Donnel Baird ’13BUS, one of Crain’s New York Business Class of 2017 40 Under 40 honorees.
Long before founding BlocPower, Donnel Baird saw the need for an economical way to patch drafty buildings and fix boilers so tenants didn’t have to use their oven to stay warm. That’s what his Guyanese-immigrant parents did in the family’s Bedford-Stuyvesant one-bedroom 30 years ago. As a senior staff member on the 2008 Barack Obama campaign, he saw those same challenges repeating themselves across the country. “I moved through seven different states,” Baird said, “and the pattern of rundown buildings did not change from city to city or suburb to suburb.”
The experience gave rise to BlocPower, a startup hired by governments and nonprofits to retrofit homes and schools in underserved communities to lower heating and power costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He also finances projects with private investment. The projects create green jobs in these communities and investors’ returns come from the savings on lower energy bills.
Projects in New York City–including retrofitting up to 2,000 buildings and analyzing energy performance for 12,000 others—have helped grow BlocPower’s revenue by 200% four years in a row, and Baird said he expects revenue to top $7 million this year.
“I’ve been thinking about these ideas for 15 years,” he said. “Our goal is to be able to do this in every city in the country.”