Innovator Profiles

Tom Rand

Tom Rand, Cleantech Investor & Advisor

Tom Rand is a successful cleantech venture capitalist, inventor of the Green Bond, cofounder of North America’s greenest Hostel, Planet Traveler, and the author of 10 Clean Technologies to save our World. Tom is also Lead Cleantech Advisor at the MaRS Discovery District, Canada's largest innovation center in Toronto that helps entrepreneurs by providing advice and acting as a catalyst to generate economic activity from promising intellectual property.

It’s hard to keep pace with Tom Rand. When he speaks it’s like a tsunami of ideas surging forward, leveling pessimism and apathy in its wake. Rand is a big thinker and he is happy to share his views with anybody who wants to make a real difference in the low- carbon economy.

Unlike many who believe it is impossible for the world to wean itself off of fossil fuel, Rand disagrees. Rand not only believes that it is possible to de-carbonize the world’s economy, he’s written a book about it.

Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, provides an overview of the technologies needed for a global transition to a low-carbon economy. According to Rand, “going green is a no brainer as the money needed for the world to become carbon-neutral is equivalent to what each and every one of us pay for coffee and cookies every year; the business case is compelling; it just needs leadership.”

Rand’s book is just a punctuation point in a life devoted to advancing sustainability. A few years ago, Rand initiated the development of what has become known as the greenest hostel in North America. The hostel, Planet Traveler, utilizes cutting-edge technologies, such as geo-exchange heating and cooling, photovoltaic electricity, solar thermal hot water, and wastewater heat reclamation, all of which has reduced the building’s carbon emissions and energy use by 75%. As Rand puts it, “these technologies aren’t just good for the planet. They are a huge competitive advantage in terms of cash flows generated from energy cost savings.”

During his year-long Action Canada Fellowship, Rand conceived of the Green Bond; a proposed government guaranteed bond designed to bring low costs debt capital for clean energy investment. Though disappointed with the federal government’s lack of action in bringing the Green Bond to scale, Rand is especially impressed with current advances in the cleantech industry and doesn’t mind leveraging his personal wealth in this sector. He thinks the industry holds tremendous potential in terms of technology development and commercialization. And that’s where his private venture/angel fund, VCi Green Funds, comes in.

VCi Green Funds invests in low-carbon technologies, such as concentrated solar, smart grid, energy storage and early-stage wind development, with intellectual property strength. In this new endeavor Rand has weaved his entrepreneurial experience, education, network and passion to help build a sustainable economy. He strongly believes that federal leadership, companies’ receptiveness and public conversations are the key ingredients that are currently missing to boost Canada’s cleantech industry.

His advice to overcome this gridlock is for policy makers, budding entrepreneurs and businesses to take a long-term approach to sustainability rather than focusing on immediate returns. He encourages businesses to leverage the power of clean technologies in improving their triple bottom line. That’s why he is calling for an international consortium of public/private partners to build 10 commercial scale Enhanced Geothermal demonstration projects as a blueprint for de-carbonization.

While Rand is doing his bit to accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy, he recognizes the need for the world to step up to this challenge in order to achieve meaningful and lasting results. He strongly believes that the Kyoto target could be reached by retrofitting all inefficient buildings in the world. “It is not rocket science,” Rand commented, “the technologies have been proven and their economic benefits are clear. All we need are courageous leaders and imaginative Chief Financial Officers to drive this change.” All we need, it would appear, are more Tom Rands.