October 16th, 2010

Market Something, Sell Something, Build Something


If you’re interested in cleantech (renewable energy, green building, energy management, water, etc.) and you’re getting out of school put yourself in a place where you can actually create something. This is my takeaway and new piece of advice for all college students that I’ve stolen from Octobers Cleantech Student Mixer, hosted by Digital Lumens and Chen PR a couple weeks back. The event was half networking, oh how I love networking, and a portion of it was the panel taking questions. The panelists were asked a series of questions from the moderator and then it was opened up to the floor.

Surprise, surprise, many of the students’ questions were advice about the type of job or activity they should do after graduating or if they should just stay in school. My favorite response was when one of the panelists — I don’t remember exactly who — replied by saying that you should put yourself in a place where you can build something, anything, but something that you can point at and say “Look, I did that”.

It’s a very simple piece of advice but very profound. Also, in cleantech, as opposed to other industries, I feel like it makes a lot of sense. Almost all of the challenges the cleantech industry face have to do with creating new products, designing and installing new technologies on existing infrastructure, and getting people to change behaviors from old wasteful ways to more efficient ones. They’re all very hands on activities, so it’s useful to get your hands dirty.

Photo Courtsey: emrank

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Chris Williams

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams is the editor of Green Light Distrikt and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring . He has experience in business development, prototyping and new venture research with a focus on geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Chris is an IGSHPA accredited geothermal installer and NABCEP certified solar installer. Chris is focused on solving customer facing issues in the creation and adoption of clean energy technologies and products. Chris has installed over 300kW of solar and tens of geothermal systems. He's invented the PV Pal , developed many trainings at HeatSpring, publishes the NABCEP Study Guide , the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech and has done due diligence research for Urgent VC . Feel free to connect with him @topherwiliams , on Linkedin , or through email about new ventures, collaborating, writing, research or whatever is on your mind.

  • http://hybernaut.com hybernaut

    Great points, Chris.

    I often ask people I meet “tell me about your project” because I want to make it clear that I’m more interested in what they want to do than their current job or resume. In the web startup circles I frequent, it is very common to meet someone who has a day job but has a much cooler project brewing.

    Here’s an example: when I first met Jason Jacobs, he was just about to leave his (lucrative) job in the executive recruiting business to start the company behind RunKeeper. His focus on the product he wanted to build and not the job that was paying his rent helped make his project a reality.

  • http://www.thegreenlightdistrikt.com Chris Williams


    That’s an amazing point. I’ve noticed I tend to ask people “what do you do for fun”, some people hate talking about working and it gives them a chance to tell me what’s most important to them. Perhaps its swimming, playing music, or a cool startup project that they’re working on. Either way, I always get better response then asking them “what do you do?”

    Also, now that you mentioned web startup circles, I’m curious if you notice much overlap between the webstartup circles and greenies in Boston? It’s a new theme I’ve been exploring lately.