A few weeks back, I had the privilege of interviewing Kiran and Ryan, founders of Arcadia Power, a DC based tech firm (yep, you heard that right, they’re a tech firm AND a clean energy company) whose mission and passion is that we all deserve access to clean power, even if the public officials in your area refuse to stop burning coal or other dirty crap that we do to create electricity.
Arcadia Power was founded with one simple mission in mind: provide the choice of clean energy to every individual and small business. The utility industry hasn’t provided the choices consumers demand. While over 1 billion energy bills go out a year in America, very few consumers understand where their energy comes from. They give customers the option to support their values through their energy bill and, in doing so, join a community dedicated to conservation and sustainability.
But here’s the interesting thing I want to talk about today – you can get signed on and start getting clean power in 5 minutes, thanks to Arcadia Power. All this with no panels, no wires, nothing – Arcadia just steps in, makes sure you get clean power, and you just pay your bill through them. And that’s the lesson that was most fascinating to me, and I think most important for us social entrepreneurs: If Arcadia can disrupt an industry as old fashioned as power generation, folks, there’s no limit to what we change agents can do. Let me share a few other lessons I learned:
1.) Social disruption is how social entrepreneurs roll. Kiran and Ryan weren’t afraid of big power, but they also knew that trying to combat them by building a new clean power plant or something massive like that, would have slowed them down. Instead, they thought outside the box, and created a tech company who’s mission was to give access to clean power to anyone simply by acting as a matchmaker for people who want clean power and the systems already providing it.
2.) Increasing access is our mantra. If I only had to pick one thing all social entrepreneurs have in common, it’s this: we bring access to people who didn’t have it before. Kiran and Ryan are opening the doors of clean power to an entire country. If you want to be a purpose driven entrepreneur, think about ways you can increase access to those who don’t have it.
3.) We give a voice to the voiceless. Before Arcadia, I really had no voice in where I got my power from. That was dictated to me by some government official who made some cozy deal with a power company and tried to shut out competition. But we millenials aren’t putting up with that. We’ve grown up with revolutionary tech, and we know that our access to that tech gives us a unique voice and a way to be heard. Thanks to Arcadia, that same tech is now being leveraged to shift our business away form dirty power and to clean power. One thing I know about business is this – you can shout at them all you want, but until we start shifting our money away from exploitative businesses to businesses that hold to the triple bottom line (people, planet, and profit) change can’t happen. Arcadia shows that even the most old-fashioned of industries can be disrupted by tech that shifts the flow of money from the bad guys to the good guys.
4.) Build a great story. Who doesn’t love a great story about a tech company taking on the world? Kiran and Ryan wear this badge well, and you see it in all their branding. When’s the last time your utility company told you a great story? My guess is never. Never ever.
5.) Unite a movement. Kiran and Ryan aren’t just a power company, they are educators. They are teaching people what clean power means for the planet, for the people, and for the growth of purpose driven business. As they do that, they build a movement of people sold out on clean power and it’s a movement that is actually doing something about it. I don’t think it’s possible to be a purpose driven entrepreneur if you don’t plan on building a movement around a revolutionary idea.
Arcadia is a power company that actually cares about the mark its making on the world. It’s also a revolutionary tech company that helps us vote with our dollars. But above all of this, I was struck by the incredible authenticity and genuineness of its founders, Ryan and Kiran. All social entrepreneurs have scored high marks on these two points, and you’ve gotta make sure you’re right on that too, or cause minded customers will see right through you.
Want more stories of purpose-driven entrepreneurs? This story originally appeared in our Social Good Guide – 50 businesses. 50 causes. 50 ways to change the world. You can find them all at socialgoodshopping.com.