Another Cleantech Youth Profile, the second in a series of Q&A interviews with some of Student Energy’s most innovative clean technology entrepreneurs and researchers around the world.
CoPower is an investment platform that opens up the clean energy sector to Canadians at a moderate entry point by allowing investors to pool their money together. This enables everyone to invest, earn returns and make a positive impact on the world.
Give us the elevator pitch on your work
CoPower is a platform for crowdfinancing investments into clean energy projects. We are helping folks across Canada pool their money to access investment opportunities—like solar installations on rooftops and energy efficiency retrofits in buildings—that deliver a financial return, plus an environmental and community impact.
Tell us about the spark or initial “aha” moment that led to you pursuing this work?
There were two “spark” moments. One was as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto: I was involved in sustainability initiatives, and was pushing the University to be a role model for doing solar and energy efficiency projects. The barrier was usually finding the capital. So I thought, “We have this great UofT community of supporters that usually make donations, why don’t we also tap them for investments that have a return as well!” Back then, this idea was a bit ahead of its time.
The “aha” moment was recreated when my cofounder Raphael and I were sitting and having a patio beer. We were talking about a few companies successfully doing crowdfunding for clean energy investing elsewhere (in the US, UK), and thought someone should do this in Canada. We decided it should be us!
What have been the biggest challenges for you to date?
The biggest challenge was taking the initial plunge to start a company. It is extremely exhilarating, but also a bit scary. By definition, a startup is working on a problem with an uncertain outcome. The support we received, and keep receiving, from people asking “how can I help” has been overwhelming, and quickly dissipates any fear.
What involvement has your university had in your work in clean tech?
My cohort, both from University of Toronto and from Columbia are some of my best friends, and also best supporters. These are people that I trust, that I can bounce ideas off of, and that are always there for a good time!
What sources of funding have you attained so far? What’s next on the funding and revenue front?
We have raised some money for the company from the founding team, and also secured some funding from startup competitions. Now it is time to execute!
Compare Canada to other jurisdictions on the cleantech front (i.e. legal, funding, community, culture etc.)
Canada has a booming cleantech sector, with top tier research centers, great public and private support for entrepreneurs, and a long history in energy. Public programs like Sustainable Development Technology Canada to support new innovations are almost unmatched worldwide. We need to continue innovating in technology, in business models, and in finance, if Canada wants to be an “energy superpower.”
What is one thing you would change in Canada to further spur the cleantech industry?
A lot of the capital for building clean energy projects has come from abroad (Germany, Japan). I think we need more domestic capital being invested in our clean energy industry, and I think crowdfinancing is one of the ways to help do that.
Where you see yourself in 10 years?
I want to keep working on the most pressing problems in clean energy, and hopefully inspiring a new generation of cleantech entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to other students researching or working in clean tech?
Being a student (or recent graduate) is the best seat to be in. You can call anyone in the cleantech industry, tell them you are a student wanting to ask them some questions, and 9 times out of 10 they’ll meet you for a coffee. Seize these opportunities to learn and meet interesting people. You never know where it might take you.
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