Raise Green, an impact investment marketplace for climate solutions, has announced the completion and launch ofthe first phase of their collaboration to build a hybrid cloud-based software platform designed to empower entrepreneurs to start their own solar energy business or finance their climate tech company. Raise Green turned to IBM Global Business Services (GBS) to help build the Originator Engine, a digital platform that allows anyone, regardless of experience or income, to navigate the complexities of project development with a step-by-step software solution.
Franz Hochstrasser, CEO and Co-Founder of Raise Green explains how digital tools can help climate innovators take action.
Why did Raise Green choose to work with IBM?
Franz Hochstrasser, Raise Green: In order to achieve our goal of deploying hundreds of thousands of distributed solar and clean energy resources, our collaboration with IBM will give us the ability to easily scale for future growth.We’re combining Raise Green’s deep knowledge of clean energy project development, regulation, and sustainable finance with IBM’s tech expertise to help deploy equitable solutions to climate change.
Our Originator Engine, using Red Hat OpenShift and deployed on IBM Cloud for all of Raise Green’s services, is a climate tech tool that empowers communities and individuals to create, fund, build and run their own clean energy project. Through the IBM Garage, we were able to co-create a digital experience that makes starting a new business as straightforward as possible.
For entrepreneurs, investors, and anyone looking to get involved in climate action, why should this collaboration matter to them?
Developing clean energy projects is much harder than it needs to be. Working in the Obama Administration, I saw first-hand how solar and other climate projects at the local and community level are difficult to finance because getting them designed, permitted, contracted and interconnected requires specialized knowledge. Major investors are also typically attracted to larger utility scale projects. Our goal was to help cut through the barriers for green entrepreneurs and make it easy to get their projects and climate companies funded through democratized impact investing with verifiable social and environmental benefits, establishing a new asset class of green, crowdfunded equity and debt. Raise Green allows investors to know exactly what they own and the impact it will make.
What challenge does the Originator Engine set out to address and what milestones have been achieved so far?
Raise Green’s mission is to catalyze inclusive finance, so that we can all own a piece of and benefit from the new clean energy economy. Raise Green offers a marketplace for large and small investors focused on deploying clean energy and climate solutions across the U.S. Our Raise Green Investor Marketplace is open to all investors looking to use the power of capital to meet community needs. Everyone has a role to play in tackling climate change. You can invest as little as $100 right now into a climate solution, or you can create and fund your own climate solution on Raise Green.
To break any barriers for users regarding widespread standardization and adoption in commercial and industrial (C&I) or community-scale, solar, and clean energy resources, Raise Green and IBM set out to design a user experience that gives online access to the tools and resources users require to move their projects through the complexities of the development process and get funded quickly. The Originator Engine streamlines and simplifies this whole process from a technical perspective by facilitating the standardization and replicability of templates for legal documents and financial modeling requirements. Every utility, county, and community has its own set of laws and approaches – what Raise Green has built allows all of this information and regional data to be ingested so the solution can scale to work anywhere in the U.S. Coming up with an idea is the easy part, but ensuring your new business meets all necessary financial and legal requirements is another hurdle entirely.
To support more projects like these through the Originator Engine, Raise Green is offering up legal documents as templates, including small-scale tax equity, to anyone who wants to replicate this model to raise capital through the Raise Green Marketplace to deploy a new climate solution for their community. Currently, we have over 100 new business projects in our pipeline since our company’s launch in 2020. Also, as part of today’s second Beta release, Raise Green has tightened up introductory language to make it a more professionalized user experience. Longer term, we are going to move toward a place to make it more accessible, regardless of prior knowledge, or skill level.
How do you see the platform evolving over the next year?
This next iteration of the product will continue to innovate based on user feedback – focused on giving developers greater standardization of their document sets and enabling them to set their own terms for financing projects while improving access to capital and more community-ownership and investment in what they are doing.
It was important to build a data-driven digital platform where we could evolve the user experience and meet accelerated needs for innovation as our company grows. The Originator Engine was deployed using Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud which helps position us for long term success and future growth. We chose Red Hat OpenShift because it will allow us to make our platform an industry platform – using it to extend into all areas of sustainability and provide customizations and access to third parties through Software-as-a-Service to develop their solutions on it.
As new requirements and opportunities come along, we’ll continue to build out the digital platform. For example, we’re adapting to the new and more favorable crowdfunding rules that were put into effect this month which opens the door for bigger projects to benefit from crowdfunding. We’re also rolling out an opportunity to list indications of interest as well. Previously, it was required that if someone wanted to sell securities, they had to file an offering memorandum. Now, they want to list a project and see if people are even interested in investing. So the Originator Engine will evolve to take into account these new opportunities.
When working with IBM, we focused on building an online experience that can be tailored to the user. IBM’stechnology allows you to address what’s critically needed and address emerging needs properly through the technology at your fingertips. There’s a lot of complexity out there, things are going to change faster than we think and there’s always going to be something new.