What is your elevator pitch? 

We are a results-based climate finance platform. What that essentially means is imagine eBay meets Kickstarter to mobilise, find and invest in small and medium sized projects in the built space. CarbonLaces ingests real time datasets from geospatial datasets to harmonise, analyse and deliver continuous financial intelligence which is used for funding projects and ensuring they stand the rigour for Paris alignment metrics. 

We are progressing our story in two areas – one around the data piece and one around the finance piece because the two go together. With the built environment being responsible for around 40% of all global energy-related emissions, we aim to solve two problems, one is around retrofit and one is around regulations.  

The retrofit problem is that the uptake for it is pretty low. Retrofit is done through one-offs or through the builders / developers and the incentives are completely misaligned. Changing structurally the way retrofits work is a key focus of ours. On regulations, we are here to ensure the data and incentives are in the right place so there are the right regulatory conversations that need to happen.  

How did your start-up get to where it is today? 

We are very early in our journey. We started life last year with one of the big utilities, which gave us access to a lot of resources. We’ve since partnered with Microsoft who have been instrumental in our fast development. They meant we got the product ready, and ready to onboard customers in a very short period.  

The idea came from a trip to the Artic 12 years ago where I spent time with climate scientists doing experiments looking at the human impact on the climate. What I came away with was a deep understanding of human’s impact on the planet and issues with data. As we got tighter and tighter around our proposition, we realised current financing is just not in place to do the job and it needs to address climate finance. Our team has cross domain experience in finance, energy and climate and have built national level infrastructure. This background ensured us that the proposal we developed was the sweet spot.  

What does innovation mean to you? 

Innovation in the built environment needs to come from a two-prong approach. The first is in terms of the physical materials and appliances, the second is in terms of software like digital twins and building passports. 

It’s not like one structure suits all. There are lots of things that need to come into place in order to hit a target. The immediate target for the built environment is how do you reduce carbon emissions.  In order to achieve this, innovation needs to be attractive, sizable and scalable very quickly as opposed to projects the UK has done for decades. 

How hungry is the built environment for innovation? 

I think better now. I think there are pockets of complete innovation which are at the forefront. Having seen mandates and looked at it I think certain geographies are very open where the government have left them to do their own things, like Wales where there is a lot of innovation.  

Innovation is often looked at with a fair dose scepticism and at the same time the uptake is very low. There is an education piece that needs to be brought out in order to change this. Something simple like the Government programme on having your 5 a day. This really worked as it was so simple that everyone knew the benefits. So, somebody needs to do this for the built environment, a way of getting innovation out at scale.  

What needs to change to help encourage more innovation? 

Regulations. I think some of the regulations are just not in play right now. At the same time, we also find that data around us is highly protected and regulated and it shouldn’t be. If anyone says data for us is proprietary, I think they have the wrong business model. I’ve worked in data for 15 years, and it’s not just about having data, it’s about how you use it, what you do with it and the outcomes it informs. The way I see it the next generation of data is also closed, only people involved in the projects have access. Climate is not about that, climate needs collaboration because ultimately it impacts everyone. Having a very open approach needs to happen and this mindset needs to be used to inform regulations. Hopefully, we will be able to change some of that and have the right dialogues with the right people to enable it. 

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a start-up? 

Typical start-up challenges, this is my second start-up and I have also exited a company I restructured. I know the landscape idea, pivot, restructure, exit. I don’t come at it with rose tinted glasses at all. The challenges are very simple. Finding the right team who are motivated and have the right ethos and culture. For us culture is really important, we value curiosity, humility and genuinely wanting to solve problems. Finding those kinds of people is like gold dust.  

At the same time working with you at the UKGBC is really interesting and I hope to do more of it. That would unlock some of the innovation that our team brings from different industries as well, at the same time learning from a start-up perspective our challenges aren’t just about start-ups but about how we genuinely problem solving. There is the start-up challenge and the industry specific challenge. You want to keep the start-up challenges to a minimum and have the industry challenge up front. 

What’s your advice for new innovators and start-ups in the built environment? 

There is a lot going on in this space. I think it is important that there is a very clear roadmap to a problem and your value proposition around it. Start-ups are not an overnight success, every start-up has been a journey of blood, sweat and tears. People only see this massive spark and not all the hard work that has gone on behind it. It is important to look at it within this context, it is a marathon and not a sprit.  

What’s next for your company? 

We are really small so we want to grow our team by bringing people in that are really passionate about solving climate issues. Alongside this, we are super interested in talking to people from an engineering, product and design perspective to help understand how we can help business. As a member of UKGBC, we hope we are able to do that collectively and collaboratively.