Note: THE TORCH is an interview series from Entrepreneurs for Impact. We profile CEOs mitigating climate change. Our goal is to highlight their work and inspire others. As we deal with multiple crisis, from COVID and racial injustice to climate change and economic recession, we need some of this positive light in what seem like dark times. Onward and upward.
Why did you create Dandelion Energy? Buildings account for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions, and while there are many companies engaged in scaling up electric vehicles, solar and wind, there are fewer resources directed to cleaning up these emissions from buildings. Heat pumps are by far the best positioned technology for eliminating these emissions. I created Dandelion to make heat pumps, specifically geothermal heat pumps, more popular with and affordable for homeowners so that we can start transitioning away from fossil fuel-based heating at scale.
Who does your company serve? Today Dandelion serves single family homeowners.
What problems do you solve for your customers? We let customers switch from expensive, polluting, inconvenient fossil heating fuels like fuel oil, propane and natural gas to emissions free geothermal energy. They can save thousands of dollars a year in the process.
How does your work contribute to mitigating climate change? Geothermal heating is an emissions-free way of heating the home.
What makes your company different than its competitors? Dandelion is currently the only venture-backed company I am aware of working to scale up heat pumps in homes.
How are you rethinking your business strategy to get through the COVID crisis? How do you play both offense and defense? Dandelion moved to a 100% digital sales process in response to COVID. We used to send consultants to homes in order to talk homeowners through what it would look like to make the switch. Now we connect with them online. It’s been a great success!
We’ve also done a bunch of work to reduce the number of people onsite at customers’ homes during the installation process, which has not only increased safety but also resulted in greater efficiency for the business.
What are 2-3 things that your industry needs most to succeed, but is currently missing? Two significant things the geothermal industry needs to succeed but does not have today include:
A large, trained workforce: there isn’t a large pool of people today who know how to install geothermal systems, be that drilling or putting in the heat pump. That means that when Dandelion hires someone, more often than not we have to train them from a very low baseline of knowledge. As the industry grows, there will be more people with experience installing these systems, and it will become easier to hire and grow geothermal companies more quickly.
Affordable financing products: geothermal systems are more expensive than furnaces upfront, but much less expensive to run over time. Loans or other financing mechanisms can be used to translate the upfront costs of geothermal to ongoing costs, so that homeowners can get them installed with no money upfront and still save significantly over time. As the industry matures, more of these products should become available, making it increasingly easy and affordable for homeowners to install geothermal.
How are you finding growth capital this year? We aren’t planning to fundraise this year.
When it comes to addressing climate change, how do you remain optimistic? I’m optimistic because we already have all the tools we need to fight climate change. No fundamental breakthroughs are required. The technologies, models, and policies that are needed are already known and largely understood. All we need now is political will, and I can see that that will is building over time.
What kinds of apps, databases, or software help you and your team excel? Two of my favorite products we use include Eagleview, which gives us satellite imagery of the home and yard so we can assess it for drilling feasibility and create a site plan remotely. We are also using Hover, which lets the customer take just 8 photos of the outside of their house and then Hover is able to provide a 3D model of the house with full dimensions to high accuracy.
These types of tools have allowed us to do much of our sales and design process remotely, which has become even more important with COVID.
What kinds of personal habits, mindset, exercise, meditation, or scheduling help boost your productivity and increase your resilience to “fight the good fight”? The simple things: getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and hiring great people to share the work with!
What are 1-2 books that you’d encourage other climate change entrepreneurs to read? My favorite business books (which apply to climate entrepreneurs as well as other entrepreneurs) are “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz and Patrick Lencioni’s books, which cover everything from leadership to team dynamics.
What are you excited about now? I’m excited about the upcoming election and the potential for a rapid change in policy on the federal level. It has potential to dramatically accelerate our progress on climate.
Who is inspiring you now? Who can other climate change entrepreneurs learn from? I take most of my inspiration from people I know directly; these are the people I learn from every day because I see how they handle the countless situations that arise. I admire my colleagues for the things that they are great at, and I try to learn from them. I love getting to work on a team with a high level of talent because it has made me so much better!
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