Catherine Von Burg, CEO and President of SimpliPhi Power, Inc.
Green/Sustainable Business Finalist
To better highlight the impressive members of the small business community, we sat down with the 2019 Dream Big Award finalists to learn more about their startup stories, the challenges they have faced, and what the future of business looks like to them. We chatted with Catherine Von Burg, CEO and president of California-based SimpliPhi Power Inc., a compnay that designs and manufactures sustainable energy generation and storage technology. Here is what she had to say (what follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity):
Q: What inspired the creation of your business? What problem does it help to solve?
SimpliPhi was founded to make universal energy access a reality by empowering people, communities and enterprises around the world to harness clean, affordable electricity anytime, anywhere, using the safest, most efficient and user-friendly energy storage technology available today. Ultimately, I believe as former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon once articulated: “Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability.... Widespread energy poverty condemns billions to darkness, to ill health, to missed opportunities.” Energy storage is the solution to the worldwide demand for safe, reliable and affordable energy. In regions with utility grid service, energy storage protects energy consumers against personal and economic losses tied to power outages and provides utility bill savings while stabilizing aging grid infrastructure. For the 1.3 billion people worldwide with no access to power and the additional 1.4 billion with only intermittent access, energy storage makes it possible to produce one's own power and realize a new world of health, safety and economic opportunity. When I met my SimpliPhi co-founder Stuart Lennox, I saw the global potential for the storage technology he had initially created for the film industry to enable people worldwide to generate, store, and use their own power beyond grid limitations. I founded SimpliPhi as a mission-based business to develop practical solutions for real-world problems.
Q: What gets you up in the morning?
SimpliPhi is a mission-driven company that is working hard to change lives all over the world. What gets me up are the people who make up our global SimpliPhi community – a virtual network of installers and end-users in more than 40 countries who are working incredibly hard to make a difference in their own lives, their communities and the future of the planet by using our energy storage to create power security, eliminate fossil fuel dependence, and harness the power of renewable energy.
Q: When it comes to your business, what has been your proudest moment to date?
It’s hard to choose only one moment in our nine-year history as my proudest, as there have been so many. But a few stand out. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps were one of our earliest customers. I was incredibly grateful to be able to help save the lives of American servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan by replacing diesel fuel that required transport via treacherous convoy routes. I am proud every time we empower a community that has had no access to power. I am proud when we are able to restore power to communities in need after a disaster. Clean, safe, reliable energy transforms lives in so many ways that we are fortunate to be able to deliver meaningful solutions every day.
Q: If selected as the winner of the Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award, how will you invest the $25,000 grand prize?
SimpliPhi collaborates with the Clinton Global Initiative, Direct Relief, the Haitian Health Foundation and other NGOs and socially responsible partners worldwide on vital humanitarian and rural electrification projects. Recent projects include: a containerized nanogrid to help restore power to post-Hurricane-Maria Dominica, and projects to empower remote Hatian medical clinics, schools and orphanages in Tanzania, schools in Fiji, and Peruvian and Chilean villages. SimpliPhi would use the $25K award to support and advance this important humanitarian work.
Q: What words of advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
When you truly believe in what you are doing, when it is a calling, you’re able to muster more courage than you thought possible. The passion and sense of duty I feel about the potential of SimpliPhi’s technology to change lives gives me courage and resolve during even the toughest times. Take the podium, or the meeting with an investor, or the interview, even when you’re fraught with anxiety, because there is a larger good at stake.
To learn more about the 2019 Dream Big Award finalists, click here.