A Slice on Tom Bishop, Founder and CEO of Pale Blue Earth
Unlike most, Tom Bishop has made an impact in places overseas, China to be specific. Putting his materials science degree towards something good, Bishop is dedicated to moving towards a sustainable future. By combining technology and a mission for change, Bishop is now founder and CEO of Pale Blue Earth, a rechargeable battery company with a mission to reduce waste with a sustainable solution.
Sustainability wasn’t always on Bishop’s mind. It was only when he was working at one of his previous jobs, that he found himself inspired by a co-worker who took charge of the recycling and sustainability in the office, Jessie. It was because Jessie was not required to do this but motivated by her passion that caught Bishop’s attention. “One day I said, ‘Jessie, someday we’re going to create a solution that helps in this way.’” This ultimately led to a conversation about the ocean cleanup system, deciding they were going to do something that gets their name out there.
Having prior experience with big brands like Burton Snowboards and Skullcandy, Bishop has never let company culture fall through the cracks. During his time working at Burton Snowboards in China, it came to Bishop’s attention that a lot of the employees had never snowboarded before, which was insane to him since they were working on snowboarding products. “There were a lot of informational gaps, people didn’t understand what the product was for. So at one point, I realized that maybe I should teach people how to snowboard.” Lucky for Bishop, there was an indoor snowboarding venue close by, so he spearheaded the coaching efforts and got the whole team to snowboard. After providing an opportunity to use the product, Bishop noticed that things improved significantly in the workplace. “Once we did that, there were no more misunderstandings about the basic functionalities of the product or why this product was so important to us and our customers.”
Bishop has two pieces of advice he can provide to young entrepreneurs. One is to write down your key assumptions and validate them. He notes that learning through each part of the entrepreneurial process is important, and can’t help but think about how much time and money he could’ve saved by taking this advice. The second part is about economics. “Getting your head wrapped around what are the basics of the unit economics, what is your basic cost to market the product, so that people become aware and have an opportunity to become a customer, and how does that all net out. To be effective in the current digital marketing environment, there are certain guardrails that you have to fall within. Otherwise, you can’t afford to play in that space… You can’t build a business that has bad unit economics, it’s a very expensive road.” Being able to have the knowledge, or at least the confidence is extremely important, especially before bringing on investors.
For Bishop, success comes with the world moving beyond single-use batteries. He truly believes that anything single use can be replaced with a better, more sustainable technology, ultimately providing more value for the customer. “Our products are rated for 1,000 uses, so if you can move somebody who historically bought a four-pack of double A’s, and they buy ours and use it 1,000 times, that’s 4,000 uses replacing four alkaline batteries. They have saved the world 3,996 batteries, and there’s a lot of dollar savings that come with that.” Bishop hopes that in the future we’ll all laugh at how crazy it was to use single-use batteries, just like we’ve done with plastic straws and incandescent light bulbs.
Thomas Bishop has held leadership positions at Skullcandy, Burton Snowboards and Owlet, spending 11 of those years in China. He is now founder and CEO of Pale Blue Earth, on a mission towards sustainability. Connect with Bishop on LinkedIn.