François Cazor: Finance Engineer to Green Startup


A few months back a friend of mine told me about a company that was French, Green, and Financial. I sat down with François Cazor, co-founder of eCO2market, to talk about eCO2data, their flagship product. He explained to me the history of carbon credits, and how governments are slowly beginning to make companies pay for their excess carbon emissions. Implementable in any government, companies can purchase credits either directly from the market, or from green projects, such as wind mill or solar panel farms. François explained that, because these projects produce good for the environment, they create carbon credits, which can then be sold to companies who need to pay off their carbon debt – another way to look at it is that companies that pollute fund projects that save the planet. Pretty sweet, eh?

What’s your background?

Jean and I are classic “Grand Ecole” engineer students. We ended up in the financial sector – Jean was working in IT for Canadian banks and funds and I traded Euro Government bonds. We decided to leave our jobs a little more than two years ago because we were tired in being in the traditional financial areas. We wanted to go back to doing something that wass more classically an engineering role – building stuff.
When you are working on the trading floor as an operator, you are well paid, but in the end you are just a worker. I never worked on a project for more than 5 or 10 days. We wanted to go back to a real project where you think about a problem and you make something happen. We decided to step into an unknown market – environmental finance. We said to ourselves: “We are experienced in mature markets. Why don’t we try to bring what we know about these markets to the environmental market?”

How does eCO2data help the carbon credit market?

We built a generic platform for traders, companies, and clean project managers that is adaptable to any carbon credit market. We felt it was best to stick to the analytic’s side; if you have your hand in the financial side of a market, your analytic’s tend to be viewed as biased, because you don’t say what is real, just what helps your business. We have currently developed the banking-side to the software, giving banks and traders analytics on the carbon trading market.
The next step is to help create visibility between companies looking to buy carbon credits and clean projects looking for funding. We want to be the Kayak for clean projects – we want to facilitate the interactions between investors and clean project planners. In addition, currently in order to trade or off load carbon credits, traders are actually on Linkedin Groups saying “Hey, I’ve got 3,000 tons of Carbon Credits. Who wants to buy them?” We already have a strong customer base in this market, and want to give them the means to talk to each other and exchange information.

Take us through how eCO2data might help an emerging Carbon Credit Market

From a sustainability side, the idea is that you take all the big companies emitting CO2 in a market and you say ‘listen, you guys: you can’t emit more than, say, 100 tons/year of CO2. If you do, you have to buy credits to pay for the carbon emission.” The next step after that is to say “by the way, you can either buy these credits from the market, or from green projects, like wind farms.”
So take California – they are creating a market in 2013. You see this all around the world: governments fail to take actions in a global way, and so local governments start taking action: regions of China, Rio & Sao Paolo, Brazil, etc. On the one hand, you have people who emit emissions, and on the other the people who create clean energy projects. These clean energy projects might not otherwise be economically viable, if they could not receive carbon credits in addition to the money gained from selling the energy produced. Now, they can turn around and have a company buy their carbon credits off of them, essentially funding their clean energy project.
We are already in talks with players  [in California] to see if there needs are different from other markets. Given their appetite for software, they are jumping on board quickly. Google, for example, voluntarily bought a large number of credits to offset the carbon emissions of their data centers. Currently, they are not forced to do that, but they have begun doing it now. For Google and other companies, it is in their benefit to have the best “story” behind their carbon credits – it sounds good to buy credits; it sounds even better to be supporting solar farms in Africa.

What do you do once all companies become clean companies? Won’t that eliminate your market, and thus, your company?

If you look at the rough numbers right now, one day of trading on a mature market, like Oil, is the equivalent of a whole year of trading on Carbon Credits right now – the carbon market is very small. Before we get to a point where every company is clean, there is a lot of work to do – this market will explode before it disappears. Very recently, scientists redid the numbers saying that the planet is heating up not by 2 degrees, but in fact by 6 degress. The US and China currently emit half of the world’s CO2 emissions. China is starting in some of its provinces, and the US is starting in California, but it’s still far away from a full solution.
Nevertheless, we are working with a partner who is European based who is working with satellites, getting data about the world: real-time carbon emissions around the planet, forest sizes, data about wind in certain areas, etc. We are working with them to see how we can build a product out of this data – something you can use to help figure out where to do your next clean project.

Three things that might make you fail – What makes you a good startup?

One of the important things is that the market remains fragmented as it is now. For example, California has a carbon credit market, but it has different standards than that of, say Europe’s carbon credit market. These markets will be able to be linked, but they will not be able to merge. A global market means a huge market, which is still good, but a fragmented market makes our value very obvious – although it takes awhile for the market to grow. It’s a trade-off.
The systemic economic problem is a big threat to us. This market is still at a point where it can’t afford the economic downturn. One fear is that the economic downturn will be so huge that climate issues will become secondary. We know that in 20 years, there are cities that will have to move because the sea will rise and cover their land, but that’s 20 years from now. People right now are very aware of the climate changes, but governments will need to have a economic climate such that the cost added to companies can be afforded. Countries that must pay off high levels of debt (Greece, Italy, etc.) are probably more concerned with their overall economic policies than reducing their emissions.
For now, we are a very small company, and we are competing with very large companies like Reuters and Bloomberg. Innovation is something that we think requires a small team. Bloomberg are currently touching the market, but only in the news area. Reuters has recently bought a company with a similar product to us, but the company takes a qualitative approach whereas our approach is that we provide quantitative analysis. Our advantages are that we are on the web, we have a freemium business model, we are quicker, and we have dedicated people working on the problem.
eCO2data is currently hiring developers & sales, interns and full time & they are currently getting geared up to search a round of substantial funding of an undisclosed amount. You can also follow the Carbon Credit Market via their blog, which provides interesting analysis.
Check out some of the other great entrepreneurs that we interviewed:

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