A Slice on Tim Weiss, Co-Founder of Optera
Tim Weiss entered college anti-business, but still a rigorous learner. He was interested in environmental policy, a mixture of environmental science, economics and political science. He wanted the most out of his education and was focused on how to use his degree for good. Weiss was confident in one thing, he wanted to contribute to a worthy cause, his ultimate goal? To help find a solution to climate change. As he moved through the latter part of his education, he slowly found himself gravitating towards economics and the hard sciences. He understood that with these “tools” in his preverbal tool belt, he could really do some good.
Optera was born out of a boutique consulting firm back in 2006, that existed to help companies address energy management and climate change. At its core, the firm wanted to help other companies become better-run businesses. Weiss joined the company in 2016 after the Paris Accord and noticed right away that companies were stepping up like never before to address climate change. “[Companies were] aligning their overall corporate emissions, whether from their supply chain, operations, or their product. They were trying to align with the Paris Agreement, and as a consultancy, we were involved in the early days of helping companies adopt what are called science-based targets so, ‘how you apply corporate emissions to climate science’.” Optera’s vision, similar to that of its consulting firm predecessor, is helping companies scale, manage and reduce emissions across operations. Able to utilize decades of expertise, Optera is equipped to better target and serve its customers. A VC-backed startup, Optera was founded in early 2020 with Weiss as co-founder.
After helping the company transition, Weiss focused on navigating it through its next steps of growth. He was able to call upon his past experience as a financial advisor at an accelerator called Unreasonable Institute (now Uncharted) in Denver. In this past role, he had the opportunity to sit in on investor pitches, craft budgets and speak directly with investors. “It was great because I got to speak with investors directly and particularly, impact investors, and got to know more about what was interesting to them, what made them tick, and what they looked for.” Although Optera’s investors are different from the ones he dealt with at Uncharted, the experiences still proved beneficial.
Weiss’ background and experiences prepared him for aspects of his journey, but even then, it’s not an easy path. When asked what he would share with entrepreneurs just getting started, he reflected on fundraising. “Fundraising is not a part-time job. I’d say that most companies go into this with pre-revenue or with some revenue, where they’ve got some sort of product. We actually went in with a profitable business that we had to keep going. I had to dedicate almost my entire time as well as one of my co-founders, Jason, to fundraising, and that can be really hard while you’re trying to keep an existing business going.”
Weiss credits the other members of their team for keeping everything moving while their time was dedicated to fundraising. Weiss realized that just taking meetings with investors here and there wasn’t enough, that he had to be specific, selective and targeted. Building those connections takes time and effort.
Time and effort are not the only hardships an entrepreneur will face, cautioned Weiss. There is the element of rejection that impacts “almost everyone” when raising money. Turning back to his team, Weiss advises that when experiencing seasons of rejection it’s important to have trusted people in your network that offer valuable feedback. It’s imperative to know if what you’re doing is working or not, and you need those trusted voices around you. If you’re not honest with yourself, company growth can stagnate. Aside from honesty, confidence is also essential.
In Weiss’ mind, you can have all the experience and pedigree in the world, but he argues, a strong understanding of the fundamentals of business, customer traction and a proven track record are worth more.” You see it with a lot of investors, particularly investors that are regionally focused, that understand… You don’t need a Stanford grad to have a successful startup and you don’t need an engineering team that’s based in the Bay Area to know how to write code.”
Tim Weiss holds an MBA in Finance and Energy from the University of Colorado Boulder. He utilized his B.A. from Colorado College in environmental sciences coupled with his business acumen to found Optera and currently serves as Chief Product Officer. Connect with Weiss on LinkedIn.