TAE Technologies has raised $600 million, from investors such as Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital and the Rockefeller family’s Venrock. With a valuation of over $2 billion; what can Clean Growth entrepreneurs learn from the TAE Technologies story?

To download this canvas, please click here.

Everyday Hero:

TAE Technologies understands that the investors most likely to back it, are those that see themselves as ‘pioneers’ looking for ‘moonshot’ technologies.

They are less risk-averse, being attracted to big breakthrough ideas. They’re also optimists, who believe science can solve global challenges and create abundance.

Their story is targeted at these Heroes. While they do provide some reassurance to this audience; they don’t try to appeal to more conservative, risk-averse investors.

Ordinary World:

Priming is an effect, demonstrated by psychological research, where our decisions are often hugely affected by context. TAE Technologies knows that ‘pioneer’ investors are influenced by big picture thinking and worldwide issues – this is reflected in the way it frames the Ordinary World for its target audience.

  • Energy consumption is outpacing population growth by more than double.
  • Evidence of climate breakdown reinforcing the need clean energy on a massive scale.
  • Recent advances suggesting there’s a viable pathway to fusion-based electricity.
Compelling Villain:

TAE makes the mindset of ‘fusion naysayers’ the Villain in its story.  

Using this mindset as the Villain is powerful for three reasons:

  1. This pessimistic view about the limitations of science is instantly recognisable to the target audience because they run into it regularly – making them feel like TAE really understands them.
  2. This mindset creates a strong sense of which side they want to be on – they instantly want to be a ‘fusion believer’ rather than a ‘fusion naysayer’! This mindset is so counter to how they view themselves, that they immediately want to push back against it. Even if they sometimes exhibit ‘naysayer’ tendencies themselves, most people don’t want to recognise what they would perceive as negative aspects of their character.
  3. It primes the idea that TAE Technologies is going to be the company that helps them overcome this mindset – making TAE seem scarce, which is very attractive.  
Call To Adventure:

TAE Technologies’ Call To Adventure is effective because it directly appeals to pioneer investors looking for a moonshot:

‘Mini-suns on earth’ – a forever solution for clean, carbon-free energy.

Crossing The Threshold:

For this investor audience, the next step is made clear and simple – make an investor enquiry.

Three Challenges:

The three challenges for the target audience of any business, tend to be trying the change, making the change work and living the change.

For TAE’s pioneer investors these are:

  1. Is it a solution that is compact and cost-effective so it can be adopted everywhere?
  2. Is it a solution that can generate revenues today?
  3. Is it a solution that is a long-term gamechanger?

These are directly addressed by TAE’s key messages about the Gifts it provides as a Mentor.

Mentor & Gifts:

As we’ve already mentioned, people want things more when they feel scarce. One way to make your company feel scarce is to have a unique viewpoint that can move a market, change a category or challenge the status quo.

For TAE Technologies this is ‘visionary applied science to unlock humankind’s next energy breakthrough’. This appeals to the investor’s belief in the power of science, while also suggesting practical application.

People will only come on a journey of change with you if they trust you. TAE uses the fact that it has over 1,400 patents, has conducted over 121,102 experiments since 2015, and has a team that is an ‘unprecedented gathering of world-class experts’ to build this trust.

You might not have these assets, but what are the three main reasons your audience should trust you?

The three gifts that a Mentor offers have to align with the 3 Challenges that its audience will face. 

This is done through TAE’s key messages about its ‘Copernicus’ platform being the next step toward fusion energy: 

  1. Patented technologies to make cost-competitive fusion energy available anywhere, at all times,
  2. Spin-off applications in energy storage and power management, electric vehicles and mobility, and research and life sciences.
  3. A safe and sustainable long-term path to energy abundance.

We’re also much more likely to say ‘yes’ to people we like. The naming of its platform is a clever tactic here, as pioneer investors will get the relevance of ‘Copernicus’. 

Elon Musk uses a similar naming tactic to make his target audience like him – many of his target audience are likely to be ‘geeks’ like him, so he references their culture in the names for his technologies – Tesla (after Nikola Tesla), SpaceX (possibly an X-Men reference), and Falcon (a Star Wars reference);  the factories at Tesla are even named after X-men characters, including Xavier, Iceman, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Vulcan, and Havoc.

Allies & Gifts:

When they’re uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own.

TAE Technologies points to the leading global experts (Nobel laureates, Maxwell Prize winners and members of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering) who have joined their team.

It also highlights credible collaborators including Google, MIT, General Atomics and ASIPP China.

Finally, many articles about TAE Technologies also mention billionaires who are backing fusion, such as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Peter Thiel.

TAE won’t have had all of this on-board when it started – but make sure you emphasise the credibility your existing team and partners, as well as growing interest in your technology sector, to help you secure funding.  

Better World:

Finally, to go on a journey of change the destination has to be worth the journey, so paint a picture about how funding you can improve an investor’s life – focus on showing how it will help them ‘get ahead’, ‘get along’ and ‘get meaning’.

  • Get ahead – advancing our status in our tribe(s}.
  • Get along – advancing our connections within our tribe(s].
  • Get meaning – advancing our purpose in life (or at least for this chapter in our life). This last one doesn’t have to be world-changing – depending on your personality your purpose can be equally rewarding whether it benefits one other person or the whole world. 

TAE Technologies paints an effective picture of the future for its pioneer investors:

  • Get ahead – potential big returns for breakthrough technologies (with spin-off revenue in the meantime).
  • Get along – being perceived as visionary by their fellow investors.
  • Get meaning – helping to solve the global energy crisis and climate breakdown.

You have to show this Better World to your target audience; you can’t just hope that they’ll figure out how coming on the journey with you will make their lives better.