This is a special 2-part episode with a close friend & advisor to Nico and the SunCast Media team. Kerim Baran is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and strategist who has dedicated his career to fostering positive societal change. He was as co-founder of Civic Solar, one of the early pioneers in providing end-to-end solar installer procurement support via online distribution services (which was subsequently acquired in 2019 by CED Greentech, now Greentech Renewables).  Kerim was also founder of Yonja, one of Europe’s first social networks and his first entrepreneurial exit. Kerim now spends his time investing in early-stage companies and founders in various sectors, including energy, education and healthcare, and has recently unveiled his next venture – Solar Academy (which we discuss at length in Part Two of this interview).

Baran’s business accomplishments are marked by innovation and adaptability. He grew Yonja to over a billion page views and 7 million users before selling it in 2007. He followed that success by turning his attention to the renewable energy sector, where he and 2 other co-founders built Civic Solar (originally ideated as an eBay-like marketplace) into a preeminent support-driven equipment distribution platform for solar installers in the United States. He was instrumental in the company’s growth for the first 5-6 years and subsequently facilitated its exit to CED GreenTech in 2019. Kerim describes Civic’s negative working capital model, generating capital as it grew, a rarity in tech startups. 

Baran’s journey from pioneering social networking to empowering solar energy deployment has provided him with profound insights into our potential as a civilization. He reveals how his meditations led him to focus on sectors like education, healthcare, and cleantech, reflecting a commitment to healthy living and societal progress. Today’s conversation unpacks complex viral concepts like “K-factor”, fostering organic growth and creating products that can “sell themselves”. He also emphasizes empowering the “long tail,” giving individuals power to connect. His philosophies extend to living across cultures without borders and advocating for knowledge sharing, as reflected in the story behind the name of his investment fund, Enki Solar. Additionally, he recommends two key books for investment insights that we believe everyone should have on their shelves.

Enjoy the episode and then queue up Part 2!