Interview With Green Business CLT Joules’ Lori Collins
Lori Collins is the executive director of Charlotte’s CLT Joules, an energy accelerator business network with a mission around innovation and entrepreneurship in energy. She sheds some light on the “green” business and its impact on the community.
What type of companies do you want to attract to CLT Joules?
We want to find energy entrepreneurs that are already strong and be there to help them stay accountable. We are interested in hardware companies. We think a lot of innovation can come out of hardware. Due to infrastructure and concentration of energy companies, CLT Joules offers something to entrepreneurs. We are making connections to big companies and opening doors with our broad team. We have a lot of relationships with other energy companies and help fast track market development or market entry.
What is the advantage of being located in Charlotte?
Primarily, we are located in an energy hub. We have over 200 energy companies in Charlotte. The city overall has a focus on energy. That is why an energy entrepreneur would want to come to Charlotte. We are surrounded by potential customers and distribution channels in our backyard. Lots of cities have startup accelerator programs. It is a trend that has gained a lot of momentum in last 12 months, but what is different about CLT Joules is the laser focus on the energy industry. There are not that many energy-focused accelerators. We are tapping into a resource to help accelerate growth. For example, the companies selected for our program will get a one-year entry into E4 Carolinas. So if you are pursuing the energy space, that is one of many things that will open a door to the energy sector. We are located in Packard Place, so our entrepreneurs will get exposure to Packard Place networking. We are bringing a very focused expertise on financial, marketing and distribution issues by collaborating with research institutes like EPIC (Energy Production & Infrastructure Center) and EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute).
Innovation comes in many forms. How often do CLT Joules entrepreneurs incorporate renewable energy into their companies?
They almost all are focused on renewable energy. There is a lot of growth potential in renewable energy. For instance, we have a company looking at thermal and kinetic energy. That is about as renewable as you can get. Renewable energy is not necessarily a requirement for the accelerator program, but certainly an area of tremendous focus.
Ideally, what will CLT Joules’s impact be on the Charlotte community?
Long term, we would love to be spawning high-growth energy companies. To be able to look back—and know—that the mix of entrepreneurial support and access to our brain trust of large companies was able to produce something new. That is the ultimate goal: to be driving new innovation and jobs from this program. We have companies that are based here, growing here and tapping into all of the resources in our energy ecosystem. Right now, we are already having an impact by raising the profile of energy assets.
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Isabel Sepkowitz is a freelance writer. She is an environmentalist who values sustainability, education, and innovation for the emerging green economy. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.