Scaling Successfully: Cleantech Roundtable with Tim HealyMedium Tuesday, April 13th 2021
The old adage “It’s 5 O’clock somewhere” was in effect last week as Dynamo Hub Members from near and far joined our cocktail-roundtable hosted by Tim Healy, former Chairman and CEO of EnerNOC (now Enel X), and newly announced advisor to Dynamo Energy Hub.
While the focus of Tim’s roundtable was on scaling cleantech companies, what was most apparent and favoured by the group was Tim’s passion to influence a new generation of entrepreneurs in cleantech to make a dramatic difference in addressing the most pressing challenge of our time — climate change. Tim recalled a conversation during the early days of starting EnerNOC, when a new employee disclosed some uncertainty in their career choice to work at the cleantech start-up. Tim said to the employee:
“Look, if we’re successful, we’re going to be the early pioneers, the first generation. And then if that is successful, we’re going to have 20 or 30 different EnerNOC employees who go on and start their own companies in this sector, and the promise of cleantech and the promise of energy transition is going to be real.”
How has this prediction played out?
“Today, there are at least 30 former EnerNOC employees that are now CEOs, co-founders or heads of their companies, most of them in the clean energy sector. And it makes me really proud.” — Tim Healy
So how did he do it? To answer this, Tim solicited feedback from three former EnerNOC employees, asking them to share their perspective of what it takes to scale successfully and breed an innovative, collaborative workforce capable of making major impact. The three former employees called to share were Hudson Gilmer, Alex Wright-Gladstein, and Christian Weeks.
Hudson Gilmer is CEO and Co-Founder of LineVision, a non-contact sensor platform that continuously monitors the behavior of the transmission system, detects anomalies and issues real-time alerts on risks, allowing utilities to adopt and adapt to renewable energy technology. He was hired at EnerNOC straight out of his MBA program at MIT.
Alex Wright-Gladstein worked at EnerNOC for five years post college and has since gone on to co-found Ayer Labs, which makes high bandwidth and energy energy efficient silicon computer chips while getting her MBA. When deciding to go to MIT Sloan, she noted:
“There are people inventing incredible things all the time and a lot of the time you don’t end up being able to use them due to what happens in that gap from lab to market. If I help bridge that gap, that could be worthwhile.”
But Alex noted it’s not just about finding the perfect invention to take to market that makes an entrepreneur successful. When asked about choosing to begin on her own entrepreneurial endeavors, she stated:
“When you have an idea for a new startup, have confidence that you can do it…What I’ve learned from my own experience and through talking to other entrepreneurs is that the greatest thing about starting a new company is that no one has ever done exactly what you’re doing before.” — Alex Wright-Gladstein, Founder, CEO of Sphere
Christian Weeks is CEO at enVerid Systems, a company which makes air purification and efficient HVAC modules, after having spent nearly 10 years at EnerNOC. He is working to solve the problem of inefficient HVAC system which can be hugely energy intensive. Speaking of the roller coaster ride of working at a start-up, he noted:
“It took about five years of R&D. And we’ve spent the last five years trying to convince engineers of HVAC systems and building engineers that thinking about ventilation differently is not going to break their buildings, and in fact, can be a way to deliver great indoor air quality, and do it much more energy efficiently and reduce carbon impact of buildings.”
Reflecting on the success of his former employees, Tim noted that when starting EnerNOC, the culture of the company was a priority and very important to both him and his co-founder.
“I wanted to make sure that my co-founder and I felt very collaborative and that we instilled this culture of collaboration at EnerNOC.”
Did it work? Past employee success and experience seems to indicate so. In fact, many have taken what they have learned from their time at EnerNOC and continue to evolve, especially as it comes to company culture and diversity and inclusion. In addition to hiring great people, creating and infectious and passionate environment, speakers noted the importance of diversity and inclusion and how it is up to founders and company leaders to make sure that the people aspect is paramount.
Another key takeaway is within the hiring process. EnerNOC was noted for having a process which utilized a cross-functional team to participate in the interviews. Some interviewees were asked to do a project and then present to the interviewers, giving the hiring team an opportunity to assess team interactions and culture fit. When discussing implementing a similar practice at Ayer Labs, Alex Wright-Gladstein notes:
“Be really careful about hiring, don’t just hire fast as you need to fill a role, make sure it’s the right person, because firing sucks. And you don’t want to have to do that.”
Christian Weeks also iterated on the importance of team building, especially in a startup environment. His advice:
“Build a great team with people who complement your thinking. These are the people that will make you sharper and balance your perspective” –Christian Weeks, CEO of enVerid Systems
Echoing their sentiments, Hudson noted:
“The reality is, you’re going to have valleys of death and multiple mountains beyond that first peak. You need to be prepared for the longer journey and don’t go alone. Find great partners who compliment your strengths, support you when times are tough, and help you get through it.” –Hudson Gilmer, CEO and Co-Founder of LineVision
The results of taking the time to focus on people, culture and collaboration are evident and invaluable — the speakers all noted low turn-over, fantastic people and innovative solutions. And for Tim Healy and the other founders in attendance, this is clearly the goal for all focused on the cleantech energy transition.
Tim’s final words of advice for the event — trust your gut.
“After my first board meeting at EnerNOC, I had people giving me 10–20 ideas on what we should do. They were all great ideas but apply the 80/20 rule. Throw away 80% of what was just said and find the 20% that has all of the value. That’s what you need to do as the Founder and CEO of your company. Take others advice — but most importantly, make sure you find the pieces in that advice that work for you and your company.”- Tim Healy, former Chairman and CEO of EnerNOC (now Enel X), and newly announced advisor to Dynamo Energy Hub
Tim Healy is a Strategic Advisor for Dynamo Energy Hub.
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