Learning Journeys

Every ecopreneurial journey is unique. Explore the following journeys of Stanford alums who used university resources to begin their own sustainability-focused ventures.  Let them inspire your journey. 

Explore Pathways

Undergrad and MS/ME Journeys

Armelle’s Co-Term Journey

Creating homes we need, with buildings we already have

Armelle Countant

Armelle Coutant

MS Co-Term ’21
Sustainable Design and Construction
Founder, CEO of Kit Switch

As one of the few dual majors in biology and architecture at Stanford, Armelle combined very different disciplines to foster innovation. The result: Kit Switch, a company that creates modular interiors to convert empty commercial buildings into homes.

The concept of Kit Switch evolved over time as Armelle immersed herself in different courses, such as Sustainable Energy Decisions, and became involved in a research center on campus that was relevant to her interests.  In Armelle’s case, it was Stanford’s Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE) where, by volunteering forevents that they offered she made important academic and industry connections.   After only a year of volunteering, Armelle was prepared to speak about her company at a CIFE conference!

Taking classes and working on a venture is difficult for many students.  To help blend the two, Armelle asked her professors “Could I use my Kit Switch project for this class deliverable?” and faculty often responded favorably. 

As a big vote of confidence, Armelle received a grant from the TomKat Innovation Transfer Program. This funding and support allowed her to build prototypes and start testing business model hypotheses with prospective customers.

To help her evaluate the viability of her ecoventure, Armelle participated in the BASES Challenge, run by the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES). The feedback she received helped her refine her business model and her pitching skills. She also recruited further support by supplying sub-projects to members of the Stanford Energy Club to work on. 

Now that Armelle has graduated and is running her own company, she still enjoys support from the TomKat Center through their energyStartup Summer Internship program, which enables Stanford undergrads to intern for Armelle for the summer.

Learn more about Kit Switch here.

Featured Resources Along Armelle's Journey

Asking her professors if she can use her project as the use case of class assignments

Joining a research group or center of her interests and volunteering at their conferences.

Wyatt’s Co-Term Journey

Boosting circularity with more efficient scrap yard operations 

Wyatt Pontius

Wyatt Pontius

MS&E MS Co-Term ’19
Founder, CEO of ReMatter

Wyatt’s ecopreneurial journey started with a research opportunity provided by the TomKat Center, in partnership with the StartX accelerator program, similar to what is now their energyStartup Summer Internship programThrough this experience, Wyatt started to gain insights into the industrial recycling industry and was exposed to the challenges and inefficiencies faced by industrial recycling facility owners. Wyatt and his cofounders began to prototype potential software solutions to help owners streamline their operations.

Wyatt and his team applied for the Startup Garage: Testing and Launch class, which taught them how to test their business model hypotheses, negotiate term sheets, and make an investor pitch, among other things. Through this course, the team also was able to evolve their prototypes through the use of Venture Experiment Funds.

With new points of validation and increased conviction for pursuing their venture, the team successfully secured a grant from the TomKat Innovation Transfer Program.  This funding helped the team launch their minimum viable product (MVP) and secure initial pilot customers.

Through Wyatt’s journey, TomKat and StartX offered crucial mentorship, providing him and his co-founders with the mindset and skills necessary to pursue ecopreneurship.  ReMatter continues to benefit from Stanford support by recruiting Stanford-sponsored undergraduate interns through TomKat’s energyStartup Summer Internship program.

Learn more about Wyatt’s company, ReMatter, here.

MBA Journeys

Leia’s MBA Journey

Cleaning up the world, one building at a time

Leia de Guzman

MBA ’22
Cofounder of Cambio

Leia came to the GSB with a background in real estate investing and an interest in climate. Through luck, her roommate Stephanie Grayson (who would later be her co-founder) happened to be one of the only other students in their class with real estate investment experience and a passion for sustainability.

Adding to the entrepreneurial electives available to her at the Stanford GSB, Leia enriched her perspective about sustainability through the Climate Tech for Rapid Decarbonization seminar class. She also enjoyed the community and events of the Stanford Energy Club.

Leia and Stephanie decided to explore the world of energy-efficient retrofits of large commercial buildings, which they saw as having potentially large climate impact, but utilized overly complex and outdated decision-making processes. The Startup Garage: Design class helped Leia and Stephanie to explore this space deeper, and narrow in on a particular segment they wanted to serve and prototype different ideas for solutions.  Startup Garage: Testing and Launch helped the team iterate on their prototypes, and test certain hypotheses they had about their business model. An independent study with a faculty member also helped Leia develop a nuanced understanding of her industry.

The team enjoyed the deep experience and connections of the faculty of the Stanford Climate Ventures class, who helped them further develop their solution and business model and accelerate their progress toward launching.  

They competed in several on-campus pitch competitions, which landed them some initial funding to keep going. As Leia was nearing graduation, she applied and was awarded a $110k Stanford Impact Founder Fellowship in Ecopreneurship to launch the venture.

Read more about Leia’s journey and her company here.


Ted’s MBA Journey

Addressing climate change with hydrogen-powered vehicles

Ted McKlveen

Ted McKlveen

MBA '21
Cofounder of Verne

In Ted’s first week at Stanford, a faculty presentation during an “Energy@Stanford and SLAC” event offered through the Explore Energy program inspired him to read up on hydrogen, its use as a transportation fuel, and the challenges with its storage.

Ted and his cofounders, Bav Roy and David Jaramillo, teamed up to pitch a fuel storage technology in their application to the course Stanford Climate Ventures. They didn’t really expect to start a company, but the class included a customer discovery process that helped them pivot to an even more promising technology.

Other Stanford courses helped enrich Ted’s journey as well, such as the Hydrogen Economy Seminar, and courses on finance.

Near the end of their first year of business school, the team turned their idea into a venture and incorporated Verne.

That summer, Ted won a fellowship, now called a Summer Ecopreneurial Immersion (Eco-SEI) , which provided eight weeks of funding, along with coaching and workshops that allowed him to work on the company full time. During their second school year, a grant through the TomKat Innovation Transfer Program helped the team fabricate their first prototype. Their advisor for the project was Arun Majumdar, now the dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.

By the time he graduated, Ted was awarded a Stanford Impact Founder fellowship (SIF-Eco), designed to help students launch ventures with social or environmental impact. The program combines a $110,000 stipend, coaching in communications and leadership, and a residency at the Stanford Venture Studio, a hub for grad student and alumni entrepreneurs that provides a trusted network of peers, mentors, and advisors.

Verne expects to offer hydrogen tanks for trucks and ships commercially by mid-decade. In fall 2021, Verne won support from the Breakthrough Energy Fellowship, a philanthropic accelerator founded by Bill Gates to support innovators in clean technology.  In 2022, Forbes named Ted one of their “30 Under 30” in cleantech. Verne continues to benefit from Stanford support by recruiting Stanford-sponsored undergraduate interns through TomKat’s energyStartup Summer Internship program

Read more about Ted’s journey and Verne here

PhD Journeys

Etosha’s PhD Journey

Making essential products from air

Etosha Cave

Mechanical Engineering PhD '15
Founder and CSO, Twelve

The inspiration for Twelve came through Etosha’s research during her PhD program. As she worked in the lab to develop novel carbon transformation technologies, her excitement for its potential impact grew. Inspired by a panel discussion on Cleantech Entrepreneurship organized by a student group similar to Stanford Energy Club, Etosha deliberately sought out resources across Stanford to build her entrepreneurial mindset and skills, hoping to bring her technology into the world through a startup.

Like other PhD students interested in commercializing their research, Etosha participated in the NSF I-Corps program, where she started her customer discovery journey and learned how to narrow on an initial target customer.

The Lean Launchpad class instilled in her an entrepreneurial mindset and gave her further conviction that entrepreneurship was the path she wanted to pursue upon earning her degree.  Since then, the Lean Launchpad teaching team has introduced a sustainability-focused version of the class Hacking for Climate & Sustainability.

Etosha continued building her entrepreneurial awareness through the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) 6-month Accel Leadership Program, during which technically-minded students learn about startup strategy, organizational structure, operating models, fundraising, and leading and scaling technical ventures.   The STVP’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar series helped enrich Etosha’s perspective by introducing a range of founders who spoke about their own founding journeys. Moreover, her knowledge about innovation processes and startup launching was enriched by participating in the Stanford Ignite Executive Education program, which provides discounted rates to Stanford students.

As their technology and business model evolved, Etosha and her co-founder received a grant from the TomKat Innovation Transfer Program providing crucial funding needed to take the company to the next stages of development.

Now that Twelve is up and running, Etosha continues to benefit from Stanford support by recruiting Stanford-sponsored undergraduate interns through TomKat’s energyStartup Summer Internship program.

Learn more about Etosha’s company, Twelve, here. 

Ritobrata’s PhD/PostDoc Journey

Monitoring industrial exhaust emissions in real time

Ritobrata Sur

Ritobrata Sur

Mechanical Engineering PhD '14 Founder at Indrio Technologies

Ritobrata’s entrepreneurial journey is marked by his love of learning and his desire to build bridges between different disciplines. While working toward his PhD in mechanical engineering, Ritobrata took a wide range of classes across scientific and engineering disciplines. In fact, he took so many electrical engineering classes on top of his normal degree requirements that he ended up with masters in EE as well!

This diversity of interests would serve Ritobrata well when he started his company, Indrio Technologies, as he was able to communicate with and lead an interdisciplinary team novel laser-based chemical sensing systems that monitor industrial exhaust emissions in real time.

Ritobrata’s love of learning started to expand into entrepreneurship when he participated in the NSF I-Corps program, which provided guidance and resources to conduct early customer discovery, causing him to switch his initial target customer group to a more appropriate one. Moreover, he joined the Cardinal Ventures community and the Stanford Energy Club, which gave him more exposure to the entrepreneurial journeys and stories of many alums.

As he continued to evolve his prototypes, participating in Stanford Ignite helped Ritobrata become familiar with the nuts and bolts of starting a company, like managing accounting books.

Ritobrata’s path into entrepreneurship became more secure when he was awarded a grant from the TomKat Innovation Transfer Program, which acted as the first money into the actual business beyond the R&D funding he had previously secured. Additionally, to support the continued growth of Indrio Technologies, TomKat provides Stanford-sponsored undergraduate interns for the company through the energyStartup Summer Internship program.

Read more about Ritobrata’s company, Indrio Technologies, here.

Featured Resources Along Ritobrata's Journey

The technology and opportunity identified through Ritobrata’s PhD research