WegoTalks: A Chat with Andrew Chen
Over the past five years, WegoWise has grown from a team of a few people to a fantastic group of over 30! As the company continues to grow, we strive to stay as connected as possible, even with our team being spread across the globe. Through this series of WegoTalks interviews, we hope to share with you the stories of the people who’ve been here since the beginning of WegoWise and introduce you to those who have helped shaped the company into its current form.
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For our first WegoTalks interview, we spent some time chatting with Andrew Chen, CEO of WegoWise. Andrew also serves as a Managing Director at Boston Community Venture Fund, a subsidiary of Boston Community Capital.
“Can you give a brief overview of how you got involved in Boston Community Venture Fund?”
“The work that Boston Community Capital started out doing in the 1980s was to figure out a way to use private capital to supplement things the government was doing, especially when it came to housing for low-income people. Once you get roofs over people's heads, what’s next? We wanted to better connect LMI areas with the mainstream economy so what we ended up doing was leverage a venture capital model to further drive economic activity, generate jobs, and create wealth in these underserved communities. I ended up joining Boston Community Capital because the interest I had in thinking about technology and businesses in a much more holistic way wasn’t available in the traditional marketplace; it was in these new community development niches. Because BCC is a not-for-profit, we are able to take very long-term views and not just work in underserved markets, but also demonstrate new business models that the mainstream economy does not.”
“Was there something specific that drew you to WegoWise?”
“BCC recognized that there was starting to be a ‘have and have not’ within the efficiency and environmental movement. For example, solar was really starting to take off, but leaving behind low-income communities. It became pretty obvious that WegoWise was a tool that was missing. Why put solar panels on the buildings if the buildings are inefficient? ... It became a question of assessing efficiency, but no one knew anything about efficiency. That’s when BCC started working with New Ecology to try and figure out how to do this right once and for all. The genesis of WegoWise was when we connected with Barun Singh, who was already working on something closely related, and joined together to turn these ideas into a working product.
Tracking buildings, collecting utility bills: we can do it by hand and people have been doing it by hand, but until new technology came along, you could not have scale. By taking technology and applying it even to a relatively simple idea at the right time, we can scale it in a way that makes it into a business. And so I said ‘it sounds like a good idea’ and now here we are!”
“In your opinion, what are some of the most interesting parts of being the CEO of a company like WegoWise?”
“There was nothing like this when I was in school. Nobody wanted to do anything with the environment, because it was too ‘crunchy granola’, it didn’t seem to lead anywhere, it’s ‘doing good without doing anything real’. Now people are saying, ‘Of course I’m going to work on sustainability!’. Social investing, impact investing, social entrepreneurship, these are now normal, and it’s not a trade-off. It’s not, ‘I want to do good and not make any money’. It’s completely integrated...you can do interesting work, have it be impactful, and make a profit, too! I think that’s the most interesting thing - seeing the evolution of how people view this kind of market.”
Kristina Johnson also contributed to the compilation of this blog post.