future can find their heart going towards nuclear and it's it's happening.
Aaron Watson: That's a powerful note to wrap up on a mark. I want to make sure that folks can learn more about you learn more about radiant energy, um, and connect in the digital world. What coordinates can we provide for people that want
Mark Nelson: to learn more best way to get ahold of me is Twitter. Um, at energy bands, that's energy, B a and T.
British joke. Don't worry about that. Anyway, my DMS are always open. Anyone can always reach out to me there. I can also be contacted at mark at radiant energy fund dot.
Aaron Watson: Perfect. We're going to link all of that in the show notes for people to, uh, check out, going to be their.com/podcast or in the app, or people probably listening to this is the easiest place to find all the links to connect with mark.
Uh, but before we let you go, mark, we end every episode with a personal challenge for the audiences as an opportunity to end on a note of action. And to speak directly to listeners from all sorts of different backgrounds, about something actionable they can do in the next day, week or month, uh, that, you know, it could be connected to nuclear.
It could just be connected to, uh, personal professional development in some way, shape or form. So before we let you go, I'd like to give you the mic one final time to issue an actionable challenge to
Mark Nelson: the audience. Wherever you are. Look up. Does your state, does your country, does your region have nuclear energy?
If so, what? And is it, is it, uh, in danger of closure and if not, why not? And then get involved either by contacting me or just, uh, getting involved on Twitter or looking up any pro-nuclear organizations in your area. A surprisingly small number of people destroyed the prospects for nuclear. Uh, in the last generation, a surprisingly small number of people are going to be able to save nuclear in our time.
It's the biggest single thing you can. For climate change while also keeping a future for modern life is to save a nuclear plant near you or to get one belt. And that is happening now
Aaron Watson: in terms of the decision makers for this, you've talked a little bit about these utility commissions and I'm sure it's different in so many different ways in different locales, but.
To what degree is this? Uh, you know, uh, a state issue, a federal issue, a like down to the, you know, small sub region type of issue in terms of who the decision-makers are, is, are just basically a web of.
Mark Nelson: Uh, it depends. So for example, in California, a tiny click of people decided they wanted all the nuclear plants gone and they acted behind the scenes to do it both in legal and illegal fashion.
So for example, current governor of California, organized to kill the last nuclear plant in the state because he thought he would need it in 2016 as like a way to get away. Um, and he doesn't really care one way or another about nuclear. He just, the world is a game. The world is a toy people's lives are just a toy for him.
So Gavin Newsome organized. Uh, Diablo canyon to shut down in 20 24, 20 25. So a lot of action in California is about exposing that effort, either getting him out of office or putting enough pressure on him, that he decides that it's more advantageous to his presidential ambitions to save Diablo rather than close.
It that's a special case because the plant is profitable at the high energy cost environment in California for a nuclear plant like Palisades and Michigan, which is due to close in one month. It's more of an issue that the plant. It's just like probably different words you can use. They just didn't operate.
They didn't choose good nuclear plants to buy. They didn't operate them well. And now that the white house wants to say that nuclear plant they're barely interested in working there. Just, um, I mean, they say that if, if somebody comes up with a business offer for that power plant, they'll consider it. But otherwise we're going to lose a collage, like 2 million people's worth of electricity here in, in, uh, A few days in a time where we have a shortage of almost all energy sources, right?
So it's completely preposterous. The more public attention on that, the better, the more public exposure and pressure on the plant owner, the better, and the more support for the governor and the white house in saving that nuclear plant right now, the better. And, uh, and of course, if anybody's into buying distressed assets and running them, uh, for a nifty profit over the next couple of decades, that's a great thing to look at.
Um, obviously Bitcoin miners need to be all over that sort of thing, right
Aaron Watson: on, uh, well, Mike, this has been so educational and I am hopeful that we'll be able to do it again at some point in the future and continue to have our minds expanded. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us.
Mark Nelson: Of course, therein, best wishes.
Aaron Watson: went deep with Mark Nelson, hoping out there has a fantastic. Hey, thanks for watching to the end of my interview with mark. If you enjoyed it, there are two great interviews that you should check out. Also on this channel. The first is with Dr. Rita barren while she formerly served in the department of energy for the U S government focused on nuclear energy.
You should also check out our past conversation with doom Berg, who goes a little bit further down the trail of the implications of energy shortages. Spiking energy prices and the stress of that could cause for people around the globe,
Mark Nelson: check them out.