Arjun Gupta of Smart Joules – Ask The Climate Startup


Ask the Climate Startup is an interactive series we run at CLIMAFIX that derives key insights from innovative climate startup founders on many different aspects of their startup journey. (See all posts at Ask the Climate Startup)

This series is done as part of the CLIMAFIX Summit 2023, India’s largest climate startup summit, organized by CLIMAFIX & Energy Consortium – IIT Madras.

In this post, we have Arjun Gupta of Smart Joules sharing his perspectives.

CLIMAFIX thanks Arjun Gupta for his valuable inputs.


Basics 

1. Are you a first, second, or later-generation entrepreneur? 

My grandfather and father are both entrepreneurs and so are both my brothers

2. What has been your previous work or professional experience?

● Research at a US Department of Energy National Lab and at MIT

● Startup experience {Co-Founder} at MIT while a student

● Startup experience {employed} with a VC-funded growth stage company in Boston

● Chairman’s office experience in a large Indian infra company

3. Were there any special or specific reasons for you becoming an entrepreneur? 

Need: We need to become extremely energy efficient if we are to tackle climate change and achieve our national GHG commitments.

Business Opportunity: There are no great companies in energy efficiency in India and a total leadership vacuum. Perfect place to create an industry-defining company.

4. Where or how did you meet your co-founder/s? 

● One is my elder brother

● Other was a colleague in my previous company

● Next was my classmate in my Master’s program


Highlights 

5. Was there anything noteworthy you wish to talk about from your first year or the first couple of years of your startup? 

● Nothing like generating revenue and profits early on

● Get into every detail and learn fast

6. Was there an Aha moment/s during your startup journey that made a dramatic difference ( positive or negative difference)?

Focus matters most. As entrepreneurs, we wanted to make differences and we feel like we can do anything. However, what matters most is to focus narrowly on areas that have high potential consequences of success. For us, we started as a general energy efficiency company and are now totally focussed on sustainable cooling for large businesses. We also focussed on a single industry vertical as a strategy to grow smoothly and quickly.

7. Were there any memorable, amazing, or funny memories from your journey?

Too many to jot down. But one of the amazing ones was meeting with the PM and the entire suite of cabinet ministers and secretaries to the government of India to share our views.


Perspectives 

8. What was your biggest mistake in the startup journey? Something that you would like other startups to avoid?

● Don’t try and do too many things.

● Invest early in the right team. Save money everywhere else.

9. Looking back, what would you have tried to do differently if you were to start again? 

Building a wider leadership team early on.

10. Is there a question you would like startup founders to ask before they start?
 
Can I sustain for 2 years even if I fail? Sustenance includes monetary as well as passion, dedication, morale, etc.

11. What keeps you awake at night?

Getting to 29 million tons of carbon mitigation as quickly as possible.


Others 

12.  What do you think are your biggest strengths that are especially helping you in your journey?

● Ability to sell

● Interdisciplinary understanding

● Resilience

 13. How were you able to find – and retain good talent – given the vast, lucrative opportunities such talent has today?

● Personal network

● University partnerships: We established JouleLabs as a model to partner with universities to train students for one year before they join as interns and then get the best of them to continue to work with us as full-time resources

14. Was there some support or help you received in your startup journey that proved critical? Who would you like to thank?

● My family for initial emotional and financial support and client outreach

● Late Mr. B. R. Maheshwari for giving us our first business opportunity

Echoing Green Foundation for a USD 80,000 dollar grant