Donnel Baird is the CEO of BlocPower, a proptech startup that is greening American cities by helping residential building owners modernize their heating and cooling units. Using renewable energy and smart monitoring tools, BlocPower is creating better health and environmental outcomes for the inner city.
We caught up with Baird to talk about the need for greener communities and get his advice for tech entrepreneurs.
Your company is doing a lot of good for communities. Why was it important for you to build a tech company with a social mission?
As a Black American, I know that all of the opportunities that we have, have been paid for by the political and economic sacrifices and accomplishments of prior generations. We are paying it forward. Second, in order to drive the sweeping economic transformation that we need to address climate change, we need to be deeply rooted in social movements and communities of color.
Why is renewable energy important for Black communities?
Renewable energy will help us build wealth, increase the value of our properties [and] increase jobs. [We need to] decrease expensive energy bills and decrease [the] air pollution that makes our kids sick in our buildings.
What advice would you give an entrepreneur interested in tech without a science background?
Just get started! Read everything you can, listen to podcasts, and study how the tech industry really works. [There are] tons of roles for people who can’t program — including CEO.
You have to realize that it is OK to not know what you don’t know and that being a founder requires putting a team of experts together to fill your knowledge gaps. A lot of being a tech founder has more to do with confidence and effective leadership skills than technical knowledge.