Swarnav and his team are enabling commercial property owners to go off-grid, allowing them to control and monetize electricity generation by harvesting energy from simple actions like people’s footsteps.
Davis Baer: What’s your background, and what are you working on?
My name is Swarnav Pujari, and I’m the founder of TouchLight Innovations based in Brooklyn, NY. We have opened up a new perspective for commercial property owners to take toward electricity generation on-site. Places like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport and the New Lab @ Brooklyn Navy Yards have already started to take note of the opportunity TouchLight brings to the table with our unique energy capture system and methodology to enable properties to generate most, if not all, of their own electricity on-site from renewable solutions — and utilities like Ameren have taken notice and put up capital to support TouchLight in our venture.
We focus on using our product Energy Tile to capture lost kinetic energy in heavy traffic locations on commercial properties. This system is a method of turning parking lots into power plants and generate a substantial amount of power to get properties closer to energy independence.
Distributed generation is the future of how electricity will be generated, distributed and utilized. The Energy Tile is the first step to getting these largely untapped properties to a point where they can both contribute toward this larger market trend and capitalize on the benefits of generating most of their own electricity. The opportunity to turn energy into an asset which generates non-traditional forms of revenue for a property owner as opposed to just saving them on electricity is what makes TouchLight’s model so attractive to owners in the commercial space.
What motivated you to get started with your company?
My journey into this company started with my interest in the energy space starting back when I was 11 and designed a concept car for a Ford motor challenge. That car was fully powered off of green sources and it got me some time in a NY Times article. Since then I continued my love for energy and electricity until I got to High School where I started doing research in the Materials Field as I wanted to see how we could make kinetic energy capture a reality through piezoelectric like technologies. I spent years in that space learning and educating myself about the field. I eventually found myself in the commercial real estate space just shadowing mentors that did redevelopment work on distressed properties with a core focus on why they didn’t install solar panels when doing these projects. Really understanding the thought process of these individuals.
It was the full experience of learning the technical side of developing a power generation solution and the business financial values from the real estate developers that really opened my eyes to a business opportunity in self-generation and distributed generation technologies. This was a long journey that started in high school and was inspired back when I was 11. I wanted to be part of the future and now working on trying to contribute to that renewable future that I know we will get to.
How have you attracted users and grown your company?
We are in a relationship business. It is all about who you know. Fortunately for us we had developed all of those connections early on in our careers and that opened up opportunities for us to directly call and get meetings with key decision makers. Once we started working on those meetings we were selling them the product we were building back when things were built out of electrical tape and wooden supports. It took multiple meetings of people not satisfied with our approach until we found something that got our first client to write us a check.
This entire game is about who you know and in today’s world there are so many ways to connect with people and form that relationship. Social media, conferences, events, etc just get out there and talk to people about what you are doing and get introduced to the next person, but, always nurture every relationship you form through the process.
What are your goals for the future?
We are focused on really building out and completing projects that are in our pipeline. Our company is ready to launch and we want to show our clients the quantum leap advantage they get with TouchLight as opposed to traditional service providers. Self-generating your own electricity will be a game changer in opening up new opportunities for the next decade, we are now ready to start contributing to that trend.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
I have made many mistakes. I don’t regret any of them. They were painful then, but, fun stories now that crafted who I am today.
I have made many hiring mistakes and still work on my recruiting skills today. Your company is the people, and if you get the wrong people and run the day-to-day operations with the wrong people — the company will get no where. Trying to change the wrong person into the right person will be a bit of a challenge in the early days, as you have a timeline to meet that doesn’t give you the flexibility to train and nurture a person into who you want to be, and there never is no guarantee to that either. Hire quick, fire quicker — it is something you acquire with time, but, you need to see signs of the person not working and part ways sooner as it will save that relationship should you decide to work together in the future.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I learned over time from mentors and other who succeeded in the space I want to grow within. Learn from others — experiences are the best form of knowledge.
What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Entrepreneurship has become the ‘hip’ trend these days and many people are starting businesses. However, one common thing I see between many entrepreneurs is overlooking the fact they are indeed starting a business which needs to make money and attain profitability if it is to be sustainable long term.
You are not starting a business to raise money or just IPO always as your exit strategy. Each business is different and there is no one size fits all answer of how to build your company.
Don’t start your business because of money as you will quit after one or two hard hurdles. Once you have an internal mission for why the company will be founded do your homework by selling your product/service to your target client. You will learn the most about the right way to build your company when you ask people for money.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can find TouchLight on social media on the below platforms and I am happy to answer questions in the comments below.