Following up on yesterday’s article about 7 top innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs in cleantech and 7 top cleantech ideas and developments bringing us a low-carbon economy, here are 7 more top cleantech innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs to watch. Note that this is my third contribution to the Climate Reality Project’s Road to Paris campaign, and the ideas for the articles came from the Climate Reality Project crew.
The solar market in the developing world is already a huge one, but it is set to blow up like no other. There are so many innovative leaders in this space that I was hesitant to highlight any individuals. But I couldn’t help myself.
M-KOPA has really broken through in a realm that has a ton of potential but has been hard to crack: pay-as-you-go solar via mobile payments. It has brought solar power to ~150,000 homes in Sub-Saharan Africa in under 2½ years, and that number is growing faster and faster.
Managing director and cofounder Jesse Moore came to this business after innovative work at Signal Point Partners and the GSMA Development Fund. Strategy director and cofounder Nick Hughes also comes from Signal Point Partners, the venture firm that launched M-KOPA, and started predecessor M-PESA while heading up global payments at Vodafone Group.
Alright, if I’m going to jump into solar in the developing world, I think I need to include Muhammad Yunus & Dipal Chandra Barua. They cofounded Grameen Shakti, which has brought solar to ~1.5 million Bangladeshi homes (~8.5 million people). They got into this game nearly two decades ago! That’s what I’d call leadership.
Furthermore, they have other big achievements to their names. They cofounded microfinance institute Grameen Bank in 1983 (long before “microfinancing” was hip), which led to a Nobel Peace Prize.
If either Yunus or Barua start something new again, I think you’ll want to take a careful look, as it has a good chance of being an early preview of a big future market.
Tied for #1 on my 2014 list of top cleantech champions, you had to expect Jigar Shah would be on this one too. If you don’t work in the solar energy industry, though, you still may not know who Jigar Shah is, so here’s the summary from that 2014 article:
Jigar Shah founded SunEdison, which pioneered a financing model that would lead to explosive growth in the solar industry. He grew SunEdison into a solar giant and then moved on to other things. From 2009 to 2012, Jigar was the CEO of the Carbon War Room, “a global organization founded by Richard Branson and Virgin Unite to harness the power of entrepreneurship to unlock the potential of proven climate change solution technologies to be deployed at scale,” as Wikipedia summarizes it. He was fundamental in the growth and influence of the Carbon War Room, but then moved on to consulting as CEO of Jigar Shah Consulting (odd name…). Jigar serves on the board of more cleantech startups than there are months in the year, probably more than there are days in the month — I’d actually be curious to know the exact number. His influence in the industry is broad, deep, and powerful. He is consistently publishing insightful articles (including a CleanTechnica one with a very counter-intuitive message), answering interview questions, and participating in podcasts.
Since I wrote that, Jigar has gone on to cofound Generate Capital, which looks to be another transformative cleantech company. What’s Jigar’s next monumental move?
Ah, you knew I wouldn’t leave Elon Musk off the list, didn’t you? He has topped more impressive lists in recent years than perhaps anyone else in the world. He’s cofounder and CEO of Tesla Motors, chairman of SolarCity (and the man behind the idea), and turns everything he touches into gold (or so it seems). Plus, he looks cooler than an ice cream cone in sunglasses. He’s also planning to go to Mars, but that’s a topic for another day, and I’m sure there are many of us here on Earth who will do what we can to make him stick around for as long as possible.
Despite common criticism for his seemingly high level of self-confidence, I’d say that Elon is a very humble man. One thing he has said on a number of occasions is that he gets too much of the credit for Tesla’s work and success. As soon as you start to look around for the other leaders at Tesla, you find JB Straubel. JB Straubel is another Tesla cofounder and its long-time CTO. He stays out of the limelight while working a lot of Tesla’s magic, but I think any reasonable person can’t praise Tesla without dishing out a huge heap of praise to JB Straubel. He will be in the history books (or whatever it is that kids read in 20+ years).
Naturally, there are many, many, many more cleantech leaders who I could highlight, but these 7 and the 7 I featured yesterday are the top 14 cleantech innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs who came to my mind.