Discover how the minds, methods and money that fueled the explosion of innovation and disruption in silicon valley are working to build the technology, products and companies that will save the planet. Hosts: Lex Kiefhaber and Tony Noto. Music: Bill Gagliardi.
Yaniv Builds the Uber of Solar Installation
For a long minute in venture capital world (and on Shark Tank, for those of us playing at home) if you were pitching your new start up, it was useful to say you were the "Uber of X". Whatever X may be, cupcakes, thoroughbred racehorses, custom fitted clogs, you wanted to be the business in the middle that aggregated the sellers and made it simple, easy and efficient to connect to the buyers.
Yaniv Kalish, CEO and founder of SolarKal, set out to be the Uber of commercial solar installation, and by golly, he got there! Unlike taxis, the process of spec'ing out a solar project, from understanding the electrical needs, the physical capacity of the space, the budget, and so forth, was extraordinarily complex, so much so that the time it took to figure out which solar panels to get and who to trust to install them wasn't worth the energy savings to mid-sized businesses. Yaniv recognized this inefficiency and set out to solve it, unlocking the potential of solar while providing a much needed service to both the buyers and the sellers.
Today, SolarKal is the industry leading marketplace for solar installation, facilitating over $100,000,000 in transactions in 2020. However, unlike Uber, Yaniv didn't part with huge stakes in his company to get there. We talk about what it takes to bootstrap a business, how to weigh the benefit of outside capital with the sacrifice it could mean for the business, and the importance of building the right team from the start.
Meet Melvin the Mushroom! This Orb Can Capture One Ton Of CO2 — Right From Your Lawn
Many many years ago, before large scale human development, there was a hidden but powerful force beneath the ground. Mycelium of course! This dense network beneath the soil helped plants communicate and share resources, all while storing almost indefinitely huge amounts of CO2. As humans plowed the earth, a lot of this mycelium was lost. But Joseph Kelly, the executive director of HiveMind and The Sacred River Project, has a solution — NetZero (click here for Kickstarter campaign). This biotech company is in the climate drawdown space. This means they are able to account for every ton of CO2 pulled down from the atmosphere and sequestered in mycelium networks. His team isolated a certain type of mycelium and are now selling carbon offsets to all kinds of major companies like Shell while simultaneously using indigenous methods of reforestation in places like Bali and Uganda. Listen to learn more about Melvin, the cute little mushroom, and his carbon sequestering powers that can help YOU fight climate change right from the comfort of your front lawn.
BackMarket: Serge Breaks Big-Smartphone's Business Model
Big tech companies like Microsoft and Apple are guilty of planned obsolescence. They purposely make stuff glitchy so you have to buy whatever new gizmo they roll out. Not only is it annoying because it forces us to spend more money, but it's bad for the environment as devices needlessly end up in trash heaps. Serge Verdoux and his team at Back Market have had enough. They're shaking up the electronics sector by taking old smartphones, making them good-as-new and reselling them to customers at a discount with a guarantee that they work. Good for your wallet... even better for the planet! BackMarket also provides fixer-up services for other thingamajigs like computers, PS4s, tablets, televisions — you name it. Prior to Back Market, Serge held leadership roles at Amazon and Expedia. Today, he's wielding a circular solution to reduce e-waste. And because of that, we were thrilled to feature him on this episode of WSTP, which was recorded on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021. Everyone was in fine spirits (especially Tony who imbibed fine spirits prior to recording).
ForDays: Kristy Makes Clothes That Last Forever (without ever hitting the landfill)
With degrees in Industrial Engineering, Business, and Fashion Design, Kristy Caylor was well prepared for the world of fashion by the time she joined GAP Inc. in 2004. She led the Project (RED) initiative within GAP, which engaged the private sector in raising awareness and funds to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa. This initiative revealed the enormous people and planet-saving power when consumers vote with their dollar on mission-driven, sustainability-focused outcomes. After GAP, Caylor created Maiyet, a brand that moved the needle for mission-driven businesses by proving that positive social impact can coexist with world-class aesthetics.
Caylor’s ventures also revealed how devastatingly inefficient and wasteful fashion can be. She knew clothing companies would need to take responsibility for business practices that encourage 80 pounds of landfill waste per consumer, per year. The entrepreneur felt that she could spark a revolution in the fashion industry if she could change the company’s relationship to the consumer and consequentially, the consumer’s relationship to their clothing.
Kristy Caylor’s vision to transform commerce came to fruition with For Days, a circular clothing company she launched in 2018. For Days is a zero-waste, closed-loop company with a SWAP program that allows shoppers to send back used— ripped, stretched, and even stained— clothing to be upcycled into new products. The shopper is rewarded upon returning items with credits towards their next purchase. When For Days sends customers new clothing, customers can return used clothing in the same bag, empowering shoppers to swap clothes easily and with minimal shipping waste.
For Days makes sustainability accessible with price points, styles, and sizes that welcome participation from anyone and everyone. Their SWAP model builds loyalty and trust with consumers while emphasizing the long-term value of what’s in all of our closets. Intrigued shoppers can earn credits with For Days by sending them a Take Back Bag, which can be filled with old clothes from any brand, in any condition— the goal is to divert all clothing from landfills.
Feather: How Jay Reno Built the Anti-IKEA
9.8 million tons of furniture end up in landfills every year, and most of it was pretty crappy to begin with. Jay is here to change that, and along the way, our conception of how we use, enjoy and own our stuff.
To be clear, the CEO and founder of Feather, Jay Reno, would never claim to be the anti-anything, he's focused on creating forward looking solutions rather than dragging the Swedes (neither are we, great people). That said, the business model of furniture built out of particle boards relies on the assumption that many of us would rather trash it then schlep it when it's time to move.
In today's increasingly transient and urban lifestyle where people are moving more frequently and buying homes later in life deciding whether a couch is worth the haul happens every 2 or three years rather than decades, and if that couch wan't that great to begin with, hello curb. Feather has built a rental model that offers high-quality furniture at a monthly rate that doesn't crush your wallet, and when it's time to go, they'll gladly come collect the couch and you can start fresh in the new pad.
The furniture is built so that component parts can be exchanged or repaired instead of trashed and replaced. This makes it easier for the customer to keep their stuff in good condition and incentivizes the company to build things to last, all while lightening the burden on the planet. Win win win, our favorite.
On a more personal note, Jay didn't saunter into this multi-million dollar VC backed hyper-success over night. Feather is his third start up, and he's learned many a lesson. We talk about the tumultuous path every entrepreneur walks, what it takes to stick it out, and advice that gets you through along the way.
Evan Is One Egg-Ceptional Chef!
Our guest this week is Evan Hanczor, a chef at the sustainable breakfast restaurant Egg and the founder of Tables of Contents. TOC brings people together to enjoy a book passage paired with a meal that really brings imagination to life. The new Tables of Contents book, coming out the first week of February, collects recipes from incredible authors and pairs them with beautiful illustrations. And if that wasn't enough, proceeds from the book will support FIG, a grassroots collective of food and hospitality workers in New York and beyond.