From Farm to Cap Table: The Carbon e-Mission

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Paul Gambill, CEO of Nori, a blockchain that enables people to get paid for carbon dioxide removal. He shares his secrets on tackling climate change while receiving angel investment.

Paul Gambill, CEO of Nori, a financial blockchain that facilitates carbon emission removal. Beaze, a vendor procurement marketplace for financial blockchains.
Paul Gambill, CEO of Nori | Photo Credit: Nori

Why Nori?

While most solutions today focus on the reduction of carbon emissions, Nori focuses on its complete removal. There are too many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; the world needs to remove over 1 trillion tonnes to get back to pre-industrial levels. Currently, though, it’s too expensive to remove them. People require compensation to run the type of projects that take out carbon emissions from the atmosphere. 

Nori helps fund these endeavors through its centralized marketplace and unlocks the source of carbon dioxide (CO2) removal, namely farmers. These heroes remove carbon, obtain verification through a third-party, then sell the interest in said removed carbon to buyers. Buyers cannot resell the carbon. We’ve developed a methodology that allows us to identify how much carbon is removed, allowing Nori users to observe their impact tangibly.

Back in 2015, I read an article about how climate scientists often suffer from depression because hardly anyone listens to them. I thought to myself that it’d be beneficial if someone addressed carbon removal. Within a year of starting a networking group on climate change, I had met key influencers in the field including Dr. Klaus Lackner (Director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and a professor of sustainable engineering at Arizona State University) and Carbon180 (a non-profit that tackles climate change). I subsequently endeavored to find the perfect co-founders while exploring different business models and ideas on how to tackle emissions. 

Why is climate change necessary?

Climate change is real. It’s not getting better any time soon. Unfortunately, people aren’t sufficiently empowered to take action on the issue. We have to drive to get to work, fly to see our family, heat our homes, we have to use energy, and there’s no way around that. We are interested in finding ways to restore the climate in a fiscally responsible way. The key is that people require incentivization to act. The easiest way to view this is an arithmetic problem. We are putting too many greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and not taking enough out. Carbon removal helps create the necessary balance to roll back the effects of climate change.

Nori offers an entirely different investment asset class for the carbon market that requires significant coordination from farmers to scientists and researchers.

Farms: The solution to eliminating carbon. Beaze, a vendor procurement marketplace for blockchains.
Farms: The solution to eliminating carbon | Photo Credit: Jake Gard

What’s wrong with the current emissions reductions system? How does Nori tackle these problems differently?

In carbon markets today, when a project issues carbon credits, they sell these credits to a broker who sells them to another broker who sells them to investors. That same ton of CO2 trades hands over and over again. That’s not a healthy life cycle. Once someone pays, it should disappear.

When a ton of carbon is sold through Nori, the CO2 is immediately retired. The carbon certificate doesn’t go to someone else; it ends right there. Trade helps build the capital around it, but we don’t want the carbon to be the traded asset. With us, the buyer pays for a ton of CO2 with the token; the token becomes the commodity, not the CO2. The token is just a medium of exchange, so we’re able to get the best of both the situations. 

How is Nori maintaining focus on climate change despite receiving external investment?

Nori is a 50-year mission company. We’ve only partnered with organizations that agree with that long-term vision. We can’t allow anything to cause us to deviate from that mission, whether it’s a potential acquisition or taking the company public. Our token incentivizes everyone,  from Nori founders to investors to farmers. By aligning everyone’s motivations and incentives, we maximize the odds of reducing carbon.

What is your #1 lesson learned so far as a startup?

Abstract complexity away. As entrepreneurs, we can’t expect everyone to spend as much time digging into details as much as the startup does. Customers just want things to be easier and solve a problem for them.

Who have been your biggest advocates/partners so far? 

Our three best partners so far have been COMET-Farm (a platform for quantifying soil carbon), Granular (management software farmers use to track their operating data), and Techstars’ sustainability accelerator. We use COMET to create the new, easy-to-use standard for soil carbon; we’ve been working hand in hand with them for two years. Granular was the first agriculture company to believe in us; we’ve collaborated closely with them on helping their farmers get enrolled in the market. Techstars is just such a wonderfully supportive network and program that I really can’t recommend enough to other startups.

How have you gained investors’ trust?

Our amazing team. Our co-founders are world-class, and it’s not easy to find such incredible leaders. Co-founders need to agree on some fundamental things; this includes motivations behind the company and finding a balance between the mission and the economics of staying profitable. Having a sizeable venture-backed company may require you to give up some control; starting a smaller business may allow you to maintain control with less profitability. I recommend the book The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman to better anticipate and avoid the typical startup pitfalls.

When all is said and done, what does Nori hope to achieve?

Restore Earth to pre-industrial carbon levels. A clean world is a happy one.

Nori is a preferred partner on Beaze.

Successful moonshots are more common than you think

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re speaking with Francisco Navarro, co-founder and CEO of LunarByte, a software development consultancy. Francisco shares his secret to launching and landing big new ideas.

Francisco Navarro, CEO of LunarByte. Photo credit: LunarBytes

Why LunarByte?

It’s really hard for most companies to create delightful products on a shoestring budget. Our unique methodology and team of talented software developers facilitate the launch of big ideas so that early founders can succeed. We identify the most important features of a product or idea, create a viable plan for success, and then we execute on that plan. We’ve found that in Seattle, it’s hard for fresh startups to hire experienced developers without the high salaries other companies can provide. Founders can’t compete with the deep wallets of the big tech companies to hire talent to work for their company. We solved that problem by building a Software Engineering Consultancy so now, founders only have to pay on a project basis and they get the benefit of a team of the most competent engineers.

Before LunarByte, my co-founder, Ben Daschel, and I were both software engineers at large independent companies (Starbucks and Azuqua/Okta, respectively). While well-run, these companies aren’t always able to accommodate the pursuit of their engineers’ independent ideas. Both of our employers were becoming increasingly mired in bureaucracy. While we can appreciate the structure and that bureaucracy brings to organizations, as eager engineers, this heavy-handed process really hurt our productivity and general motivation. Sometimes projects (that we worked on for months on end) were suddenly cut for no reason; other times, we had to cater an army of people just to receive approval before moving forward. Like a vulcan mindmeld over beers, we thought, ‘Why not just build the change we want to see?’. We decided to build our own company with a firm commitment against bloated processes. At the time, we were holding bottles of Blue Moon in hand. Translating the word “moon” to spanish (luna), we decided to start our own company and named it LunarByte. We are thrilled to tackle inefficient software engineering head on so that founders can focus on succeeding in their respective businesses.

A Vulcan Mind Meld, “Star Trek” | Photo Credit: Viacom

How tough was it going from corporate to a startup?

Really tough. First and foremost, we have much smaller budgets. The other big difficulty is just making a name for yourself. It’s tough to establish yourself as a player in software consultancy, and that’s where coming from an established network helps a ton. We’ve started to receive referrals, and we hope that in a few years from now we’ll be a big player in this industry. We’re starting to get some larger projects now, and everyone on the team loves incubating new, fresh ideas and launching them; however, we’re all very technical so we don’t do much UX or marketing. Despite just starting out, our customers (including Dollar Flight Club, Pre-Flight Mitigator, The Counter Veil, and When I Leave) can speak to the high calibre of work we produce, and they all come back for more. 

What’s the secret on how to do more with less?

1. Build the right product: From the technical side, usually anything can get done. You probably have the resources to build all kinds of new infrastructure. Nothing is worse than building a product that doesn’t solve a problem. You can ask a client every day “Is this what you asked for?” but the truth is, sometimes the thing that they ask you for isn’t exactly what needs to be built. Instead, we like to focus on the ‘why’ the product needs to be built and what problem it intends to solve. This reasoned approach prevents the message from being lost in translation.

2. Stay in sync: It’s critical to have a tight relationship with clients because projects and their directions change course at the drop of a hat. We like using Slack because it allows for flat (as opposed to hierarchal) communication. This significantly reduces the odds of “playing broken telephone”. The biggest challenge is that we’re working with less – we have smaller budgets and less wiggle room. But this means we’ve learned how to be ultra-efficient. We also get to have closer relationships with our clients. We’re all on slack together so that we can be on the same page – We don’t work for 3 months and then ask, ‘Is this what you asked for?’

It’s also been so rewarding to help launch new ideas – every member of our team is excited about what we’re working on because we see why founders are asking what they’re asking for. When a client comes back to us and says, ‘Hey that stuff you built? I took it to a convention and now I have 500 users.” – that’s the stuff that keeps us motivated and you don’t really find that in a corporate environment.

What is something everyone should know about building a product?

The ‘Why’ matters. You might be working on a project and at the end you’re like, ‘Wait, why did we do this? Was it worth it?’ If you can’t answer the former, or, if the answer to the latter is “no”, you’re not providing value to your customers. This lack of reasoning can kill a company. The right software consultancy can solicit the right requirements.

How do you give back to the community? 

I’m a first-generation Mexican immigrant from parents who worked on farms. I was the first one in my family to attend college, so I have a deep desire to help others with humble beginnings. We’re proud to be working with Storytellers for Change. They do a lot of work to promote diversity and inclusion from high school through to university across the nation. We’re always looking for impactful clients to be working with and better ways to support equity when it comes to hiring.

When it’s all said and done, what do you hope LunarByte to have achieved?

Create a great space for innovation where companies can gather and launch big ideas.

LunarByte is a preferred partner on Beaze.

Too Lejit to Quit (Designing with Passion, that is)

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Joshua Thomas, CEO of Lejit Designs, a graphic design and illustration company in Liberty Lake, WA. He shares his secrets on growing his business and the art community at large.

Joshua Thomas, CEO of Lejit Designs (Graphic Design) | Beaze, a vendor procurement marketplace.
Joshua Thomas, CEO of Lejit Designs | Photo Credit: Mercedes Kissinger Smith

So, why Lejit Designs?

Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved fantasy and comic books, which always had me sketching in a notebook. In college, I studied design and began using programs on my computer and laptop to create animations and graphics. I originally started Lejit Designs as my creative outlet, and fortunately, it has become a great business. I pride myself on reliable communication and passionate design. I think a few things that separate me from other companies are my passion for my craft, my willingness to have honest communication, and my drive to improve my craft consistently.

What’s your design style?

All of my work is full of color. I love their vibrancy in making ideas truly come to life. In Spokane, there is not a lot of vitality. I am the leader of the Spokane Design Meetup Group, and it’s my goal to foster an art community in Spokane, similar to that in Portland. I want to bring the Spokane creatives together to do one community collaboration project together per month to get everyone involved and working together.

Another element I try to include in my work is whimsicality. In my comics, I like to portray serious adult moments with a whimsical element involved, to appeal to the inner child in all of us. There’s no fun in being too serious. Sometimes everyone is so caught up in what they are doing, and I want to bring the human element back to design and the work that I do.

Doggo Branding by Lejit | Photo Credit: Lejit

How do you stay on top of your work?

The key to managing this company is balancing my creative side with my analytical side. Being able to draw on both helps me stay organized and remember to do the little things like register my trade name and do my taxes, the ‘boring stuff’. I am also big on consistency and maximizing my time. Even when I’m battling a creative block, I go exercise.

What’s fuels your design?

The sheer number of amazing artists and creators around me. I learn so much from all of the different projects that I see others working on, and I consistently attempt to take what I learn from others into my own work. The artists/creators that inspire me the most are probably Cory Schmitz, Freddy Carrasco, Bryce Kho, and Anastasiia Vinchencko. Regardless of which muse, at the end of the day, whenever I see their work, it makes me want to create. Each of them is a master of their craft and understanding them helps instill this drive to one day excel in my art as much as they do in theirs. I want to be the best at what I do, and to me, seeing artists like them pushes me to want to improve with every new project.

What is your mantra?

“Design, made human.” I got into graphic design because I enjoy making things with people and helping them achieve their visions through design. The human aspect of every interaction I have is what gets me up every morning. I don’t want my work to be a transaction; I want it to be a collaborative relationship that works well beyond when the project ends.

Who have been your biggest advocates/partners in business?

The biggest influences and advocates were the owners of Maker & Made, Brittany Stodgell and Millicent Schnebly. They pushed me a lot to start my own graphic design business and were a massive influence on me early on. They sat down with me on multiple occasions and gave me wisdom and advice that I still use today. I’ve always been very thankful for their guidance.

What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

Wow, that’s the big one *haha*. There are so many things that I would tell the younger me designer if I could. 

1. Always work with a contract. This one will keep you sane and exponentially increase the number of successful transactions you have. In a perfect world, we’d never have to use contracts, and every client would pay. However, every designer has a couple of stories about the times they got stiffed by a client. Contracts mitigate a lot of financial worries because most clients are less likely to jump ship without paying you if they feel contractually obligated to the project. They keep things professional in an industry where a lot of clients have difficulties seeing design as anything more than a hobby. There are a ton of online sources and other physical books on the subject. One of my personal favorites is Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers

2. Don’t be afraid to fail. Design in and of itself is a consistent process of failing and course correcting. The road to being a successful designer is not a road paved by genius; it’s a gory one filled with the dead bodies of all your past failures. There isn’t a single designer that looks at their work from a year ago and says that it’s “perfect”. Failing and trying again is the name of the game.

3. Share EVERYTHING. It’s challenging for people to appreciate your designs if you don’t ever show them your work. Don’t be afraid of not having name recognition or not living up to some of your design heroes. Keep designing with passion and showing others; you’ll eventually find your place. 

4. Never be afraid to price yourself what you’re worth. Saying “no” is a pseudo taboo for young designers looking to get their name out in the world, but in my experience, knowing when to say no might allow you to take on that dream client you’ve always wanted. Plus, it saves you from over-stretching yourself.

How do you give back to the community?

My way of giving back to the community is taking over Spokane Design and trying to create a broader design community in the area. We’re starting up a community outreach design project every month. Giving back to the community is critical. The reality is, few of us encounter the same opportunities. I’d love to give back more. I see Spokane Design as an outlet for other up-and-coming designers to grow, improve, and create because I know first hand what it means to have people in your corner rooting for you.

When all is said and done, what do you hope for Lejit Designs to achieve?

To become a premier design firm that helps other designers get their start. I can’t wait to start paying it forward.

Lejit Designs is a preferred partner on Beaze.

The zen of self-employment through franchising

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business leaders are changing the service landscape. Today we’re speaking with Jeff Levy, franchisee and business coach at The Entrepreneur’s Source (TES), a resource network for people who want to own their own franchise business. He shares his secrets about how to achieve lifestyle and income zen through self-employment and franchises, even through COVID-19.

Jeff Levy, Business Coach at The Entrepreneur's Source (ES). Beaze, a vendor procurement marketplace for franchises.
Jeff Levy, Business Coach at The Entrepreneur’s Source (TES) | Photo Credit: Jeff Levy

Why The Entrepreneur’s Source (TES)?

TES helps people who want to own their own business, but don’t know how to start. We are not in the “brokerage” category; our main objective is not to sell companies or franchises. We focus on our clients and their respective lifestyle dreams. Based on our clients’ objectives, albeit income, lifestyle, wealth or equity, we coach them on how to evaluate specific franchise business options and how to start operations. I am very proud to have personally helped over 350 people start businesses during my 18 years as a coach.

Many of the people that I work with are out of a job for one reason or another. Perhaps they wanted to change, or were discriminated against, or were downsized.  Often I get to work with young couples disenchanted with a lifestyle associated with corporate America. What binds my clients together is that they are looking for a safe place to learn and explore small business ownership.

It’s enjoyable and rewarding for me to help people launch a business; I love building meaningful relationships with these individuals and sharing their excitement!

What’s the best go-to industry for franchises?

There isn’t one, but our most active franchise categories tend to be in health and beauty, such as hair salons and gymnasiums. It all depends on the person and what they are trying to accomplish. One franchise can be the perfect fit for one person but a terrible fit for another. You need to think about what you’re good at, what kind of hours you want to work, and what type of income and equity goals you want to make before you can choose a path. The experience of my coaching usually lasts 2-6 months and may or may not result in a franchise award.

What kind of businesses have you helped launch?

It’s a comprehensive spectrum as franchising covers over 80 industries and is always expanding with new concepts. Recent franchise placements this year include coin-operated laundries, outdoor lighting, remote IT managed services and a variety of senior care businesses.  Typically, my clients choose a company that they would never have thought of themselves. There is no perfect business; there are only businesses that, through your hard work and vision, can be made great for your own lifestyle needs. When asked, what is an excellent franchise, it ultimately depends on what is right for the individual.

What is something everyone should know about client acquisition?

People need to be respectful and thankful for those that send referrals. My client acquisition strategy comes from being a substantial contributor to the business community including the Small Business Administration (SBA), SCORE, and the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). I’ve lectured on a variety of topics that help guide others to make an informed jump into business.

For me, I’ve learned that each client is thinking of making a significant life change – I learned that I need to give those people every possible effort to support them in that endeavor. “Never sell, always coach” which has helped me become a better listener.

What have you learned about franchises that you wish you had known when you first started?

It is better to have a predictable, successful business that supported my life goals than it was to dream about controlling my fate but never doing anything about it. Franchising, and the experience of learning and exploring options, can be life-changing.

What’s the #1 mistake you see franchises owners make? 

It usually takes more than one thing to undermine or fail at a franchise business. If I were to name one, it would be when a person does not become a student and follower of the franchise system in which they invested. Learning new things can be uncomfortable. The solution, look to the people who have successfully developed and own franchises in the same system. Follow what they did and only try to improve once you have mastered the basics.

What’s your mantra?

“You can get everything in life you want if you help others get what they want” per Dale Carnegie. Franchising is a wonderous area to explore because, with proper coaching, you can learn a significant amount about a business model before making the jump.

How do you give back to the community and why is that so important?

Through luck or circumstance, I have had the good fortune of varied and productive life experience in business. My experiences include buying and selling companies, partnerships, raising capital, taking a company public and of course, franchises. I feel like it’s my responsibility to coach, mentor and teach what I have learned. I was recently Chairman Of the Board at the SU Entrepreneurship Center, currently Chairman Of the Board of the Bellevue Business Roundtable and a past President of The Executive Network of Seattle. I taught entrepreneurship at Seattle Central College for three years based on a book I co-authored; the class is still ongoing. I also teach at King County library systems and several affiliates of the SBA. Whew. I’m grateful to have accumulated a lot of practical experience that can be shared and save my clients from making mistakes.

Any advice for business owners or potential business owners during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic?

New owners need to make sure they have a robust financial plan with enough capital to extend the runway through and beyond the current crisis. As long as we have our health, this pandemic (like any other challenge) will end. Even though we have had a late start in some areas of the country, the local government in Washington continues to amaze us. On the plus side, people are at home with more time to contemplate, so now is the time for researching and planning if you’re thinking about starting a business. 

A new business owner has to have a vision and a belief in a brighter future and enough of a financial runway. Existing owners may be challenged if they haven’t planned for contingencies such as this. Fortunately, some wonderful federal programs emerging that will help existing business owners weather the storm. Owners should get a hold of an SBA affiliate, such as a SCORE counsellor, immediately to better understand what programs are available to help them over the next 3-6 months. I’ve been a volunteer mentor there for years, and I still learn a great deal from other mentors who bring their own industry experience.

When all is said and done, what do you hope for TES to achieve?

To leave a legacy in the business community that creates many jobs and financial security for all.

The Entrepreneur’s Source is a preferred partner on Beaze.

Awarded State Contracts – March 2020 Update

Hello Beaze Beta Program Participants!

Below are the awarded state service contracts for March 2020. Please sign into the Beaze Beta Portal for more details.

  • March 2, 2020 – $250K – CA State – Salesforce Implementation (#916283)
  • March 2, 2020 – $732K – WA State – Park Development (#002248)
  • March 3, 2020 – $2M – WA State – Translation Services (#590041)
  • March 16, 2020 – $10K – CA State – Custodial Services (#737108)
  • March 16, 2020 – $11K – CA State – Custodial Services (#829645)
  • March 16, 2020 – $1.8M – CA State – Cloud Data Warehousing (#729163)
  • March 17, 2020 – $154K – CA State – Furniture and Storage (#982721)
  • March 17, 2020 – $1.5M – CA State – Medical Equipment Wholesale (#769026)
  • March 17, 2020 – $4K – CA State – Concrete (#719263)
  • March 17, 2020 – $50K – CA State – Batteries Wholesale (#761827)
  • March 17, 2020 – $4K – CA State – Training Services (#726126)
  • March 18, 2020 – $117K – CA State – Technology Analysis (#387697)
  • March 18, 2020 – $1.5M – CA State – Technology Services (#287691)
  • March 18, 2020 – $17.8K – CA State – Software and Support Plan (#749455)
  • March 18, 2020 – $132K – CA State – Hardware Wholesale (#879602)
  • March 18, 2020 – $34K – CA State – Software Support Services (#876293)
  • March 18, 2020 – $406K – CA State – Hardware Wholesale (#828151)
  • March 18, 2020 – $700K – CA State – Telecom Hardware and Integration (#332219)
  • March 18, 2020 – $1.5M – CA State – Environmental Study (#927323)
  • March 19, 2020 – $80K – CA State – Battery wholesale (#462731)