September 25, 2023

Founder Spotlight: Plexigrid

Andrés Dancausa

The electrical grid, in operation since 1870, is a complex system that powers our world. But with increasing demand for electricity (electric cars and air fryers, anyone?) power distributors face the challenge of meeting real-time demand while ensuring uninterrupted service.

That’s where Plexigrid comes in.

Plexigrid optimizes operational costs and investments in grid capacity to reduce carbon emissions and improve capacity utilization, which saves billions of dollars for utility companies and end consumers.

Our excitement about investing in Plexigrid is twofold: First, the seasoned team behind the company. Second, they have keenly discerned why now is the pivotal moment for Plexigrid to make its mark and conquer the market. We seek companies that align with our vision for the future of an industry, and this is one of those companies.

In this Founder Spotlight, we asked Plexigrid’s two founders, Alberto Méndez Rebollo and Pablo Arboleya, to share some insight into their story. It has been edited and condensed for flow and readability.

You have some very interesting experiences - Alberto at Gamesa Energy in China and Vatenfall in Sweden; Pablo coming from Academia  - how did these experiences contribute to the conception of Plexigrid?


At Siemens and Gamesa, where I worked in renewables, I always saw the network as a bottleneck. If you talk to any renewable energy developers, solar or wind, they will always list the network as the first or second biggest issue they face.

At Vattenfall, I was working with all the business units and was quite intrigued because I saw there were very few things getting done by utility engineers - nearly everything was done by subcontractors. I could see things from within and I could reconfirm a lot of the hypothesis that I had formed as a customer of the network - that it was running in a very old-fashioned, traditional way. This was a spark for the Plexigrid concept.


I come from academia and I devoted my entire career at the university to researching ‌algorithms for power system analysis and models and so on. We've been hearing talk about smart grids and microgrids for more than 20 years. But then when you see the reality inside utilities, you realize that those academic concepts that we've been developing for decades are not there yet. But right now electrification processes are increasing and the level of penetration is increasing exponentially, so that's why we decided to launch the project now.

Plexigrid is in a very complicated market (energy), that includes both private and public (gov’t) organizations, a lot of bureaucracy, and large/powerful incumbents. What gives you the confidence that Plexigrid can succeed given these circumstances?


The energy situation is a major problem that has to be fixed because otherwise the system will collapse, and it is already collapsing, so somebody has got to do it. So while the sector is complicated, there is an urgent need to fix it.

Building this is also complicated; it's like creating a completely new generation of network technology, similar to the revolution that happened in telecom. But our team has the technological capability to do this, largely because of Pablo, our CTO. He was recently recognized as the electrical engineer of the year by IEEE last year for his work on electricity networks. Many of his students also work with us, and so we have the brightest minds in the space that are solving this problem.

Most of our team comes from the energy and utility sectors and understands how utilities make decisions. We are‌ co-designing the rules of the game with the regulators themselves. We also have the right investors to make this work and are already partnering with big corporations like GE, Siemens, and others.

So when you combine all of those things, it makes this feel achievable.

The expectations for you and Plexigrid are very high, not just from your investors but also from governments, partners, customers, etc…how do you deal with this type of pressure?


It is not easy. It is true that we have a lot of pressure, but I mean, I would say that taking nothing for granted and constantly questioning everything - our roadmap, our processes, our technology, etc. is really important. And then to always be evolving and learning. Every day. But most importantly, balancing conviction and determination with a lot of humility. This is the only way to prevent the pressure from getting to you.

But most importantly, balancing conviction and determination with a lot of humility. This the only way to prevent the pressure from getting to you.

For both of you, this is your first startup. How is the experience different from your prior ones in academia and the corporate world?


My time at Gamesa was‌ highly entrepreneurial. I was sent to China to build up the Asia Pacific business and it was like a startup. We were really the pioneers in China Wind Power. We had some resources from corporate, but we built the business from scratch in a very challenging environment and with very few resources.

We had to move very fast and when there were problems, people looked to me since I was in charge. So to me, there were a lot of similarities to the startup world.

Then I moved to Vattenfold where it was everything but entrepreneurial. It was a big fat utility, the fifth largest in Europe, where you were flush with cash and resources and there was no sense of urgency and you had an incumbent position. It was completely different.

So it was this combination that I feel prepared me quite well for this particular project.


Coming from Academia, it's super different for me. I used to think that I put a lot of pressure on myself when I was in academia, but this is on another level. The velocity, speed, the pace that we see in the startup world is completely different. In academia, if you are stuck with some project, with some algorithm, you can wait one month and nothing happens. Here in just one week, so many things can happen that it seems that it's like a year in academia.

Being a founder is hard - what do you do to manage the low points in the journey? How do you celebrate the high points?


We try to be humble, be kind to ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and use our resources effectively. We take the opportunity of setbacks to become stronger and to build the dream team that can succeed in this environment. The key is to stay focused, be productive, and not panic in times of crisis.

A crisis is a kind of tunnel. And when you cross the tunnel, there's light on the other side, and you come stronger on the other side. So you need to take setbacks and see crises as an opportunity to learn and to become stronger.

You also have amazing weeks with amazing highs and running on pure adrenaline. And so all of it mixed together makes for one hell of a rollercoaster.

In terms of celebrating, we try to celebrate, but remote work and global teams make it difficult. We take every opportunity to get together, even if it's online, and use those times to reflect on our progress. We can look back 12 months and be amazed by how far we've come, celebrating the battles won and the mistakes made along the way.

We take every opportunity to get together, even if it's online, and use those times to reflect on our progress. We can look back 12 months and be amazed by how far we've come, celebrating the battles won and the mistakes made along the way.

Can you talk about your relationship with each other as Co-Founders and how you manage your relationship through such a high-pressure situation, given that you have been friends for such a long time?


Alberto and I have been friends since 19, for nearly 30 years. If I had to define my relationship with Alberto, it's a reciprocal absolute trust.

If I could choose one person for leading this project, no other name would come to my mind than Alberto.

I have never met anyone with the capacity for synthesis and analysis of‌ situations like Alberto. No one who's capable of analyzing the long-term impact of big decisions.

It is true that we have been very, very good friends for almost 30 years. And‌ this project can really test that friendship. Problems and friction will eventually arise, but I trust that this friendship and this mutual trust can help overcome those problems.


Alberto and Pablo go way back, and it’s that very foundation they’ve built as close friends that will help them get through both the ups and downs of the startup rollercoaster they are on. We cannot be more excited for this team and what they are going to accomplish.