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.
His latest venture Haven Energy, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Lerer Hippeau, Quantum Energy Partners, Giant Ventures, and Laurence Innovation.
In this episode, you will learn:
- 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.
For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here).
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About Jeff Chapin:
Jeffrey Chapin is a Co-Founder and serves as CPO at Haven. He is a Co-Founder and serves as Chief Product Officer at Casper Sleep.
Jeff is also the Founder of CommonMade. He has dedicated his career to making an impact through design and engineering, working on everything from mattresses to clean water systems.
Jeff spent 10 years at the design firm IDEO, where he led the development of many types of products including home energy monitors and sodium batteries for GE.
He holds a master’s degree in Product Design from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and Geological Engineering from Princeton University.
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Connect with Jeff Chapin:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So do that we have a really amazing founder. You know a founder that has say build companies in the past we’re going to be talking about financing scaling taking your company public. Ah, learning as well about focus prioritizing hiring I mean you name it I think that the journey of our founder today is quite inspiring and without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest Jeff Chapin welcome to the show.
Jeff Chapin: Hey thanks, thanks for having me really excited to be here and ready to dig in.
Alejandro Cremades: So originally born in Anchorage Alaska I mean your dad was in the Us air force and your mother was a teacher but I’m sure that jumping from 1 place to another I’m sure that taught you a lot so tell us about your life growing up.
Jeff Chapin: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, my dad flew f four s in the air force. So it was like a 70 S Era Fighter Plane um and we we moved every 3 to 4 years some like the shortest assignment we had was I think 1 year living in Rhode Island um but see I ended up becoming super close to my family because you kind of change friends every couple years. Um, you get used to jumping into totally new environments which has kind of suited me well and actually like in a funny way paved some future career decisions I made where you’re. New environment, New House new friends new school. Um, it’s given me a sense of like global issues in a way I have a lot of friends who maybe grew up in 1 small town in America um, and my family one. We just inherently traveled because of the military and 2 my parents were. Like on top of that we didn’t buy much material stuff we had like ah I think a nineteen inch crt television until I was in high school and we spent our money on travel so going to Eastern Europe and Southern Europe and different you know Korea Twenty five years ago um and it just gave me a sense of like where we fit in as americans honestly like how fortunate we have it. Um, and um, it led me to like some some career path to try to go work internationally and try to tackle. Um more kind of basic fundamental human needs I think.
Jeff Chapin: Kind of the other last thing I would say is obviously that people have different opinions on the role and value of a military. But 1 thing I could say is there was always a sense of mission. Um, and a sense of meaning and a sense of community when you’re on a military base and I think the need for that is really important for me. Because I always felt part of something bigger part bigger than my family bigger than myself and I think when you enter the rest of the world that can really get lost and so I think it’s it’s really important to be grounded to have to be part of something larger.
Alejandro Cremades: And what about with all the traveling and going from 1 place to another How was what I mean what did you learn about dealing with uncertainty because I mean. As ah as a kid growing from 1 place to another making new friends I knew everything I mean I’m sure that that taught you a thing over 2 about starting from scratch. You know, uncertainty and so forth. No okay.
Jeff Chapin: Yeah, for sure I think yeah I put in like the camp of resilience that like you learn that you’re going to you can’t by practice you learn that you can adapt to anything and obviously you you the practice is being thrown into a new situation repeatedly over and over and. I have young kids now. So and it’s like 1 of the like I think it’s one of my better character traits is is resilience and it’s something I actively think about in terms of like how do you build that in in children. Um, and so I think that adaptability builds resilience and I think that’s a hugely important. Particularly now I’ve been involved in startups for the last decade you have to just wake up every day thinking like all right today’s is all going to come together today even if yesterday was terrible. So ah, my current co-founder in the business every time we talk in the morning. It’s like today is the day. Um, so. It’s ah it’s important to have that mindset.
Alejandro Cremades: And what about problem solving you know, obviously you went on to Princeton to get your degree in civil engineering. But that problem solving mentality where does that come from.
Jeff Chapin: Um, it’s a good question I mean I ended up having like very good schooling the department defense has a schooling system that I think was just ranked the best kind of quasi public school in America. Um, so I I was always exposed to phenomenal teachers. Um, and my own family. My parents were both kind of always doing projects where you’re trying to solve things around the house and build things and fix things as I think was just part of my upbringing and then I studied engineering. Um, and did a lot of like handson building projects where you’re just kind of always solving and then I spent after graduate school I spent um a decade at ideo with where you just get dropped into a new industry with a pretty broad. Um. Pretty broad problem statement and you develop confidence that you can come up with something new and understand that landscape and I think it just comes from practice. You got to put yourself in the position and then you just have to practice and practice and practice and you eventually build confidence that you can. Enter pretty much anything new and and you might not specifically have the answer but you know how to find somebody who can help you get to an answer.
Alejandro Cremades: So then in this case, you know what idea you work for like 10 years um I mean it’s a wonderful place. Not to really get that exposure to innovation. So I guess say what were some of the things that you learned that you know you will. You would definitely take away with you one day. So.
Jeff Chapin: um um I mean ideal was obviously very formative for me to have spent I would I think I started there when I was 24 or 25 or something so it’s like my first major career experience. Um. 1 this confidence in your creative abilities is huge and ah David Kelly the founder has written a book just about this and we practiced it every day. So after a decade doing dozens of projects you build that confidence. Um I think the second is you get really good at questioning. Um. And asking questions and learning so that one of the best parts about that job is that half of your time is spent just learning and then half the time is producing and so you become an expert at learning something new and then figuring out what questions to ask so. You have to be curious and and they generally hire people who are curious and then that skill gets um, increasingly developed during during your tenure there and then I think the third one which is a huge part of their business is storytelling. Um, you’re essentially your customers are generally. Mid to high level executives at businesses and they’re hiring you to solve some problem or come up with a new idea and you have to essentially so tell their business back to them help them understand their customers and then help like help them understand some vision that you’ve either.
Jeff Chapin: You know, collaboratively come up with with people on their team or come up with as your project team and so being able to craft and tell a narrative is hugely important and it’s like a life skill everybody should be able to do it no matter what job you’re in if you’re in sales or engineering. It’s imperative to be able to storytell about your work and so it obviously takes many different flavors but the idea of how do you create a beginning and a middle and an end and and capture people’s intention. Ah, attention is hugely important for for per for career progression personal life and no matter what it is. It’s just a hugely important thing.
Alejandro Cremades: So at what point do you realize hey I think it’s time you know for me to to do something on my own because I mean obviously after being a decade you know out of place. You know you get comfortable. So what? what trigger that switch.
Jeff Chapin: Yeah, get too comfortable. It’s a very nice place to work so you can imagine being there a long time for me. The trigger was I had a specific interest in like really basic human needs and working in like really low income settings ide. When I was there did not have ideo.org which was a nonprofit that they had stood up to really focus on these types of problems and so there were a few of us there at the time that would just kind of carve out time when you’re between projects or after work on weekends and we did a project. Um. Working on a treadle pump for an ngo in Africa to help small farmers and I just got like very interested in that type of work. It was candily. It was like very my background is originally hardware product designed and it was those are like really mechanical projects. You’re working on and ide it started to shift towards more digital product design strategy work which is also super interesting. But I I missed some of the hardware side and then totally transparently. We had done a work with a nonprofit international development enterprises. And I built a relationship with them and I got an email from their the director of their Cambodia office about doing a market-based sanitation project and they were looking that he’s like hey we really like working with you guys.
Jeff Chapin: You know anybody who has your background who’d be interested in but coming and living here and I had in the that preceding month broken up with a long term girlfriend and needed a I needed an out and so I took a sabbatical I went and lived in Cambodia for six or nine months I forget and that and then i. I just it was interesting enough I saw there was enough work there I had been the ideo for a long time and so I went back and forth for two or three years um going overseas for two to six months coming back doing some projects ideo. Obviously it’s not great for a career progression within a business if you’re gone two to six months I was grateful that ideo was flexible and gave me that time and then eventually I just said there’s enough interesting work here. And I started a small consulting business called common-made and I did projects mostly in rural sanitation. So um, you know 1 to $2 a day farming households trying to improve. Sanitation through toilets or handwashing or there were some drinking water filtration projects I did some work in small plot irrigation and a little bit of work in like so in solar lighting. Um.
Jeff Chapin: Across multiple countries in Southeast Asia and eventually in East Africa and West Africa
Alejandro Cremades: So during this a journey now of you being on your own right? And now you’ve started your own business. You know this consulting gig at what point do you come across? you know the people that wouldn’t but end up becoming your cofounders at Casper. How did that you know come together.
Jeff Chapin: Yeah, um, it was during the time when I was going back and forth um between ideo and being overseas and I had done a project that first project in Cambodia actually. Had ended up having great success and so it got a lot of press within the development community and mio perriq who’s become a great friend and is one of the co-founders at casper he he was a undergraduate at brown and he had started a nonprofit and they were looking at. Distributing drinking water filtration filters in um, in a slum in Mumbai and he and his and his team up from the nonprofit asked and and came up and met me at ideo boston they were at brown university to get feedback on their. Business model and plan and the different hardware they were looking at so we became friends in the dialogue there and then very coincidentally he ended up staying at brown to go to medical school and my wife who I had met in Cambodia she was there doing public health work. She had decided to go back to medical school. Um, and they sat next to each other the first day of medical school and so they became close friends and then we would hang out and then he ended up leaving medical school early. Um, and maybe 2 years after he left he called me and was asking for like feedback on this idea they were thinking about in the in the mattress.
Jeff Chapin: Industry and during my time at ideo I had Worked. We had clients and I had worked with the Industry. So I knew a lot of the shortcomings of the consumer experience side there and so when he brought it up I was like yeah, it’s a good idea and then I joined to help. And initially on the product design and development side as we built that business.
Alejandro Cremades: So what ended up being the business model of casper. How are you guys making money there. Okay.
Jeff Chapin: Um, ah yeah me it was straight up early day. He’s direct to consumer but you know disrupting an old industry. There were a bunch of us you know from you know.
Jeff Chapin: Dollar shave club and harryies on razors warbuby parking on Warby Parker on glasses we did mattresses I mean there was a whole cohort that came in the early 2 of 2010 s and we did a digital acquisition of customers and then we had third party manufacturers and logistics and we would drop ship. Mattresses probably like what people thought was the innovation was like you compressed a mattress in a box. So then you could ship it I think actually the greater innovations were more on how we marketed the business how we built the brand. The customer service. The guarantee. Um, there were a lot of things that had to come together because actually you you could have bought a mattress in a box five years earlier than we started from a company called betinthebox.com um and compressing mattresses had been used on the supply chain side of the industry to move units between factories and stores. Um, and so it was in hindsight now that I’m in my new business which is far more complex. It was an incredibly simple business model and we we can talk about it more but we just happen to come into the scene and like in a culturally very good time. Um, and we just kind of rode this wave and we’re part of that early set of of direct to consumer businesses that just shot like a rocket and the business took off.
Alejandro Cremades: So at what point do you guys realize hey I think we’re into something here.
Jeff Chapin: Man it was almost immediately I think we did. We didn’t know what we had at the time we did a million dollars of sales in our first month of business we were ah with I mean the press we got was unreal. Um, you know on Cnn and. Like Farid Zakaia like we were on national linear tv nevermind all the streaming platforms. The people started posting Youtube videos of unboxing the mattresses and those were getting like tens and hundreds of thousands of likes and we’re like what is going on here. Um, I think our first full year of business. We did $100000000 of revenue which now that I’m building a new business I’m like oh my goodness we didn’t know how good how good it was at the time and so it was near near immediate recognition that we had like unlocked something like ah, a latent.
Alejandro Cremades: My god.
Jeff Chapin: Need and demand from from from homeowners and customers that just hadn’t been scratched.
Alejandro Cremades: And obviously when you have that crazy product Market fit. You also have the investors knocking like crazy because they want to also be part of it. So how how is that the journey of raisingcing money like for you guys. So.
Jeff Chapin: Ah, in the early days. It was easy I mean we I don’t remember the exact tranches but we raised it get a like the seed round honestly that was before we had before we had proven product market fit that was painful. I mean we must have pitched 60 or 80 times to raise a one point eight million dollars seed and um, you know there’s like a weird coincidence where the the Ben Lehrer who led the seed round. He had previously tried to start the business we started and it didn’t like. There were some personnel issues and it didn’t work out so he was like already sold on the idea he just had to be convinced that we were the right people? Um, and so that was just very fortuitous for us later rounds came together very quickly. We had you know great top shelf investors and some good advisors on board. Um, ivp and and e a from you know a round um, and um, ah a comes at a a cost I think like that level of growth is hard to maintain and we in hindsight I think we over raceed for the business model we had and that led to some probably poor decision making in the end and. Um, but for the first couple of years it was full on and very very exciting.
Alejandro Cremades: Yeah, because I think that prior to the company going public I think it has it had raised over 300000000 I think it was like 330 or something like that. So I guess. You guys ended up taking the company public. How was how was that experience like of all of a sudden you see your company trading I mean that I’m sure that was kind of like strange.
Jeff Chapin: Um, yeah, um to be totally honest, it was like for me personally it was a real letdown. Um, we. I thought it would be like 1 of the most exciting things of my life nevermind my first professional life like we started on the New York Stock Exchange we’re up on the podium we ring the bell it starts trading um but the context and you know it would have been that. If we had done it 2 years earlier but we were that we went public in 2020. We were the first company to go public. Um, after we were pulled their filing this public market sentiments had shifted from growth growth, growth growth growth to profitability. And we still had good growth but we weren’t profitable and so you know we raised down from our last private valuation. Um, it was real time seeing like all right. It’s going to trade at $30 twenty dollars I think we went out at 12 um and it peaked at maybe 15 and it was less about the money. Ah because in the end of the day you still do fine and for the years of work it’s very good compensation but more about like man. Ah you wanted everybody to keep believing and you saw the skepticism um and so.
Jeff Chapin: We had had so many years of so much support and then when you start to get like you know there’s always going to be like trolls and haters and you ignore those but like people that you would look up to and really value their opinion are giving you negative feedback that that’s harder to digest. Um. So and you kind of saw it coming the process of going ah ah through ipo also I would say is pretty tedious working with investment bankers and creating decks and doing road shows and all that stuff. So i. I’m not sure I’d ever look forward to doing it again. I guess if you had like a runaway success and your numbers popped. It would be a very different story than what we went through but it is super distracting for 6 to twelve months before it happens. Um, and I can’t I wouldn’t call any part of it. Fun.
Alejandro Cremades: Yeah, no I hear you well hey at the at the peak of it. You know it was one point two billion so the fact that you guys had been able to build that kind of value is really remarkable and it speaks for itself now it ended up being you know ac acquiredre the company and then that leads you you know, eventually to Wyoming. So.
Jeff Chapin: So.
Alejandro Cremades: Tell us about you know that transition on how you know the company is now acquired and now obviously once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur so tell us what you’re up to with Haven.
Jeff Chapin: Yeah, for sure so we could see that we’re going to be acquired and we had begin to plan for like a management shift that we brought in a new new woman Emily to replace Philip a Ceo and all the founders left. Um, when the business was acquired. Um, and then I took some time off just to like recover during while I was still at Casper. We had moved from San Francisco to a small town in Wyoming. Um my my wife works as a physician on a native american reservation which brought us here. Um, and i. Was like therapy. We bought 100 10 year old house and I spent a year with like a workbelt and work gloves and car hearts and the back of the house had some settling so I essentially tore off the back of the house and bought all the tools and rebuilt the back of the house and in the process. Dealt with we wanted to upgrade and insulate the house and and make it more comfortable like I love historic architecture about old houses tend to have issues with creaking and being drafty and so we were trying to fix all that. Um, and. I would say for about a year I was totally content I probably listened to every podcast about energy and markets and I got really into understanding crypto so in a 10 hour workday by yourself. You can listen to a lot of podcasts. So.
Jeff Chapin: I ended up really getting interested in home electrification and energy and building materials and just like deep went deep in it and I would say after about a year of working I found that when I dropped my kids off at school I had more interest in like. Starting to do deeper diving reaching out to people to try to like understand the space rather than like going to keep doing construction on my house and so in April of 2022 I guess it would be um I reached out to Philip who was my the co cofounder and the Ceo of of. Of casper and just started like bouncing ideas off him and he had had some experiences and was thinking about the energy space as well and through some connections spent four or five months um
Jeff Chapin: Just doing discovery calls. We started with somebody who was an energy trader and then somebody who had built some gas peaker plants in Texas and um, just really tried to understand the energy markets I was looking at the hardware side I I got convinced that I really wanted to work on either heat pumps or batteries because in my experience with the house those were like the 2 near impossible things as a homeowner to navigate and um, when given my background at ideo particularly when you run into a consumer experience that is that terrible. There’s generally an opportunity so we just went deep into those 2 areas very early on. We met Vinny who’s now the Ceo of Haven energy. And he is an energy trader by background and run a retail electric business in Texas and um and so we teamed up to build this business to to solve the exact problem I had had which is like helping homeowners get batteries installed into their home. Um, and. You know, take a step towards electrification which is a critical part of us getting to a cleaner electric grid which is you know obviously critical to reducing cotwo levels and addressing climate change.
Alejandro Cremades: And what did you guys do differently about capitalizing the business. How did you go about it this time around. Okay.
Jeff Chapin: Um, almost the direct opposite We went back to the um, we went back to Ben Laer and said hey we’re working on this thing we obviously had built a really strong relationship with him over a decade at Casper. Um, and. We introduced him to Vinny and explain the business model and it’s almost embarrassing to say but we we pitched him and we pitched to giant ventures which is ah kind of a esg focused fund at a London and they had a partner who was Vinnie’s previous boss at the retail electric business. So they knew Vinny very well. We pitched both of them and they were co-leads in our seed round and that was it. It was incredibly easy. Maybe we could’ve gone out and tried to do a competitive round and get a higher valuation but we said um, let’s save that three or four months of doing that and just start building the business because we had this. We saw the inflation reduction act which is important for our business or like a real tailwind that was going to come through in January. And we were like let’s let’s get ready so that we can capitalize on that and get get running because like honestly like 3 or four percent dilution is not going to make a big difference. What makes a difference is if you get your business built get in the market and succeed and so that’s where we that’s where we put our efforts.
Alejandro Cremades: Absolutely now Imagine if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of heaven and energy is fully realized what does that world look like.
Jeff Chapin: Um, um, yeah I would say 2 things 1 we firmly believe that residential batteries which is maybe it’s not a highly understood product. They become ubiquitous. So just as like. Hundred years ago people didn’t have maybe not even seventy years ago nobody had a dishwasher now everybody does we believe that home batteries will become instrumental. Um and ubiquitous. Um, and I think the consequence of that or like the outcome of that is um.
Jeff Chapin: Ah, we operate in America so I’ll just specifically say that americans we’ve always been consumers from our utilities. So we buy electricity. We buy water. We buy gas. Whatever it is um and it’s even like very inhuman you’re not I think you’re called like a. Rate payer or something I don’t even think you as a consumer and never mind a customer but it’ll change and so in that future vision. A homeowner is a producer and a consumer and a trader of electricity. We already have producers with but rooftop solar. Um, if you hold onto that solar then you you are bottling up a valuable asset which is electricity and you can do with it where you want and so you can. Sell it back to the grid at a premium and not that a homeowner is going to be doing this actively like that’s where we come in. We’ll do that for them. But it’s a real shift in the position of the homeowner in that value change. We no longer have to just take rate changes and. And be at the receiving end and so I think there’ll be a lot more control on the consumer side of the electric grid. Um, and that’ll lead to a lot of benefits in terms of costs. Ah reliability electric grid. Um, and so I think it’s it’s a really.
Jeff Chapin: Fundamental shift in the relationship between utilities and consumers and we want to be part of that.
Alejandro Cremades: So let’s talk about the past now but I want to do it with a list of reflection imagine I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time maybe to that moment that you were. Traveling back and forth from the us to Cambodia and you know figuring out a world where you would build something of your own and let’s say you had the opportunity of having a chat you know, let’s say you were to sit down on one of those saying longer you know plane rides and sit to that younger self to that younger Jeff and. You were able to give 1 piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Jeff Chapin: Um, one piece of advice. Um I don’t think it’d be anything about the business. Um I spent probably the first twenty. plus years of my career being very and I have to explain this project focused where like I was so absorbed with the content of what I was working on um that I like to some degree. Neglected some of the greater context of how it fits into relationships in life and like your own life whether it’s your physical health or how you spend your time and like it served me reasonably well like professionally. But I think. I’ve learned that like and this sounds so like sad but I don’t mean it to be like ah your work is one part of who you are and you have to develop the other parts whether it’s relationships or religion or your personal health or your hobbies and so I think like. When you start a company, you’re signing up for at least a decade long endeavor and so it’s it’s not a sprint I think a lot of the like literature and writings out. There is all about I mean you even have the hus like hustle con and hustle funds like dis hustle hustle hustle and like maybe I’m like so it’s little.
Jeff Chapin: Um, looking back at time. But um I think you you have to think about work as something which fits into this greater thing you’re trying to achieve in life and and I’ve been lucky because I I would say like I kind of neglected it but I still ended up. Okay, but it could have turned out very differently. Um, and um I I under appreciated the need to invest in some of those other things and I got lucky and and I wouldn’t I would I would recommend to anybody and to my past self to like. Take that broader view as you’re starting and do business or trying to do something in your career.
Alejandro Cremades: I love that so Jeff for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do show.
Jeff Chapin: Um, I am not a social media person Linkedin’s good you can find me on Linkedin and then Email Jeff at havenenergy.com but I am not on Facebook or Instagram or any of those. But.
Alejandro Cremades: What you say enough Jave well thank you? So so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Jeff Chapin: Linkedin’s my social media choice.
Jeff Chapin: Hey really appreciate it. Good conversation. Thank you.
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