#CleanTech #Financing #StartUp #WomanLeader
Claire Broido Johnson recently founded CBJ Energy, an energy efficiency financing provider and the Chief of New Markets at Next Step Living, the leading provider of home energy solutions in the Northeast. Previously, Claire co-founded SunEdison and was acting Program Manager for the Office of Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs, deploying $11 billion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Read on to learn what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur and what you need keep track of before entering the cleantech sector.
You recently founded CBJ Energy and you are also a part of Next Step Living. Please tell us about your roles at each organization and what else you might be involved in. Why are the missions of these organizations dear to you and why have you chosen to dedicate your time there?
Claire: I’m the President of CBJ Energy, a company I founded in mid-2015 (www.cbjenergy.com). CBJ Energy makes it easy for property owners to invest in cost-effective energy efficiency, water efficiency, and renewable energy for their commercial, industrial, and multi-family properties using a 20 year, no upfront capital product that stays with the property upon sale. The tool is called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). See http://www.pacenation.us for more.
I’ve also been doing business development for Next Step Living since May 2012; I was responsible for launching the business into Connecticut and New York and for launching several products including community solar.
What are the top three things you would say helped you become a successful entrepreneur? What is unique about being an entrepreneur in the clean tech industry vs. other industries?
• Taking risks
• Having lots of tools in your toolbox so that when you are faced with an opportunity, you have the tool you need
I don’t think being an entrepreneur in clean tech is different from other industries – it takes a lot of sweat equity, a lot of humility, and tirelessness.
What would you say are the top three things happening in your industry right now that keep you on your toes?
• Constantly changing state and federal regulations – will the Federal Investment Tax Credit exist in 2017? Will Home Performance with Energy Star audits be provided with rebates in New York?
• People and institutions really don’t care about energy efficiency. Yes, it’s low hanging fruit or ‘fruit on the ground’ – but anything that keeps a business owner or a homeowner away from his core business or his life is not going to happen. We need to make energy efficiency more compelling.
• Inertia by the power industry to adjust to new supply of power.
What skills and experience would you say are on the ‘most wanted’ list in the clean-tech start-up world?
Claire: Financial modeling & structuring and operational expertise.
What advice would you give to current students in order to prepare for a career in the clean tech industry?
• Take as many finance courses as you can – you’ll be taken more seriously if you can build your own financial models.
• Take every opportunity you can to learn about new companies by interning, volunteering – you never know what may come from working hard on new problems.
You are a vocal about clean tech needing women in leadership positions. Is there something in particular that you would like to tell our women readers as they make early career decisions (final semester students and alumni) or think about what classes to take or skills to build (new & current students)?
• Take as many finance courses as you can! He (or she) who manages the money makes the rules. Understand the details of your business’ finances.
• Promote yourself as much as you can. Prove that you can do all the work and more that any other person can do.
• Develop and nurture a network of professional and personal friends who can give you honest feedback about your work, your communication style, your management capabilities and more.
• Don’t assume anyone will help you with your career or mentor you – you need to provide value to everyone you meet. By proving yourself and providing good work and value, then you’ll find people who will want to work with you.
What specific news sources, companies, events, podcasts etc. would you recommend that current grad students keep track of to stay abreast with happenings in the clean energy sector?
The Energy Gang
Renewable Energy Finance Forum