Campus Y alum Alec Guettel ’91 is the CUBE's new Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence!
Social entrepreneurs tend to operate outside the lines -- defying corporate convention or government gridlock to create solutions that change the world. UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus Alec Guettel (BA-’91) is no exception.
In 2007 Guettel channeled his lifelong passion for the environment into a rooftop revolution; co-founding Sungevity, Inc. and putting solar power within reach for mainstream America. In just six years, Sungevity has become one of the nation’s leading solar energy companies.
How did they do it? The green tech company harvested the power of the internet. The Oakland, California company developed a Remote Solar Design system using satellite imagery and aerial photography enabling online quotes within 24 hours, created a solar leasing program to remove any up-front cost barrier to going green, and functioned as a project manager for installations.
No sales rep, no architect, just a one-stop online shop for solar energy system design, financing, and installation that helps combat climate change and creates green-collar jobs in a clean energy economy. Win-win.
Eco-conscious consumers responded. Sungevity grew to 10 times its size from 2009-2010, and then doubled again in 2011, and their model inspired home improvement giant Lowe’s to make Sungevity its solar provider.
But solar energy that saves the world is more than Sungevity’s business model, it’s a worldwide mission. In 2011, Sungevity partnered with Empowered by Light to launch “Every Child Has A Light”, donating one solar light kit to schools in need in Zambia for each U.S. residential solar panel installation. So far 3,077 kits have been donated.
That same year, the company launched Sungevity.org to raise money for nonprofits and schools. For every customer that a participating nonprofit or school refers to Sungevity, the company donates $750 to both the school and the customer. The partnerships have raised $1,325,500 for nonprofits and prevented 218,965 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
This fall, Alec Guettel returns to Carolina to help UNC-Chapel Hill’s social entrepreneurs change the world. As the CUBE's 2013-14 Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence (SEiR), Guettel will teach social entrepreneurship as a guest lecturer and play a critical, cross-campus role in partnerships with the Campus Y, University Career Services, the Institute for the Environment, the Kenan-Flagler Business School, and other related entrepreneurial initiatives.
"I'm honored to be the SEIR and I can't wait to get started. The idea that I have an excuse to hang around Chapel Hill and work with students on new ideas - it's a fantasy combination." ~ Alec Guettel ‘91, CUBE 2013-14 Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence
Guettel will also be engaged extensively outside of the classroom, mentoring a diverse array of student and faculty social ventures, and helping accelerate their progress toward a successful launch. Through office hours and group sessions at University Career Services, he will counsel students on careers in social entrepreneurship and jobs in triple bottom line businesses or for-benefit corporations.
Guettel will also mentor Carolina's Bryan Social Innovation Fellows, he will participate in events during Global Entrepreneurship Week, and he will help support Carolina’s pan-university social innovation hackathon in the fall and the Clean Tech Summit in spring 2014.
Guettel is no stranger to the urge to want to change the world before you’ve donned a cap and gown. As an undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill, Alec and some friends founded the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) at the Campus Y, creating a network of student environmental groups that soon became one of the largest student organizations in the country.
At the Y, Guettel found a community that empowered student leadership and provided resources and support. A place where students could take innovative ideas and put them into action, achieving significant social impact.
"The Campus Y really introduced me to entrepreneurship and changed the course of my life. I'm hoping I can help a few of today's students have the same experience." ~ Alec Guettel ‘91
This fall that journey comes full circle, as Alec’s role brings him back to his roots at the Y to mentor the next generation of social entrepreneurs.
Through monthly visits to the CUBE, UNC’s hub for social innovation at the Campus Y, Guettel will serve as a guest lecturer in the CUBE’s workshop series in critical entrepreneurial skills and as a mentor for CUBE startup teams. Win-win.
"The world needs incubators like the CUBE. It's a great platform to test, refine and launch new ideas that can solve intractable problems. I'm looking forward to being a part of the resource base to help students bring their ventures to life."
About Alec Guettel
Alec Guettel (BA-’91) is a social entrepreneur based in New York. He grew up in New York City and attended UNC-Chapel Hill on a Morehead-Cain Scholarship. As undergraduates, Guettel and friends built the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), a network of student environmental groups that is now nationwide. After graduating, Alec worked for SEAC in New York. He then joined the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, later working for the Clinton Administration and as an aide to the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Alec earned his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1997 and graduated as an Arjay Miller Scholar. During business school he worked with two startups: Solo Energy Corporation and accessories/apparel brand Nixon. In 2000, Guettel co-founded Axiom Legal Solutions Inc., a modern alternative to the traditional law firm that connects high-end legal temp services to blue-chip corporate clients, reinventing work-life balance in the legal profession.
In 2007, Alec and two partners founded Sungevity, now delivering solar electric service to thousands of customers in the U.S., Europe and Australia. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Axiom, Sungevity and Accordion Partners, and on the Board of Advisors of Mosaic and the Sfun Cube.
Click here to find out why a penguin suit played such a key role in Sungevity’s founding!
Sungevity's online iQuote process and solar lease program make it easy and affordable for homeowners to benefit from solar power. Leveraging web-based solar analytics and satellite imagery, Sungevity can deliver a firm quote within 24 hours without a home visit and provide homeowners with immediate savings on their electricity bills. This affordability and ease of use, combined with Sungevity's Solar Social Strategy, is all part of Sungevity's mission to accelerate solar into the mainstream.
Aligned with Sungevity's mission and values, the company is recognized as a B Corp, a new type of corporation that harnesses the power of private enterprise to create public benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Sungevity was recognized by B Corp as one of the "Best for the World" companies for using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
In January 2013, Sungevity announced it had secured $125 million in combined venture capital and project financing from investors including Lowe’s Home Improvement. The company has 300 employees in downtown Oakland's Jack London Square.
In July 2013, Sungevity raised $15 million in new venture capital from investors including General Electric, the world’s largest maker of power-generation equipment. The investment will allow Sungevity to expand its leasing, installation and financing services for solar energy systems into additional markets.