April 14

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How Female Business Leader Inna Braverman Is Turning Waves Into Energy

By Mimi MacLean

April 14, 2022


female business leader
Inna Braverman

Inna Braverman, Founder of Eco Wave Power

Interested in creating change with your business? Inna Braverman is a female business leader with a bold mission to create change through wave energy. She is the founder of Eco Wave Power, the leading onshore wave energy company that turns waves into green energy! Her accolades include the UN Global Climate Action Award and being named one of the “Females Changing the World” by Wired Magazine.

“No matter what people tell us, that we're weak, that we cannot, that it's not possible, we should definitely not step down because, if we step down, our female friend will step down, our children will step down, their children will step down, and that's a very negative chain of events, and that's something that we definitely have to prevent.” -Inna

Find Inna and Eco Wave Power

LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE HERE!

Episode Contents

How Her Childhood and A Second Chance At Life Inspired Her to Start Eco Wave Power

Mimi MacLean:
Inna, thank you so much for coming on today. I'm excited to talk to you. Your story is very incredible. I was watching one of your TED Talks just before I jumped on, so I would love to just start with that and just talk a little bit briefly about why you started Eco Wave and how it relates to your childhood, and then we can go on from there.

Inna Braverman:
Of course. I was born in Ukraine in 1986, and two weeks after I was born, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded, which was the largest in history nuclear disaster in terms of cost and casualties, and I was one of the babies that got hurt from the negative effects of the explosion. I actually had respiratory arrest and a clinical death. My mother approached my crib and she saw me completely blue and pale and no pulse, not breathing, and she freaked out. She ran to my dad and she was like, "My baby is dead. My baby is dead. What do I do?" And my dad told her, "You're a nurse, do something," and she was so stressed, she forgot that she's a nurse. And then she actually gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the ambulance came and saved my life. My life started by getting a second chance in life.

Inna Braverman:
I don't remember, of course, I was a baby, but in all the family gatherings and all the holidays that we do together as family, I kept hearing that, "Wow, you got a second chance in life," and hearing this story over and over again. I really grew up with a feeling like, "Okay, I didn't just get a second chance in life for no reason. That's not something regular. I should really do something good with it." That's what led, in the end of the day, of course, with many steps in between, which I can share, but that's what led, in the end, to the opening of Eco Wave Power because I really felt that this is something that can contribute to our planet, contribute to the stopping of climate change, and so on.

Mimi MacLean:
Was that something you were thinking about for a long time or is that through your studies in college? When did you think, "Okay, I want to have an alternative power source?"

Inna Braverman:
Actually, it happened by incident. It wasn't planned. When I was four years old, my family immigrated from the the Ukraine to Israel, also because of the health situation, which was very, very bad in the region. My sister and I were very sick as children. And we immigrated to a super small town, that was very not developed back then, in the north of Israel called Akko, and there was nothing in the city to do. There was no cinema. There was nothing for children or adults even to do because Israel is a very young country and was even younger, of course, back then.

Inna Braverman:
And, all the time, I grew up feeling like I want to do something, I want to make a change, I want to influence, but I really couldn't find out what because there wasn't words like technology or startups or female entrepreneurship or even entrepreneurship without the female even. No, there wasn't really a lot of knowledge about it, definitely not renewable energy, and so on. When I grew up, I decided to go and study political science in Haifa University. I said to myself, "Okay, maybe I can make a positive change in the world by going into politics," the innocence when you [crosstalk 00:05:58] saying, "Okay, I will save the world by being this great politician or make a positive change."

Inna Braverman:
And I studied in Haifa University, which is a university in the north of Israel and, when I finalized my studies, I was surprised to find out that there was no lineup of politicians waiting to hire a political science major. The prime minister and the president, they didn't call. And I started looking for a job because you're older, you finish your degree, you need to do something. And there's a popular website for searching jobs in Israel, so I went to this website and I saw an ad of a Hebrew-English translator in a renewable energy company.

Inna Braverman:
And, in that company, I actually got to know about the whole concept of renewable energy, about solar, about wind energy, about wave energy. And, as opposed to wind and solar, which were back then already fully commercialized, the technologies were fully developed, there was nothing really to renew in that field. Everybody were fighting for the same production [inaudible 00:06:58], for the same piece of the same pie. And the wave energy was something that all the scientists and the engineers of the world, they said that wave energy, and forecasted wave energy, can create twice the amount of electricity that the world produces now, which is an insane amount.

Inna Braverman:
Yet no matter how many companies went into the field, large electrical companies, large investment companies, no matter how much money was put into it, how much technological efforts were put into it, no matter what the companies had, nobody was able to make it happen. Nobody was able to commercialize wave energy. And, as a young and ambitious woman at the time, I'm still young and ambitious, but younger, I said to myself, "Okay, all these companies, they have the money, they have the technical experience, they have the contacts, they have everything, they cannot do it. I can do it [crosstalk 00:07:53]-"

Mimi MacLean:
That's amazing that you thought that. You're like, "Okay, all these people have the money," everything that you just said, but they couldn't figure it out, but what made you think that you could?

Inna Braverman:
Because, in the beginning, it's not like I thought that I could, I just gained a real natural interest into it because I saw that it's such a huge source. It can really bring the world to this net zero emissions dream that we're having. It's wave energy. Our world is covered by seas and oceans around us. I just started researching in online databases, in different books, anything that I could find about wave energy, I researched to understand exactly what went wrong to all the companies that actually did it.

Inna Braverman:
Just by reading so much, I understood that there were five main problems that all the companies were facing, so I understood, "Okay, if you can solve these five problems, you're going to commercialize wave energy. That's what's missing." Just from looking outside the box, by not being an engineer, you can sometimes steal or find something common from all the experiments that have been made. I started thinking of my own ideas and concepts, but I didn't have anything to do with it because, even to build a power station, you need money, even to register a patent, you need money, and, again, it's a family of immigrants, so no contacts, no money, there was no ability, so I put the idea aside as unrealistic.

Inna Braverman:
And then, one day, I went to a social event, and next to me sat a guy named David, and he looked a little bit like a hippie, with a lot of bracelets on his hands, so I couldn't know who the person is, and just asked me, "What's your passion?" And I said, "Wave energy." And it turned out that he's a serial entrepreneur that made a number of successful exits and invested a lot of his funds in real estate, and one of his real estate was a surf hotel in Panama. He was sitting there watching the power of the waves and thinking, in a completely different side of the world, there are probably something better that you can do with the power of the waves other than marine sports, and started also researching and thinking what can be done with wave energy. Our meeting, it was like a match made in business heaven, and that was the beginning of Eco Wave Power.

Funding A Company As A Young Female Business Leader

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Mimi MacLean:
That's amazing because it is … I was reading your story. I was like, "This is phenomenal that you were so young," I think you were 24 when you started it, and I was like, "Wow, to take on the Goliath," it was a David and Goliath situation where you're taking on Goliath, where massive companies weren't able to figure out, but here you were, young, and the funds that you needed … and so, when you started it with David, did you guys originally use his financing or did you guys immediately go out for financing? How did that look like?

Inna Braverman:
Well, we actually wanted to push as farther as possible the going out for financing because, of course, if you don't want to give up too much shares in the company, then you better be as advanced as possible at the moment that you're fundraising. David actually put the first $1 million into the company, which was amazing, because not a lot of people would necessarily put $1 million to an idea of somebody that is 24 years old, but, also, I was very responsible with the funding.

Inna Braverman:
For me, it was a great opportunity to make our dream come true, to change the world. I chose, actually, to go to Ukraine in the beginning and we made a competition between 300 engineers to choose a team of five, which helped us to make our concept from a theoretical concept to something practical group [inaudible 00:11:29] and patent submission and so on, because, in Ukraine, there's very bright minds, but, of course, the salary levels are much lower than in Israel or in the United States, for example. We did the $1 million investment happened step by step. It didn't happen at once.

Mimi MacLean:
And then how did you figure out how to get past those five hurdles that the other companies couldn't do? Did they help you or had you already figured that out?

Inna Braverman:
No. That was part of our initial idea. First of all, maybe we recap, in short, the five hurdles. 99% of the competitors in the wave energy, and, still, this is the case in our market, decided to go into the offshore. The offshore is four, five kilometers into the sea. When you go that far into the sea, first of all, the price is sky high. They put this huge floater in the middle of the ocean and, inside the floater, you have the generators, the conversion unit, super expensive. You need underwater mooring and underwater cables, which makes the prices, of course, sky high.

Inna Braverman:
The second problem was, when these companies went to installing the offshore, they didn't take into account that, in the offshore, you have tsunami waves, which are waves of 20 meters and even higher, and, unfortunately, no men-made stationary equipment can survive the loads of a 20 meter wave height. A lot of these companies that spent hundreds of millions of dollars for very small power stations, that were tested in the offshore, broke down after three days of operation, like Pelamis, for example. In Australia, Oceanlinx sunk. In Scotland, Wello recently sunk, also an offshore technology. There was a lot of high-profile failures because of the very high weight and it was immediately total loss to the system.

Inna Braverman:
Now insurance companies saw that it's so expensive and it's breaking all the time, that's not a good insurance case, of course, for them, so they started to stay away from wave energy. And, if you can't get insurance, you can't get the financing. Environmentalists, which were supposed to be the greatest supporters and proponents of wave energy, were actually objecting it because it's created a new presence on the ocean floor which disturb the marine environment, the offshore technologies. And they got so preoccupied with trying to make their price down and up the reliability that most of them didn't even get a chance to connect to the electrical grid, so that became a huge question mark on whether wave energy can even connect to the grid.

Inna Braverman:
We understood that, okay, if we want to ever commercialize, we need to be cost-efficient, reliable, insurable, environmentally friendly, so that we can connect to the grid, and that's what we did. We decided to go completely against the industry. Everybody were fighting for the offshore, trying to build there, and we decided to build on the onshore and nearshore. Now it doesn't mean prime real estate or beaches. It means existent structures, such as piers, breakwaters, jetties, and other types of marine structures.

Inna Braverman:
By doing so, we didn't need to put all our expensive equipment in the water. The generators and so on can be on land, just like a regular power station, so the price went significantly down. Our Gibraltar power station, which is our first grid- connected power station, cost us only $450,000. Pelamis power station, which was similar size, cost about $150 million in development costs. Then, in terms of reliability, once we don't have all the expensive equipment in the water, you don't have a risk to the expensive equipment. And we came up with a preventive storm protection mechanism. When the waves are too high for the system to handle, the floater automatically goes up above the water level and locks in the upward position until the storm passes.

Mimi MacLean:
Oh, that's awesome.

Inna Braverman:
When that does, it commences operation. As soon as insurance companies saw that it's cost effective and it doesn't break down, they agreed to insure us, and environmentalists were actually super happy about our technology because the breakwaters and the piers and the jetties are made from cement and cement is a danger in the environment. Cement in the water is not the best thing for marine life. We take something that mankind has to build to protect the coastal population and the ports, but is damaging the environment, and suddenly turn it into a source of electricity, so we were also accepted by the environmentalists. And the grid connection, for us, was very easy because, again, we're super close to the land, we're on breakwaters and piers, so the grid connection lines are very short, efficient, and connect to substations that are already there.

Starting Out In Crimea and Gibraltar with the Eco Wave Grid-Connected Power Stations

Mimi MacLean:
Once you had the product that was working, what was your next step? You said Gibraltar was your first place that you put your technology.

Inna Braverman:
Yeah. The first place that that we put the technology, actually, was the Crimean peninsula. I went back to Ukraine and the first experiment that we made was there, which was then a Ukrainian territory, now very problematic, but that's where we made our first test. Then, when we saw that the technology works, we received approval from the Port of Jaffa in Israel and we made our first wave conditions testing, but it was not connected to the grid because there was no legislation or policies how to connect wave energy to the grid.

Inna Braverman:
In 2016, we opened our first grid-connected power station in Gibraltar, which has been operating ever since, and now we're building our second grid-connected power station, actually, in Israel as well with a investment from the Israeli Energy Ministry, which recognized our technology as pioneering technology, and 50% investment from EDF Renewables IL, which is the French national electrical company.

Inna Braverman:
Basically, our near future goal is, now that we solved these five problems and we show that we're cost efficient on breaking down and so on, the next step is show that we can produce large electricity amounts and become profitable. We announced, recently, designing of a 20 megawatt concession agreement in Portugal, and our goal is to start the development of the project this year because we've already received the licenses for the first one megawatt, which is the largest scale that we've built to date, and then prove that we're, as I said … because to be an industry, it's good to make a great impact and so on, but we need to show profitability and large energy amounts because this is something that would really change the world. This is our next step and an important element for us. It's also penetration to the U.S. market. We recently announced a pilot with AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, which will be the first time that [crosstalk 00:17:40]-

Mimi MacLean:
I was going to ask you about that, because I used to live in Los Angeles and they have such a problem with electricity. I'm like, "LA needs this."

Inna Braverman:
And it's an amazing opportunity for us to collaborate with the Port of Los Angeles. Also, there is a coalition that is part of the Biden's Build Back Better that is led by the city of Los Angeles by Mayor Eric Garcetti. He's very supportive of renewable energies and also committed to net zero emissions. The whole United States actually committed to, by 2050, to be at net zero emissions, and it's not possible to do it with only, again, solar, which is an amazing source, or wind. We need to combine all renewable energy sources. And a recent study actually came up about the U.S. showing that wave energy can provide 66% of the energy in the United States alone, so that's an amazing [crosstalk 00:18:28].

Working with Local Governments, Authorities, and Companies for Better Energy Distribution

Mimi MacLean:
Wow. You would have to just be working out and reaching out to each of the governments, working with the towns and the electrical companies?

Inna Braverman:
We're working usually with ports because ports are owners of the largest breakwaters and marine structures. Usually, the port or the coastal municipality gives us the concession to use the structure, and then we work with the energy ministry or the government to make the policies to determine what will be the feed-in tariff for selling the electricity into the grid and make it all happen for us. Nowadays, unfortunately, there is not enough or there's not sufficient legislation that is made for wave energy because it's the new kid in the block of renewables.

Inna Braverman:
A lot of the governments said, "Oh, it's not going to happen for many years," and didn't really stop and decide to legislate. We get contacted by cities and countries and states in United States and in the world that they're telling us, "Come, build your power station," and I say, "Yeah, we'll be glad to do it. What do you need? What licenses do we need, what information?" And then they say, "We don't know," and go and find out or start setting the policy.

Inna Braverman:
Right now, we're quite in a unique position where our technology readiness is high, but there's not necessarily policies, so sometimes it takes us longer to get the policies in place, as a first mover in the industry, than actually build the power station, and this is something that we need to change. And, actually, we're starting to see this change in Israel, which made some legislation policies for us, Gibraltar, that made it for us when we came, and also in the United States because, in our bell-ringing ceremony, we're now publicly traded on Nasdaq in the U.S. Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, he promised that he will move forward with legislation for the commercialization of wave energy. We're starting to see a positive move in the right direction.

NASDAQ Listing and Going Public – The Process Explained by Female Business Leader Inna Braverman

eco wve power

Mimi MacLean:
Oh, that's great. That was the next question I was going to ask you is I see that you're listed on the Nasdaq, and it's WAVE is your listing. And so can you tell us about that process?

Inna Braverman:
In 2019, actually, the company started looking at listing on the public market. We didn't know which market yet because we saw that most of our businesses, like you said, with government, with energy ministries, and these kind of entities, they like to work with publicly-traded companies because of the transparency, and all the information is there, you can see the financial situation of the company, you can see basically everything that is of importance.

Inna Braverman:
And we were looking where to list the company. And then, at first, we looked at the U.S. stock exchanges, we looked at Australian stock exchange, Canadian stock exchange, the London AIM and so on, but, in the end, we decided to list it in July 2019 on Nasdaq Stockholm. That was our first listing, which is the European Nasdaq. We became the first Israeli company to list on Nasdaq Stockholm, and we said that, for us, it's a stepping stone to Nasdaq U.S. and, within two years, in July 2021, we actually up-listed the company to Nasdaq U.S.

Mimi MacLean:
Congratulations to you. That's amazing. You have to be one of the youngest CEOs, I would think, female CEOs, listed.

Inna Braverman:
I didn't check through all the sectors, but I do know that in the energy industry, unfortunately, only 5% of the board executives are women in the whole worldwide energy sector. I would say, one, there's not enough women; two, there's definitely not enough young women. I hope to inspire and to be able to help shift in that regard.

Operational Difficulties and The Lack of Female Business Leaders in STEM & Energy

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Mimi MacLean:
Right, right. And then what would you say, so far, has been your most difficult hurdle that you've had to face?

Inna Braverman:
I think a lot.

Mimi MacLean:
I know. It's hard, right? You make it sound so easy, but it's not, right? It's every day is a problem. What would you say, looking back, you're like, "Wow, I did not expect that to be as big as it was?"

Inna Braverman:
I think that the two biggest difficulties that I faced throughout my journey were two different layers, one, operationally, because wave energy has been trying to commercialize for so long with so many high profile failures, many people, when I would come to tell them about our amazing wave energy technology, they didn't even want to listen, and that's very hard when you're super passionate about something and people don't want to listen.

Inna Braverman:
Two is, more on a personal level, is that, like we said, there's not enough women in the STEM sector and in the energy sector, definitely, there's not enough, so, when I opened the company, every time that I would get, finally, a meeting or somebody that is willing to hear about wave energy and I would come to the conference room all excited to present Eco Wave Power and its amazing solution, people would say, "Espresso, please, coffee," or the men in the room were sure that, if there's a woman that is coming, she's there as somebody's assistant, which, when you are already a minority in the room, is not the most pleasant way to start with confidence.

Inna Braverman:
I think a lot has to do, again, with being a female entrepreneur. Even when we publicly listed on Nasdaq in 2019, on the Swedish Nasdaq, that's a very strange story, which I find strange today. I was extremely proud to reach to a point to publicly listed. It's an amazing milestone. We wanted to hire a local Swedish PR company to help people to recognize our stock, we're the first Israeli company that's listed on Nasdaq Sweden, and we met with a local, huge PR company, and there were many people in the room, and one woman was the most senior employee of the company or partner in the company, and we were super impressed. And, when everybody left, she told me do we want to hear an advice, and I said, "I would love to. I'm new in the market. I don't know enough."

Inna Braverman:
And she said, "If you ever want your company to be successful in the financial market, you need to step down from being the CEO and hire a man with white hair because a woman doesn't show and doesn't say expert. A man, an older man, is an expert. They will never accept you," and I didn't listen. I chose not to step down, but also not to work with them. But I did learn from it the very important lesson that, no matter what people tell us, that we're weak, that we cannot, that it's not possible, we should definitely not step down because, if we step down, our female friend will step down, our children will step down, their children will step down, and that's a very negative chain of events, and that's something that we definitely have to prevent.

Trust Your Instincts and Pursue Your Passion

female business leader Inna Braverman

Mimi MacLean:
No, that's true. That's a very good point. And then what advice would you give to other fellow entrepreneurial women?

Inna Braverman:
First of all, trust your instincts because, many times, when my engineers came to me to show me sketches of the product or some new development that we're going to do, it looked to me that something is wrong. Instinctively, when it's your company and you're immersed into the work, you know things that other people, no matter what their level of education or experience, don't know. When they would come to me and show me something and I knew something wouldn't work, I was too shy to say it, or I would say it and then they would tell me, "How do you know? You're not even an engineer," and then I would pull back and say they're right, I'm not. They're older, more experienced.

Inna Braverman:
And then, when we would make a test with that item, it would fail exactly where I thought it would. I learned that, listen, you don't necessarily have to be an engineer to run a technology company. Actually, it's an advantage that you can see outside of the box and think outside of the box. That's one advice. Two, to really have passion and persistence because any entrepreneur will hear a lot of no. That's part of being an entrepreneur. Really, if that's your true passion, then don't give up. As I always say that passion is the greatest renewable energy source and it's [crosstalk 00:25:57]-

Mimi MacLean:
I like that. That's a good one.

Inna Braverman:
… definitely pursue our passion and our dreams. And maybe the third thing that we females struggle, and I think I struggle with it as well, is we need to understand that we don't have to be perfect. Because, even a study, there's a famous study by Hewlett-Packard that they checked how women apply for jobs and men. A woman would apply only when she meets 100% of the criteria for that job offering. A man would apply when he meets only 60%. We feel that we have to be that perfect if we actually have to meet 100% of the items in an ad, so that needs to change because you can't be a perfect entrepreneur or a perfect man or a perfect woman. I think it will make it much easier for us to progress if we would accept [crosstalk 00:26:43].

Mimi MacLean:
Well, it's so true. As you know, you launch a product and you're always adapting and changing it. You may be changing your logo. You may be changing your mission. You're always changing your company and adapting, right? You can't be perfect because you're always changing.

Inna Braverman:
And you don't need to be perfect. That's the nice thing in life.

Mimi MacLean:
Yes. Yes. Inna, I'm very impressed with, also, I didn't talk about it yet and address what I talked about in the introduction, but how you were awarded for Fast Company as one of the world's most creative people in business, and people, not just women, right, which is great, in 2020, and then also, on WIRED magazine, you were nominated the Female Changing the World, very impressive, and congratulations to you for that.

Inna Braverman:
Thank you. Thank you very much.

Mimi MacLean:
Well, take care. Thank you very much and I appreciate it. And good luck with LA. I'm excited to see what happens with that too.

Inna Braverman:
Thank you, Mimi. We would be glad to invite you to the opening.

Mimi MacLean:
No, I would love to come. Thank you.

Inna Braverman:
Thank you. Nice meeting you. Thank you very much.

Mimi MacLean:
Take care. Bye-bye.

Inna Braverman:
Bye-bye.

Mimi MacLean:
Thank you for joining us on The Badass CEO. To get your copy of the Top 10 Tips Every Entrepreneur Should Know, go to TheBadassCEO.com/tips. Also, please leave a review as it helps others find us. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them. So email me at Mimi@TheBadassCEO.com See you next week and thank you for listening.

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