The Future Is Now: Desmond Wheatley of Beam Global On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The World Of Clean Mobility

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

When I was a young man out at sea, there was a chief engineer I worked for who was one of the first people to make me realize the answer to any question should always be ”yes, now let’s figure out how” instead of “no, now let’s figure out why.” I took that very seriously and it’s how I’ve led my life. I’ve spent my life saying yes and then figuring out how to make it happen.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Desmond Wheatley.

Desmond Wheatley is CEO, President and Chairman of Beam Global, a clean technology leader in sustainable charging infrastructure. Wheatley joined Beam Global in 2010 when it was Envision Solar, serving as the Company’s CEO since 2011 and as Chairman of the Board since 2016. He led the successful uplisting to Nasdaq (BEEM) in April 2019. Wheatley founded, funded and operated four profitable start-up companies and was previously engaged in M&A activities. Wheatley evaluated acquisition opportunities, conducted due diligence and raised commitments of $500M in debt and equity. As an innovator, Wheatley holds several patents in clean energy for mobility. With more than two decades serving in senior international leadership roles, Wheatley’s experience spans technology systems integration, energy management, communications and renewable energy sectors. Prior to Beam Global, Wheatley was a founding partner of the international consulting practice Crichton Hill LLC, CEO of iAxis FZ LLC, a Dubai-based alternative energy and technology systems integration company, and President of ENS, the largest independent security and energy management systems integrator in the US. He held a variety of senior management positions at San Diego-based Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, fka Wireless Facilities, and in the cellular and broadband wireless industries, deploying infrastructure and lobbying in Washington DC on behalf of major wireless service providers

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in Borthwick in Scotland. Borthwick is a village which comprises the house I grew up in, a church, a castle, the tiny school I went to and the headmaster’s house. It was an idyllic and bucolic environment which had been pretty much unchanged for centuries. It was there that I first learned that one has to fight to stop people from destroying the environment. Though there was no recognition of global environmental impacts, we were acutely aware of the local impacts of unmanaged development. My father fought hard against such pollution and blight and brought me up to feel that it was normal to fight for such things.

I’ve also been involved in a number of diverse businesses — shipbuilding, energy infrastructure, telecommunications, security and finance. Although I’ve journeyed down many different career paths, I’ve always felt my purpose was the same: identify problems, find opportunities, innovate, put teams together, put capital to work and, at the end of the day, help solve the increasing challenges this world is facing. I have also raised the capital required to grow, through some very lean times, and led the company through a public offering and a listing on Nasdaq so my experience in the capital markets and with public companies has been another crucial contributor.

At Beam Global we invent and manufacture products which are designed to preserve this blue planet while allowing humans to securely, comfortably and profitably go about their daily lives. Our products generate, store and dispense electricity using nothing but renewable sources. We build them to be tough because they have to not simply survive but continue to work reliably in the harshest of environments.

Everything I learned growing up in Borthwick, out at sea, in shipyards and deploying money, energy, communications and security infrastructure contributes to the invention, design and fabrication of the products we make today at Beam.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of my favorite stories to recount is from early in our evolution at Beam Global. We had an opportunity to demonstrate our product at an industry event at a time when there was skepticism about its efficacy. We could not pass up any opportunity for a live demonstration. This particular event was being held several miles from our facility. Back then, the product was large, heavy and tall, making it very expensive to transport. We’ve improved it immensely but at that time, we simply couldn’t afford the highly specialized trucking equipment and forklifts on both ends that would be required to deliver the product to the demonstration site. But, I felt, we equally could not afford to miss this opportunity because it might increase skepticism about our ability to deliver something that worked and really solved the problems we knew it could.

I set about considering how we could save some money on the delivery and landed upon the idea of doing away with the specialized trucking and one of the forklifts. We would, instead, carry the product the whole way on one forklift, across the city, on public streets — in the middle of the night, naturally.

We set off at around 2 AM in an old and dilapidated but very large forklift traveling at no more than two or three miles per hour. I had employees and interns in personal and rented cars with their blinkers flashing in front of and behind me as I drove the forklift. I needed the escort because the product was large enough to completely block traffic in both directions on the streets we chose. There wasn’t a lot of traffic at first but as the hours wore on the early commuters started to join us and with increasing frequency registered their frustration with horns and middle fingers. At one point, a mile or so from our destination, the forklift overheated as I tried to climb a freeway overpass. The hydraulics bled off until the forks hit the street, but I pressed on with great showers of sparks spraying in every direction. Finally, the forklift could take it no more and I came to a halt with a growing traffic jam behind and in front of me. There was nothing to do but to wait until things cooled off which, thanks to the second law of thermal dynamics, they inevitably do.

Hours later we arrived at the destination. The hosts assumed we had merely unloaded from a truck on the street, not that we had driven the loaded forklift for several miles through the night. It never occurred to them that anyone would do such a thing. The event was a success and seminal in our development. But much more than that, it was emblematic of our company’s ethos — nothing is impossible, and we never accept “no” or “it can’t be done.”

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Beam’s technology is leading the world to clean mobility. Our patented product is the only 100% renewable, transportable, off-grid EV charging infrastructure option on the market. The ability to access clean power that is not reliant on the grid is vital, especially with the vulnerabilities of our current grid. Not only does this technology help ensure people have resilient access to power in a rapidly scalable format, but it also drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions. We started the production process for our products about a decade before EVs began to really gain popularity, so we’ve been ahead of the curve all along with our renewable charging infrastructure.

How do you think this might change the world?

70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation and the generation of electricity. These emissions are having a detrimental impact on the environment. Reducing emissions leads to a cleaner world free from the dangerous effects of climate change, which we’re already seeing today. When people drive on sunshine, they truly are changing the world.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Actually, I think we are reversing the Black Mirror effect. Our technology does not create or enhance a more dystopian or macabre future. It’s quite the opposite. We are challenging the Dickensian polluted world of transportation and electricity generation and replacing it with a bright, clean, innovative fueling future. This will democratize access to transportation and energy through cost reductions whilst removing the sinister profit and greed driven quest to maintain our addiction to oil — an addiction that contributes to millions of deaths a year. The Dystopia exists, we are tearing it down.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The single shift that took place to allow our technology to exist was in battery technology. Energy density, cost and thermal management of battery technology allowed us to produce our EV ARC charging system.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need a shift in public perception. People are accustomed to relying on fossil fuels for power, and there are a lot of myths about solar power. Many people believe that solar power is unreliable and that it’s a hassle to fuel electric vehicles, but that’s simply not the case anymore. Further, we’re used to fueling our vehicles in a certain way — part of our culture of transportation revolves around heading to the gas station to fill up when your indicator on the dash is near empty. Charging electric vehicles requires a different mindset. It’s not about not running on empty — it’s about creating a charging network in which drivers feel comfortable stopping to top up, plugging in their car wherever they are. Cars spend 95% of time parked; this is the ideal time to charge them. We need a mindset shift, and that’s part of what Beam is working toward as well.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

When we first started Beam, there was no marketing strategy in place. We took it out into the world, showed it to people and sold it to them. We rolled the dice and knew we had one shot. We were able to get in front of some high-profile customers, such as Google, that helped us build the foundation and reputation of our brand. It’s only been in the past year and a half that we started formally marketing our products and since then the interest has skyrocketed. The City of New York is one of our largest customers, and they’ve illustrated how dedicated they are to creating an off-grid, renewable energy charging network for their fleets and vehicles through deploying our products across the five boroughs.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

When I was a young man out at sea, there was a chief engineer I worked for who was one of the first people to make me realize the answer to any question should always be ”yes, now let’s figure out how” instead of “no, now let’s figure out why.” I took that very seriously and it’s how I’ve led my life. I’ve spent my life saying yes and then figuring out how to make it happen.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Every day my company is working to reverse the negative impact that greenhouse gas emissions and other fossil fuel damages have on our environment. But we’re also working to create a more safe and secure energy system. Recent events this year in Texas and the wildfires in California have shown the entire country how fragile our electricity grid is. We need more than just an EV charging network. Just as we’re never out of oil thanks to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, we need a Strategic Electricity Reserve to back up our electricity grid. We’ve already seen what can happen, in the case of the Colonial Pipeline hack, when resource grids fail due to external interference, not to mention the risk of internal failure.

Our products reduce greenhouse emissions without asking our customers to give up anything, all while helping to create a more secure electricity grid. Simply put, when Beam has a good day, the planet has a good day. That fact motivates me and my team every day.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

  1. Take big risks
  2. Doubt the experts
  3. Surround yourself with people who share similar goals
  4. Be confident in your decisions
  5. Don’t take “no” for an answer

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

For me, it all comes down to leaving everything, everybody and everywhere a little bit better than you found it. If everyone conducted themselves with the simple goal of improving everything and everyone they touched, the world would be a much better place. Tackling transportation and electricity generation pollution will dramatically change the world for the better and have local impacts, great and small, for all its inhabitants.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Having the confidence and decisiveness to make decisions is more important than whether the resulting decision is right.

This has been relevant to my career path and has given me courage in my convictions. Hesitation to make decisions, or the inability to make choices, does not allow for growth. Making tough decisions has allowed me to scale and grow Beam.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Beam has the fastest deployed, most scalable, most robust, lowest total cost of ownership infrastructure solution for what will be one of the biggest and most arduous infrastructure deployments in human history.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook —

Twitter —

LinkedIn —

YouTube —

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

The Future Is Now: Desmond Wheatley of Beam Global On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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