Agents of Impact | February 26, 2021

Donnel Baird, BlocPower

Roodgally Senatus
ImpactAlpha Editor

Roodgally Senatus

ImpactAlpha, Feb. 26 – There was no heat in the building in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where Baird grew up, so he and his sister would turn on the oven to heat their apartment. “In low-income communities there’s a waste of energy,” Baird told ImpactAlpha, “and there’s a waste of human potential.”

Baird founded the climate tech startup with Morris Cox in 2014 to bring clean energy to low-income Americans. BlocPower helps utilities, government agencies and property owners retrofit city buildings in underserved communities and finances eco-friendly electric heating and cooling systems for small and mid-sized property owners at no up-front cost.

The company has retrofitted more than 1,000 buildings in New York City, saving property owners up to 50% on energy costs. This week , BlocPower raised $8 million in equity and $55 million in debt, led by American Family Institute, AccelR8 and Goldman Sachs.

Baird is among a growing network of Black investors, entrepreneurs and operators who are using proximity to communities and their own lived experiences to build companies for an inclusive green economy.

Impact investors didn’t immediately appreciate Baird’s block power. “At a certain point, we had to say, ‘Okay, maybe the impact investing thing isn’t for us. So we’re gonna go out to Silicon Valley, and now Wall Street, and we’re gonna raise our capital from there.’ So that’s what we did.”

Kapor Capital’s Mitch Kapor helped Baird hone his pitch. Baird says he is recycling buildings, reducing greenhouse gases and creating green jobs for the sake of his son, wife, nieces and nephews.

“I’m a tech entrepreneur that believes that the best way to protect my family from the damage of climate change is for the company to be successful.”