Lisa Dyson: Asking and Answering Big Questions at Kiverdi

Posted by on Jul 17, 2015

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Key Lesson:  Great leaders are always asking questions — of themselves and others.

When Lisa Dyson was in high school, she wanted to learn the programming language C, but her school didn’t offer any classes. She asked her math teacher to teach her. He did. Today, Dyson holds a PhD in physics from MIT and is the CEO and co-founder of Kiverdi, a next generation sustainable oil company that converts CO2 and waste carbon into oils using biotechnology.

Though her early love of math and science propelled Dyson’s academic career, her diverse interests led her to pursue a variety of opportunities, including a stint as a management consultant with The Boston Consulting Group, working with multi-national corporations to develop market expansion strategies and identify operational efficiencies. That business experience was put to good use when Dyson found herself in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Dyson describes her reaction and eventual response to Katrina at a recent TEDxFulbright conference. Her basic question was personal: “What am I doing to the environment? How am I treating it?” Ultimately, she looked toward a solution, and decided to create a company that would tackle the problem at its root:  carbon waste.

With her interest in sustainability and renewable energy reignited (some of her early research was focused on renewable energy generation), Dyson set out to find a way to naturally process carbon waste, eventually identifying a class of microbes capable of processing carbon quickly. Then came another question:  “Can we harness the power of these microbes that are actually super-charged carbon recyclers and leverage that to solve our carbon waste issue?” The answer was yes, and today, according to Dyson, “We have taken our business beyond energy and are now using innovations in biotech to make renewable materials.”

Lisa Dyson is our Grounded Leader of the Week for so ably applying both personal and scientific inquiry to one of the defining issues of our time.