NEXTies 2024 Innovative Business of the Year: Climate in the spotlight

Hey Will, thanks for talking to me! Could you tell us a little story and share the story behind how Climatize was founded?

Climatize was born from the realization that traditional activism, such as the 2019 Global Climate Strikes, lacked tangible change. After joining over 100,000 protesters, we understood that when everyone goes home, nothing will be different; A glaring problem was the reliance on cardboard signs as the best form of protest.

Alba and I had started working together shortly before, during our double master’s studies, and after joining the strikes, the problem was so serious that neither of us could turn away from it and felt that the gravity of this insight demanded action.

What did Will and Alba do before starting Climatize and what are they doing now?

Will and Alba combine technical expertise with activism, boasting a combined 15 years of experience in the energy industry and dual master’s degrees in Energy Engineering and Sustainable Energy Technology. Prior to Climatize, our achievements included developing 15 solar panels under EPC (engineering, procurement and construction activities), managing large electrical projects, advising on emissions policy and organizing community efforts with Greta Thunberg.

Will has 10 years of experience in renewable energy, specifically solar energy, with experience in every capacity including finance, engineering, project management and construction, where he built 15 solar panels in Santa Cruz County.

Alba worked as an energy consultant at Edenway, during which she worked on a range of projects ranging from renewable energy, the circular economy, and policy, including helping to establish the Barcelona Low Emission Zone, one of Spain’s most important climate laws.

The Climatize app logo overlaid on screenshots of the app's user interface
Loan: Air condition

What does your day at Climatize look like?

Every day is different, our schedule one week is never the same the next week.

For Will, this will include sourcing investors, designing products, working with our legal and compliance teams, recruiting new team members, setting team strategy and managing the company’s finances.

For Alba, he meets with renewable energy project developers to develop pipelines, conduct outreach to establish partnerships with government organizations, vet renewable energy projects, and help developers incorporate their fundraisers into Climatize.

What skills did you bring to your startup and what did you have to learn when starting Climatize?

Both Alba and I bring technical expertise in renewable energy engineering and finance to Climatize. We quickly learned that the company’s success would depend on the quality of its team members. We had to learn the challenges of hiring and firing people in order to find the right people who were a cultural fit, top-notch in their skill set, and had the growth mindset necessary to experiment quickly, fail, and iterate.

Climate change and renewable energy is a huge topic and industry. What does your company do that sets you apart and makes you a standout place for people to support projects?

First, Climatize changes the narrative about climate change from one of sacrifice to one of opportunity. The Climatize project transformed ordinary people into active stakeholders in the energy transition. Many people believe that climate change is an urgent problem, but they feel powerless to make a difference. When you invest through Climatize, you receive a competitive return – not a donation – which is why we don’t ask you an “or” question; rather, we offer a “yes and” solution. By providing the product in an affordable way – starting from just $10 – we make it feel like everyone can be part of the solution. Finally, by seeing the final product – a new rooftop solar project – we are helping to rebuild lost trust in ESG (environmental, social, governance) and carbon credits. With Climatize you can see that you are having a real impact on someone’s life, achieving a competitive return and making an impact on the climate; all at the same time.

Where did the name Climatize come from? What does it mean?

Funny story: We turned on the faucet of terrible names and probably created 150 D-level names. We had to get all the water out of the pipes before something good came out.

I have to give credit where credit is due; my mother was the first to suggest Climatize. During her professional career as a sales director in the printing industry, she had experience in working closely with brand creators. She emphasized the need to find a name that could evolve into a verb, such as Google.

We came up with Climatize as a variation of Climate, and fortunately it’s a real word that means “the process of organisms adapting to ambient temperature,” which seemed to fit our work on mitigating climate change.

The last step was to make sure the domain was available and voila, we were off to the races.

Is there anything about Santa Cruz that has helped you grow your business? Did your stay in Santa Cruz provide any unique challenges?

The availability of key stakeholders in Santa Cruz was helpful during the customer discovery phase. When we brought Climatize to Santa Cruz, my first Google search was for the entrepreneurial community, which led me to Doug Erickson, who was a key enabler for us. If we were based in San Francisco, I don’t think we would have access to the same kind of entrepreneurial support that comes from a genuine desire for local innovation.

The only challenge I can point to is that our local venture capital ecosystem is still developing. Most cities don’t boast any venture capital, so this isn’t necessarily something unique, but as Santa Cruz looks to increase its support for local entrepreneurs, I predict this will be something that will continue to support the local ecosystem.

What attracted Will, Alba and the team to investing in renewable energy?

Following the global climate strikes, we interviewed hundreds of people, asking the question: “What can everyone contribute?” A common thread emerged from this: capital. Thanks to investment and finance, we can intervene at the most catalytic moment of a project, whereas as an engineer I could only contribute to a few projects at a time. In addition to enabling projects, we see an opportunity to create a new generation of stakeholders by enabling people to invest in a once-in-a-lifetime wealth creation opportunity, further broadening the coalition of supporters of the energy transition.

What should you remember when talking about supporting renewable energy projects?

Investing directly in renewable energy projects can be a great way to make a tangible impact on the lives of project participants, measurably reduce carbon emissions, all while achieving competitive returns and diversifying your portfolio because returns are largely uncorrelated to the stock market. However, every investment involves risk.

How does Climatize help filter projects and connect people with them? How do they find projects to recommend?

To be clear, Climatize does not recommend or match investors with projects. However, each project goes through a robust selection process before it is allowed to be listed on Climatize. We use a proprietary due diligence checklist that was created in partnership with the Department of Energy as part of the process of joining the National Community Solar Partnership.

Are there any projects that Climatize will sponsor in the future?

We look forward to expanding our platform beyond solar to offer both electric vehicle charging stations and energy efficiency improvements. We expect to host at least one of these new technology categories on the platform by the end of 2024.

What are your aspirations for yourself, i.e. Climatize?

Our goal is to help finance $1 billion a year in renewable energy within five years. As for me (Will), I see climate change as the main issue of my life. My goal is to have the most significant impact on carbon emissions possible in my lifetime, and Climatize is my vision of how to achieve this, first nationally and ultimately globally.

We’re excited to expand our impact in communities across America. Every project at Climatize has a story, and when we see the joy that each solar project brings to its beneficiaries, it’s something we can’t wait to repeat many times, building both a platform and a movement.

How can people engage with Climatize?

People can visit our website to learn more about how the company and platform works, or download the app here.

Is there anything else we should know about you, the band or Climatize?

Until all the news is confirmed, I cannot comment further, but I hope to share the exciting announcement before May 17th.

Thank you Will, that’s all the questions we have for you! Get your NEXties ticket to say hello to him, Alba and the other movers and shakers honored at this year’s NEXTies Awards Gala on May 17! See you there!