Podcast Episode 50

Driving Growth for Good: Unleashing Sustainable Innovation

Join host Ryan Davies in an insightful episode of the Tech Business Roundtable Podcast as he explores the intersection of technology and sustainability with Nick Findler, founder of Climate Door. Discover Climate Door’s unique approach to driving sustainable innovation, the role of government funding in the sustainability sector, and transformational ventures like Stardust Solar and Polar Beer Taps. Gain profound insights into the future of sustainable technology and learn how collaboration and innovation are shaping a cleaner, brighter tomorrow.

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Introduction and Background

Ryan: Welcome everyone to the Tech Business Roundtable podcast show. This is a podcast show dedicated to shining a spotlight on tech innovators, entrepreneurs, founders, and the compelling narratives behind the movements they’ve established. I’m your host, Ryan Davies, and I’m hosting today’s discussion on driving growth for good, unleashing sustainable innovation with Nick Findler. Nick, thank you so much for being here today and for imparting your wisdom on our audience today. 

Nick: Thanks for having me, Ryan. 

Ryan: I am super excited to dive into this one. A little bit about Nick for our audience. So he has consistently championed a vision for a cleaner, brighter future and is the driving force behind Climate Door, which is a pioneering global growth as a service firm. Nick’s commitment to the green movement is evident in every venture strategy and initiative that he undertakes, and under his guidance, Climate Door has flourished with his adeptness in green finance enabling the securement of over $100 million for transformative global ventures. He’s got a very vast and varied entrepreneurial canvas from the inception of Stardust Solar to strategic roles at Forest Innovations and other ventures. Really, his footprint in the sustainability sector is profound, and each of these endeavors has been marked by a shared goal of accelerating the world’s transition to clean energy. I think we could go on and on, but me probably talking about it does no justice in comparison to what you can bring to the table for our listeners.

So maybe to kick things off, a little bit of a brief overview on your journey and how you became so deeply involved in the green movement and sustainability efforts. 

Nick: Yeah, well, I hope you can give me an intro every time I get to any meeting because that was probably the best intro I’ve ever had. 

Ryan: Well, thank you. 

Nick: Yeah, you set me up for effort. No, it’s all good. Yeah, my entrepreneurial journey started quite early, always was selling or learning how to flip things. And so my first time I made money in sort of an entrepreneurial way was selling golf balls I’d found in the hazards at golf courses on weekends, and that became pressure washing and selling different sporting equipment. And so that was sort of always had the entrepreneurial drive and hustle and just always wanted to learn new skills. And yeah, saw myself as sort of becoming a venture capitalist sort of business owner, having a portfolio of companies at pretty young age, and then just sort of tried to make the steps towards that. And so yeah, over the last decade now have worked with well over 20 companies and have in most cases, been part of their strategic leadership team or been part of founding them and often being tasked with the role of making sure that they’ve got enough funding to get to the next level of taking a number of companies public and really sort of got into sort of deal making and how to grow businesses from a pretty young age and started raising capital for deals. And through that process through my 20s, I found that I really gravitated towards the good for the planet and good for humanity type investment opportunities and companies that I was building or I was partner with, within building. And yeah, I just really decided, I guess it was three or four years ago that I was going to go all in on these types of businesses. Because before I was, I had worked for some food technology companies, I’d worked a bit in different types of energy deals and really just found that what I felt passionate about getting up to work as hard as I do every day is to sort of focus on businesses that were going to make a sustainable difference. And so that was really the impetus for getting into building Climate Door. I’m now with my partner, Chad, and the rest of our amazing team. 

Climate Door’s Unique Approach

Ryan: Incredible. And I think, you know, it’s such amazing, tech on its own is one thing, really, you know, green innovation is a whole nother fantastic area to be in. You’re combining these together and you describe Climate Door as a growth as a service firm. So I’d love to have you elaborate a little bit more on that unique approach and how you contribute to the growth and sustainability ventures and initiatives that you do. 

Nick: Yeah. Yeah. So growth as a service is very core to what we do and what we bring to businesses. So you can think we consider ourselves a climate venture builder. So we partner with great or we’ll incubate them ourselves, great early stage businesses in the climate space. And that what our value adds we bring is what we call growth as a service. And so we bring more investors to the table. We bring more government money to the table. We help these businesses often find their first customers and first investors, and then also identify strategic partners and make that happen. So, you know, our, you know, our best clients are ones that have great solutions or innovations and leadership, but, you know, don’t have a sales and marketing and finance and fundraising team. And so that’s a big part of our businesses is really becoming real partners in those businesses and really helping them elevate. And so when I decided to stop working with all different types of businesses, but just focus on climate businesses, the main reason, you know, outside of sort of the humanitarian and environmental aspect was being able to build a suite of tools and technology to really help amplify these businesses. In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges with climate tech is that often the investment or payback returns are not as good as other deals. And so it just doesn’t attract enough capital to really see the amount of sustainable change. And I have a belief, I don’t know, call me a climate capitalist, but I believe that like profitability within these businesses is so paramount to making really significant sweeping changes across the value chain rather than moving something from, you know, 5% of the grid to 10% of the grid. Like how do we get to 80% of the grid? And I think it’s through unit economics. And so we really spend a lot of time focusing on how to use AI and how to build, you know, newsletters to attract investors. Like how do we help companies tell their story better? Like we really take a holistic approach to that whole component of the business. And so that’s our bet is that if we can make these early stage companies in the climate space more de-risked and more investable, that we’ve provided a valuable service. And, you know, we love being partners and really we’re a roll up our sleeves type of team. We all absolutely love what we do and you can email us on Saturday or Sunday and we’ll be at it. And so yeah, that’s kind of the vibe of what Climate Door is. 

Ryan: I love it. And I, you know, I think as a leader in the green tech space, you know, you’re probably very well positioned to speak about, you know, maybe the key driving forces that are shaping the industry’s future and maybe how Climate Door is also positioned to help address these forces. 

Nick: Yeah. I mean, it’s a big question. 

Ryan: Yeah. We could, that alone is a whole podcast probably series, right? 

Nick: So yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think that the answer is like, you know, I often say there’s no silver bullet. There’s just a, you know, a million BBs or, you know, I don’t think there’s one technology or one solar or wind that’s going to be the answer to solve everything. I don’t think it’ll be a medley of, you know, all different types of technology that are really advancing at a great rate. And we’re seeing that in solar, you know, one of our portfolio companies is a solar franchising business. And we’ve just seen absolutely tremendous, you know, inbound growth because that sector is just, is growing fast. It’s really only, I think one and a half percent penetrated in Canada and less than 3% in the US.

And so, you know, I think you’re going to start to see, you know, if you look at that over a 10 year time horizon, like is that number significantly larger than one and a half and 3%? Like I’m a betting man and I would say yes. And so, you know, how do you, how do you make, you know, how do you do that in the wind? How do you do that in battery storage? How do you do that in hydrogen? There’s a lot of talk happening in hydrogen right now. And a lot, we were, we just got back from COP28, which is the large UN climate change conference. And it’s expected that there’s actually a hundred thousand people there this year, which is, which is incredible. And yeah, it was, so I guess, I don’t know if that answers your question, but. 

Addressing Industry Forces

Ryan: No, I think, I think that’s absolutely perfect that in the key driving forces is the fact that, you know, there is no one key driving force. It is plural. And there’s, there’s really, like you said, there’s headway to be made any direction you go, as long as you’re following those right, the right pathways and being able to understand that, you know, and for our tech business audience, maybe we can talk a little bit as well about integrating sustainability and green initiatives into core strategies and operations and how you’re seeing, you know, both businesses in there and external trying to bring it in, be successful in doing so. 

Nick: Yeah. Yeah. I think you, you brought up a really good point that I wanted to go back on is, you know, I think that the industry is so nascent and so young and, in my opinion, is going to create such massive economic change over the next 50 to a hundred years. That one thing that we say internally is that collaboration is the new competition. And so I think that there’s, there’s just like, there’s so much room to grow, you know, what really, in our opinion, at least for the early stage stuff is, is how do you de-risk these? Like, how do you use technology solutions to, to make them, you know, easier ventures to start that you don’t need to have someone put up a check for $25 million to get you started. Like that’s a hard bar to start a business on. And so, you know, we’re seeing a lot of innovation on the technology side, which is, which is, which is really cool. There’s lots of interesting accounting softwares out there. Carbon counters, like they’re starting to be some, some good reporting on it. One of the talks that I went to was put on by S&P Global and they were talking about how important it is for companies to have great reporting on what they’re doing and having it standardized across all businesses so that, you know, investors can make decisions because they’re saying not only are the investors not really understanding the sort of carbon math behind, like how much are we actually doing, you know, they’re also facing putting up big dollars into, you know, heavily policy regulated industries that are constantly changing all the time. So from a policy standpoint, there’s lots of risk from the actual impact standpoint, there’s lots of risk. And so, you know, coming up with new solutions to help make those sources of information more trusted to create a more, you know, trusting sort of ecosystem to play within, I think is, is, is an incredibly valuable role to play. And there’s lots of groups that are trying to do interesting things in that space. 

Ryan: And you mentioned before, you know, part of, part of what you’re doing is you’re in, you’re in two, two areas you’re trying to bring in that are in the infancy stages, really scratching the surface between, you know, green tech innovations and AI and bringing those together, one’s highly regulated, one’s the Wild West, almost in terms of how it’s being brought together and what you can do, you know, tell me a little bit about what you see in that intersection of technology and sustainability and kind of maybe either the challenges or the big impacts that success stories that can come out of that.

Nick: Yeah, well, I’ll preface my answer with, I’m a non technical guy that loves technology and has tried to spend, you know, lots of time in the last six to eight months to try and understand AI better and, and really try to use it as much my day to day work. And, and so right now I see the biggest advantages of AI and these sort of growth stage technology businesses is really, you know, making the executives in that company much more effective, more output, better quality of work, really sort of understanding problems that are really working as sort of a co-pilot alongside your staff. And we’ve been able to sort of do that at, at the leadership level, sort of the rest of the businesses level, but also even outsource staff and contractors that we hire, creating, you know, AI technologies to make them more efficient with their time, be able to, you know, create better work for, you know, less input, because essentially that’s what we’re trying to get for these businesses, just more leverage on their capital and, and the ability to de-risk themselves more. And so, you know, that’s where we’re seeing big use cases. I think that in 12 months from now, we’ll be having many different conversations about the different problems and different sorts of abilities AI has to impact these businesses. But I think as a co-pilot and sort of a work productivity and output quality of work hacker, I think is, is here to stay. And it’ll be interesting to see what it can do next. 

The Role of Government Funding

Ryan: And I think, you know, you touched on it there a little bit about making the most of your capital and being able to, you know, make it make sense. Again, I think in this space, you’ve got a really unique sense of not just either bootstrap capital or venture capital, but government funding comes into this as well, right? There’s got to be a lot of that that kind of goes into this and becomes a big player in growth strategies and being able to navigate those waters. So if you could touch on that and kind of shed a little bit of light about that from, from your perspective as well, that’d be great. 

Nick: Yeah. Government funding is a huge part of the sector right now. So my business partner, Chad, who we grew up with, really comes from sort of the government world, as well as sort of a background in international markets. And, and so right now it is, a huge part of every sustainability company or company that’s in the climate economy strategies is how to sort of get their hands on some of those dollars. And so, you know, it’s something that, you know, that we try to bring as much as we can to our businesses. It’s also in a lot of cases what we call blended finance or, you know, you’re getting some equity investment or some debt investment that unlocks some other investment from the government. So there’s these matching fund opportunities and there’s really, you know, there’s lots of, there’s lots of hype, there’s lots of funding to hire sort of good young talent that’s just entering the workforce. So, you know, there’s really a lot of opportunities to, to use government funding, but, but again, going back to, I think that’s, that’s where this industry needs to go is to find solutions that, you know, don’t need to be propped up and aren’t reliant on sort of government cycles and, capital. And so, you know, we try to make our businesses as self-reliant as we can, but we’ll take any extra help from the government that we can get. 

Ryan: Absolutely. And, you know, maybe we could even highlight one or two, I know on, on the Climate Door website, you, you’ve got some, you know, a number of case studies, a number of impact stories that you’ve had, but is there one or two, you know, transformational ventures that you would say that you’ve been involved in and like how the initiatives really align with the vision of a cleaner, brighter, better future? 

Nick: Absolutely. Yeah. The two that come to mind, one being a great business that I sort of mentioned briefly earlier called Stardust Solar. And so there was a homegrown solar training and education business that morphed into a franchisor about two and a half, three years ago. And, it has spread really quickly across Canada and now is, has just signed a new deal to go into the U.S. So they’ve got in just two and a half years, I think are going to be approaching 72 franchisees here shortly, which is yeah, been an awesome growth. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s really been incredible and run by a great team and a great CEO, Mark Tadros. And so we’ve been involved, you know, heavily involved in that company and big shareholders for, yeah, for over two years now. And so we’re actually just getting ready to IPO. And so we’ll, we’ll likely see our IPO happen in Q1 of 2024, which is yeah, really exciting to see and just tremendous growth and, and just a great operator and a great team. So that’s been really exciting. And then a more recent one that we’ve, we’ve started we partnered with about seven or eight months ago is actually called Polar Beer Taps. And so you might be asking about beer and sustainability. So these, these, this local team here has built a beverage cooling technology. It’s a stand up machine that you can wheel into an event or to a wedding or to a concert, or it’ll fit in a restaurant sink as well. And they’ve come up with a way to cool any type of liquid, specifically beer, that runs through a keg immediately. And the keg does not need to be cold. It doesn’t need to be settled after driving. And so it’s this really big breakthrough, especially in the event space where, you know, companies really struggle to pour cold drinks at any type of event. So they often just bring cans, which is not only twice the financial cost, but it’s five times the environmental cost, or they’re using these things like the kegerator, which is, you know, a glorified, you know, Coleman cooler with some coils in it. But you’re having to use hundreds of dollars of ice. And there’s really a, not only are they struggling to get cold beer to their consumers or cold drinks or wine or whatever the beverage may be. These are also massive polluters. And these events, you know, worldwide governments have recognized that events and concerts and weddings and all these types of things are so important for society and keeping us connected, but they’re huge polluters. And so this machine that’s been created is created by this really incredible team here in Vancouver. And it, for every keg of beer poured through a polar beer tap system saves the CO2 equivalent of a car driving down the road five kilometers. And so we’ve been able to really cut out a lot of the sort of energy efficiency and needing any ice and needing kegs to be cooled and things to be transported to really make it an efficient solution, both for, you know, the environment and for event goers that that like to have a cold beverage every once in a while. 

Ryan: Holy cow. Well, you had me at cold beer, and then you ramped it up to another level when you started putting some of those figures in and facts were like the impact that it has. And just, I absolutely, I think that’s what’s so fascinating about this space is like you said, you know, it can be, it can be very profitable. And it can also be such a fantastic, lasting legacy impact in the technologies. And they span so many areas that you would never think of. That’s, that’s not where I would, like you said, that is not where I’m thinking when people go green tech. Yeah. What do you think about cold beer? And it’s like, well, I have but not in green tech. Just I think about it a lot. That’s about it. So that is absolutely incredible. 

Nick: I didn’t imagine us doing a company that had beer in the name. And you know, when we saw these, this thing, and really started punching the numbers on it and started understanding, you know, what is being used in the market right now and how wasteful it really is. Yeah. And then comparing it to the service, it was like, wow, this is not only an incredible, ingenious design to pour cold beverages, which is, you know, every beer company and beverage companies desire at these events. It also has a huge environmental benefit to doing it this way. And so that probably gives you an idea of sort of where we’re looking for, you know, interesting solutions. We’re relatively agnostic into sort of what particular sector, but you know, we have sort of our core tools that, you know, just having a good, a good founding team is, is, is really probably the most important thing we’re looking for. And that, you know, that we worked well together and jive together, because you’re going to be in these things for, for multiple years often. And you want to make sure you enjoy who you’re working beside. 

Ryan: I think, you know, as we’re kind of pivoting towards and working towards the outro here, and I think, you know, we could have a whole series on this alone, just just you and I, because there’s just so much to cover here. But, you know, looking ahead, crystal ball looking forward, you know, the vision for sustainable technology, there’s no getting around it or away from it or anything like this is like you said, it’s just scratching the surface. But this is not a trend. It’s not, it’s not something that’s just kind of popping up. This is something that is going to dominate the technology space for, for years and decades to come. You know, give me what your vision for the future of sustainable technology is and you know, even what businesses like climate door will do playing in that space and helping shape that future. 

Nick: Another big question. 

Ryan: Massive, right? Again, it’s a whole nother podcast. 

Nick: I believe it, you know, if you solve the biggest problem, you’re going to create the biggest outcome. And I and I think that people are starting to see not only is this a gigantic problem for humanity, you know, it’s also it’s starting to become a space where, you know, the people that, you know, are in their 20s and 30s have had a different relationship with the planet than a lot of our parents and a lot of the sort of elder generation had. And so I’m seeing more and more of the smartest because that’s what you need. You need the sort of combination of the right people, the right capital, the right environment, the right technology to really create a sustainable change. And so I think we’re starting to see that we’re starting to see more action and not just, you know, conversations at conferences about what we should be doing. And I think technology plays a massive role in it. And so we’re creating a platform that will be very AI enabled to connect climate executives of growing climate businesses with investors and strategic partners and buyers and champions that want to be part of what they’re doing and maybe hire people as well. And so I think technology plays a very key role in connecting the right people because the world is vast. And so being able to connect the right person from Sri Lanka with the right entrepreneur in India or connecting some three way amalgamation of businesses together that need each other’s solutions, but don’t don’t know each other exists. I think those use cases for technology are going to be paramount over the next few years. And also the use of data. I think technology and data are where being able to create actionable insights for businesses on how to be more sustainable is an incredibly powerful tool that I think will be essential in every single business in 10 or 20 years. And so I think that those working on those types of problems are going to do really well. 

Ryan: Amazing. So I’m going to leave it to you with this before we kind of get to our last little piece. It is just sort of any final thoughts, any calls to action or anything you’d like to leave our audience with, particularly those just like you that are passionate about sustainability in the tech sector. 

Nick: I think just go out and just have just go out and start acting. You can start at a very localized level. I think it is really just a game of action and finding good people that want to work on important problems. And if it’s something that you feel passionate about, there’s so many ways to enter the market. There’s a lot of subsidies for the government or for companies to hire you. And there’s a lot of opportunity for other entrepreneurs that want to build new tools. And so I just encourage you to go out and act and be part of the solution because we’re not achieving our climate goals at this point. We’re actually lagging quite far behind even what we had set out just four or five years ago. And it needs more smart people and more capital to go into that sector to solve a problem where we won’t have a, you know, a habitable place to live. And so that’s just the reality. 

Final Thoughts and Call to Action

Ryan: Fantastic. And as we’re signing off here with Nick Findler, Nick, how can our audience get in contact with you, learn more from you, you know, tap you on the shoulder for that advice or that push that they need to jump into that space, as you mentioned? 

Nick: Yeah. Yeah. Please connect with me on LinkedIn. So Nick Findler. So Nick and then F-I-N-D-L-E-R. I’m very accessible. I’m sure you can find me. And then we’ve also if you if you just reach out and say hi, you can also get on our sort of newsletter and network where we share sort of our own insights from what we’re learning sort of every week and the insights of sort of what some announcements mean for the climate economy and really looking at it through sort of an opportunity lens of, you know, how do how do we get more involved? How do we find the right companies to partner with? How do we, you know, see new opportunities from changing regulations to start new things? And so that’s what we really care about. 

Ryan: Fantastic. Well, with that, Nick, I’m going to sign off here and say thank you so much for joining us here today. You know, I think this was just an incredible discussion. Hope we’re going to have more of these discussions with you. But, you know, your time is valuable. And we thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, your stories with us here today on behalf of our audience. Thanks.

Nick: Thanks, Ryan. Appreciate it. Excellent. 

Ryan: And with that, we’ll take a minute to thank Nick Findler of Climate Door for this amazing podcast on driving growth for good, unleashing sustainable innovation. And I want to thank our listeners as always, as well as we can’t do what we do without you. So until we meet again with another amazing TBR episode, I’m your host, Ryan Davies. Take care out there. 

About Our Host and Guest

Director of Marketing – Ekwa.Tech & Ekwa Marketing
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Co-Founder @ ClimateDoor
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” One of the biggest challenges with climate tech is that often, the investment or payback returns are not as good as other deals. “

– Nick Findler –