Where It All Began
Ian Smart, an oddity in many regards, runs a successful energy company in Trinidad and Tobago. Drawing inspiration for his company Smart Energy Ltd, in a dessert in Australia, Ian saw, for what may have been the first time in his life, the absolute power of the sun.
“When I was in college doing my undergraduate our university entered a solar car race across the desert in Australia. This race inspired me because it showed that the vastness of the desert could be overcome by the power from the Sun.”
Ian was born in Maraval, Trinidad and Tobago in 1977 and although most of his family were professionals, Ian knew at a young age that he wanted to run his own business. In 1996 he left the comfort of his home country to pursue bachelor’s degrees in both Engineering and Economics at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. After taking a few years off from studies, Ian went to Australia to complete a master’s degree from the University of New South Wales in Electrical Engineering. He returned to the Caribbean and took some time to get experience working in the energy sector before finally getting to work on Smart Energy Ltd and his non- profit company WeGreenArmy.
Hardships, Struggle and Sacrifice
Like most successful entrepreneurs, Ian has had to face some very challenging and tiring days. Working in a society where innovation is not always celebrated, he has persevered over the last 8 years to integrate renewable energy solutions into the day to day running of various enterprises and the society as a whole. He has attributed many of his successes to date to the difficulties he faced along the way. One particular struggle was highlighted, and his point of view is perhaps one which should be adopted by every entrepreneur.
“I wouldn’t quite call the experience a failure as I learned a lot and made a profit from the venture but it did fall short of what I had hoped. I formed a joint venture with a larger company but eventually it fizzled out because the market was not ready for the products we were offering.”
This was the response Ian gave me when I asked what his biggest failure was in his entrepreneurial career. Without going into detail, Ian saw the benefit of taking the leap as an entrepreneur and even though things did not pan out the way he envisioned it, he was able to draw lessons from it; lessons that today he uses to drive his company forward.
Tenacity, creativity, planning and sacrifice are all part of his and every other successful entrepreneur’s playbook. Sacrifice being one of his most powerful and effective strategies to success, Ian says that time is a commodity that he pays very close attention to. At the risk of being cliché, time lost can never be regained. Time being his greatest asset, Ian has chosen to lose leisure and play; couple this with consistent and deliberate hard work to build the company he has today. It was and continues to be well worth the sacrifice since he sees it as an opportunity to be a tangible part of the future and to solve pertinent problems or as he put it,
I like solving problems, in particular problems with the environment. I see the environment as the biggest and most challenging issue of the 21st century.
When asked about leisure, he explains that because time is so important to him, he tends to mix his “down time” with business in a way that profits him. Business networking events and functions are the ideal settings for Ian to relax and build quality relationships simultaneously without feeling guilty the next day. This speaks volumes to me, because as an entrepreneur relationships are important, maybe the most important aspect of owning and operating your own business. As the old adage says “it takes team work to make the dream work”. Never have I come across a successful businessman that can honestly say they have done it alone.
The Way Forward
Ian is impressive in the way in which he has been able to ‘move with the times’. He launched Smart Energy Ltd in tandem with non-profit company WeGreenArmy and it was strategic.
One of his mentors, Professor Richard Komp founder of SunWatt Corporation and Skyheat Associates taught him that operating the two together is a useful entrepreneurial mechanism for succeeding in the “green space”. He explains that this combination allows for sensitization and education of the masses about renewable energy solutions and other creative ways to protect the environment all while offering meaningful and useful energy solutions.
In keeping with the times, Smart Energy Ltd in collaboration with WeGreenArmy launched a project to help mobilize the general public and organizations toward green initiatives such as planting trees, cleaning up beaches and doing renewable energy projects. The lynch pin of the project is a mobile/web app to coordinate, incentivize and record milestones of “Green Missions” people create. All the information can be found on his company’s website http://www.ttsmartenergy.com/.
Within the last month Smart Energy was successful in bringing the very first fully electric car into Trinidad and Tobago.
With the arrival of the first Tesla into Trinidad and Tobago, Ian’s Non Profit, WeGreenArmy (WGA) and YoPro will host the launch of Smart Energy’s Electric Car Revolution, featuring Tesla and Nissan Leaf electric cars.
Eventually we will reach where cars are completely driving themselves. This will increase safety with a reduction in accidents. Car engines themselves cause many fatalities. No engine means less danger. You’re not driving around with a highly combustible fuel in your vehicle. It’s not going to blow up.
Even with these brilliant initiatives, Ian still finds it challenging to get major stakeholders and government agencies to partner with him in his efforts to provide energy that is not harmful to the environment. Still, he remains persistent and optimistic, and believes that this will happen soon. He continues to be driven by the desire to create a positive impact on society by providing services that he believes will ultimately make the Caribbean a better place.
What Does Being A Caribbean Entrepreneur Mean?
Ian believes that,
Being an Entrepreneur in the Caribbean region means working in one of the most peaceful parts of the world. We can focus here on issues that require entrepreneurs from all nation states to work together to solve pressing problems like climate change instead of worrying about internal conflict.
Indeed we live in one of the best places and in one of the best times to be an entrepreneur. Our region, as diverse as it may be,, has the ability to come together to create great opportunities and propagate change so that we may build something that our children and our children’s children would benefit from.