Inna Braverman is an entrepreneur and businesswoman who at age 24 co-founded Eco Wave Power, a renewable energy company that generates electricity from ocean waves.
Inna has been named in the “100 Makers and Mavericks” by Medium.com, in Wired’s list of “Females Changing the World”, as one of “Eight Young Innovators With Ingenious Ideas For The Future Of Energy” by Smithsonian Magazine, as one of the “30 Most Influential Women In The World” by MSN.com and in CNN’s “Tomorrow’s Hero”.
For Inna, clean energy is not only a passion, it’s personal. She was born two weeks after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and suffered respiratory issues due to fallout from the episode. Inna, who has given three TEDx speeches, shares with us her journey as a female entrepreneur including the challenges she’s overcome and the promising tomorrow she’s seeking to build.
We speak a lot about how the coronavirus crisis has affected businesses in a very tangible sense – restaurants or malls, for example. It’s also caused countries to think ahead and work together like never before. In the case of Eco Wave Power, have you found this conversation contributing to, or detracting from the environmental message you’re spreading?
In the short term, from a business perspective, the coronavirus impact is negative – for the world as a whole, and for us of course as a company. Many infrastructure projects are B2G (Business to Government) projects, and in this short term, governments are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and don’t necessarily have the bandwidth for much else.
Perspective is something that takes time to appreciate. Often, many great things are born out of a crisis. So in the longer term, there will be many positives coming out of this, including in the renewable energy space. People – not only governments – have noticed when the factories stopped working, when the planes and cars stopped travelling, suddenly there was fresh air and clean water. Pictures of clear skies in Chinese cities and the beautiful canals of Venice were things we’d actually forgotten were possible.
I’m hoping that people will remember this in future, and that this will lead to further promotion and implementation of renewable energy.
How far away are we from a future where we’re 100% powered by renewable energy? Is this the goal?
This is definitely the goal, but unfortunately, we’re very far from this. Right now, 78% of the world’s energy is produced by fossil fuels, so renewable energy has lots of ground to make up.
If we want to have a 100% environmentally friendly world, the solution is in implementing a mix of renewable energy sources – like solar, wind, tidal, wave energy – because the solution is not in one type of renewable energy source, it’s in a combination of sources. We’re getting there slowly but much more needs to be done.
You’ve overcome a lot – from your story about your early life to moving countries, starting a business, being a female entrepreneur, coming into an industry where you might not have the deep background others do. What inspires you and what keeps you and your team motivated?
First off, I’m very proud to be part of a business that’s set to change the world for the better.
As I said, I truly believe that renewable energy is the solution for the world – according to the UN, 60% of the world’s pollution is due to energy production, so once we learn how to produce energy in a cleaner way, things will be better for us, for our children and the generations that follow.
I think this is critical. Having a clear goal and a strong passion is what energizes our team. We don’t feel like we’re doing something “from 9 to 5”; we feel like we’re changing the world every day. Every email, every meeting, every sketch our engineers do…it’s a unique feeling.
You’ve done many interviews, and you’ve met some of the most impressive people in the world. What are the necessary ingredients, in your opinion, for a successful meeting?
It’s really important to have the right setting for a meeting. A professional, comfortable environment is key for a successful meeting.
Next, you have to ensure the right people are in the meeting. Their level of openness, level of interest, it’s something that the leader of the meeting is responsible for and something that must be actively planned for and managed.
As a business leader, tell us about some of the early challenges you faced when launching Eco Wave Power, how you surmounted these, and what challenges you see up ahead for business leaders like yourself?
There were many challenges! Of course as an entrepreneur you have great days and you have really bad days. What’s important is persistence and the passion – believing that you’re doing something that is right, no matter what other people tell you. Making sure you’re still excited to get out of bed every morning.
Being an entrepreneur is hard, but being a female entrepreneur adds an additional layer of difficulty. I was 24 years old when we started this company, and being a female there unfortunately weren’t – and still aren’t – enough women in the industry. I would arrive at a conference excited to pitch my wave energy power solution, and someone would invariably ask me, “Espresso please”. They were sure that I was somebody’s assistant. Things like this make the journey a bit more difficult.
I hope to see as time goes by – in fact this is one of my missions – the promotion of female entrepreneurship and a higher level of involvement in this sector. So I hope that with time and with more positive examples, we’ll see more women sitting around the table as decision-makers.
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