Dominic Spooner is the Founder & CEO at Vaulta, a battery casing technology company based in Brisbane, Australia.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
I studied industrial design quite a few years back now. I’d always been drawn to creative work, but I certainly had some growing up to do before I found my feet to finish a degree. I’ve worked in satellites, IoT, commercial products, sensors, and various consumer electronics products in various employment roles.
I landed in a job designing energy storage and EV batteries pretty early in the piece and really enjoyed that. Unfortunately that company didn’t survive too long, but I decided that was the space I wanted to pursue. I started a one man design firm after that, and was pretty good at it too, I worked on battery prototypes in whatever spare time I had left.
I took the idea of a composite material that helps remove heat from battery packs through the casing to an accelerator in 2019. The penny drop moment was finding out recycling of lithium batteries was near non-existent and how they were cased up seemed to have a huge role to play in that.
Focussing on solving that problem through design was what turned that idea into a fully fledged company and a full time effort. Around a year after that I managed to land some Angel funding and I was off and running with what was now Vaulta.
I had a few key hires and after 18-24 months of fairly intense R&D we were able to start making some battery products that used this IP we’d developed to make batteries more repairable, reusable and recyclable.
For the last 6 or so months we’ve now been designing and manufacturing finished battery packs in house using local suppliers wherever possible for residential and light commercial applications. We’re now selling to 3 continents and gearing up towards a larger scale through this year. We’ve got a long way to go but it’s an exciting time.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
The morning starts around 6 with a coffee and getting our daughter ready for school. There’s a good healthy dose of chaos at times to get out the door. We’re still scaling up, so everyone is still doing a bit of everything at Vaulta.
For me that includes assembling batteries, meetings with customers, planning out the weekly and monthly goals, and interacting with various suppliers like finance and inventory. We’re growing so there’s plenty of onboarding new staff and sitting in interviews for new positions.
The day usually finishes with a good quality strength and conditioning based workout at my local gym or a run. Shout out to Adapt Nundah! The night finishes with a single malt scotch a few nights a week.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
I believe staying creative and learning is the key to making any work fulfilling. Making something challenging just for the sake of staying challenged seems outdated to me. Balance the time doing things you’re good at and things you’re looking to improve. Don’t just put yourself up against it all the time.
The days can get a little wild at work so finding some time to clear the head I find is key. Coffee helps and exercise is great for the body and the mind. There’s not a great amount of time left over for hobbies, so the gym time is really important to me as it doubles as a hobby.
The approach of adding a little more weight, a few more reps, or knowing when you need to pull back, or add a hold to address some technique issues to improve incrementally is a concept I find easy to translate to the business also. It’s so simple but so effective in ensuring you’re always progressing.
It’s the same with running. You can’t just sprint the whole way. Crafting with my daughter and spending time as a family is ultra important. Like most parents, I’d like more time just the wife and I but we’re a good trio and our daughter is at a fun age. If there’s time left over I’m watching nba and researching my next sneaker purchase.
Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?
Learning on the fly of being a designer crunching CAD all day and tinkering with prototypes and products to run a company is not an easy task, so I lean on mentors to help me with that progression.
They’ll get phone calls from me at some fairly odd times, and I’m thankful for that. I always say I’m a CEO in training, and there’s more like me than some would care to admit, so thinking there’s nothing more to learn is not a great mindset for growth. Bringing a little more structure is something I’ve become better at.
Rather than just working until I can’t keep my eyes open, I’m slowly getting better at knowing when the time for family is, when it’s time to catch-up with mates, and when it’s time for work.
We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?
Unfortunately for my savings account I’m a sneakerhead, so I found the book Shoe Dog filled my bucket both in terms of business development and also just about the stories of how my favourite kicks came to be.
It’s not the newest book but it’s an amazing story of perseverance, innovation and adapting under pressure. It resonates to read that even some of the biggest brands have moments where it’s all on the line or hanging by a thread.
A 5 minute meeting can change your life or business, and you need to be able to deal with that. I’m not an avid reader, but when I do it’s a paperback. I also keep up to date with technology with Sandy Munro and The Driven, and Business News Australia. LinkedIn is of course a great resource for click throughs relevant to me and within arm’s reach of what we do. And then it’s a healthy dose of Bleacher Report for NBA news.
Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Perhaps just some insight from this point in time is just that you’d be surprised at how much people are willing to help you on your journey with the ask of nothing in return other than that you’d do the same to the next person. I’m constantly amazed at how willing people are with their time in the startup ecosystem. You’d be surprised who you can get on a video call for 10 minutes of wisdom.
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