by Fundify on September 10, 2021
Armand Dauplaise
Cofounder & CEO
The Hydrogen Group

What inspired you to start this business?

A long-time friend of mine had an idea about using hydrogen to help a lot of people and do a lot of good in an area with great business potential. He knew that my experience with creating strategic business plans and building companies could help bring this concept from an idea all the way to market adoption. 

I researched the concept further and got really excited about the possibilities here. So together with Jim Lowe and the inventor, Tim Watson, the three of us founded The Hydrogen Group and got to work on solving the massive problem of high diesel fuel costs and toxic emissions in an entirely new way. 

 

What’s your mission? 

We’re on a mission to improve the environment, help those in the transportation industry save money and provide a superior return on investment to our shareholders. We are committed to the continuing pursuit of excellence. 

 

What’s your background? 

I grew up in Indiana in a family where hard work was valued. Like many people in that area, I was a basketball junky and enjoyed playing back when short people were still welcome on the court. Even then, I knew my future wasn’t in the game and would depend on my mind rather than my body. 

I went on to study business and finance and have found great joy leading business development and planning. Over the course of 40 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work in six industries, building business operations across the U.S. and internationally in the China and Canada markets. 

One of the highlights of my career was bringing a company from launch all the way to the OTCBB stock exchange. We grew from zero to $21.5M in capital raised and $40M in revenue with an annualized EBITDA of 15%. 

 

What experiences along your career path help you most in your current role?

In my 40-year career, I’ve tasted both success and failure. And while success is more fun, failure is a better teacher. 

My biggest lessons came from my experience taking a company from concept to being publicly traded and growing well. I’m highly skilled at developing business plans and growth strategies. I know how to lead teams working to execute those plans, how to attract and service a growing customer base, and how to manage shareholder relations.

But as a publicly traded company, we became the target of a hedge fund that didn’t share our long-term goals. I had to walk through some incredibly difficult days with this fund shorting the stock and taking actions that weren’t in our best interest.

While that was an incredibly painful experience, I was blessed to have a supportive family that grew even closer during the struggles. The experience made me more humble and motivated me to work even harder to achieve success. 

We’re a team of seven, each highly skilled and experienced in our areas of responsibility. Each hand-picked team member is also a shareholder who purchased stock, rather than receiving it as an employment perk. Everyone here believes strongly in our mission and has a vested interest in our success.

 

Tell us about the team you’ve built.

Our team includes people with massive business backgrounds, a former NASA senior scientist, a pro with 35 years of experience in the trucking industry, a brilliant engineer experienced with government contracts and a former FINRA member compliance officer. I couldn’t ask for a better team!

 

Describe your company culture.

We’re a goals-focused team that believes in open communication and welcomes different perspectives. We’re distributed across the U.S. and work efficiently with all of today’s technology that removes geographical barriers.

We believe that teams succeed or fail together, and we’re committed to helping each other be as successful as possible. If I had to go into war, I’d want these people covering my back.

 

What brings you the most joy on the job?

Seeing our team work cohesively together and seeing the relationships grow. 

 

What are you most proud of?

That’s a long list. 

I’m proud that we have more than 70 shareholders who have been very supportive and many have made add-on investments. I take our responsibility to shareholders seriously and work hard to take care of them and keep them informed about our progress.

From a product standpoint, I’m proud that we’ve worked through 6 prototypes to arrive at our current solution. Proud that it has proven effective during 15,000 miles of road tests. And proud that we’ve earned three patents -- covering more than 60 claims -- assigned to our corporation for our unique approach.

I’m proud of the way our team has pulled together to establish a proof of concept and is proceeding to market readiness in the next four to six months. 

 

What are the top factors influencing your industry or company right now and how are you managing them?

This is a hot market with so many changing factors. There’s widespread agreement that we must reduce toxic emissions in the transportation industry. Public pressure plus EPA mandates give this a real sense of urgency. 

Many companies and government leaders are looking to electrification to help solve this problem. But there’s much misunderstanding of how this would work in the U.S. transportation industry, and the infrastructure is simply not in place for the trucking industry to make good use of electric solutions. 

It would take 8,000 pounds of batteries to drive 500 miles, which doesn’t work in an expansive country like ours. Electrification will only work for short-haul drivers, like UPS and FedEx, that travel less than 200 miles a day.

There’s much discussion about building out charging stations, and some industry leaders forecast significant progress over the next 10-15 years. But that infrastructure also will not meet the needs of long-haul drivers. 

We believe that hydrogen fuel cell technology is the answer for the transportation industry. With our approach, it can be delivered in a compact manner and leverage regenerating fuel cells, which eliminates the need for charging infrastructure. We’ve designed a solution that creates hydrogen as needed and uses 1 pint of water to replace 11 gallons of diesel fuel. For long-haul drivers, that’s a real solution that fits the way they drive. 

In addition to long-haul transportation, there’s massive application with the U.S. military’s 6,000 humvees and maritime vehicles that aren’t currently under environmental scrutiny but may face more as awareness grows.

Why did you decide to raise capital through crowdfunding?

We’ve had a lot of success raising funds for The Hydrogen Group, having raised $1.2M before launching our equity crowdfunding campaign. Knowing that so many Americans are concerned about the quality of the air we all breathe and are eager to see scientific solutions hit the market, we decided to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to open our company to a broad range of investors. 

We were introduced to the team at Fundify, and their leadership team was so supportive that we decided to raise funds on Fundify. 

 

What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?

  1. Diligent -- I work harder than most.
  2. Optimistic -- I see the good that has the potential to surface.
  3. Persevering -- I’m fully committed to achieving the goals before me. If you want to see proof of this, just ask my wife Linda whom I dated for eleven months before she finally became Mrs. Dauplaise. 

 

What is the most important habit of a startup founder?

Diligent focus. Let me explain. 

When you’re building a new company, there are so many facets to consider that it’s easy to get distracted by busyness. If you don’t focus, you’ll never get the business off the ground. You have to focus on the tasks that move the business forward.

Even with focus and a plan, you’re going to hit barriers now and then. When some people hit a barrier, they want to try something different. But that also makes it hard to get the business off the ground. 

Startup founders have to make a solid plan, seek advice, make refinements along the way and then stick with the plan -- during the good days and the difficult ones. That’s what I call diligent focus.

A good example of this is Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A. Early on, he decided that Chick-fil-A would be closed on Sundays. He faced a lot of pressure over this decision as shopping malls and strip malls didn’t want anything to do with a company that would be closed on one of the busiest shopping days. But Truett Cathy remained focused on his mission of delivering an excellent quick-dining experience six days a week while saving the seventh for worship and family. 

You probably know how this story goes now that Chick-fil-A is one of the top five restaurant chains in America. Virtually every shopping center and real estate developer wants a Chick-fil-A on their property to generate traffic, and they’re still closed on Sundays. Diligent focus.

 

What do you enjoy in your spare time?

This is a joy to answer. I enjoy spending time with my wife. I feel like we’re still on our honeymoon 47 years later. We still have a date night every weekend and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. 

I also enjoy spending time with our grandkids, reading and exercising, but time with my wife is at the top of my list. 

Armand & Linda Dauplaise

If you were on stage in a spotlight before a packed audience, would you rather teach, sing, dance or accept an award? Tell us about that scene.

Easy. My wife will tell you that I cannot dance or sing. I would teach. I would love to answer questions about the definition of success and the steps to achieve success. I would describe what I’ve learned over the course of 40+ years in business. 

My guiding post has always been this treasure from Proverbs: “Trust God with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” That’s my formula for success.

 

Learn how you can invest in The Hydrogen Group here

 

 

 

This blog article is published by Fundify, Inc. The comments and opinions expressed within are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or Fundify, Inc.