Clir Renewables' anniversary: Five lessons from our first five years

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Reflecting on five years of Clir Renewables, we’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve added over 200 GW of wind and solar data to our platform, we’ve worked with clients from 17 countries across the globe and we’ve grown our team to over 125 experts worldwide. During that process, we’ve learned a lot of things: how to build a product, enter new markets and help humankind reduce its impact on the environment. We’re celebrating our five-year anniversary with lessons from our first five employees who have helped us grow from a small startup in Vancouver to a global, industry-leading CleanTech company.

Lesson 1: Understand the problem and be passionate about the solution

Gareth Brown, CEO and co-founder

We started Clir Renewables because of a clear problem in the way wind farms were managed: there were inadequate data-reporting tools and conflicted turbine manufacturers protecting their internal know-how. Having worked as consultants for over a decade, we understood this issue deeply. We also understood the implications of this problem — poor operations led to lower annual energy production and fewer investments into the industry. We wanted to find a solution that would help increase reliance on renewable energy and reduce humankind’s impact on the environment. Understanding the problem, and having the passion to solve it, helped us build a better solution.

Lesson 2: Hire people better than you

Nick Shaw, VP of Data

In the early days, you’ll love the fact that you wear every hat at work: full-stack developer, DevOps, data engineer, product manager and more. But there are a few problems with this approach:

You’re doing too much and you probably suck at most of it.

The weight of those responsibilities will crush you.

As your business grows, so should your team. When it’s time to hire people in to help, here are a few things to consider:

  • Hire people that make you uncomfortable. Hire people that will challenge you. We all have weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and it can be uncomfortable to have them exposed. At the same time, it’s a great way to learn and a great motivation for improving in those areas.

  • Hire people that are fearless. Some of the fearlessness could be ignorance about the enormity of the problem — as was the case for me — and some is ambitiousness. Whatever the reason, you want people who are excited at the prospect of having real ownership and responsibilities, and who will rise to the challenge.

Lesson 3: Be candid

Swin Chai, Global Operations Manager

Working in a startup, I’ve learned to be frank and candid with our leaders. With company leaders wearing many hats and working with many styles of people, they depend on our feedback to help the company grow. We all share the same goal — to make the company better — and speaking up about our pain points allows us to find ways to creatively solve problems or improve situations to build a better company. This feedback loop has helped us grow to where we are today.

Lesson 4: Be resilient

Andrew Brunskill, Principal - Data Science

My experience at Clir has emphasized the importance of resiliency. Every organization continually has problems and challenges, and there will always be more coming up. Sometimes things don’t go well. Occasionally things look dark. And there’s always an enormous amount of critical work to be done. This is all normal and I believe it’s why we’re here — if the work was easy and problem-free, someone else would have already done it. Instead of dwelling on problems or workload, it’s essential to find a way to keep moving along and getting things done. As a wise man once said, just keep truckin’ on.

Lesson 5: Celebrate the little wins

Myra Ayre, Director of Finance

Building a startup is extremely hard. The only way to avoid burnout, and keep a team energized and excited, is to celebrate the little wins. People tend to get caught up in the black and white of success and failure that they forget to enjoy what they are doing — and when starting a company, the odds are that you love what you are creating and what you are doing! Forget about success and failure; find a comfortable spot in the grey area and work your butt off. Failure isn’t your worst enemy. It’s the fear of failure that is your enemy.

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