He was introduced by Les Schmidt, head of the Briia start-up accelerator at Bishop Ranch, who prefaced his introduction by observing how critical batteries are to our technological systems and that storage capacity was expecting to grow by 900% in the next decade. By engineering a battery without cobalt, Sparkz has solved of two vexing supply chain problems by eliminating single sources in two foreign countries for extraction and processing.
Malhotra said his life changed forever on Dec. 27, 1975 when he was growing up in the coal-mining area of western India where his dad was the chief engineer of a coal mine. On that day, the mine wall gave way to a river next to it and 375 miners drowned. His father worked very hard to convince the British company to compensate the families and it simply walked away and left people without their bread winners and no money. That drove his father to change careers and became a labor lawyer fighting for workers.
Malhotra finished his under-graduate education in India and then won a scholarship to the University of Iowa and made his home and career here. But in the back of his mind, was the desire to help coal miners. He wrote the business plan for Sparkz during the lockdown and, given his connections to the Dept. of Energy through his start-up work and former employment at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, he was able to work through the necessary connections for the West Virginia campus in what used to be coal country.
The 68-acre campus is nearing completion and it will employ 3,500 people, many former miners, veterans, entry-level workers as well as people who need a second chance such as those formerly incarcerated.
Malhotra went on to add that he’s certainly not leaving California behind. Sparkz is actively searching for a site for a 1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility to greatly expand the capacity of its existing Livermore site. He expects to employ 1,000 people there with similar backgrounds, except for the former miners. That speaks to the explosive growth he’s planning having built the proverbial better mousetrap. He’s been helped along by a $7.5 million grant from the state energy commission.
Sparkz was one of eight organizations recognized—leading the way were leaders of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory team that achieved nuclear fusion at the National Ignition Facility last December. Len Liptak, CEO of Prosomnus Sleep Technologies in Pleasanton that makes custom mouthpieces to treat sleep apnea, joked how he had to follow the lab team onto the stage. Given that one of five people suffer from sleep apnea and it has taken 60 years and generations of lab workers to get to this point—he can stand proudly to be helping people right now.