Jeff Chapin’s remarkable journey from a childhood shaped by military life to co-founding groundbreaking clean energy startups exemplifies the power of adaptability, resilience, and a global perspective. His experiences have not only influenced his career decisions but have also driven him to address fundamental human needs on an international scale.
In this interview, Jeff shares valuable insights on adaptability, the significance of storytelling, and his vision for a future where homeowners play a pivotal role in the energy revolution.
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Military Roots and Global Perspective
Growing up in a military family, Jeff’s early years were marked by frequent relocations and a sense of camaraderie on military bases. He recalls always having a sense of mission, meaning, and community and the feeling of being a part of something much bigger. His father’s service as a fighter pilot exposed him to the world of aviation, and memories of a 70s-era Fighter Plane remain etched in Jeff’s memory.
Living in various parts of the United States, including a year in Rhode Island, Jeff quickly learned to adapt to new environments, forming enduring bonds with his family due to the transient nature of military life. These experiences instilled in Jeff a profound sense of global awareness.
Unlike many of his peers who grew up in a single small town, Jeff’s upbringing involved extensive travel, including journeys to Eastern and Southern Europe, and even Korea two and a half decades ago. These experiences granted him a unique perspective on where Americans fit into the broader global context, highlighting the privileges and opportunities available to them.
Resilience Through Adaptability
The constant movement and the need to establish new connections every few years nurtured Jeff’s adaptability and resilience. These traits became invaluable assets, shaping his character and influencing his career decisions. Now, as a parent himself, Jeff actively considers how to instill these qualities in his own children, recognizing their significance in overcoming life’s challenges.
Jeff credits the quasi-public school system at the Department of Defense as the best in the country. His teachers were phenomenal, as were his parents. They instilled in him the hands-on approach to consistently solving problems and coming up with solutions. These lessons helped build confidence in himself and stood him in good stead when he was ready to build his own startups.
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Lessons from IDEO: Confidence, Questioning, and Storytelling
Jeff’s tenure at IDEO, a renowned non-profit design and innovation firm, played a pivotal role in his professional development. Here, he gained the confidence to trust in his creative abilities, a characteristic that would serve him well in future endeavors.
Additionally, Jeff honed his skills in asking probing questions and in the art of storytelling. These abilities became instrumental in crafting narratives that resonated with clients, a skill he considers essential for success in any field.
Jeff looks back to working on a treadle pump for an NGO in Africa to help small farmers and spending six to nine months in Cambodia, building a market-based sanitation project. These projects further honed his hardware and mechanical engineering background.
Jeff’s next stop was a consultancy firm where he ran multiple projects for sanitation, handwashing, and drinking water filtration. His objective was to provide these facilities at very low costs of around $1 per day. He also worked on plot irrigation and solar lighting across multiple countries in Southeast Asia and eventually in East Africa and West Africa.
Casper and Beyond
Jeff’s journey took an unexpected turn when he co-founded Casper, a company that revolutionized the mattress industry. The venture experienced rapid success, achieving a million dollars in sales within its first month and ultimately amassing over $100 million in revenue during its inaugural year.
Jeff contributed to the venture by providing exceptional expertise in product design and development. However, his experience in the public market demonstrated the challenges of maintaining growth, highlighting the need for adaptability even in the face of success.
Jeff recalls struggling to raise funding for the venture and being turned down 60 or 80 times before getting $1.8M in seed money from Ben Lehrer. Eventually, the company was acquired by Durational Capital Management LP for $308M.
A New Chapter: Haven Energy and Empowering Homeowners
After Casper, Jeff embarked on a new venture, Haven Energy, driven by his passion for home electrification and energy. He reached out to Philip, his co cofounder and the CEO of Casper to get started on the project.
Collaborating with Vinny, a seasoned energy trader, Jeff aims to simplify the process of integrating batteries into homes, a critical step towards a cleaner electric grid. Haven Energy envisions a future where homeowners actively participate in the energy market, fundamentally changing the dynamic between utilities and consumers.
Jeff successfully raised $4.2M in seed funding from Ben Lehrer, Giant Ventures, Quantum Innovation Fund, and Raven One Ventures. Their objective is to execute 100,000 clean energy installations by 2028 throughout California and other American locations. Vinny is now the CEO of Haven Energy.
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Life Lessons and Advice
Reflecting on his journey, Jeff underscores the importance of work-life balance. He encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to view work as one facet of a broader life journey, emphasizing the need to invest in relationships, personal well-being, and passions beyond the professional realm.
Jeff Chapin’s journey from a military upbringing to the forefront of the clean energy revolution is a testament to the transformative power of adaptability, resilience, and a global perspective. His story serves as an inspiration for individuals seeking to make a meaningful impact in their chosen field, emphasizing the importance of balancing professional success with a rich and fulfilling personal life.
Jeff’s vision for a future where homeowners drive the energy revolution through innovative solutions like Haven Energy offers a glimpse into the possibilities that lie ahead.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- A military upbringing instilled adaptability, resilience, and a global perspective, shaping career decisions and approach to life.
- IDEO provided invaluable skills in confidence, questioning, and storytelling, essential for success in any field.
- Casper’s rapid success taught the importance of adaptability, even in the face of significant achievements.
- Haven Energy aims to empower homeowners, transforming them into active participants in the energy market.
- Emphasis on the need for a balanced life, urging entrepreneurs to invest in relationships, personal well-being, and passions beyond their profession.
- Home electrification and energy lie at the heart of Haven Energy’s mission, addressing a critical need in the transition to a cleaner electric grid.
- The journey from military bases to innovative startups exemplifies the power of adaptability, resilience, and a global perspective in creating meaningful impact.