Adam Bernholz really likes the idea that the more successful his company is, the more he benefits the environment, or at least decreases our society’s destruction of it. Approximately five years ago, Adam realized that the “built environment”, meaning the manufacture, transportation, use, and disposal of building products, was far and away the single largest user of electricity, energy and raw materials in the US. Moreover, he realized that it was also the single largest producer of CO2 and waste into landfills. Simply put, it was the “lowest hanging fruit” industry to create, real, positive change in our impact on the environment. This profound impact, combined with Adam’s entrepreneurial desire to solve pain points in large and evolving markets, caused him to investigate, and subsequently launch www.GreenWizard.com
Today Adam serves as the Chairman and CEO of GreenWizard. Formerly a Scuba instructor, Adam received a Philosophy degree from Emory University before receiving a JD/MBA from UNC in 1995. Subsequently, he worked in the venture capital industry in the mid-’90s before founding The Service Source, a B2B marketplace for business services. In 2001, Adam sold his company, traveled extensively and settled on a pristine barrier island in South Carolina, known as Goat Island. Out of a desire to build a net-zero home on the island, Adam realized the profound market pain associated with researching, procuring and documenting green building products, and in 2007, GreenWizard was born. Adam has intense passion for all things outdoors; particularly kite surfing, fishing and scuba diving.
What are you working on right now?
Professionally, I am working on several extremely large partnerships that will put GreenWizard on the desktop of hundreds of thousands of building professionals. The GreenWizard workflow solution solves the largest pain point in green and sustainable construction today the research, procurement, and documentation of green building products. In the last year, we have created the world’s largest database of sustainable product data, and paired it with the only workflow solution geared toward sustainable materials analysis and documentation. I am now in the process of placing this turn-key solution in the hands of a number of established industry information providers, leveraging their existing sales and marketing channels, allowing GreenWizard to have a literally “stir and add water” effect with our strategic partners. Personally, I am fortunate to live in one of the better kite surfing and fishing locations on the East coast. As such, on weekends, when I’m not working, I can be found on my board or boat, depending upon how hard the wind is blowing.
3 Trends that excite you?
America has realized that carbon-based fuels are inherently bad: Whether it’s foreign oil wars, awkward geopolitical alliances, domestic oil spills, refinery explosions, particulate matter in the air (sulfur, mercury, arsenic, etc.) or the idea of “Peak Oil”, the American public now seems attuned to the idea that clean energy production is the goal of the future, and now the mandate is to arrive their in the most cost-effective fashion.
The Industrial Age mentality is wearing off: The idea of creating a product at the lowest possible cost without any analysis, or frankly regard, of the way that it effects the environment, people, and future generations of the planet is now becoming obsolete. Our society is gradually realizing that we are players in a greater ecosystem, and that if we tinker with it to much, we’ll throw it off course, possibly into an irreparable state.
Technology is becoming infused into the Built Environment: With our society’s realization of the importance of having healthy, sustainable, and efficient buildings, the institutional investment community, and particularly the venture capital industry, has begun to flow billions of dollars into remaking the way we construct building products. Rather than creating these building products the same way as we have done for the last 150 years, our society is now paying close attention, and spending large sums of investment, on creating building products that are inherently efficient, sustainable, and healthy. This is now being done by an order of magnitude over past practices.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to find ideas that strike me as having a potential seed of merit, and then allowing them to germinate in my mind for several days/weeks/months. Generally between a glass of wine on the dock, ripping across the water on my kite surfer, or really doing anything ‘outside of the box,’ the ideas will generally begin to come to life. Ultimately, by altering the traditional paradigms by which I view ideas, I see them in a new and different light, often providing powerful insight into new ideas.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Be careful who you share your ideas with, particularly at the formative stages. Humans do act in their own self-interest, and when real money is involved, people often act weird. Avoid putting yourself in a position where people can act weird based on money affecting their world view. This can be done via silence, contracts, and savvy. In my opinion though, it’s most effectively accomplished by simply not providing others with the opportunity, and therefore motivation, to act in a weird fashion!
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
For me, one book that has had a profound impact on my business life was the classic B-school book of Stephen Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book helped me to realize that where one ends up in life, or even during the journey through, is not simply by chance, but much more often via proactive effort. The book helped me to intuitively understand that in life there are wonderers, watchers, and doers.
For tools, undoubtedly it would be the internet, with the iPhone as a close subset. Civilization changers.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Green products, be they building products, consumer goods, ICT, or other, are the future of product selection. The idea of commodity product evaluation solely based on price is now as antiquated as many of the underlying technologies that produced these materials. Products made of healthy, efficient, and sustainable materials are hereafter the potential leaders within any product class, and where they can be presented to effectively demonstrate their value proposition, they will be the leaders within their field.
Did you ever envision that you’d be doing what you are doing now?
No, no way. I never thought I would be running a company in the building product industry. Never. However, in the evolution of life and careers, my JD/MBA led me to an early career in VC. My VC experience gave me the motivation to hang my shingle as an entrepreneur. My wanderlust made me travel the world to settle on an island off the SC coast. Lastly, my love of both the environment, and my love to present disruptive technologies to enormous markets caused me to start GreenWizard. I would never have thought it in advance, yet I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate that I am now here.
Does any of this green stuff matter?
I don’t know, but I like to think it really matters, and I know that it now really matters to me. If anything in life matters (which as an existentialist philosopher is in question!), than providing for a healthy, safe and productive living and work atmosphere for my fellow humans really matters to me. All we have in life is what we do while we are here and what we leave behind. It would make me feel good if I thought that my work here on Earth contributed to a better place for all.
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