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Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “There’s a serious need for climate-conscious people to run for government office” With Harrison Perl and Amine Rahal

There’s a serious need for climate-conscious people to both run for government office or vote these like-minded candidates into power, especially at the local and state levels.


There’s a serious need for climate-conscious people to both run for government office or vote these like-minded candidates into power, especially at the local and state levels. We’re just past the U.S. midterm elections and, while many more pro-environment candidates were elected to the House, we can expect to see a deeper division on climate issues between the two parties.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Harrison Perl, Founder/CEO of C4Coin. Harrison is a serial entrepreneur who has built three companies prior to starting work on C4Coin. He holds a Masters’ in Professional Accounting from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. His combination of startup experience and general business and financial training makes him an ideal leader for the C4Coin project.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The environment is something that I have always been passionate about. When I was working for my last startup — a company called Why Empire — I met Ashley Taylor, one of the first employees at ConsenSys. Ashley had asked one of my business partners to host a potluck dinner to discuss the Ethereum network. At the time, I didn’t understand the value of blockchain technology. But I did build that knowledge by the time Why Empire shut down and I moved back to New York. So, one morning, I wake up to my dad banging on my door shouting “Harrison, your cousin, we forgot!” We had tickets to see my cousin, Sara Egendorf, one of the foremost soil scientists in the NY area. She was speaking on a breakfast panel about using urban soil to sequester greenhouse gasses. So, my dad and I hopped on Citi bikes and raced through lower Manhattan to arrive just late enough to miss the bagels and coffee. And it was at that panel that the idea for C4Coin emerged; I realized if we could tokenize the data about environmental work individuals are doing, that could be a great way to fight climate change. So, I bounced the idea off of some close friends and it became clear that we needed to seriously pursue the C4Coin project. Actually, it was Ashley who ultimately introduced me to my co-founder and CTO, Tirgan Avakyan.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

C4Coin’s mission is to make it profitable to protect the environment. We are aiming to help reduce the rising levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere by making carbon markets more efficient and reducing the environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining.

Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is taking to tackle climate change? Can you give an example for each?

We are developing a network that allows us to incentivize eco-conscious behavior. For example, by partnering with Hytch, commuters are rewarded by choosing to carpool rather than drive alone. We’re able to turn these actions into digital tokens on our blockchain representing carbon offsets. These offsets can be traded on the existing carbon markets or they can be used to mine C4Coin, our carbon-negative cryptocurrency. We’re always looking into more ways that people and eco-friendly businesses can earn these credits, whether that means recycling bottles and cans or improving energy efficiency.

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your company/organization? Can you share how you overcame that. This might give insight to founders who face a similar situation.

The most difficult thing we faced was structuring our first partnership. A great idea can sell itself, but closing a deal is something else entirely. It took us about seven months and four agreements to finally close our first official deal. As a startup, you have to be prepared for unknown unknowns; those unexpected opportunities that take the project in a new direction. But, your potential clients need your offering to be stable enough that they feel comfortable investing, especially in crypto. This dichotomy can lead to tension when an agreement you’ve been negotiating no longer reflects the product you’re offering.

First and foremost, my advice would be to value the effort and work that these potential clients are putting in to the negotiating process. Their time is valuable and they don’t need to spend it figuring out how to work with you, so don’t be afraid to offer generous terms to an early partner. The knowledge you will gain will pay off dividends in future negotiations. Secondly, start with lightweight, low-cost, low-risk agreements that each build toward your ultimate goal.
 
 Many people want to start a company to tackle environmental issues, but they face challenges when it comes to raising enough money to actually make it happen. Can you share how were you able to raise the funding necessary to start your organization? Do you have any advice?

It’s important to understand that most investors are much more willing to be the second person to invest than the first. From that perspective, it becomes important to identify an anchor investor, knowing that it would be unreasonable to expect a high success rate. Going forward, the goal of any given investor pitch then becomes to add the investor to the list of people who would be interested to learn that you have located an anchor investor. Even if they are not your anchor, they could know two or three people that might be, and generating those leads is important.

Initially, you should expect to have a low success rate at attracting investors. However, by paying attention to the analogies and stories you’re using to explain your project (and taking note of which ones are more successful than others), you can improve the quality of your pitch. This improvement leads to better meetings, and those lead to even more better meetings. It’s ultimately a numbers game, but make sure you’re improving your odds with each pitch.

Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve the climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.

Businesses and governments each have their own roles in solving climate change and global warming. Governments are slow moving, but capable of affecting lasting change. They should focus on enacting policies that incentivize people and corporations to make greener choices. That means regulations that appropriately price-in environmental externalities so as not to presume the earth has infinite resources. Governments need to deviate from the “basic economics” that assume the planet can be exploited indefinitely and have led us to the brink of catastrophe. Businesses should take advantage of the framework provided by governments to rapidly and efficiently implement innovative market solutions that result in environmentally-conscious behavior. By cooperating intelligently, the public and private sectors can work hand in hand to respond to these urgent issues with speed and impact.

What are some practical things that both people and governments can do help you address the climate change and global warming problem?

There’s a serious need for climate-conscious people to both run for government office or vote these like-minded candidates into power, especially at the local and state levels. We’re just past the U.S. midterm elections and, while many more pro-environment candidates were elected to the House, we can expect to see a deeper division on climate issues between the two parties.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yeah this is a bit of a crazy story, but I had an incredibly serendipitous meeting on my 18th birthday. So, as a bit of background, my mom grew up in Texas and works in the travel industry. Winter break of my senior year of highschool, she had planned an inspection trip to India to develop an itinerary for her clients and I was fortunate enough to join her. So, we’re checking out of a hotel in New Delhi and I notice the owner of our tour supplier was in the lobby. I went to say hello, since I thought he was looking for us, but instead I learned that he was checking-in another party. Around this time my mom remarked that she thought she heard a Texas accent from the other guests and we were introduced to Steve and Donna Hicks. Donna mentioned they lived in Austin, my mom explained I had just applied to UT Austin, Steve admitted he was on the Board of Regents at UT Austin, and I said “and today is my birthday!” So, after we got to know each other a bit better, Mr. Hicks offered to write me a recommendation to the McCombs School of Business, which I ultimately attended. We stayed in touch and it was due to an early meeting with Steve and his brother Robert Hicks at Capstone Partners that I was encouraged to found my first startup. So, I’m deeply grateful to the Hicks family for helping me to access an incredible education and helping me to build entrepreneurial experience at a young age.

I’d also like to thank our anchor investor, science journalist Miles O’Brien. He believed in us enough to lead our first investment round and without his support at such a critical time we may have had to shut down the project.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Don’t be afraid to spend on expertise that you need to be successful.

There’s a huge difference between being a good salesperson and an expert in sales. I’m pretty good at identifying a potential client’s concerns and addressing them, but I don’t know how to scale that to a full sales organization. So, we engaged a consultant to add structure and clarity to our sales process. By better understanding our customers, we’re able to focus our attention on higher quality leads and train future salespeople on what to look out for.

2. Letters of Intent are a great tool to come to an agreement on business objectives

You don’t have to fret over the first signed document being binding. Oftentimes, business leaders can come to an agreement on the objectives of a deal long before they can agree on which legal terms encapsulate those goals. Instead of dragging your clients through arduous contract reviews, present them with a clean, simple, one-or-two-page letter of intent. Because these documents are non-binding, they can be written in plain english. So, it allows the leaders to move forward while the legal teams finalize the terms.

3. Eventually, you just need to throw all the darts at the wall

Fail early and fail often. Don’t stretch the resources you have to arbitrarily increase the number of days you can struggle on your project. Put those resources to work and reap the dividends or risk never succeeding at all. Once our team had finished the first version of our white paper, we expanded our team and spent almost all of our remaining budget to establish the market proof investors needed to see to become confident in our project.

4. There will come a time that you will either pivot or die

It’s highly-likely your first idea isn’t perfect and that eventually you’re going to realize some flaw in your plans that is existentially dreadful to consider. Great! That means you’ve made it to your first real opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. These problems are opportunities to solve issues that the vast majority of people haven’t considered yet. So, if you’re the one to solve it, then your idea just got that much better. When we learned that one bitcoin transaction uses the same amount of electricity as a week of average household use, we couldn’t justify building our proposed network on an existing blockchain. However, after some research, we developed our Proof-of-Burn concept and ended up where we are today, a giant rewards engine that pays people to protect the environment.

5. Take all random meetings

You never know who they know. We met our first client by taking a random meeting in one of the most awkward email introductions I’ve ever been a party to, and that relationship has lead to several more lucrative introductions through word of mouth. We’ve met with a wide variety of people from Bernie Sanders delegates to direct competitors trying to solve similar issues. Just know that everyone thinks their idea is the coolest so you should not be afraid about sharing what you’re working on.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the world, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would like to see a new wave of entrepreneurs who organize people to efficiently and profitably protect the environment. We’re building the platform, the infrastructure, to make that possible.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

Check us out on Instagram @c4coin, on Facebook @C4Coinofficial, and on Twitter @C4Coin_Official. If you’re interested in getting more involved in the community, go to www.c4coin.org/ and use the link to join us on Discord.

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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