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Conversation
Highlights

Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Chris Hare, CEO of PRTI, a waste-to-energy company that has raised over $25 million in funding.

  • Chris’ diverse background in technology and industrial businesses, including roles at Northrop Grumman, an MIT spin-out acquired by Microsoft, and Sony Ericsson, where he led the procurement of components for 100 million mobile phones per year.
  • The massive global problem of waste tire disposal, with over 300 million tires discarded annually in the US alone, and the limitations of current solutions like landfills, incineration, and asphalt mixing.
  • PRTI’s proven, automated, and modular technology for converting tires into gas, oil, solid fuel, and steel through a thermal process, validated over 10,000 runs and 100,000 operating hours.
  • The company’s journey from acquiring the core technology from an Italian team in 2013 to building a multi-site operation focused on localizing the waste tire supply chain.
  • The challenges of automating a manual process and refining algorithms to achieve robust performance, requiring a return to basics and perseverance through setbacks.
  • Chris’ lessons learned in fundraising, including the importance of authentic storytelling, transparency with investors, and enabling the entire team to communicate a unified but personalized narrative.

Actionable
Takeaways

Look for "Too Obvious" Problems That Lack Solutions:

Chris frames the waste tire challenge as a "largely unsolved and unknown problem" that elicits disbelief when people encounter the staggering statistics. He advises founders to be alert for pain points that seem so glaring, most assume they must have already been addressed. Where conventional wisdom says "of course somebody's solving that," there may be a ripe opportunity to be seized by questioning that assumption.

Prioritize Proving Before Scaling:

PRTI invested years in demonstrating the repeatability, reliability, and efficiency of its tire conversion technology before shifting focus to expansion. Chris emphasizes the importance of achieving robust performance through extensive iteration cycles before attempting to scale. Founders bringing new innovations to market should define clear success criteria and focus on fully validating their solution prior to accelerating growth.

Cultivate a Multidisciplinary Team to Navigate Pivots:

Chris highlights the value of PRTI's diverse team, spanning backgrounds from the space program to real estate, in adapting to challenges and finding common threads across industries. When early automation efforts fell short, this multifaceted expertise enabled the company to reset and ultimately succeed. Founders should intentionally build teams with varied skill sets to enhance resilience and creative problem-solving, especially in uncharted domains.

Master the Art of Authentic Storytelling:

PRTI's fundraising success has hinged on its team's ability to craft and continuously refine a resonant narrative. Chris stresses that while storytelling is a science, it must be authentic to each team member to build trust and credibility with investors. Founders should empower their teams to internalize and personalize the company story, while ensuring key messages remain aligned.

Communicate Proactively and Transparently with Investors:

Extending the theme of authenticity, Chris emphasizes the importance of frank and proactive communication with investors, even when the news is mixed. By openly sharing challenges alongside successes, PRTI has cultivated trust and empathy among its backers. Founders should resist the temptation to sugar-coat updates and instead aim for consistent transparency to forge durable investor relationships.

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