Charging: A Conversation with Lauren Flanagan, CEO of…
Canarian Media Load Column reports on gender diversity in the climatetech sector. Part one is a short Q&A with an industry role model about her career path. Part two contains updates on career transitions. Please send feedback and tips to [email protected]canarymedia.com. canary thank you Fish Tank PR for supporting the column.
Lauren Flanagan: A self-taught serial entrepreneur who is always learning
Lauren Flanagan is co-founder and chairman by Sesame Solar, which makes solar-powered mobile nanogrids. This interview has been edited and abridged for brevity.
How did you come to this career path?
I’ve always loved science and technology. I was the kind of kid who would ask his parents for microscopes, chemistry kits, and telescopes as gifts. My stepfather was an engineer who built audio amplifiers and model airplanes, and I liked all of that. It was so fun to learn when I was a kid.
I studied philosophy in college, but I also took some programming courses and taught myself a lot. I’ve always loved using technology to solve problems. I founded five technology companies. But after Hurricane Katrina I was so shocked at how unprepared we were and I felt like we should all do something about climate change. I thought about what I’m good at – starting technology companies – and decided to see how I could help solve some of the problems that arise after these disasters. We are currently doing the worst that is possible [after disasters], which sends diesel generators everywhere to provide electricity, so on top of the massive environmental damage caused by a hurricane, flood or wildfire, we are further polluting the ecosystem with particulate matter in the air and water, noise and carbon emissions. I figured if we could make renewable energy easy to use and fast, that would solve this problem, and that’s how Sesame Solar was founded a little over five years ago.
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What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My grandmother grew up in very poor circumstances, but later became a successful real estate investor in California – she was self-taught. She taught me the value of a good education, but also the ability to teach yourself. “Always learning”, or OJhas become my motto.
The other advice I would like to give is to try new experiences and take risks. It’s not a mistake unless you repeat it; You can find out how to do better. So maybe this motto can be “you only live once”, or YOLO. Be brave and live big.
What was a barrier you faced and how did you overcome it?
All women, people of color, and other underappreciated founders probably face similar challenges when it comes to fundraising, which is that we don’t fit the patterns most investors are looking for. One path I’ve overcome is to focus on profitability from the start to be financially self-sufficient. This gives you a lot of decision-making power for your business, and it’s also a way to attract the best investors and [to be able to] Work with people who really understand you and what you are trying to do.
What do you think are some interesting, overlooked career opportunities in HVAC?
There are so many. The market is paying a lot of attention to CO2 extraction, but probably the greatest impact will be in reducing consumption and circularity. This means repairing things instead of throwing them away and making new ones, but also how companies can optimize processes to use less energy. Not everything has to be completely new or revolutionary. For young people starting out I would say try to work in companies where you can gain experience and expertise to really understand the issues and then pick a narrow part to focus on want.
What’s your super power?