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Business, CEO, Computing, Startup

By Dip Patel, CTO 

Those who know me well would say I’m an “all-in” kind of guy.

I would have to agree.

Unlike some, going all in is my lifeblood…and it’s how I tend to end poker tournaments! Whether I’ve carefully calculated the odds, have a gut feeling, or just want to take a chance on something unlikely, I will always go all in!

This was definitely the case when I went to work for Lockheed Martin after receiving my electrical engineering degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia — Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles, I might add.

During my time at Lockheed, I completed a number of leadership programs, earned my master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and ran projects that could not have set me up better for what was ahead.

While at Lockheed, I was lucky enough to meet some great mentors who recognized that I worked best under pressure, so they helped me grow within the company, using those characteristics as cornerstones to building my “brand.” In 2011, I received some amazing advice from one of those mentors, “Dip, you need to start your own company.” I took that advice and after a lot of hard work — I was accepted to MIT’s Sloan Business School — to learn just that — how to start a successful business by solving hard problems.

When I started Ecovent, I was all in again. My focus was on anything and everything entrepreneurial. (Here’s a video of what Ecovent is when it aired on This Old House.)

I spent every waking hour working on the company — Obsessed. From 2013–2016, we raised over $14 million dollars, grew the team, designed and brought the system to market (software/ hardware/manufacturing), and delivered on our mission to solve the world’s biggest overlooked problems by unleashing exceptional talent. In this case, building comfort and wellness. But that’s a story for another time.

Here’s What Came Next!

While running Ecovent, the team and I kept asking ourselves, “What could possibly be bigger than this?”. We knew our mission was big and it was what kept us going. We truly felt (and I still do) that our mission was not only important but impossible to compete with.

“This isn’t just crypto — it’s systems integration — and with my experience designing missile defense systems, I’m among the best.”  – Dipul Patel, CTO

Our system not only gave customers complete control and unparalleled home comfort, but it also provided a sensor system that could determine building wellness and HVAC system health.

I truly couldn’t imagine being part of something bigger than that.

Until now, as I begin a new journey with Soluna.

So what led me to Soluna? How did I find my next “all in”?

Well, resigning from Ecovent, I didn’t know what to do next. So, I talked to several people I trusted and the advice was uncharacteristically similar — and the exact opposite of what an all-in person like me wants to hear — take time off. Ahuh.

But, despite my reservations, I took some time, did some consulting, and in September 2017 I found my way back to MIT as an entrepreneur in residence (EIR), a position I continue to hold on to on a part-time basis.

In Q4 of 2016, we sold Ecovent to a company called ConnectM, and after about a 6 month transition period, I fully resigned in July 2017 — with no clear plan on what was next.

Part of the team that lost a bet when the Eagles won the Superbowl.

I was actively serving MIT students through the Martin Trust Center as an EIR when I received an email from a friend and entrepreneur I’ve long admired and grown close with, John Belizaire.

John and I were on the same CEO forum for years and he was there while I raised the money for Ecovent, laid off personal friends, and when I decided to resign. He was an invaluable mentor and advisor. The forum lovingly called him “the Godfather.”

I’d been intrigued with Bitcoin and the idea of cryptocurrency and Blockchain since 2010, so I had to hear more.

I called John, and he explained the concept of Soluna to me. I was instantly all in!

My response was, “John, I’m the best crypto person I know!”

This is, of course, hogwash, but I wanted this job. I knew this was it; this was perfect and he needed a CTO.

It’s a company that is going to build utility-scale, hyper-efficient sustainable energy using the Blockchain. It will provide utility-scale blockchain “service nodes” for the blockchain ecosystem.

Soluna will use the Blockchain to build power plants that would otherwise stay barren.

The more I talked to John, the more excited I got. I knew that we were aligned on key fundamental values — generate 100% renewable energy, support local economies, and be transparent. I loved the idea of going back to Africa and helping grow a tech community with jobs that also help the planet.

Needless to say, I’m fired up! I want to thank all my mentors who helped me during my many adventures leading up to this point. A special thank you to Bill, Trish, and the rest of my family at the MIT Trust Center, who helped me through the toughest times and encouraged me to wait for the perfect opportunity. I want to thank John for knowing what he was doing yet again and calling me Godfather indeed. Lastly, I want to thank my friends, family, and wife, who’ve been insanely patient while this happened.

I’m looking forward to sharing more about this amazing opportunity. Stay tuned!