David Lu

David Lu is a co-founder and the CEO of Clarity Movement Co, an environmental tech startup focused on changing how we understand the environment by deploying dense networks for real-time air quality monitoring. Prior to starting Clarity, David was a key leader in the University of California’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign and worked alongside the Arctic Campaign Director at Greenpeace. Fueled by his everlasting passion for improving our environment, namely mitigating climate change, David believes in using data driven approaches to address the issues arising in global environmental crises. David earned his BS in Atmospheric Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Where did the idea for Clarity Movement Co come from?

The seeds sprouted in college, at UC Berkeley, where I was studying to get my Bachelors in Atmospheric Sciences, but the seeds were actually planted much earlier. Growing up in China, everybody knew the air quality was not good, and everybody knew it was not healthy.

Along the way, I decided that you can’t fix what you can’t measure, and began thinking deeply about this path. By the time I was half-way through getting my Bachelor’s, the first sprouts of the company appeared with a little help from my friends.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I organize my to-do list in three categories: must do, day-to-day and nice-to-do. Since the company is working remotely, we make regular meetings an intentional practice, and my day-to-day is fairly calendar driven. As I go along with my day, I keep updating my core three lists. If I have extra time, I tackle the nice-to-do items.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I start with passion and a mission, which for us is to empower the world to fix environmental problems through measurement. We build on the idea with a talented team who are aligned with our mission. From there, I add grit and persistence.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The increasing public awareness of how dire the climate crisis actually is, which hopefully leads to fundamental changes in our society, from technology to politics. I’m excited about the recent momentum behind pushing for action against climate change.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I have a few habits that help but one is regular exercise, particularly hiking and backpacking after every quarterly board meeting with my family. It helps me clear my head, find focus and reconnect with nature.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Product is not everything. Marketing and PR is also a big deal, and should be top of mind of founders. It’s useless to have the best product in the world if nobody knows about it.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Personal action (e.g. being a vegan, driving an electric car) does not move the needle in our fight against climate change. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions[1]. Personal action does matter, however there are more fundamental changes that need to happen in this society.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Idea originality is overrated; execution is the key. There is no original idea in the world, and only a small portion of people that have the idea actually execute on it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Our initial focus of landing flagship projects in renowned cities in regions, such as London, Paris, Mexico City, Los Angeles and Singapore, have helped us with regional expansion in those regions. Now, we have Clarity networks deployed in more than 60 countries.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Early on we had bad management of cash flow. Luckily, we raised funding just in time, and I have a very loyal team which stuck around. The early scares taught me about the importance of prudent cash management because I never want to feel that again.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I really like the idea of vertical farming, including vegetables of course, but also lab-grown meat. It’s great for the environment. It gives back land to nature. It reduces GHG emissions and it can potentially support our population growth.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A 25mm large diaphragm condenser microphone, specifically the MAONO A425 Plus USB mic, which comes with a stand and a couple of mic holder options. In the modern zoom era, a decent webcam and mic setup is the equivalent of wearing a suit to a business meeting.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

A calendar. If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist. Also, Spotify; I can actually concentrate better and get more work done with music playing.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Measure What Matters; the simple idea that drives 10x growth” by John Doerr. I think OKRs help you to focus and communicate the priorities across the team. When you’re a start-up with limited resources, focus is especially important.

What is your favorite quote?

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” – John Doerr

You can see this in what we do. Our focus on air quality data is singularly designed to provide the accurate measurements upon which to optimize solutions from industrial process adjustments to outright policy changes.

Key Learnings:

  • Start with passion and a mission
  • Execution is the key
  • Make regular meetings an intentional practice
  • You can’t fix what you can’t measure