Case Study: Paces CEO James McWalter Learned To Turn Rejection Into Success Through Curiosity
Founders can learn valuable lessons in rejection if they embrace it with curiosity.
James McWalter is the CEO of Paces, a venture-backed startup that provides actionable data and analytics for green infrastructure developers, operators, and investors to understand what and where to profitably build. He also hosts the Carbotnic Podcast where he has long-form conversations with experts in cleantech.
In the past, McWalter was the founder of Hale, a personal training marketplace. He was Director of Operations at Respondent, a market research marketplace, and Director of Business Development and employee #1 at Hello Vera, an AI chatbot startup acquired by a tech giant. Before that, McWalter sold data to US quantitative hedge funds and portfolio analytics tools to EMEA asset and sovereign wealth managers. He grew up on an organic farm in Co. Mayo, Ireland.
Problem: Collecting & Aggregating Infrastructure Data In A Cost-Effective Manner
We are finding and making sense of lots of hard-to-collect data. The more relevant data we have, the more value we can bring to users, but the data is divided across thousands of county clerk websites and nearly always stored in an unstructured way.
Market: Solar Developers Who Waste Time Surveying Sites
Solar developers became obvious as they are the second largest green infrastructure development type in the US (4% of current energy usage). They are growing fast (+30% CAGR), and when engaging those developers via outbound, they had the most acute problems to solve.
Solution: Manual Customer Onboarding Reveals Where Improvements Can Be Made
We log in as customers and set them up in ways that will not scale so that we can identify all the worst parts of our current product. We make it as easy as developers to log in and see sites that they would want to build on, with all the data collected and surfaced in as clear a way as possible.
Team: User Feedback As The Tiebreaker To Settle Team Differences
In the early days of ideation, one of us was more interested in calculating climate risk for green infrastructure projects, e.g., flooding risk vs. identifying ways to build more green infrastructure. We resolved this by talking to more users to hear the problems people were experiencing directly.
Fundraising: Being Upfront About Expectations And Honest About Uncertainty
When raising our pre-seed, we were very upfront that we expected to get a product out to users and make something some users would like, but that there were a lot of questions around getting too large scale distribution.
Takeaway: Use Your Curiosity To Get The Most Out Of Every Rejection
You also need to be super curious and not defensive about rejection. I am rejected a dozen times a day by customers, investors, and potential hires, and early in my career, that would have gotten me down, but now, it makes me curious about the reasons and sets me up to figure out ways to get more yeses.
Case Study: Paces
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