WeaveGrid & GoodLeap: Passion, Purpose and a Path to Profitability

Episode Overview

In this episode, WeaveGrid Co-Founder Apoorv Bhargava speaks with host Kate Barrett about what it takes to innovate in the climate tech space, what makes a company venture-backable, and how to design a solution where every stakeholder wins. Throughout the conversation, GoodLeap Founder Hayes Barnard and NEA’s Jeff Immelt chime in with their own insights and advice about getting investors to buy into sustainability and ESG, what matters in mentorship, and tried-and-true methods for building a great team. Tune in to find out what each of these founders has learned along the way about leading a successful mission-driven company.

"Focus on things that matter for humanity and that matter for the world... These CEOs are so talented—they have the ability to do anything, but you can't do everything. So do something that really matters."

Hayes Barnard Founder, GoodLeap


  • What a powerful mission can mean for a company
  • Assembling the best team at every stage of growth
  • Why founders should be wary of the "growth at all costs" mantra
  • Capitalizing climate tech and sustainability

On this Episode

Apoorv Bhargava

Apoorv Bhargava is the CEO and Co-founder of WeaveGrid, a software company building data products to enable the electric transportation transition. In this episode, Apoorv chats with host Kate Barrett about building a sustainable and successful business, leading a mission-driven company and assembling the best team at every stage of growth.

Hayes Barnard

Venture Partner, NEA

Hayes Barnard is CEO and Founder of GoodLeap, a marketplace for sustainable solutions, delivering a digital-first experience that is simple, fast, and frictionless. In this episode, Hayes chats with NEA Venture Partner and GoodLeap Advisor, Jeff Immelt, about forging a path to success in the challenging sustainability space and the importance of great talent in realizing the company's mission.


Kate Barrett (00:06):

This is Founder Forward, the podcast from NEA where we explore the company building journey with candid commentary from founders and investors--some legendary, some just getting started, all moving forward. I'm Kate Barrett. On this episode of Founder Forward, I spoke to Apoorv Bhargava, CEO and co-founder of WeaveGrid, a company that's electrifying the grid with a software platform connecting electric vehicles and utilities. We talked about building a sustainable and successful business, leading a mission-driven company and assembling the best team at every stage of growth.

Apoorv Bhargava (00:49):

So my name is Apoorv Bhargava and I'm the co-founder and CEO of WeaveGrid. I've been really intrigued by the question of how do we do more as humanity, as a species? And I think so many of those problems and questions often come back to our ability to have abundance to do more.

Kate Barrett (01:08):

And on every episode of Founder Forward, we like to fast-forward to get some insights from a founder and investor who've walked this road together before. Today we'll hear from Hayes Barnard, founder, chairman, and CEO of GoodLeap, a point-of-sale platform for sustainable home solutions. And Jeff Immelt, a venture partner at NEA. Hayes and Jeff discussed the vision for GoodLeap, forging a path to success in the challenging sustainability space and the importance of great talent in realizing the company's mission.

Jeff Immelt (01:37):

So I'm Jeff Immelt. I'm a venture partner at NEA. I was 35 years with GE, the last 16 as CEO, and then four years with NEA. I do both investing, serve on boards and just generally try to help out.

Hayes Barnard (01:52):

Hi, my name's Hayes Barnard. I'm the founder, chairman, CEO of a company called GoodLeap and met Jeff Immelt three years ago. He and I had a great lunch together. In my mind, Jeff's an icon and somebody that has really been battle tested as a CEO of one of the most important companies in the history of the world. And I wanted to surround myself with someone that I knew could really help me during a crisis or during a difficult time.

Kate Barrett (02:20):

All founders seek validation in their ideas and are always on the hunt for top tier talent. How do Apoorv, Hayes and Jeff do it? There's only one way to find out. Let's dive in.


And I think a great place to start is just why did you start WeaveGrid and what's the problem that you set out to solve?

Apoorv Bhargava (02:45):

I grew up most of my life actually in the Eastern Mediterranean in a small country called Cyprus, I was born in India though. And so for me, having grown up in these different places, the question of resources and how do you balance growth with the needs of the population with your access to resources, all of those really interesting questions were very front and center. And then I think for me, the tipping point was in 2003 when the Iraq War broke out, Cyprus being in the Eastern Mediterranean, sort of very geopolitically centric. And one thing led to the other, and I just found myself drawn even at a very early age to this question of energy climate, how do we solve climate problems?


But eventually found myself coming out of graduate school many years later, really asking this question of, in a world where electricity, which is one of our primary forms of energy and transportation, another huge user of energy, are going from being two very independent systems to one interdependent system with electrification, what are the set of systems problems that we need to think about in the sort of re-architecting of this world? What does it mean for people to now drive electric cars? What impact does that have on the electric grid and what could you use fleets of electric cars to actually do for the electric grid? And then my co-founder had come out of Tesla and had a lot of experience there. And so the two of us, I think when we started putting our heads together, realized, hey, there’s something here and there is something that we can do with software and really kind of build scalable climate solutions. And that’s how we started WeaveGrid. It’s been a dream since then.

Kate Barrett (04:32):

Starting a company in this space is certainly a bold thing to do, albeit a necessary one. The road to mainstream climate tech and sustainability is kind of littered with carcasses of companies. What made you say, I’m going to give this a go?

Apoorv Bhargava (04:48):

So I had worked in Washington DC for a few years at a company called Opower that just left me truly inspired by the possibility that technology could have on motivating people to change their behavior and also seeing a climate solution at scale. I had spent some time in consulting, working closely with some of these same clients that we now work with. When I was in grad school it really allowed me the opportunity to reflect on what does it take to innovate in this space and what kind of companies, organizations are venture backable, not venture backable.


Ultimately, it's a choice that you make as a founder to even raise venture capital and to pour that jet fuel in some sense into your company. And so I had the opportunity to work briefly with a VC firm, and I think that exposure just taught me so much about, okay, this is what it means to be a venture backed startup. Why do I think this is the right decision? Is it the right decision? Going through that sort of reflective journey was also very helpful. So it was a combination of my all my life experiences that brought me towards this company, which is rather nice, but it never felt linear, of course. It never does.

Kate Barrett (05:57):

I want to get your read on an excerpt from the conversation that Jeff and Hayes had about what it takes to build a successful company in this space.

Jeff Immelt (06:09):

Hayes, talk a little bit about GoodLeap itself, just a quick synopsis of what the company does and what its mission is.

Hayes Barnard (06:16):

The mission of GoodLeap is to connect a world in which everyone can live more sustainably. So I think to create a great company, you have to focus on a big problem. One of the biggest problems in the United States today is 40% of all carbon emissions come from the home. So where we spend a lot of time electrifying vehicles and we're really addressing that problem, the home's the next place we've got to electrify, we've got to lower that carbon footprint inside of the home. And there are a number of things you can do, hundreds of things you can do in your home to lower your carbon footprint. So the business that I launched within GoodLeap is fundamentally focused on how do you bring the financial markets and the capital market side into ESG, where they want to finance this at scale. So these are the sovereigns, these are your specialty banks like Goldman Sachs and Blackstone.


Your more traditional banks like Truist, the credit unions. How do you bring them to the table where they say, okay, we want to finance ESG, show us these assets. Yes, we want to lower carbon, we want to play an active role, but we want a 5% return that's predictable, that's pretty boring and high quality assets. So the first thing we do is we create a conduit for those banks and institutions to finance ESG. Now, the second component on the front end is we provide a zero down financing solution for consumers at point of sale to instantaneously receive the capital necessary to make these adjustments on their home. So it could be residential solar on their home battery storage, on their home, EV charging infrastructure, synthetic grass turf, energy efficient HVAC, new sustainable roofing solutions or windows solutions. So we provide them that capital instantaneously to have the ability to do it.

Jeff Immelt (08:01):

Talk about ESG investing and what do people in the space need to realize about how to be effective and where you've seen it go and where it'll go next? Because lots of people have lost a lot of money doing ESG investing and you're not one of them here, you're building a great platform, but what do people need to understand?

Hayes Barnard (08:25):

I think they need to understand that one, the assets have to perform. I think that that's the most important thing. I mean, where ESG gets in trouble in this marketplace is these assets don't perform or the quality of these assets are not financable, right? You have to be able to unlock the financial markets. When you look at just climate change as an example or lowering carbon, it's about a $10 trillion opportunity in the United States. It's a 50 trillion opportunity globally. Now, if you're going to bring $10 trillion to the table in the United States or 50 trillion globally, you have to have real, stable, predictable, reliable assets that these financial institutions know that they can carry on their balance sheet or securitize into the markets. So that's the most important thing. I think in the early years of ESG, there were many companies that stumbled on various assets that were put in the marketplace.


The quality of those assets didn't necessarily perform as advertised. I think we're past that. Where now we know how these products perform. It's been 10 years, 15 years in a lot of cases. We know how reliable these assets are. And so where the banks and financial institutions 15 years ago would say, geez, Hayes, I just don't know. This is too high risk. I'm just not sure I want to finance solar energy or the various solutions. Today, those CEOs say to me, okay, I really want to finance ESG. It's important to our constituents, it's important to our employees, our shareholders, show me a way, but where I don't have to buy these loans in little onesies and twosies. I kind of want to buy these assets in 30 or 40 million increments at real scale for it to be worth the time and energy necessary to build these markets.


And so that's why I'm excited. I feel like, look, you've got really good actors in this space right now that understand the engineering, the procurement, the construction of these assets, they understand the warranty packages with these assets, they understand how to get them deployed in a responsible way, an ethical way. And you've got banking financial institutions today that say, okay, we're ready. We want to finance ESG.

Apoorv Bhargava (10:35):

The ability to build a successful business at the end of the day, policy needs to be an enabler as well, but fundamentally, the business has to first work as a win-win. And I think a big, big part of how I thought about this company was how do we design a system, how do we design a solution where every stakeholder in the work that we are doing wins? So whether it's our utility partners that we work with, whether it's our automotive partners that we work with, whether it's our customers that benefit from the services that we deliver, how do we ensure that everyone gets some amount of the value that is created in this transition? Because the best part about where we are today on the technology learning curves and the policy kind of tailwinds and all of that is that it truly is the better option for everyone. It's just so different now than it ever was in sort of the first wave of clean tech. And that's what excites me a lot.

Kate Barrett (11:35):

We're seeing the pendulum swing back towards clean tech and sustainability, and obviously most recently with the Inflation Reduction Act. Does this give you great hope? What is your take on the current environment as far as not only do you know rationally, yes, these businesses have to work, but now there is a much bigger appetite for those businesses and for making them work, right?

Apoorv Bhargava (11:56):

Yeah. And I'm so grateful that no matter the conversation around ESG and this and that, I'm grateful that it's starting sort of top down, which is LPs and the public markets and investors and pension funds and everyone. Everyone's asking for it and everyone's seeing that climate risk is a very real risk to the bottom line at the end of the day. And I think that continues to push downwards where everyone turns around and says, okay, what solutions do we have? What solutions make sense today? What solutions make sense tomorrow? And there's different risk appetites, obviously the riskier stuff needs to be backed by ARPA-E and the federal government and venture capital and all of that.


And then there's stuff that's much more ready to be deployed today and gives you great returns today. And so I think there's a whole spectrum of solutions, and I'm super excited to see that happening. I'm feeling incredibly bullish both by the coming together of, again, great technologies, really enabling policy, and I think very importantly, people. I think the huge difference that's happening right now, and we see it day in, day out from our ability to hire is people really want to work on climate solutions. And there's overwhelming sense that this is the right thing to do. Oh, and by the way, it's going to be a huge, huge business too.

Kate Barrett (13:14):

Well, in hiring passionate people, you followed a tried and true path. I mean, it's advice you hear time and time again from founders building their second, third or fourth companies. And in Jeff's conversation with Hayes, they talk about strength of team as a key factor in GoodLeap's success.

Jeff Immelt (13:34):

From the first day with GoodLeap, I look at your team, I look at your board, you collect good people as partners and advisors. Have you grown into that? Has that always been a knack? And what advice would you give other founders just in terms of what good looks like?

Hayes Barnard (13:53):

Yeah, I'll tell you just very humbly, Jeff, I grew up in a one bedroom apartment with a single mom, and I was an only child in Missouri, and it was tough. It was a tough life. Watching my mom walk to the laundromat every day gave me a lot of fire, a lot of passion to do something important for my life, not just take care of my mother, but to take care of a lot of people that needed help. And the one thing that was difficult, I'll tell you from growing up in that apartment in Missouri was you can't forget where you came from, but you can't take your eye off where you're going and you have to recognize, you have to adjust that proximity, and you have to be willing to make yourself vulnerable, go on a journey to find other individuals that'll inspire you, that will teach you, that will mentor you.


And it's actually a difficult thing to do. And so I moved to the Silicon Valley in 1995 after graduating from the University of Missouri and was really thoughtful about, wow, okay, there are people here from Stanford, and Cal, and Harvard, and Princeton, and those are not the kids from my neighborhood. Most of the kids in my neighborhood never graduated high school. But I did know that proximity is by far the most important thing in life. You hang out with four successful people, you're likely to be the fifth.


And so I think that through my journey, I've looked for people like you that I know have something to teach people that are also interested in the gift of passing that down. And I'm at a stage now at 50 years old when I'm doing that, where I'm always looking for either today someone I have the ability to coach or someone that I can learn something from and try to hang out with pretty boring people. I look for people with real great values, people with the discipline, focus and integrity that's necessary to build really extraordinary things. And then obviously the contribution piece is mission driven. Its interesting, you'll find if you have a real strong mission, you'll be more likely to surround yourself with extraordinary people that are also interested in solving those problems.

Jeff Immelt (15:54):

It's great advice. I teach now Hayes and I, even when I was in my career, I always would look at people and say, what's the one strength that this leader has that they could teach millions of other business leaders if they just watched them? And when I look at you, you're almost two people. You are visionary, commercial, hard charging, and you're like one of the best risk managers I've ever seen. And I've seen those two things in different people, but I've rarely seen them in the same person.

Kate Barrett (16:33):

Apoorv, being a founder and CEO does require a range of skills and personality traits and luck all coalescing in one person. Very similar to Hayes, you've had to be both a visionary and a risk manager and assemble a team of people who also have those traits.

Apoorv Bhargava (16:52):

I had a really funny moment recently where somebody said, I don't understand, you have multiple founders on your team. And I was like, yeah, no. Multiple people who founded their own companies decided to come and join this company after successfully exiting their companies and so forth, because they really believed that this is where their efforts, their energies can be best used. We have people who left incredibly successful careers in more traditional technology companies and decided to come here.


And it's sometimes a little, I mean, it goes back to imposter syndrome and all those feelings, but it's just kind of overwhelming as a founder where you realize, wow, these are people who are just unbelievable and they're on my team and they're working with me on this solution. And it's such an advantage. It's an advantage because I want that same talent applying all their brilliance to tackle this problem at an unparalleled pace with a sense of urgency. Urgency is literally one of our core values at WeaveGrid, and it's because we need to. And it was a feeling of how do I marshal the best resources that have created the greatest companies in the world to date and take their talents and their energies and their brilliance and put them to work on solving the problem for our generation?

Kate Barrett (18:13):

I think GoodLeap sought to bring a software solution to market for similar reasons that they saw that it had to be a viable business and you had to be able to demonstrate that, but also that if you did that right, the potential impact is enormous. One of the interesting things about building a company that's in an area like solar or HVAC or whatever, is you get a mix of legacy expertise in those particular areas, but then it's also mashing up with people who are developing next generation technologies and software, typically a much younger cohort. And so I want to share a quick snippet from Jeff and Hayes conversation on that topic and then circle back for your thoughts about that dynamic and what that means for innovation.

Hayes Barnard (18:56):

I mean, these folks are so talented today, Jeff. They can build such amazing things with software, you have to respect that. And so a lot of times you can get caught up in, I'm just going to talk to people 10 or 15 years older than me. These are the folks that have stepped in a bucket of mud. I don't necessarily want to step into. These are folks that can mentor me. Be careful, as a CEO you've got to balance that with talking to the 22-year old that works for you about why she spends three hours a night in the metaverse and why she's doing that and where she is, and how to build blockchain on the backend of your business and what you can do in order to drive more efficiency within your business.


So I would say, look, all these CEOs that are out there, stay humble, really listen, stay hungry and be really interested in what some of the younger folks are bringing the table and what some of the ideas that they have. There's a lot of innovation there, and if you can balance a lot of wisdom and folks that know how to execute at scale around some of these breakthrough ideas and concepts that these really young, bright, talented people have, there's a lot of magic in that and a lot of innovation in that moving forward.

Jeff Immelt (20:06):

John Donahoe of Nike, he's a friend of mine, good personal friend, and when he left eBay, he took a year to kind of think about what he wanted to do next, and he came up with five criteria for his life, and he's more disciplined about it than I am, but one of them was hung around young people. And that's one of the things I aspire to do with NEA. And I have to say he's completely right because they just changed the way you look at the world.

Kate Barrett (20:33):

Apoorv talk about bringing on a diversity of talent because it's not just across identity or life experience or skillsets, but across generations too.

Apoorv Bhargava (20:43):

So another reason for starting a software company, as we were talking about earlier, right, is because you can attract that talent, you can attract people who are so drawn to what technology can do and are technologists at heart, but motivationally want to work on things that, to use the line and unfortunately also the joke line from Silicon Valley, want to make the world a better place. And so bringing together people who can coexist, and not just coexist but thrive together is really sort of the job of the CEO and the C-suite and the executives. How do you talk to one another? So internally, it's actually really fun. We do these lunch and learns where people find themselves talking about topics that everyone is interested in. The engineering team will talk about things that the business development team, the partnerships team, all of them are like, wow, this is really cool.


I didn't even know our technology could do all those things. And it just shows how much scalability we have, what kinds of amazing things we're doing with machine learning, this and that. And on the flip side, then every time one of the utility team or one of the policy team or one of the automotive teams sits down and talks about the work they're doing and what is electric vehicle design look like at an architecture level, or how do utilities make decisions around rates? It's most heavily attended by folks on the engineering and data science team who are like, I want to learn all about this. This is so fascinating, this is why I'm here. And so cross-sharing, cross-learning is something that... It's just super exciting when you're at a company like this and I think it's why people want to work here.

Kate Barrett (22:15):

A powerful mission confers a lot of momentum and a lot of motivation. And I think when you're trying to change the world, you'd like to do that as soon as possible. And I'm curious how you think about growing and scaling your business in a way that speaks to the urgency of the moment, but also ensures that you have a really stable foundation upon which to build.

Apoorv Bhargava (22:35):

Ooh, that's a great question. So for context, we were six people until May of 2020, and at this moment we're almost 60 people. So we have 10Xed in the last two years.

Kate Barrett (22:46):

Lot of growth.

Apoorv Bhargava (22:48):

It's been a lot. And from a how do we keep people aligned and aligned on the same thing, by the way, how do you get everyone to be serving towards the same mission? How do you make sure that everyone is working on the right things, doing all that? I mean, that's a lot of where my time goes, or my co-founder's time goes. It's really about building those effective units then know exactly how the work they're doing is serving the sort of broader mission and purpose of the company, and then reminding people that this change is going to be continuous. But bringing it back to the cultural roots of the company and the values of the company is also critical, which is just kind of reminding people day in, day out, day in, day out, almost sounding like a bit of a broken record, this is why we're here, this is what we're doing. These are the values by which we live.


And almost like knocking ourselves if for some reason we don't do that and reminding ourselves that's not the way we operate, this is how we operate. There's some great articles I've read about when you have so many people show up so quickly, they all kind of bring little pieces of their own culture with them. And so instead of the culture being the one you wanted to have, it ends up being this mishmash of the culture that everyone's brought with them so quickly. And so I think grounding ourselves in what we've always wanted the culture of this company to be and reminding people and reminding them and reminding them is really what's so critical. And so as we continue to grow, as we go from phase to phase in this company and continue to become bigger and bigger and ideally more and more effective at what we're doing, how do we do so with intention and make sure everyone is kind of following on in that intention?

Kate Barrett (24:27):

Yeah, I mean, its-

Apoorv Bhargava (24:29):

It's hard.

Kate Barrett (24:29):

Growth is a great problem to have to solve.

Apoorv Bhargava (24:32):

Totally. And reminding people that there's an opposite problem, which is not us growing. And also reminding people that growth means that you're going to have lots more potential to do other things, and that it's not zero-sum game. In a growing environment, your responsibilities every day are going to keep growing. In fact, you're going to have too many things to be doing every day. So get excited by the work you're doing, keep crushing it. And also find ways that we can keep growing such that we can hire more people, we can offload some of those tasks, and the whole pyramid grows as it were.

Kate Barrett (25:03):

And while growth is certainly an important goal to have in mind, there are also risks that come with that growth at all cost mindset, as Hayes reminds us.

Hayes Barnard (25:16):

A lot of these CEOs of companies, they, it's just growth at all costs. That's all they want to do, grow, grow, grow and I always say volume is vanity, EBITDA is sanity, and cash is king.

Jeff Immelt (25:29):

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hayes Barnard (25:29):

If you're generating cash in your company, you're in control and you're not forced to do difficult, challenging things during difficult, challenging times.

Jeff Immelt (25:36):

I used to say about working for Jack Welch is the worst mistake you could make was not listening to him. The second works mistake you could make is listening to him too much. I hear venture guys telling people growth at all costs, and I always grabbed the CEO and said, don't listen to that so much.

Kate Barrett (25:57):

Apoorv, what are your thoughts on that, given that your experience has primarily been in the clean tech sector? Not always abundant, and as we talked about earlier, you know, saw more scarcity than abundance growing up,

Apoorv Bhargava (26:08):

Grow it all costs has been this mantra perhaps for a lot of companies outside of climate and two influencing factors: one, I grew up in a middle class household, so I think I always have been relatively conservative in that mindset; two, we came from a famine mindset. When John and I started this company in 2018, there weren't that many investors ready to invest in this space, particularly if you'd said the words utilities, they were like, what are you talking about? And so it's funny when you go from feast to famine, or famine to feast or whatever, we came from a famine mindset. So we always have been conservative about that. And yet also after our series A in '21, we heard grow, and of course we had to grow. But doing so with purpose and intentionality and being a little careful, I think the team has always known that I'm going to question and I'm going to say, tell me why and show me the reasons.


And I'm not one to say no very often when somebody says, but we're in a good case. But I think that's the thing, it's just growing at all costs does have a cost, especially when things take a downturn. And so I think we've been very cautious and rational about it, and I'm not going to share those numbers. But we've also done really well on the business side, which is why we could afford to grow. And so I think we've just had to be more thoughtful because I don't remember a time when things were overly abundant. It felt like it perhaps last year, but good times never really last that long. And so I think I have just always been a little more cautious in the way that we've approached things and it's paid off for us really well, and it continues to.

Kate Barrett (27:46):

And when you raised your series A last year, what was that experience with the mindset that you have, which is a slightly contrarian one in the boom times, what type of investors did you want to have by your side on this journey?

Apoorv Bhargava (28:01):

Consistently, the kind of investors we've wanted to have are people who believe in a few things. One, believe in the fact that solving these problems can still deliver massive financial outcomes. Ultimately, we are very aligned. This company does well. We have huge impact. If it does well, it has great returns. You want that at its core. I think secondly, we wanted investors who believed in us and believed in our theory of change and believed in how we were going to get there and saw the company for just how strong it was at every foundational level, whether it be the team members, the product, the leadership, whatever. And that's really important because you don't want somebody who's always questioning every decision you make. They're going to be ups, they're going to be downs. You want somebody who can be supportive, who can be thoughtful, who can push you when you're not making the right decisions, but at the same time is a helpful sounding board.


And so we've been very cautious about the investors we've partnered with. We've been always, I think, trying to find people who are aligned that this is a 10, 15 year bet, we're going to make a really big outcome here in the next 10 years. But at the same time, it's also going to be a huge successful company. And so when we went through our series A, as we've thought about additional fundraising and so forth, we've always tried to find people who I think share those values with us and aren't here to just jump into the fray because it was the hot new topic of the year, but are actually very much on the same page that yes, this is something we're thematically excited about.


We see the long-term potential, we see the sort of secular trend, and if we're going to back one company, it's going to be this one, and we really want to keep investing more and more in this company over the years as it continues to grow and grow and grow. So I think that was what we were looking for, and we found it so far with all of our investors. We've been really happy with all of them.

Kate Barrett (29:53):

I mean, finding that right fit with investors is so important. It's all part of surrounding yourself with the right people, getting the best advice. I mean, that's exactly why we wanted to bring Jeff and Hayes onto Founder Forward. So let's hear what their decades of experience have taught them about building a great business.

Jeff Immelt (30:15):

What advice would you give investors and or entrepreneurs in terms of things you've seen or observed?

Hayes Barnard (30:25):

I would say these investors have so many options on where to invest their capital. And these entrepreneurs, if they're good, can kind of get money from anyone. I would say focus on the relationship, focus on finding someone you really feel connected with, enjoy the journey. I mean, these businesses we create and what we do and how we do it, I mean, it's all great. And so for me, I'm a journeyman. Find people that you really enjoy being around, that you enjoy talking to, that you feel like you can learn something from, where you can have a real important relationship that matters. That's what I would look for, and do good work. Focus on things that matter for humanity and that matter for the world, because these CEOs are so talented. They have the ability to do anything, but you can't do everything. So do something that really matters, focus on that, and then you'll build an extraordinary board and then an extraordinary executive team and lean in and enjoy the ride.

Jeff Immelt (31:26):

One piece of advice for an entrepreneur.

Hayes Barnard (31:28):

I would say the biggest piece for an entrepreneur is understand that everybody has the same idea. If you have a good one, it'll be copied immediately. And so the only way to win the execution competition is to win the recruitment competition. If you can field the best team, you will out navigate out-innovate your competition, and just make sure that you've got the tenacity, an unwavering will to fight through the darkest moments of the day, because they will come. They will come, and then all your trainings, all your coaching, all your mentoring, all the books you read, everything that you put into your soul to face, that defining moment, make sure that you get through it, don't quit. Those defining moments are ultimately what will determine if you're going to be successful or not. I see so many people quit in the hardest moment and they just can't get over it.


And that is the difference between an executive and a true entrepreneur and a founder. An executive, it gets hard and things get difficult, they'll likely quit. They have options. They'll go work somewhere else. They're like, ah, I don't want to deal with this stuff. This is just too difficult here. There's there's easier ways to make money. There's easier ways to do anything. A true entrepreneur, a true founder, you can never walk away from it. You can never do anything to not follow through for your shareholders. You've got to fight through the tough tough times. That's what will define you as a real entrepreneur and a real founder, and CEO versus an employee.

Jeff Immelt (33:03):

I say on the last day of my business school class, these are kids at Stanford, and I say, look, any one of you could run GE based on your pedigree, your intellect, you could do it, right? Your career is defined really by answering three questions. How fast can you learn? Because you got to get smarter every day. Some days I got smarter than others, but how fast can you learn? How much can you give to others? How much of yourself can you give to the people that you work with? You have to answer that question, but the most important question is how much shit can you take? Because most of you will cut yourself. Most of you will quit before you have to, but if you could get punched in the nose over and over again and keep going, you could be something someday.

Apoorv Bhargava (34:00):

It's such an exciting time. I'm so, so inspired right now by the number of companies and founders and people I see just in general trying to throw themselves into this space. And so there's just so many of these amazing people who I think want to really make a difference. I think just creating that place for them to be able to do so, to take all these skills and resources and knowledge and expertise, and providing that path is what motivates me every day. That's what I feel like I have to do, is give these incredible people a place to run and just make it happen. And it goes back to a funny thing, which is like, if climate is a collective action failure, then how do we marshal enough people in a collective way to solve these problems? And I actually think that startups and companies are an incredible way to do so. And so it's my privilege to be able to do so at WeaveGrid, and I hope if nothing else that this podcast excites and inspires more people to kind of take that same leap of faith.

Kate Barrett (35:04):

You have a way of reading my mind, Apoorv. I was just going to say that this has been such an inspiring conversation for me, and I'm sure for anyone who listens to it, thank you.

Apoorv Bhargava (35:13):

I'm glad to hear that. Thanks so much for having me on, Kate.

Jeff Immelt (35:19):

I think something that every founder should know is people cheer for you. People cheer for you and your company to be successful because of who you are and what your mission is. And at the end of the day, that matters. And so good luck. A great conversation. It's great spending time with you. Thanks for doing this.

Hayes Barnard (35:36):

Yeah, appreciate you too, Jeff.

Kate Barrett (35:45):

It's so inspiring to hear a founder talk about the humble beginnings of a mission-driven company. It's inspiring and instructive to hear a founder really dig into the steps taken along the path from starting up to scaling up and the barriers toppled along the way. I think really exploring the complex details of company building offers a lot to any founder that they can take away and apply in their own journey. I'd like to thank Apoorv, Hayes and Jeff for sharing their inspiring stories with us. It's been a pleasure to learn about their experiences, and I hope you learned a lot too.


Founder Forward is a production from NEA, made in partnership with FRQNCY Media. From NEA, I'm your host and executive producer, Kate Barrett with support from Ashley Mitchell, Erica Sunkin, and Shanna Hendriks from FRQNCY Media. Michelle Khouri is our executive producer. Enna Garkusha is our supervising producer. Jordan Rizzieri is our producer. And Catherine Devine and Emily Krumberger are our associate producers. Our mixer and sound designer is Claire Bidigare-Curtis with dialogue editing by Sydney Evans. For more on NEA, visit nea.com. You can subscribe to Founder Forward on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your favorite podcasts.

The information provided in this podcast is for educational and illustrative purposes only and is not intended to be an offer of securities, investments, investment advice or recommendations. New Enterprise Associates (NEA) is a registered investment adviser with the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, nothing in this communication should be interpreted to suggest that the SEC has endorsed or approved the contents of the podcast. Any offering of securities by NEA is restricted to qualified investors and is made pursuant to offering documents that contain important disclosures concerning risk, fees, conflicts, and other important information. The company founders or other executives featured in the podcast are not compensated, directly or indirectly, by NEA but may be founders or executives of portfolio companies NEA has invested in through funds managed by NEA and its affiliates. The host of the podcast is an employee of NEA and is compensated in her role as a NEA employee. NEA has paid to optimize the placement of this podcast on certain online search platforms.

NEA makes no assurance that investment results obtained historically can be obtained in the future, or that any investments managed by NEA will be profitable. The statements made by the founders, investors and the presenters in the podcast are their own, and are not intended to be an endorsement of the investment advisory services offered by NEA. NEA has no obligation to update, modify, or amend the contents of the podcast nor to notify the listeners in the event that any information, opinion, projection, forecast or estimate included changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate or outdated. To the extent the founders and investors featured in the podcast discuss hypotheticals, projections, or forecasts to illustrate their views, such views are their own and are not verified or adopted by NEA, nor has NEA tested the validity of the assumptions that underlie these opinions. The companies featured in the podcast are not a representative sample of all current or former NEA portfolio companies. Listeners of the information contained in the podcast should consult their own legal, tax, and financial advisers because the contents are not intended by NEA to be used as part of the investment decision making process related to any investment managed by NEA.

About Founder Forward

Founder Forward is a new podcast from NEA that explores the company building journey with candid commentary and useful insights from entrepreneurs and investors at every stage of growth.

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