POSTED ON May 04 2017

IWHJ Podcast: Elemental Excelerator's Dawn Lippert

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About Dawn:

Times are a-changing, and with it, comes new efforts to keep our planet healthy, which we are major supporters of at I Want Her Job. Today’s interview is with someone hustling to change the future of clean energy, Dawn Lippert. As the co-founder of Elemental Excelerator (formerly Energy Excelerator), a startup accelerator program based in Hawaii, Dawn and her team helps budding businesses change the world, one community at a time.

As co-founder of the organization, Dawn talks to I Want Her Job: The Podcast Host Polina Selyutin about the iteration she went through to refine and design the model Elemental Excelerator uses to fund and support startups. With many startups having different needs and time frames to scale, Dawn says, the nonprofit helped develop a model that works by partnering with corporations to test products and services, as well as non-competing companies that can support and complement one another.

Dawn also discusses her initial inspiration for the nonprofit, largely driven by the realization that the change the world needs to see, needed to be accelerated. “As I was working on these issues in Washington, D.C. on the policy side, it became really clear to me that the speed at which we needed to find solutions was astonishing,” she says. “Entrepreneurship to me is that tool … It’s our theory of change that by empowering entrepreneurs who are building quickly scalable business models that can really address these challenges at scale. That’s how we’re really going to change the world.”

As of press time, Elemental Excelerator has awarded $20 million to 53 portfolio companies (up to $1 million per company), co-funding 28 demonstration projects across areas affecting infrastructure, the environment and quality of life (including energy, water, agriculture and transportation systems). The nonprofit was created in collaboration with Emmerson Collective, an investment and philanthropic platform.

Learn more about Dawn’s path and her vision for Elemental Excelerator on episode 40 of I Want Her Job: The Podcast.

Topics Discussed In Today’s Show:

  • On Her Start: Always driven by environmental work, Dawn’s path led her to Washington, D.C., where she worked diligently on energy policy.
  • Bright Future: After working in Washington, D.C., Dawn moved to Hawaii where she worked for the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative – a partnership with the State of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy to make Hawaii an economy based on clean energy. At the start, the Initiative’s goal was to create an environment in Hawaii which used 70% clean energy. Today, that goal has grown to 100% clean energy by 2045.
  • The “A-Ha” Moment: While working on the clean energy goal for Hawaii, Dawn, and others close to her, realized that innovation and close collaboration among city departments, small businesses, land owners and corporations would help expedite the process.
  • On Process: Dawn and her team interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs, investors and stakeholders in the energy space to design the model for Elemental Excelerator.
  • That Unique Twist: What sets Elemental Excelerator apart is that it looks for non-competitive companies who can support and complement one another. “Our vision is [that] in 10 years we have 150 management teams [and] CEOs that have collaboration built into their DNA that are a part of a system that see themselves as complementing each other, so … [they] can really develop a change in the system,” she says.
  • All About Adaptation: Energy is a heavily regulated industry with massive infrastructure needs and long timeframes to try to change products or services. Because energy startups are mainly business-to-business versus direct-to-consumer, Elemental Excelerator realized it needed to adapt the existing accelerator model by working for up to three years with their startup companies, Dawn says. In addition, she says, the nonprofit believes in bringing in corporate partners, like utility companies, to help startups reach their target markets.
  • Funding The Idea: Elemental Excelerator follows a unique, hybrid funding model with a nonprofit side where projects are funded combined with a for-profit venture fund with investors – including the State of Hawaii, individuals and corporations.
  • On Tech and Policy Changes In Energy: “Water is almost 10 years behind energy in digitization,” Dawn says. “The real driver for change is digital tools and big data.”
  • On That Island Life: It’s no secret Dawn loves working in Hawaii, and she shares her love for the feeling of island life and connectedness to the land – all of which influence the work of Elemental Excelerator.
  • Learn More And Connect: Follow Elemental Excelerator on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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