Good People

For the past 3 years, my college roommate, Ben Dalley, has flown out from DC to celebrate our September birthdays together… perhaps, a tribute to the epic “2nd-annual 21st birthday party” we hosted our senior year that landed us in a hearing with the Dean of the College (sorry mom). He now has developed his own following of Ben Dalley fans among my friends out here in SF and it reminded me of something that Ben would always say back when we were in college. He would routinely refer to someone as “Good People.” “See that girl over there? She’s Good People. You gotta meet this dude… he’s Good People.”

Ben Dalley and Brad Bowery USC

Ben’s first trip out to SF in 2012 at Stanford Football’s upset over then #2 ranked USC.

I can go on forever about how Ben is Good People, I mean, he was our Senior Class President at Brown for a reason. A few years ago, he found himself in business in a world where he wasn’t surrounded by Good People and with the exception of a couple post-college visits to DC, I never saw him. Then he did something drastic. He sold out of those businesses to run a non-profit that raises money for kids with Autism through organizing charity bike rides called Bike to the Beach, and now he comes to visit SF every September! Today he’ll say he doesn’t make as much money, but he is doing something he loves, and is able to get out of DC more often to visit the Good People in his life, and meet many more along the way. The Ben Dalley story is representative of many great stories I could tell about all the Good People in my life. I don’t know how or why, but I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by Good People and it’s never more obvious than at a party or event that I host when I see Good People colliding into one another left and right. Many of you know what I’m talking about! Nothing makes me happier than seeing two Good People develop a lifelong friendship and feeling like I had something to do with that.

I believe, that in many ways, you are a reflection of the people around you. And if that’s true, I’m as vain as can be, and when I look at that mirror within that context, today is the best looking I’ve ever been… until tomorrow. You should be too. We’ve all seen that passive-aggressive post or tweet about cutting someone out of your life or taking pride in cleaning out your friends list online. Those thoughts never cross my mind (though if they ever did, I probably wouldn’t feel it necessary to broadcast them to the world). I’m fortunate to still be really good friends with the same group of guys I grew up with in CT, most of whom happen to still be living in our hometown, a place I haven’t lived since leaving for college. Who would have known at 8 years old, 10 years old, 14 years old? We all acted like a bunch of idiots back then (and still do sometimes). Turns out they are all Good People and more recently, I’ve gotten to see most of them marry fantastic women and become pretty awesome parents. Despite how much my life in SF has diverged from theirs, we’re still close. Perhaps it’s a result of good choices, perhaps it’s luck, perhaps it’s a case of you get back what you give, or maybe Good People breed more Good People. I have no idea, but either way, the past few days hanging out with Ben has reminded me about how I’ve hit the Good People jackpot.

As I look forward to another great year in the life, I am hopeful that my two sisters will feel the same way about the people in their lives when they reach this age. I’ve been blessed and I want them to be as blessed too. I also hope that my friends do what they can to not only make an effort to surround themselves with folks they consider Good People, but make the time to be with them. If you’re working at a company that lacks Good People, and it’s small enough to change, change it. If you can’t change it, go work somewhere else. Life’s too short to spend it surrounded by anything but what you consider to be Good People. My first hire at my last company wanted to get away from the people at his banking firm so badly that he was willing to work for free for several months for our unknown solar startup, and later moved to San Francisco when we could pay him. When I decided to leave last year, I handed him the keys to the company and he’s now the CEO of a pretty cool little solar energy business that employs nothing but Good People, obviously.

Finally, if you’re working too much, or something else is keeping you from seeing the Good People in your life, do something about that. Imagine your life if you had nothing but all the money in the world. Imagine your life if you had nothing but all the success in the world. Imagine your life if you had nothing but all the Good People you know in the world. What matters more? Prioritize accordingly. And the dirty little secret of all this is that spending time with those Good People isn’t just for fun, it’s because whether you notice it or not, those Good People make you a better person too.

Live Life Love

I was recently honored to be interviewed by my good friend, Michael Rucker, for his Live Life Love project. I’ve known Mike since 2006 when we met in Cartagena, Colombia on one of the most incredible trips I’ve ever taken. In 2007, he launched the 25-year project committing to sharing an interview of a thought leader in business, one in health and fitness, and a memory from a personal adventure in each of the next 100 quarters.

Cartagena

With Mike and a few other friends in Cartagena, Colombia in 2006

Here are some highlights from the interview that can be found here on his website:

On whether or not co-working spaces create distractions for entrepreneurs:

The great entrepreneurs will never have trouble focusing on their businesses, getting them to come up for air and refreshing the perspective from which they are thinking about their business is what we are challenging them to do.

On feeling connected to so many great people:

I don’t create a high bar for getting to know me personally and it has helped me feel connected to people in a short period of time.

On if kitesurfing is the new golf:

Kitesurfing has some visibility right now in the Bay Area. However… getting to know new people through common interests is more important than getting involved in the latest fad… Putting yourself out there and developing relationships through common interests is timeless, the popularity of certain activities just changes from time to time.

Farewell to SRECTrade

As 2013 concludes, it marks the end of my 5th and final year at SRECTrade. As we head into 2014, my close colleague for nearly 4 of those years, Steven Eisenberg, will assume the role of CEO. Steven has led our business development efforts and driven the growth of our brokerage desk and I am fortunate to have someone I can trust to take over our business and continue what my partner, Kevin Quilliam, and I have created.

For the 5th consecutive year, 2013 was our best year yet, and prospects look even better for 2014! In the last two years, our products and services have been fully defined, we have put a great team in place and our business has achieved ever-elusive profitability in a highly uncertain solar industry. SRECTrade has evolved from a simple website hosting monthly auctions in 2008 to a full services brokerage desk, online marketplace and SREC transaction management software platform. In early 2014, we will be launching a major overhaul of our entire website. SRECTrade 2.0 is a project started in 2012 to rebuild our entire infrastructure from the ground up. I’m very excited for the launch of the new site as it appropriately reflects the maturity of our business over the past few years.

With the company in good hands and the business in a healthy place, I felt this was a great time to move on to my next adventure. I have a passion for building companies and have at least one more startup in me! In the meantime, I am looking forward to seeing SRECTrade continue to prosper under Steven’s guidance.

Finally, our company wouldn’t be what it is today without help. Over the past 5 years, I’ve been joined by a brilliant business partner, an extremely supportive investor, 6 co-founders, 15 employees, 25 interns, 300 channel partners, 10,000 customers, over 60 energy suppliers and the kind folks at the various state agencies including MA DOER and CEC PTS, PA AEPS and PUC, MD PSC, DC PSC, DE SEU and PSC, NJ BPU and OCE, PUC of OH, PJM GATS, and NEPOOL GIS who have all contributed to making our vision, of a transparent, online platform for transacting SRECs, a reality. In this respect, I have been remarkably fortunate.

I am most proud when I think of our wonderful employees who have stuck with us through thick and thin. In over 5 years, we have turned over just one employee, which is a testament to the work environment that we, collectively, have created! I am also lucky to have been continuously on the same page with a great partner and investor, both of whom have been tremendous assets along this journey. They were particularly incredible throughout the difficult decision to make this transition and I am grateful for all they have done.

Thank you for a great 5 years, and here’s to many more!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

-Brad Bowery

Original Post

SRECTrade_Tahoe

Our 2013 company photo from the top of Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, CA

Confidence in the Clutch

My junior track season at Brown in 2001 was a breakthrough year in my career as a student-athlete. By the end of the year, I had improved from 15′ 3″ to 16′ 9″ and set a new school record in the pole vault. The excerpt from the article below written by Michael Jordan about Tiger Woods and coming through in the clutch hung on my wall during that season. I had no idea how relevant it would be over the next few years. It later would serve as the inspiration for my business school essay for Stanford asking “what matters most to you and why?”

…What it gets down to is confidence and pride. Confidence is based on having done it before. Tiger’s confidence is so high because of his work ethic and his past success. And he performs the way he does in the clutch today because he has such confidence. If he wants to hook it around the damn tree, he’ll do it. The rest of us don’t have that confidence, or that past success, so when we hook the stupid ball, it hits the tree…

…That’s why, if the game is tied in the last two minutes or down the stretch, I feel I have an advantage over everyone. Tiger feels the same way. But if you fail in the closing minutes, if you’re unable to make the big play, it can work against you in the future. The funny thing is, I don’t remember ever failing.

The shot I made to win the NBA Championship against the Jazz in 1998—the shot people think was my last one ever—is probably my best-known clutch moment. But the biggest shot I ever made, the one I always go back to, the one that started it all, was in the NCAA Finals in 1982. The game-winner against Georgetown. And the truth is, I didn’t realize the magnitude of taking it, because I’d never had the experience before.

You see, I’d never taken the big shot. High school? Shoot, my team never got out of the sectionals. I can’t remember any really big shots or big plays early in my career. None. The only thing that was close was in the 1981 McDonald’s All-American Game at Wichita State, when I think I made a late steal or a free throw to win. But I don’t put that on the same page with real clutch.

In that Georgetown game, I had no time to think. The play was designed for James Worthy, not me. We’d called time-out and Coach Smith said, “We’re going to try to get the ball into James. But James, if you can’t get it up, swing it around. Michael should have a wide-open shot.” I knew I was the second option, so it wasn’t as if the weight was on me. By the time the ball got to me, I just had to react. Maybe that helped.

If we’d had a different play set up, or if I’d thought about it in the time-out? I don’t know, maybe things would have turned out different. I imagine I would have tried to stay calm and say to myself, “Hey Mike, it’s not the end of life,” and hope for the best. I know that at really clutch times, some people try to con themselves into thinking none of it matters. But I also know that’s just a rationalization, because it does matter.

My whole NBA career I always thought back on 1982. I’m not saying you can’t be confident in the clutch if you’ve never made the big play before—obviously, I was already confident before that shot. But that one moment initiated so much. Every shot after that, I felt I could make. I responded so well in those situations because I had such positive thoughts. I thrived on last-second shots. It became a trait for me…

…What happens to clutch guys in the big moments is that everything slows down. You have time to evaluate the situation, and you can clearly see every move you need to make. You’re in the moment, in complete control. It’s hard to get there, something has to have you thinking that you can do no wrong. But once you do get there, you can just come out at the start of a game and generate the feeling.

-Michael Jordan, ESPN The Magazine 2001

By the end of that 2001 season, I had gone from happy-to-be-here to one of many contenders at our biggest meet of the season: Heps at Princeton University (Ivy League Championships). The 2001 field was crowded with several vaulters coming in with bests above 16′, including the 3-time defending Heps champion: a senior from Princeton who had dominated the previous three contests.

As the bar went up, 5 vaulters cleared 16′ 3″ making it arguably the most competitive field in the history of the event. With the bar up at 16′ 7″, every jumper missed his first two attempts. As each jumper failed on his third and final attempt, I knew I was about to be thrust into the position that Jordan was talking about. 

Winning Heps was bigger than anything else for an Ivy League track athlete. Anyone who has been to the meet knows it means everything to each team there and winning your event was more than just an individual accomplishment. As I waited my turn, this ESPN article that had been hanging on my wall all season was running through my head. This was my 1982 NCAA Finals moment. It was my opportunity to prove that I could be clutch. I remember that jump more than any other in my career. As the focus set in, the thoughts disappeared and the pure feeling of a visualization becoming reality took over. I came flying down the runway, hit the takeoff with perfect timing and felt myself hit every position just as I had envisioned. I grazed the bar with no room to spare, but by the time I had landed, I had won Heps with the 7th highest jump in meet history.

That moment instilled in me a sense of what I could be capable of doing when everything was on the line (somehow my coach, Anne Rothenberg, always knew this about me). The confidence that Jordan speaks of carried me through the rest of my track career and has been a strong guiding force in my professional career. I went into every competition after that knowing I had a huge advantage over everyone else when it mattered most. That confidence transcends sport and has real consequences in life.

Knowing that you can is a great starting point for anything you set out to do in life.

Clearing 16' 7" at 2001 Heps at Princeton.

My coach, Anne, who expected nothing less!

SRECTrade turns 3 years old

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I began working on SRECTrade in late 2008. Originally, we thought we were building a transaction platform for people who owned solar renewable energy certificates or SRECs and needed a way to sell them. Build it, and they will come! Or so we had hoped.

Though the name has stayed the same, over the past 3 years, we’ve evolved into a company focused on servicing the solar installation industry. Our first step was to provide registration and SREC management services to customers who were new to the process. From that service emerged partnerships with solar installation companies who were looking for a turn-key 3rd party solution to help their customers manage their SRECs.

Today, that technology has developed into the most sophisticated online platform for managing SRECs in existence. More importantly, it also takes the process a step further by allowing our partners to access an aggregated view of their customers’ accounts. Today, we boast over 250 partners in 15 states, 5,000 customers and over 35 MW of solar systems enrolled in this program.

As our technology has become more capable, so has its usefulness to other organizations. Most notably, utility companies putting together customer-friendly programs for acquiring SRECs in long-term contracts. The first of what we hope will be many such relationships will be with the state of Delaware’s Sustainable Energy Utility and Delmarva Power. We also will be providing similar custom programs for other solar organizations looking to achieve scale while managing SREC needs.

SRECs are a new phenomenon, but they are at the forefront of what I would consider the early stages of the maturation of the solar industry. That said, we should all hope that their usefulness will decline over time as solar reaches grid parity. Knowing this, we have invested much of our free time and resources in growing our business beyond the SREC markets in search of what will be the 4th, 5th or 6th iteration of our business model.

Our first foray beyond SRECs has been into the convoluted world of equipment procurement. Through interactions with our partners, we realized that many lacked the scale to get the attention of the large manufacturers and distributors, particularly US-based manufacturers. Leveraging our industry relationships and focusing on selling kitted solutions, we’ve been able to set up a program that gives our installers access to more product, with better pricing and shipping terms. As that part of our business hits its stride, we’ll turn our attention to the next pain point that surfaces.

Solar is a challenging industry, but frustrations are often forgotten when we are reminded that we’re changing the world, one rooftop at a time.

Reaching New Heights

Winning jump and Brown record of 17' 0" at the 2003 IC4A Championship

Winning jump and Brown record of 17′ 0″ at the 2003 IC4A Championship

Original post on BrownBears.com

Sometimes a last minute decision ends up being the right decision. This is especially true for Brown senior Brad Bowery, a member of the men’s track team. If it wasn’t for a visit to the campus of Brown University, Bowery would have been clearing new heights in the pole vault in a green uniform at that other Ivy League school. He also wouldn’t have had the chance to meet his friend Dave Zucconi. Zucconi, Brown Class of 1955, an icon on the Brown campus for more than 50 years, and one of Brown Athletics’ greatest supporters.

“A week after I committed to Dartmouth, I visited Brown and realized I made a huge mistake,” says Bowery, who was drawn to Brown mainly because of the open curriculum. “I had a great time during my visit and I really liked the coaching staff.” With that, Bowery opted for Brown and thus began a period of ups and downs for the Hamden, CT native.

Bowery first began vaulting at Hamden High School when he tried out for the track team after giving up baseball. “My mother told me I had to do something so she encouraged me to go out for the track team,” says Bowery. “I wasn’t as fast as the other runners and I couldn’t jump as far as the other jumpers and one day my coach said `who wants to try the pole vault’ so I volunteered and from there I fell in love with it.” I later learned that my grandfather had held the Malaysian National Record in the pole vault for 11 years!

Before Bowery saw any competition as a freshman in 1998-99, a knee injury sidelined him for the entire indoor season. He returned, however, for the outdoor season and consistently jumped 14’0″. During his sophomore outdoor campaign in 2000, Bowery smashed his personal record by fifteen inches to 15’3″.

That summer, Bowery began working for Dave Zucconi at the Brown Sports Foundation. “I had heard a lot about Dave and was kind of intimidated by him when I first started working for him but he was just so approachable I was amazed,” says Bowery, who worked with Zucconi for the majority of his junior year at Brown.

Bowery had already established himself as a leader for the team by his third year, being named a co-captain. Going into his junior campaign the Ivy League featured some of the best vaulters it had seen in some time. Bowery responded by continuing to reach new personal records as the season went on. In just a three week span, Bowery went from vaulting 15’9″ at the Armory Collegiate to 16’6″ at the URI Invitational, breaking the school indoor record. He continued to shatter records during the outdoor season, breaking the Brown outdoor record with a 16’8.75″ clearance at the UConn Invitational on Apr. 21, 2001.

His success didn’t stop there. At the 2001 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships, Bowery came in as an underdog. He and four competitors attempted to clear 16’6.75″ and all four vaulters missed their three attempts. Since Bowery had more misses at earlier heights than three competitors, he would finish fourth if he, too, missed the height. On his third and final attempt, Bowery soared over the bar, winning the Heps Title.

“Winning Heps that year really set the stage for everything else for me. I showed up that day, having not established myself as a dominant vaulter and that day I pulled it out and beat all the best vaulters in the league,” says Bowery. “Ever since then I’ve had the confidence that I can do something like that.”

Initially, Bowery’s plan was to take the fall 2001 semester off in order to make up his freshman indoor season that he had missed due to his knee injury. Bowery spent three months in Miami training and was in great shape to begin the indoor season. After a month and a half of strong competition, Bowery was the favorite for the 2002 Indoor Heps. However, Bowery never made it to the field and instead spent the weekend in the hospital after suffering complications from a previous appendix rupture and was required to have abdominal surgery. Bowery was forced to miss the rest of the spring semester along with the outdoor track season.

It was when Bowery was recovering at home in Connecticut last May that he received a call from former Brown track coach Bob Rothenberg. “Bob told me Dave (Zucconi) had cancer and that he was looking for someone to do research for him. I came back to Providence and Dave convinced me to work for him again. The best thing was seeing Dave smile even when he was going through all that.”

Like he has in the past, Bowery has bounced back this season and continues to break records, establishing himself as the best vaulter in the Ivy League. At the URI Mega Meet on Feb. 8, Bowery broke a personal record and his own school record, clearing 16’10”. The record did not last long. One week later on Feb. 14 at the Armory Collegiate, he cleared 17’1″. Once again, Bowery, along with Cornell’s Travis Offner and Mike Harbeck, are favored to win the Outdoor Heps Championship. Harbeck edged out Bowery at the 2003 Indoor Heps Championships with fewer misses.

“I think the key for any athlete is confidence. In an event like the pole vault especially, I always say it is 90% mental and 10% physical talent.”

“Brad is driven, absolutely driven to win and to succeed,” says Brown jumping coach Anne Rothenberg. “He had a lot of physical set backs along the way and he’s done everything possible to come back. He always finds a way to get it done. He is a very loyal and committed person.”

“I’m so grateful to coach Rothenberg. She’s always understood what I’ve needed and has always known what to say to me to get me where I am,” says Bowery.

Bowery is also grateful to another person; Dave Zucconi, who passed away on Jan. 22 at the age of 69 after his long and valiant fight with cancer. “I was so sad when he passed away because I really looked forward to some day being able to come back to Brown and give money to Dave,” says Bowery. “One thing I learned from Dave is how important it is for alumni to give to Brown. I hope that is a message that all of our student-athletes get at some point because I know it was really important to Dave.”

Remembering Dave Zucconi

David J. Zucconi ’55 was on of Brown University’s most famous ambassadors and fundraisers. I worked for him from 2000 until he passed away in 2003. He was my first professional mentor and continues to be an inspiration for me personally. Below is an article I wrote about Dave shortly after he passed away…

Brown’s great ambassador . . . by Brad Bowery

(This article originally appeared in the College Hill Independent in January 2003)

THE SUMMER AFTER my sophomore year a friend suggested that I try to get a job at the Sports Foundation. He told me, “If you go down there, talk to Ron, you don’t want to work for Dave, he’s a tough guy to work for.” So I called Ron and sure enough, he sent me over to Dave. Dave hired me right away at $7 an hour. My second day on the job, Dave had to make room for another student who needed a summer job. So he told us to split the hours and he would pay us both $8 an hour. Dave looked at me and said, “See there, your second day and you’ve already got a dollar raise!” That’s the way he was with his student workers, he always put our needs first.

It was last May that I got a phone call saying that Dave had serious colon cancer that had spread to his liver. The doctors told him he had three months to live. I was at home recovering from abdominal surgery when I was asked to come up and help him do research on the cancer. Everything I learned about his illness made me understand that his was the worst-case scenario. He had the worst kind of cancer and he was on the toughest chemo regimens with the most severe side effects. But you wouldn’t know it when you walked into his house. He never got down on himself, and he sure wasn’t going to let you get down either. Of course, in true Zucconi fashion, the first thing he asked me to do when I got back was to start working for him again. Even while in the hospital, he would rather have had me at his house typing up letters, fundraising for Brown than researching his cancer. The day he got home from that stay in the hospital a friend called and Dave got him to donate $250,000 for a Financial Aid Scholarship at Brown.

Fundraising for the University was Dave’s job, and he did it better than anyone else. A common misconception about Dave was that he only cared about athletics, but the truth is, Dave was always trying to do what was best for Brown in whatever way he could. Early in his career, that meant working to recruit the best students to Brown for the Admission Office; more recently, it meant raising money for the new Hillel center and the Theater Department. Of the 44 years that Dave served Brown University, only 15 were spent as the Executive Director of the Sports Foundation, and during those years, two-thirds of the money he raised went to the university and not to athletics. Everything he did was in an effort to push all of Brown “onward and upward.”

Dave was probably the most well-connected person at Brown. He had an amazing ability to remember the names and graduation years of everyone he ever met. Whenever he asked me to double-check a person’s year, he was usually right. Dave was also able to make anyone he talked to feel important. Whenever he answered a phone call from someone he hardly knew he would repeat their name enthusiastically and rattle off everything he could remember about them.

Throughout his career, Dave became associated with many rich and famous members of the Brown community. But one thing that I admired about him was that he never forgot who he was and how he got here. He came from a poor family in the Bronx, and he used to tell us that his father would go to the trash yards to get discarded cardboard to nail to the bottom of his shoes when the soles wore through. He had never even been outside New York City before the day he left for Providence. Dave was always aware of how fortunate he was to have been given the opportunity to attend Brown through a financial aid scholarship. Though we may often associate Dave with the elite members of the Brown community, in truth he never stopped working to support the education of the students who, like me, were on financial aid as he had been 50 years ago.

I always told people I had the best job on campus, but it came with a price, the price of watching Dave struggle and suffer. I spent the greater part of the last nine months with Dave and his amazing wife, Nancy, as they navigated through this turbulent ordeal and I have never done anything better with my time. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to become so close to and learn so much from such a great man. And there is so much more than what you read here. Dave used to always tell me “I’d rather have 100% of 95% of the work complete than 95% of 100% of the work done. Well Dave, here is 100% of about 1% of your story. All you ever have to do is ask the people of our community who knew Dave Zucconi to tell you about him and you’ll begin to understand why he meant so much to so many people at Brown.

Dave died on the evening of January 22, after all of his visitors had gone home. Oddly enough, it happened that the one person by his side when he passed on was a medical student who had actually been the Brown Bear when he was an undergraduate. If it couldn’t be his beloved wife by his side, then it had to be the Brown Bear. So there they were, Brown’s great ambassador and the Brown Bear, united together as he walked toward the light, onward and upward in Zucconi time.

Brad Bowery ’03 has been told that if you can work for Dave Zucconi, you can work for anyone.