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Devin: What do you see as your superpower?
Franz: For me personally, I think it comes down to hard work. And that may sound cliche, but there was nothing special about me coming out of undergrad and focusing on politics and linguistics that got me a position on the Obama campaign back in 2008. It really was just applying. And then when you get an opportunity, really just doing the very best that you can in the moment and as quickly as you can.
“I was very proud to be a part of all eight years of the Obama administration working on climate and energy issues,” says Franz Hochstrasser, founder and CEO of Raise Green. The climate change-focused investment crowdfunding platform grew out of the lessons and passion he learned in government.
Franz worked on the team that negotiated the Paris Climate Accord. He described the experience:
At COP21, we did come away with a truly inclusive, ambitious and durable agreement that set 196 countries—all of the countries of the world—on a trajectory toward lower emissions. When we went into that negotiation, the climate tracker had us headed towards a 3.6 degrees C world. And when we came out with that agreement and the nationally determined contributions, we were on a trajectory to 2.7.
He sees progress elsewhere, too. “Fifteen years ago, coal was 50 percent of the US energy mix; today, it’s 15 percent. Fifteen years ago, solar and wind and other renewables were less than 10 percent, and now they’re over 20 percent; so, they’ve more than doubled,” he says. “That trajectory is only going to continue.”
Franz isn’t spending too much time patting himself on the back. “The climate crisis is honestly the most pressing issue facing humanity,” he says.
“I mean, honestly, investing in climate is the largest economic opportunity in human history,” Franz says, framing the opportunity and logic for creating Raise Green. “The question that we ask is, ‘Who gets to own that infrastructure and who gets the benefit from it?’”
Traditionally, investors are wealthy individuals, corporations, private equity firms and venture capitalists.
Franz now asks a question that suggests the mission of Raise Green, shifting ownership of green infrastructure. “Can we get the ownership aspects of those pieces of infrastructure, those puzzle pieces that make up the electrical grid as well as the rest of our energy and carbon-emitting sources, to be owned by the community and by everyone who wants to own a piece?”
A wide range of entrepreneurs, from technologists to activists, is raising money on Raise Green. This even includes a bank offering green bonds on the platform.
One that excites Franz but that he is careful not to endorse—FINRA prohibits portal operators from doing so—is a project led by a Baltimore nonprofit called the Climate Access Fund. He describes it as “the holy grail of clean energy.”
“The folks who own the energy generating unit, or the solar panels, in this case, can also be the ones buying the electricity,” he says.
They've worked with the Henderson Hopkins High School, which is an East Baltimore inner city school, to establish a community solar project on the rooftop of the school and then to sell the subscriber aggregation or those that are buying the electricity to 100 percent low to moderate income off-takers—so folks that truly do need the discount on their electricity. Then they're allowing people to invest in that project as well so that in an accessible way, they can have that opportunity to create a circular flow of electrons and cash flow.
The project was quickly fully funded as investors from around the country joined with the local community to back the project.
Franz will be speaking at SuperCrowd22. We want everyone interested in attending to be there. Pick your price when you register here.
Throughout his successful career, Franz has used a superpower he learned from his parents: hard work.
How to Develop Hard Work As a Superpower
Franz suggested reading Influence Is Your Superpower by Zoe Chance, for whom he worked as a TA at Yale, noting that it is a superpower we can all develop.
Still, he identifies his ability to work hard as his real superpower.
I'm always reminded of some advice that my dad gave me and that my parents repeated often and put into my high school yearbook as my kind of dedication, which was, “Franz, do what you know and don't be slow.”
So, for me, it's really just do the work that has to get done. Whatever's in front of you, do it as best as you can and and as quickly as you can. And that becomes a superpower over time because you've done so much work.
Franz recalls his work on the Obama campaign prior to joining the administration. “It’s immensely difficult, yes. The hours themselves are inhuman.” He recalls working seven days a week, at least twelve hours a day, for stretches of time.
He also echoes advice he recently heard, “Take any given task that you have and break it into 100 smaller tasks. And that’s how you can make perpetual progress.”
By following Franz’s example and advice, you can make hard work a superpower for good.