There’s a certain beauty in finding the unexpected in life, isn’t there? Like stumbling upon a hidden talent or passion that transforms not just your own life, but the lives of those around you as well. Well, Mike’s guest today, Tom Frazier, is a true embodiment of this spirit.
Frazier’s life journey is one of constant exploration. From ethical hacking for the US federal government to transitioning to the Australian telecommunications industry, he’s no stranger to charting his own course. His entrepreneurial journey is lined with lessons on the importance of problem-solving and the reality of what it takes to succeed. But the intrigue doesn’t stop there. Tom has a profound fascination with dance, specifically swing and tap. This passion has found its home in the hearts of countless adults who’ve found joy, freedom, and unexpected connections on the dance floor under his guidance.
But the tech-savvy side of Tom is never far away. As the leader of Redivider, he’s revolutionizing the world of data centers, with a unique approach that offers crucial benefits to communities and the environment. This episode is a riveting mix of Tom’s insights on technology, entrepreneurship, and the liberating world of dance. Tune in as Frazier’s unique perspective opens up a whole new avenue of thought for you.
- From Government Security to International Success
- Finding Happiness in Career and Entrepreneurship
- Entrepreneurship and the Addiction to Problem-Solving
- Edge Computing for Future Data Centers
- Data Center Construction Modularity and Efficiency
- Power Generation and Future Technology
Connect with Tom Frazier:
Check out the video version of this episode below:
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Episode transcript below:
0:00:00 – Mike Malatesta
Hi everyone. Mike Malatesta here and welcome back to the how it Happened podcast. On this podcast, I dig in deep with every guest to explore the roots of their success, to discover not just how it happened but why it matters. My mission is to find and share stories that inspire, activate and maximize the greatness in you.
0:00:19 – Mike Malatesta
On today’s episode, I’m talking to a guy who’s out to change the world. Literally After starting his career as an ethical hacker for the US federal government, he moved to Australia, became a big time executive at a telecommunications company, before realizing that he’d climbed the wrong ladder, and so he decided to become an entrepreneur. We talk about inventing the future, why the best entrepreneurs are addicted to problems, not solutions, and why it is possible for adults to have carefree moments.
0:00:51 – Tom Frazier
I would say I’m Alfred and I have a Batman factory, because usually the founder is someone who understands a problem really well, but that doesn’t mean they know marketing and legal and counting and operation and HR. There’s all these other domains of being a CEO that are outside of a typical founder’s experience level. For me, because I started my own company a few times, it’s okay to fail and I failed a bunch. And now with where I am with Redivider, it’s a very different place. We have an amazing group of people around me my co-founders, all of our advisors. We have this kind of excellence approach to thinking about stuff and that’s really helped me.
0:01:33 – Mike Malatesta
You will enjoy I know you will this wide-ranging conversation with this game-changing entrepreneur, tom Frazier. Hello Tom, welcome to the podcast. Hi, I’m.
0:01:49 – Tom Frazier
Tom Frazier, I’m here to be here. Thanks for having me.
0:01:52 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, it’s been a few weeks since we had a little brief sort of get to know each other call, and I’ve been looking forward to this ever since, because you opened my eyes during that call to some things that I wasn’t aware of, like some of the work that you’re doing right now, but also this really unique. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I consider to be your unique sort of path to where you are now, and I’m looking forward to digging in and exploring that some more. So, look, everybody, let me tell you a little bit more about my guest, tom Frazier. Tom is the co-founder and CEO of Redivider, which we’ll learn all about. He boasts an impressive 25-year career driving transformational and disruptive architectural initiatives in future tech, b2b and public sectors. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, because we are going to explain what all of that means.
As a serial entrepreneur, tom founded Redivider based on his extensive knowledge of data centers and a passion for revolutionizing the industry, and he’s committed to prioritizing people, planet and profits. Tom has also devoted to spearheading innovation in the digital economy. Outside of his professional life, tom enjoys spending time at his hobby farm in Washington state, traveling the world to teach dance and cherishing his roles as a leader, teacher, husband and father to his two young children. You can learn more about what Tom’s up to at company website, which is Redivider. Tom’s got his own website, tom Frazier F-R-A-Z-I-E-Rcom. He is Tom Frazier on LinkedIn and is there anywhere else you want people to be looking for you?
0:03:34 – Tom Frazier
You got it.
0:03:35 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, all right, wonderful Tom. I started every podcast with the same question, and that is how did?
0:03:41 – Tom Frazier
it happen for you, geez, I think how it happened for me is, I discovered at a very early age I was addicted to learning. If I have one thing that I enjoy the most, it’s learning everything about everything. That takes me down different paths. Like you mentioned, for teaching dance, I just found this wonderful way to connect with other human beings, whether they be investment bankers or parking lot attendants. That led me to traveling the world doing that, where I could experience different cultures. Ultimately, professionally, the path of learning has taken me down where I am today with Redivider, which is how can we make meaningful change, positive change for people, the planet, that ultimately results in high profit for our company and our investors?
0:04:39 – Mike Malatesta
Before I dig into Redivider, I can’t let the dance thing go From parking lot attendance to investment bankers. Tell us more about the dance that you teach and how you got into it, besides being addicted to learning.
0:04:57 – Tom Frazier
Swing dancing and tap dancing is the type of dance I do. One day I was in college, maybe 19,. And this girl, karen, said, hey, we’re going to go on a date. She’s like, let’s go to this dance class. I went and I absolutely fell in love with dancing. Never saw her again, but I gave her credit because that moment changed my life.
There’s this great energy about being at a social dance where everyone is out just to have fun, because no one goes out to enjoy that moment. If you’re in a bad mood, those people just stay home. You just end up surrounding yourself with an energy of people. That is a great social equalizer. It doesn’t matter what you do for work, it doesn’t matter where you live in the world, it doesn’t matter what language you speak. You can have this shared connection with another human being in a way that is very pure. There’s something true about having an intimate moment with somebody. That’s a very personal moment between the two people just going out dancing. I really found that to be true in countries all over the world. Like I said, I’ve taught dance in lots of different places. I’ve been to dozens of countries and it’s always the same energy. It’s always that same feeling. It really lets me know how connected the world actually is.
0:06:27 – Mike Malatesta
How do you find these people, or how do they find you, to travel there and teach them dance?
0:06:32 – Tom Frazier
I mean it’s reputation-based, just like anything else. You go to a city like Chicago and they have a social dance in Chicago, and then you go to New York where they have something on every single day. I lived in Australia for 10 years and so I help teach a lot of classes in Australia and New Zealand and then you just end up getting a name where people really like what you stand for and they ask you to come.
0:06:58 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, they invite you to come to their club or whatever. That might not be the right word.
0:07:05 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, like their city. Yeah, their city.
0:07:07 – Mike Malatesta
Okay Then, there’s an event and you meet up and you teach people swing and tap and maybe they teach you something.
0:07:16 – Tom Frazier
Exactly right. Yeah, it’s not a hierarchical I’m the teacher, you’re the student. It’s I have my skill set and things that I’m really good at doing, and so other people want to learn that, and I might learn stuff from other people as well. There’s the partner dancer like a leader, and a follower is the two basic elements to it. You learn how to be a better leader in dance, or you even learn how to accommodate followers that have different skills. It’s always different. Every single time you go out it’s different, but the truth, the core truth, is the energy is fantastic. I mean, just the people you can meet and what they stand for in that moment is very unique. I’ve not found it in anything else in my life.
0:08:07 – Mike Malatesta
When you run into people who these all sound like, people who are already into and excited about dancing. When you run into people who aren’t, how do you inspire them to give it a try?
0:08:22 – Tom Frazier
Well, usually people think of dance as something you do in school as a child. There’s nothing more liberating than seeing adults who have tremendous burden. If you’re a parent, you have burden of raising children, or you’re a professional, you have burden in your job and all these stresses that come with being an adult. When you finally convince somebody, hey, just go try this and they’re very reserved about it in the beginning, I mean you finally see them have that moment where there’s just this unadulterated joy that they are experiencing, it almost feels like they’ve found something that they’ve lost or forgotten about. It is possible to have carefree moments as an adult, and it’s wonderful.
0:09:04 – Mike Malatesta
I like the way you put that. It is possible to have carefree moments. That’s a very good, that’s a great takeaway for everybody. Listening right now For me. I’m like yeah, it is possible to have carefree moments. That’s really cool. You’ve already mentioned Australia and traveling around the world. I think a lot of people are often sort of wonder where did you grow up, tom?
0:09:27 – Tom Frazier
I grew up in Arizona and then. I went to university in upstate New York at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
0:09:37 – Mike Malatesta
What I was going to say before I interrupted myself was, I think a lot of people sort of wonder how does somebody get started traveling the world or working in Australia or Asia or wherever? I don’t remember all the places you’ve been, but how did that get going for you?
0:09:58 – Tom Frazier
I’ve always loved to travel, you know, when I moved from Arizona to New York, it was a very eye-opening experience just inside of America, the number of cultures that we have. You know. I think a lot of people tend to think that America is one kind of flavor, and it’s not. It’s a lot of different cultures that you can experience. So you know, for me the way it happened is I started dance was my catalyst and it was I was living in Rochester, so I would travel to this city and that city or go spend a weekend in Chicago or New York, florida, atlanta, it doesn’t matter. And I just I found this kind of desire to experience all these different cultures, you know, and I made that part of my. I guess my core identity is going and experiencing cultures in different cities.
And I was working for the federal government at the time and doing computer security. And I just had this burnout moment where I’m like you know, I do this like security stuff for incredibly critical assets, right, and you know, nuclear power plants, pentagon, state Department offices, that kind of stuff, and I just got burned out and said I’m gonna leave the country, I’m gonna go live somewhere else and have that experience. And so I, you know, packed my bags and said what are the countries I can be a dual citizen of? And so I moved to Australia. I just love the life outlook in Australia and so I lived there for almost 10 years.
And you know how did I get to Australia? At the time it was very fortunate for me, you know. You look back and things that seemed easy, but in retrospect I was just uninformed about how difficult it was, right? So it didn’t, it didn’t faze me, right? It’s the burden of knowledge, right. But I moved to Australia and ended up having a job that had me traveling all over Asia Pacific to different countries, and again I would go there for work for, you know, two days, and I would take a day on either end and go experience that culture as well.
0:12:08 – Mike Malatesta
Dual citizen. That makes sense. The change from Arizona to Rochester I assume you went to. I think you went to Rochester. It was a technical school right, like the MIT, rit right.
0:12:22 – Tom Frazier
0:12:22 – Mike Malatesta
Rochester. I thought I knew it was something like MIT. So was that an intentional thing for you? Like you knew, did you know what you wanted to be when you went there, Tom?
0:12:31 – Tom Frazier
Pretty much. I mean, I’ve always been into the computer field since I was kind of very little. I remember buying, working really hard and buying my dad a one megabyte ram chip for his computer, for father’s day or his birthday or something, and you know it’s never being so proud to like do that for my dad and figure out how it all worked and what I had to buy. And so when I went to RIT, you know I knew I wanted to be in the field of computers and this was right when the internet was kind of booming. So when I was 18, well, I actually started when I was 17, in my first year, when I was 18., and I actually couldn’t afford to go there. It was more expensive than my family had money to pay. But at the same time I went there as part of this thing called Computer Science House, which is like RIT has these things, it’s like frats, but for special interests, right. So they had Computer Science House or Engineering House, et cetera. And so I went to Computer Science House and, wow, I was blown away, like the kids at this kind of social program in RIT we’re doing just amazing things, right, when you know all these technology standards are being developed and we’re like inventing this stuff as we go.
And, for example, we had a vending machine like a drink machine, and a bunch of you know smart kids figured out how to put a computer in there so you could log into your computer from your dorm room and say I want to Coke, and you know I’ll be at the vending machine in 10 seconds.
And so it debits your account and you walk down the hall and kachunk, little Coke comes out of the vending machine and so it’s just surrounded by all these people doing really, really interesting things and I just got hooked. I mean, the problem with being addicted to learning is you find something cool and you’re like, oh, shiny object. And you go discover that. And for me the two kind of core themes have always been either dancing or computer technology. And that’s kind of where I stayed. And, as it turns out, the projects I did in that first year led me to be the youngest faculty staff at the university. So I started as full-time faculty staff right after my 18th birthday, which then allowed me to pay for my schooling, to do school full-time and work full-time.
0:14:55 – Mike Malatesta
No way. So at 18, you were teaching as a faculty member.
0:14:59 – Tom Frazier
Well, rit does faculty staff as kind of one bucket. So I was on the staff side, not the teacher side. So I was running the computer systems for the campus on the software side of things and in the data center that we had on site and at the same time we were building the super connected campus that everyone has today. But back then and then like mid 90s this is 95, not every dorm room had an internet connection. So at the same time all that’s going on and everyone’s getting connected and I’m part of this computer. I’m actually chairman of this computer science house organization on one side but I’m kind of running the campus systems on the other side and being a student taking classes for my teachers whose office is like next door to mine.
So I had a very unique early career that really took away a lot of the limitations from my mind about where you could go, and I think a lot of people today in university they go, they study, they do their thing and there’s like this kind of structured approach and back then it was like catching glitter right. There was just so much excitement around in the air and it was fun to just run around and collect as much knowledge and experience as I could.
0:16:19 – Mike Malatesta
Oh, that’s another good catching glitter. I’m just that’s difficult to catch glitter. Yeah, there’s so much of it. Yeah, hey, did I. I know that you got a patent early. I don’t know if it was when you were still in college. Tom, tell us about that. There’s not that many people have patents first of all, and I know you got one at a relatively young age, right?
0:16:42 – Tom Frazier
I only have one like a filed and approved patent. I’ve tried for maybe 10, but I tend to try for really difficult ones as opposed to like small ones.
So the one patent I have with two other guys is a system that we developed about 10 years ago to kind of process records of something in real time. So it’s actually in the telecom industry. If you think of the way billing works for your mobile phone. By law they have to cut the bill off the end of the month and then send you a bill, and what happens is the systems to generate that bill often they want to run it as right to the end of the month right, and oftentimes it takes five or six or seven more hours after the end of the month and so all that’s kind of lost revenue because they’ve already issued the bill. I invented a way with two other guys about how to do that in a very different way that allows it to run in seconds instead of hours, and the result of that is telecoms that use that technology can be significantly more profitable because they’re not forgiving roughly 5% of a phone bill every month for millions of customers.
0:17:53 – Mike Malatesta
And is that something that you ended up developing into a business, or did you, or was that in a business you had had at the time?
0:18:01 – Tom Frazier
That was in a business. Yeah, yeah, that was in a business.
0:18:04 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, so you go to Australia, you spend 10 years there and you sort of intimated that you were working in. I think you were working in telecommunications, I think it might have been Verizon, or at least part of your time there was from Verizon and, as I recall, you basically ended up being very successful at Verizon. Can you take us through that time and just get us up to speed on what happened while you were in Australia?
0:18:32 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, yeah. So I moved over there Again. I spent more than 10 years in my career in computer security so being the ethical hacker white hat guy, and my job was to test systems, and that’s what I did, for the federal government ended up going to Australia, and a week after I got there that company got acquired, which then got acquired again by Verizon, and I found myself in my late 20s being a regional director for Verizon across all of Asia pack. So that was for cloud computing and security, and so I would go around to the different parts of Asia and give speeches and do technology projects that would help our customers, whether they be banks or governments or anything with critical infrastructure.
That had some exposure, and everything has exposure when it’s online, so it’s just a matter of how can you best reduce that, and it was really great. I mean, I learned a lot from both the process of being in a company that was acquired by Verizon, as well as how large companies work versus small companies work, and my key takeaway there was large companies don’t really innovate, they just scale things. So they tend to buy innovation that small companies create and they scale it to their footprint, and I remember one day I kind of had that realization and I remember one day I woke up and I felt like I’ve everyone has the analogy of climbing the corporate ladder right and I felt like I was really near the top of the corporate ladder and I was like I think I climbed the wrong ladder.
I remember having that exact phrase in my head of like this isn’t what I want to do working for a big company anymore Not because it wasn’t good, but there’s very little opportunity for me to learn at that point. It was really about, like I said, scaling something that already existed, and so I quit and I started my own company and it started in other companies, ran an incubator, starting companies, so to date I’ve been the founder, investor or board member of about 70 companies and I feel like that’s been my home mentally is the idea generation, the scaling of an idea to something bigger, and at this point it’s now taking that, but doing that in a more meaningful way. We’re meeting again. It’s kind of people and planet Like how can I take my skill set and be the best contributor to the world that I possibly can be, for myself, for my family and for society at large?
0:21:28 – Mike Malatesta
And how many years are we talking about between you making this determination that you had climbed the wrong ladder to now?
0:21:35 – Tom Frazier
just so I have a reference I’d say that was 15 years or so.
0:21:43 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, all right 18 years. So a lot’s happened in 15, 18 years, based on what you were just talking about.
This whole climbing, the realization that you climbed the wrong ladder time. I feel like a lot of people might feel like they’ve climbed the wrong ladder, at least from time to time. And I would venture to say and this is just a guess, but I would venture to say that most people I’m just gonna say, get over it, right. They’re like oh you know, I don’t feel really great about what I’m doing right now, but what I’m doing right now is a big time thing, like what you were doing, and I don’t know what I would do with myself if I didn’t do this, and there’s a lot of inertia, gravitational force keeping you in place, and I’m wondering how you broke away from that, because I think all humans would have at least some of it. So how did you handle it?
0:22:42 – Tom Frazier
Well, again, because I had a very atypical start. My professional career started when I was 18, right, and most people’s professional career kind of starts in their late 20s right. So I have 10 years more in my back pocket than most of the people of my similar position. And so, because I was younger, I didn’t have kids, I didn’t have debt, I didn’t have any of the weight that I think a lot of people might feel, and so for me it was a bit of a lighter decision to make, because if I started a company and I was working at it for two years and didn’t work, I have an awesome experience that to go get another job, I can, anyone can get another job.
It’s just a question of can you endure the pain of being a startup founder for some period of time, and that pain is not to be underestimated. It is painful, it’s rewarding, but it’s painful, it’s lonely, it’s very hard, and so if I had children when I started this journey, or if I had huge student loan debts or all these other kind of issues, that pain may not have been the right choice. And so I think for me it was not a difficult one to make, but, having talked to many thousands of entrepreneurs over my career. The commonalities I’ve heard is people wanna change, they wanna do their own thing, but they’re afraid of the risk. And I’d say, if that’s your position, don’t do it. You know it’s okay to not fulfill every dream and goal that you have, because at the end, it’s about the pursuit of happiness and life, in my opinion, and so you have to find what makes you happy and if you can endure that pain and this is a path to happiness for you then make sure you have a great support network and go for it and find the right mentors to teach you how to be a CEO instead of a founder.
And that’s the core truth that I try to embody in people is I would say I’m Alfred and I have a Batman factory, because I help a founder become a CEO in a lot of ways, because usually the founder is someone who understands a problem really well, but that doesn’t mean they know marketing and legal and accounting and operation and HR, like there’s all these other domains of being a CEO that are outside of a typical founder’s experience level. And so for me, because I started my own company a few times, it’s okay to fail, and I failed a bunch and now with you know where I am with Redivider, it’s a very different place, like we have an amazing group of people around me my co-founders, all of our advisors. You know we have this kind of excellence approach to thinking about stuff and that’s really helped me.
0:25:42 – Mike Malatesta
And this I’m just gonna go on a little tangent here, if you don’t mind the you mentioned the pursuit of happiness and I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the pursuit of happiness and some I’ve heard say you know, the founding fathers got a lot of stuff right, but what they didn’t get right was this pursuit of happiness, because the pursuit of happiness means that you are constantly you can never be happy. In other words, you’re always pursuing happiness as opposed to achieving happiness. And I, since you brought it up, I just like to get your take on that.
0:26:16 – Tom Frazier
Well, yeah. So I guess, to start off, I have one tattoo and it’s on my hand. Okay, it’s on my hand for a reason. It’s a. I don’t know if you can see that it’s a question mark and an exclamation mark.
0:26:29 – Mike Malatesta
Oh, okay, yeah, it’s combined.
0:26:32 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, it’s called an entero bang, and the reason I have that tattoo is my only one and while it’s on my, it’s on my hand is I don’t know where I’m gonna end up, but I’m excited about the journey. Right, that’s the question and the exclamation mark.
0:26:47 – Mike Malatesta
0:26:47 – Tom Frazier
And so. So, to answer your question, I’d say the pursuit of happiness doesn’t mean that you’re unhappy, but happiness can mean many different dimensions. It can be different kind of sizes as well. So you can be happy in your everyday life but feel sad that you’re missing out on something bigger, right? So for me it’s always just trying to increase. Increase that in every aspect of my life, you know, from my family to my profession, to. That’s why I love helping entrepreneurs, because it makes me happy to know that I can help someone on their journey.
0:27:23 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, Okay, Well, thanks for showing us your tattoo. That was really. I’ve never seen a tattoo like that. That’s really neat. And how do you spell that? What you called it?
0:27:34 – Tom Frazier
It’s called an interroving I-N-T-E-R-R-O-B-A-N-G. It’s a very old glyph, like you know. The back when ink was expensive, they used to use it a lot to mean both of those without needing ink for two symbols. I’ve just repurposed it artistically to kind of mean something else for me. But Okay, yeah, it’s fun. I’m a typography nerd as well, so this is like a bit of a typography nerd for myself. It’s, you know, exciting.
0:28:10 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, typography nerd I don’t hear many people refer to themselves as that either, so that’s pretty neat. You’re breaking a lot of ground with me today. This is good. I just want to ask one more question about the government work that so it sounds like you were. I don’t know if you can actually talk about the work you did or not. If you can, great, but it sounds to me like maybe you were in this sort of highly classified type doing highly classified type kind of work, and I’m wondering if yeah, first of all, I don’t know if that’s true, so you can tell me if that’s true but how did you get recruited for that? Or how did that happen for you right out of school?
0:28:50 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, so I was working at RIT and you know this is at the time when everyone was stealing music and MP3s were like you know, people were taking CDs and ripping them and giving them away for free on the internet and I just got really hooked on this idea of security that all of a sudden everyone’s world was upside down.
You know everyone’s trying to connect all these systems to the internet to gain the new abilities of telecommunications but at the same time the security, governance and kind of controls were not in place for the whole world. And this was just a wonderful time to be a part of that, of inventing technologies, learning how to defend things, building governance programs, compliance programs, threat models you know all kinds of stuff. So I left RIT to go work for Xerox in Rochester and literally full-time job of breaking into data centers. You know we had data centers all over the world and we’re remotely breaking into them doing it in person. You know lots of different kind of things and from that work I kind of got recruited to work on a few critical infrastructure projects for the government and that led me traveling all over the place to these federal facilities about how we can put software into better monitored things or control things or keep criminals out, that kind of stuff.
0:30:19 – Mike Malatesta
0:30:21 – Tom Frazier
It was just very again, looking back now, going, hey, I’m in my 20s and I’m working in the Pentagon, you know it’s at the moment it just felt like, well, that’s what needs to happen. And looking back now I was like, wow, okay, I was one of the very few people to have that kind of experience and it all stemmed from me just doing projects that were I don’t know about cutting edge, but they were meaningful and they were making a major difference in terms of protecting the country. So it was great. You know, it was very difficult and it was very, very, very stressful. I cannot possibly convey the stress level of trying to secure critical infrastructure at that level, which is why, you know, I said I got burned out. Everyone gets burned out. And to pick up and move to Australia but then do that for Verizon at a corporate level, I kind of, you know, I felt like I took a little breather but then I got worse again, because now I’m doing it for different governments in different places or large multinational companies and just very exciting.
0:31:28 – Mike Malatesta
And we talked about you, you know, realizing that you climbed the wrong ladder. And when we talked the first time, you said to me that being an entrepreneur is like a drug for me. So you determine that you’re on the wrong ladder, you decide you’re going to become an entrepreneur. You talked a little bit, or you mentioned a little bit, about the pain that accompanied that decision and maybe still does from time to time. So how did it become a drug? Because it wasn’t something that you engaged in before. It doesn’t sound like it, at least. How did it become a drug, and how has the drug of being an entrepreneur helped you deal with the pain of being an entrepreneur?
0:32:13 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, these are very deep philosophical questions and I would say being an entrepreneur is not for everybody. You know, everyone has different things that they need in their life and things that they want in their life and things they want to avoid in their life. And being an entrepreneur is not for everyone and that’s okay. In the same way that I wouldn’t want to have a job where I did the same thing every single day. That’s not for me. I would get bored and go stir crazy. But for other people that’s what they look for and that’s great If that’s where their happiness takes them, that they use the idea of doing something every single day so when they’re not at work they can explore themselves outside of work. That’s fine.
But for me, I love inventing the future. I love the idea that the future is unwritten and we all have the ability to see a potential future and for me, the drug of being an entrepreneur is trying to test that and see if it’s real right. And the really great entrepreneurs in my experience are addicted to the problems but not the solutions, right? So if you have a, if you invent something and you have this product and you’re just so proud of what you built, you’re gonna try to convince yourself and everybody else that that future is real, even if it’s not, even if it’s a terrible idea.
And just an easy example I’ve had pitched me probably a hundred times or more of this idea of like, well, we’ll optimize parking spots in different cities, right when parking is difficult, and for some reason, first time entrepreneurs love this concept, but it just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter, like it’s not meaningful to anybody, but because it’s novel, like a bent fork, it’s unique but it doesn’t mean it’s useful. So the addiction to being an entrepreneur is testing, the being addicted to the problem. Like, what problem are you really trying to solve? And again, just to use Redivider for a second, the gap between the computing that we require and the quality of life of humanity, you think, would go up and down together because, they’re so tightly coupled.
The truth of it is the gap gets wider. Humanity is not improving on a number of metrics core metrics as our computational demand increases, and that’s one of the core problems that I want to try to solve for, and so I don’t care. If I have one solution and it doesn’t work, then I’m going to create another one and another one, and you end up version controlling your way into something that really does solve a meaningful problem, and so the pain that you feel along the way is you have to deal the fact that most of the ideas you have to solve that problem are going to fail because they probably suck, and but going through that pain lets you shake it off and reset and try something else, and keep trying until you get to the place where you’ve done something amazing.
0:35:22 – Mike Malatesta
I think I love that you, the way you shared that that the best entrepreneurs are addicted to the problems, not to the solutions and the example that you gave, because I think that’s something that people really have to keep in mind. You can have a cool solution to something that nobody cares about and it’s doesn’t do anything for anybody like the parking thing you mentioned and that’s it’s like you’re just, but that’s just barking up the wrong tree, sort of thing, instead of questioning yourself as to the real core of what entrepreneurs are built to do right, make someone’s life better, or make the world better, or yeah, and this, this came from Elon Musk, so I’m not trying to steal it, but I think it’s beautiful.
0:36:09 – Tom Frazier
You either need to have a major solution for a small set of people or if you’re going to solve a small problem, it had better be for a huge number of people. And first time or second time, entrepreneurs tend to not hit either of those buckets. They tend to solve a small problem for a small set of people which no one cares about. So you know it’s you’ve got to kind of pick where you want to go. And again, if you focus on the problem instead of the solution, you you can eventually get there if you have the grit to go all the way to the end. And if not, and you say, hey, I, I tried 50 versions to solve this problem, I’m not the person to do it. That’s also okay, Because that means that you were. Your capacity is to solve a different problem, Not that one. And that’s fine.
Like in my career, I’ve solved a bunch of different problems to varying levels of success or failure, and it’s only now after again, we’ll just call it 70. I don’t know if it’s 65 or 72, whatever the number is. Only after doing this 70 times have I found the true calling for me, which is trying to deliver energy as impact by you know, the computer resources that are growing at an exponential rate, doing that in the most sustainable way possible to be better for our planet, and doing it with a tremendous social impact to improve the communities in which we operate. Like. It took me 70 times to figure out that I don’t want to take a small piece of a bunch of companies. I want to devote my existence to this idea.
0:37:48 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, but you were still exploring during that time the 70 or more problems that you thought might lead to this kind of impact.
0:37:58 – Tom Frazier
Right, so you, yeah, I guess my yeah In some cases I’m supporting CAS for somebody else’s journey right.
Like I’m on the board of a company that is called Pebblebee that does these amazing tracking technology, like little key chain thing or wallet tracker. They were the first in the industry that got tons of patents. Like you know that founder, I’m like writing shotgun on his journey for that right Wherever I can support and be helpful because of my experience. But Redivider is my journey. You know it’s the one for journey of my co-founders, all of our advisors and investors. You know we have this kind of shared vision and belief about what we can do.
0:38:41 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, so explain to us what Redivider does.
0:38:44 – Tom Frazier
Essentially, it’s a data center company done a wildly different way. When everyone started working from home in what 2021, the fabric of the internet kind of broke right. It used to be a huge data center with a really big internet pipe to a downtown building full of people, and now everyone’s working from home and I think that’s here to stay. Well, the whole idea of where computing happens is fundamentally different, and so Redivider was born with this idea of what’s called edge computing. So taking a smaller form factor data center, building it in a factory on like an assembly line to get higher efficiency, higher quality, lower cost, and putting that data center in thousands of locations instead of dozens of big locations, and it’s there to kind of augment what’s already there. But the beauty of having a blank sheet of paper and trying to solve for the problem is, as we went through this process the data that we ingested two big things always came out. One is it’s not.
The data center industry is not sustainable, and the easiest showcase of that is if you type in Bitcoin mining into Google. You just get this rap sheet of how it’s so bad for the planet. But really that’s the canary in the coal mine for the data center industry in totality right. It consumes 3% of the world’s power. That’s going to increase dramatically. The amount of data that we’re gonna use is going to be 5x what it is today by 2025. So the sustainability of every piece of data we create and the fact that one piece of data gets copied, copied, copied, copied to make hundreds of versions of it all over the place just creates this unsustainable future, and that’s one that we wanna solve.
For how do we have power generation that’s clean? How do we build carbon accounting so we can at least measure the embodied carbon that we have as our footprint? How do we improve on that measurement? How do we align it to the United Nations sustainability development goals? That are these mandates for all these board level initiatives? Every major company in the world stands up and says we wanna be net zero by 2050.
Okay, well, at the same time, you’re trying to forex your computing requirements and it has as much carbon emission as the entire airline industry. So you’re kinda one side is trying to meet the demands of the business, the other is trying to meet the goals of the business, and Rita Ryder was like the solution that we ended up putting together is trying to solve that problem by building these modular data centers, putting them in lots of places, focusing on sustainability and, at the same time, contributing to these communities in which we operate for job creation, education, taking our waste products of hot air and hot water, and designing a greenhouse that gets operated by the community that can help change the relationship children have with food. If you think deep enough about some of these core issues, all these solutions can exist, and that’s what Rita Biders here to do is really use the growth in computing to satisfy board needs of net zero by 2050, and do so with high social impact.
0:42:23 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, so let’s get into how that happens. You explained the why pretty good, I think the how. So right now you’ve got these big data centers, you’re taking a factory approach and to me and I know it’s not at all the same, but it’s kind of like. There’s a big thing. Now there’s a company called Blockable that I’m invested in. They’re building homes inside of a factory, not mobile homes, but maybe you’re familiar with Blockable, right? So they yeah, so you’re bringing that same mindset to the data processing with this edge computing thing. You’re gonna put them in a bunch of locations instead of a central one, and I’m sure they’re gonna be powered differently and we’ll talk about that. But I’m one just for the people who, like me, who are just I don’t even understand why is it better for it to be?
closer than it is for it to be central, for example, and how does that help us?
0:43:22 – Tom Frazier
It brings a number of benefits, and I’ll use an example of a smart city right.
So today you live in a city that’s growing and you have a lot of issues, right, there might be traffic congestion, there might be homeless considerations, there might be all these kind of social programs or green space, parks for kids, or just city planning where they’re gonna put routes for new homes or commercial. Right. Those have some major opportunities to use technology to do things better. And just on the traffic one I’m not gonna go into all the details, but just the traffic one you could put a camera on a bunch of different kind of traffic lights and feed that data, that computer vision data to be processed, to say, hey, based on all this machine learning, what do we need to do with our traffic lights in terms of timing or road creation or allocation of resources, to increase the happiness of people driving their car?
Right, if you’re in traffic all day, every day, at red lights, it sucks. You then are not, your energy is not in the right place to then go to work and be like, oh, I’m having a great day. It’s like you start off like, oh, I’m having a bad day.
0:44:42 – Mike Malatesta
Yep, yep, yep.
0:44:44 – Tom Frazier
So if you can process all that computer vision data locally in the city with a small data center, it’s going to be significantly cheaper than paying to transport that data to a big data center, paying for a computer to deal with it and then shuffling it back over here. That cost can be tremendous, and so the idea of it being local is a lot cheaper. It also means you’ve reduced your security concerns, because that data is not transferring to a lot of different places. It’s being held locally, and it also enables new things. Where, let’s say, you’ve got a manufacturing plant that wants to open up nearby, hey, we’re going to add this many jobs, this many people, this many vehicles. What does that do to traffic? Oh well, the city can now say that that’s not a great location. This one’s better. Right.
And so you can attract better businesses by having a smart city and all that can be fueled by data that’s done in local proximity as opposed to in the air quote cloud.
0:45:44 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, and is the if it’s close by? I’m just assuming the latency would be less. It would be faster processing, or no?
0:45:54 – Tom Frazier
Yeah. Yeah latency is better. Another example is 5G. You know, we’ve all heard that 5G speeds are way faster.
0:46:02 – Mike Malatesta
0:46:03 – Tom Frazier
Well, technically that’s true, but if the data you need access to isn’t nearby, you still have to go and get it from far away and bring it back. So, by moving the computing closer to the source of the data, near the cell phone towers. Well, now that promise of speeds becomes reality, of better speeds and better experience.
0:46:22 – Mike Malatesta
Oh okay, that’s a good example, because so 5G is faster, but if it has to make its way through all these other less fast, it doesn’t seem to be faster. It doesn’t seem faster. In other words, that’s right.
0:46:34 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, you could have the fastest connection to the tower possible, but if you then go through a construction zone to get where you need to go, it’s going to be super slow right.
So there’s layers and layers and layers of benefits of how edge computing is a great addition to what we have.
We’re never going to replace these large industrial scale million square foot facilities, but in certain pockets it’s meaningful. And I’ll just give one more example the idea of areas that can’t build large data centers, like the state of Florida. There’s always weather patterns that prevent investment of, you know, $2 billion, like Google just announced a $2 billion facility they’re going to build in Ohio. No one’s going to invest $2 billion in a place that might get run over by a hurricane. But if the facilities are now smaller and they’re way cheaper, and you have hundreds of them, well, the hurricane might take out 5% of those facilities, but you have increased resilience because all these other ones are still operating and all the consumers in Florida would get faster speeds because that infrastructure that didn’t pass the risk test now can be put in place in a wildly different way. So there’s lots of examples like this of kind of where Redivider would deliver benefits. We’re solely focused on doing them where we have high sustainability and high social impact.
0:48:06 – Mike Malatesta
And the. You mentioned the amount of electricity that data centers use. I think that most people don’t have any awareness of that and the growth of it. You know, everybody knows what chat, gpt is now, but large language models and just AI in general. I don’t think most people understand the amount of computing energy, the amount of energy it takes for that kind of computing. And also you also mentioned the heat, the amount of heat that’s produced from making these right. So that has to be cooled, so that’s more energy being used. How do you get around the energy part of the equation.
0:48:52 – Tom Frazier
So yeah, just to give you some stats on your question there. So the total data center power consumption in 2019, 2020 was 286 terawatt hours. So let’s ignore the scale, because that’s mind bogglingly large. It’s going to go to 1000 terawatt hours by 2030. So we’re going to forex the amount of power this industry needs, which is already taking 3% of the world’s power.
So it’s an enormous, enormous, enormous growth and by doing these in these large physical centers, you have to have a lot of that power in one place. So you know, I wrote a thought piece on LinkedIn maybe last week, and the reality is the renewables that are getting added to our power grid are generally non-dispatch, which just means they’re kind of localized right Wind works in certain areas, solar works in certain areas, only in certain times of day. So it’s hard to build these large facilities that have 24 by 7 base load requirements and still do it with renewables. So you know my LinkedIn piece basically like I think, unless humanity changes course, we’re going to have to turn back on coal power plants to meet our computing requirements.
That’s, that’s bad like we don’t want to do that, but that forex growth is huge. So the idea for Redivider is if you look at the power grid, most people think of it as like a unit of one, like there’s US power grid. The reality is it’s hundreds and hundreds of interconnected systems and within those systems there’s often little pockets of power that you can tap into that’s being unused or wasted, you know. So if there’s one megawatt of power over here, we can put a data center there. That’s that’s currently going to waste. Or there’s a solar farm or wind farm that has excess power, but we can put a data center there and the city planning to use that power is going to be in 20 years, so 10 years from now, when the city planning catches up, we can say, all right, well, now that community gets faster access because our data center is there or because it’s modular, we can put it on a truck or a train and move it somewhere else, and so we haven’t wasted the asset investment to then decommission it to have people live there.
And the most shocking around all of this is water, the water consumption. So you mentioned chat GPT. You know the average conversation with chat GPT consumes about half a liter of water, so like a you know, a single use water bottle for one conversation. So the idea that water consumption is so heavily used by the data center industry, yet cities like Phoenix are saying no new housing because there’s no more water. You know, we just have this, this conflict of doing more large facilities because these facilities take such enormous resources. So by making them smaller we can put them in more places, we can reduce that resource need in one location yet still help meet the capacity growth that consumers want.
0:52:19 – Mike Malatesta
And from a modularity you mentioned, you can put them on a train or a truck or whatever. Where does it go? What kind of structure does it need to be housed in? Can it be in an existing building that’s just in the city, like you were mentioning before the city example, or where does it have to go?
0:52:39 – Tom Frazier
Well, that’s what we’ve spent years kind of designing and thinking about is how we do all the different scenarios. So our approach is to have a library of modules that cater to different use cases. So someone would go what’s called a building in a building where everything that comes off the assembly line is a building.
You know it is a metal structure building, but in some cases those metal structure buildings are designed to go inside of another building. Like you have a big concrete warehouse that has power. Maybe it was a commercial bakery that had two megawatt the power. Well, we don’t want to tear the building down, so we’ll design it a little more low cost. It doesn’t have to be exterior rated and we put it inside of that brick building. In other cases, where it is going to be weather dependent, like I mentioned in Florida well, it’s got to be a hurricane rated building. Great, we’re going to have that line build that unit and this other campus. It actually has 10 megawatts of power that we can put there. So instead of having a module of one, we can make 10 modules, for example, that then get bolted together on the site.
0:53:55 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, so you can chain them together. I guess sort of thing to build, yeah, okay.
0:54:00 – Tom Frazier
0:54:01 – Mike Malatesta
Huh. So where are you now with your technology? Are you building systems now? Do you have systems on the ground, in places? Where are you in the development stage of the company?
0:54:18 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, so we again. We started in 2021. We incorporated in 2021. We started in 2020. But 2021 is where we started and we have our first facility. That is our kind of showcase facility that uses a bunch of different technologies on how this all works. So that’s installed at our first facility. We’re still waiting for that to go live, which would be in the next kind of 30 to 60 days here. So it’s very exciting times for us after years of hard work. And then it’s back to the supply chain. This is the supply chain derivative business when you talked about doing things in a factory. So we’ve been lining up all of our kind of allocations for different components that go into a data center so that we can put them through the pipeline and they can come out the other end, and our goal against that is probably 18 months from now, we want to be in a place where we can go from a piece of land to a live operating data center within 30 days.
0:55:26 – Mike Malatesta
Oh, no way.
0:55:28 – Tom Frazier
The typical period is a construction project, right, so it’s like a two year build and all this stuff, and we just don’t think that’s going to get the industry where it needs to go, not even close. So our goal of going from dirt to live in 30 days is a very big, hairy, audacious goal and we’re excited about it.
0:55:53 – Mike Malatesta
And where are you building these or where are you going to build them?
0:55:56 – Tom Frazier
They’re being built in Colorado right now and probably next year we look to open another facility on the East Coast to manufacture on both coasts, because obviously transporting a data center on a truck is a huge expense that adds no value to what we’re actually doing. So we want to reduce the transport cost, but we’ve been really focused on the library, getting the different module types put together and thought through, getting our infrastructure in place for the supply chain, and the next cab off the rank next year would be expanding the throughput.
0:56:37 – Mike Malatesta
And maybe this would be the last question, tom, but I’m wondering, as you look, your guy that’s used to looking into the future and trying to solve problems that will become bigger in the future, and the gap between humanity and computing, for example, have it not be widening instead of I think that’s what you said instead of? So I’m curious what you think. I’ve heard a little bit I’m not nearly an expert, but this LK99 thing that’s supposed to maybe compute without the heat. I’m wondering, and I’ve heard about people who want to take solar and they want to take the solar power, condense it and use it to cool data centers. I’ve heard about people doing something similar to you, but you seem like a way step up, building data centers and shipping containers and putting them in different places.
Is there something on the horizon that would help reduce? Well, fusion too, I guess. But is there something on the horizon that you see that could potentially, in a very meaningful way, impact the amount of energy needed and or heat produced? That would complement what you’re doing now and help solve this very large problem of carbon and just a lot of energy being used. It’s so funny that you mentioned nobody mentions computing power. They mentioned EVs, right, and then you go I got it in California, you’re going to have to have EVs by this date, but then they got rolling blackouts because they can’t power everything. Now and just imagine if it’s 4X on the computing power alone and let’s just say it’s 10X on EVs, where are you going to? Yeah, so what’s your futuristic take on that?
0:58:32 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, america has always had this NIMBY mentality right, not in my backyard. That’s true for garbage and recycling that we ship off to other countries. It’s true for oil, where we’re willing to buy oil from third parties countries as opposed to doing it in our own country. That would have far more environmental benefit and far more national security. And that NIMBY problem America is going to have to deal with. You’re going to have to decide do you want to use TikTok or do you want to put more power generation in your backyard, because the two are not compatible. And again, I don’t believe solar is the right solution for baseload things like data centers. Solar is great for your house I mean, it’s amazing for your house. Wind is great in some cases, but not all cases. But I’m really bullish on the hydrogen economy. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s the only thing that we can consistently do that if we can produce enough hydrogen in a lot of different form factors, there’s lots of ways to do it. But produce that hydrogen and have an entire hydrogen economy that powers baseload industries like concrete or steelmaking or data centers or you name it. That has to be the path forward. I think there’s a lot of ways that we could do that, but all of them depend on two limiting factors. One is regulation. So for example, with nuclear, there’s plenty of nuclear technologies out there, plenty of solutions to real problems that the regulations of America don’t really allow them to go forward. So I think as citizens of America we have to decide do we want that or not? And if we do, we need to lobby our governments to change those regulations. So the power generation on the regulatory side is one, and then the power operators is a whole other situation.
Our grid is super old, it’s very fragile and I don’t think it is the path forward.
I think the grid is, if you mentally consider the grid, legacy that you have to interact with but you don’t have to improve.
The number of solutions that open up are tremendous and for example, with Redivider, we see power as kind of the critical problem. So our business is really twofold. One is the data center side, the other is on-site power generation, because we’ve realized we can’t just connect to the grid and cross our fingers that it’s going to be okay. So doing on-site power generation with a technology called MicroGrid Island, where everything is connected to itself but that doesn’t necessarily connect to the outside world. We really think counties and cities and states that already have deregulated energy markets, deregulated gas markets, we think those are going to be the front runners that end up powering new economies, because that’s where these kind of on-site power generation technologies can be applied. And then we don’t have to worry about the grid. Let the grid go at its 20 to 50 year replacement cycle and we can operate in a one to five year build cycle and be a lot further along than if we waited for everybody else.
1:02:09 – Mike Malatesta
Gotcha. So you’re basically saying we need things that complement the grid? We’re accretive to the grid, not dependent on the grid, is that?
1:02:18 – Tom Frazier
fair to say that’s right.
1:02:19 – Mike Malatesta
Okay, Well, you’re doing some big stuff here, man. Yeah, it’s really amazing. I’ve had a good time exploring not just your story, but then here in the last 20 minutes or so when we’ve really dug into a redevire. This is very interesting to me and I hope it will be for everybody. Tom, before we go, is there anything that I should have asked you or you would have liked to leave us with before we end the podcast?
1:02:47 – Tom Frazier
I think the only thing I would add is the use of technology is the driver of a lot of these sustainability problems. Do you need all the technology you have today? Are you oversubscribed to technology? And I think that’s a very personal question for everybody, but it’s one that’s super relevant to think about. If we want to continue this path, as an entrepreneur or as just a consumer, of using layers and layers of new technology, using AI to do things that we’ve never done before, then we have to ask at what cost and how do we deal with that cost? And I think a lot of people right now are very excited, since ChetGPT came out, about the potential of AI, but they’re probably not as supportive of what it takes to get there.
1:03:43 – Mike Malatesta
1:03:45 – Tom Frazier
And that’s an open question Again be excited about the journey. I hope something everyone can bring in their journey is exploring a little bit about what it takes to do that and making sure you understand the implications.
1:04:00 – Mike Malatesta
Yeah, it just made me think, tom, that you mentioned NIMBY, not in my backyard. So we have this very unique dichotomy I don’t want anything in my backyard that could mess with me, but I want everything in my front yard that makes my life better.
1:04:19 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, exactly, yeah, yeah. And if you look into the data, if you really want to go down a rabbit hole with me, since 1971, the amount of power we consume versus the population growth is bifurcating, so we’re not adding as much power as we are people. And that’s true in America, that’s true from almost every developed country. And at what point does that break? And I feel like right now is that moment that it’s breaking and we’ll see what happens because of that. And next, if you are into technology, there’s two awesome times to be alive so far One when the internet was created, and literally right now, today. And it’s exciting to see where this goes. But unfortunately, this time around it may not end well. I guess if you look at the dot com bus, it was kind of similar, but it may not end in a very positive way if we’re not careful.
1:05:16 – Mike Malatesta
Got it All right. Well, that’s a great thing to leave us with potential future best time or second best time, that’s great. And you’re there, I’m Matt and for being on the show. I really enjoyed getting to know you and exploring this. Thank you so much.
1:05:32 – Tom Frazier
Yeah, thanks for having me, it’s great.
1:05:34 – Mike Malatesta
All right, everybody who’s listening. I hope you took a lot away from this episode. Look up Redivider Redividerco and get educated about what’s going on here, because this is a big deal and it is going to impact everybody, and it’s great to see folks like Tom and others doing the hard work of trying to come up with a problem or come up with solutions to real problems, as opposed to coming up with solutions that don’t solve a problem, like the example he gave us earlier. And do me a favor please make today one of those days that you maximize the greatness that’s inside of you and that you work on making your future your property, something that you own and are very proud to own. Till next time, thanks, hey everybody.
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