Gia Schneider and her brother Abe started Natel Energy based on a hydropower turbine their father designed. And after more than a decade of R&D, pilots, software development and a project for Apple, Natel is preparing for the next level of scale.

“Our objectives have...not wavered. But they haven’t [not] wavered because of rigid adherence to dogma; they have not wavered because we check in consistently about, ‘Is this the right problem to solve?’” says Schneider. 

Natel is commercializing a turbine for low-head hydro applications at old dams, irrigation canals and run-of-river projects. It’s designed to protect wildlife and drastically cut the ecological impact of hydropower. The original design came from Gia’s father, who started working on low-flow turbines back in the 1970s but it’s come a long way since then.

Gia also has a long history in energy. She worked at Constellation Energy and in Accenture’s utility practice. She started the energy and carbon trading desks at Credit Suisse. And in 2009, she launched Natel with her brother Abe.

In March, Natel closed an $11 million round led by Schneider Electric and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, just before the economy shut down.

In this episode, Powerhouse CEO Emily Kirsch talks with Gia about starting a company with her family, how to balance short-term tech development with long-term deployment goals, and how the coronavirus pandemic could impact the next phase of growth.

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