- Author: George Hazim | Photo: Luis Ascui
- Posted: August 17, 2023
The Start Up CFO with Global Ambitions
It takes a particular type of CFO to work in a ‘start up and scale up’ environment – One who thrives from the fast pace and can fully support the entrepreneurial ambitions of its founder. George Hazim, sat down with Andrew Huett & Shane Branigan CEO & CFO at OzXcorp to learn more about their partnership and global ambitions of Australia’s next success story.
Amid the industrial heartland of Melbourne’s northwest where prefabricated concrete buildings undulate like the hills of the Macedon Ranges – only two minutes from Tullamarine airport, is Australia’s own Elon Musk.
Little is known about Andrew Huett or OzXcorp, and why many liken him to the billionaire, but his pedigree tells a unique story.
Raised in an off-grid lifestyle in Victoria’s High Country, Huett explored the need to bolster and sustain the electrical needs of the family farm where solar, hydro and battery chemistries were established. Add to that and an 11-year career with Siemens heading developments within the automotive division, and Huett’s path takes shape.
The similarities are eerily unique with how both think, their entrepreneurial vision and the way they’re changing the world.
Musk is famous for Tesla, Starlink, Neurolink and SpaceX, while Huett for the electrification of caravans, generation of energy through wheel propulsion, micro-turbine generators and caravan-to-home power systems.
Even their love of the letter ‘X’ is uncannily strange – whatever ‘X’ represents, must have significance for both.
Huett’s passion is a considerable force. The challenge of operating a company detracts from what he does best – being inventive – making OzXcorp’s CFO, Shane Branigan, a key figure in the company’s success and growth plans.
Working at OzXcorp, is not dissimilar to other R&D companies transitioning to full commericalisation, where the need to manage every dollar ensures planning for successful growth.
Following the Challenges of COVID, in April, OzXcorp achieved regulatory approval of UL Certification.
According to Branigan, “Huett is an innovator and clock builder, not a time teller. You feed off his enthusiasm and figure out how you help him achieve his goals.”
“The concept of electrifying caravans,” Branigan says, “and transforming the industry into a sustainable energy efficient sector is exciting.”
Caravan manufacturers are specialists at creating portable living spaces, OzXcorp with its patented systems offers its solution to manufacturers for integration into new ERV models.
Just as the car industry developed a common chassis, Musk with electronic platforms for his Tesla’s; Huett’s designed a smart chassis encompassing the electrical needs and services like battery power, electric drivetrain, safety services, air conditioning, sanitization, water storage and recovery.
Branigan’s job is strategic and nuanced, and although it’s entwined with his other duties as a CFO, he’s been tasked with growing OzXcorp with a five-year strategy of being at the forefront of sustainable zero emissions management helping not just the ERV industry live off grid but working in collaboration with government and industry to reduce and meet ESG obligations.
“There’s no reason,” Huett says, “OzXcorp can’t mirror Tesla’s success and Branigan’s the man to get the job done.” Tesla’s current market value is $795.4bn.
As the company grows, it plans to expand its capital structure through potentially listing on the ASX or NASDAQ.
A move by the Victorian Government to phase out petrol vehicles by 2035, limits the ability of electric cars to tow gas operated caravans – making the demand for integrated system even more desirable.
“The potential for our system to assist in battery management extending the range of EVs, can help reduce emissions and improve fuel economy of traditional ICE vehicles.
“Like all things new, early adaptors are reaping the benefits of integrating our system into their products. Manufacturers need to differentiate their product, and cost isn’t the only factor,” Branigan says.
With the development of OzXcorp’s system, Branigan says, “When you’re not using your caravan/RV, you can use that same battery to charge your house at night, bringing down the cost of capital not just of the caravan but on home electricity bills where costs have risen 30% in the last year. You won’t need a separate battery in your house.”
“The company has been proving itself in the toughest market since inception and as market awareness grows of our product, we are planning to be the number one battery power system solution in the RV industry in Australia,” Branigan says.
With strong sales, OzXcorp, has already secured private Pre-Seed funding as well as Series A funding to grow the North American sales arm of the business.
The environment now a major consideration of governments, means they need to pivot towards cleaner technologies,
“The Victorian Government’s mandate for a 40-50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 will see it push for Net Zero through innovation and the adoption of our technologies,” Branigan says.
OzXcorp was first established in 2019. It was born from Huett recognising the industry needed to evolve toward an electrified solution.
Even though the company is still in its infancy, it has no intention of manufacturing caravans and RVs but rather, enabling the industry to be future-ready now.
According to Branigan, the growth of the company will be derived from the ongoing refinement and development of the technology.
“That’s where the growth will be – especially from manufacturers locally and globally, Branigan says.”
He says, “OzXcorp, has shown it’s capable of designing solutions and enabling caravans. By developing technology platforms, it has allowed manufacturers to conceptualise and feel the opportunity of leveraging the technology and how it works.”
Huett’s objective for growth is to seek out forward thinking manufacturers and give them a taste of system knowledge to ensure a uniform transition to an electrified future starting with its power platform DCX.
As important as the Australian market is to OzXcorp, it’s the US which plays a major part in the company’s growth.
Annually, Australia manufactures 30,000 caravans, with the US producing upwards of 600,000.
“OzXcorp is not targeting 100% market penetration of the Australian market, it can’t, our product is cutting edge with a differentiation focus” Branigan says.
“To get to that point, we need to first walk, scale, pivot and figure out how the business best uses its resources.
“It’s pointless adopting a scattergun approach to capture the entire market. We’ll end-up being nothing to everyone, so we must be laser focussed and ensure our products are great and we establish trust with our customers.
“With that, we need to understand what we can control and positively influence those outside its control, including leading the way in RV electrification and training, working closely with government departments and training institutes to make our product is the benchmark for industry,” Branigan says.
In business it’s the uncontrollable external factors that impact on outcomes around performance.
An example according to Branigan, is the Victorian Government’s move to ban gas. “It will directly impact on the industry’s ability to cater for gas on caravans making electrification easier.”
“As the electrification of vehicles continues and we head toward 2030, there’ll be a rapid decline in petrol vehicles. Over the past six-months, 8.4% of all cars sold in Australia were electric, and mostly SUV and small cars.
“Extrapolate the figures two or three years into the future and the demand for pickup trucks increases.
“Fossil fuel caravans won’t be disappearing soon, just like cars won’t be, but there’s many external factors favouring going electric,” Branigan says.
Branigan who’s worked with different companies globally, describes Australia as an extremely conservative risk averse market.
According to Branigan, the US has facilitated the company’s growth and success with real incentives to ‘break ground’ for manufacturing in the U.S.
“With 330m people in the US, the market is vastly bigger compared to Australia’s 25.6m – exposure to the US through our strategic partners opens a potential to 750 manufacturers. In 2020 there was 105M camping trips of which 25% was in RV.”
“In 2021 the US shipped 600,000 RVs. Even a conservative view of only 1% of that market is 6,000 units or approximately $120M USD annually. We have potential partners targeting more units.”
Branigan’s intentions are clear – he wants to capitalise on markets where he can maximise opportunity for growth, penetration and global expansion.
“While Australia remains a key market, the US recognises a good product and supports it, a key decision point the OzXcorp team need to consider as a driving force to where OzXcorp’s future as a company lays.”