Joro’s App Helps the Environmentally-Friendly Track Their Carbon Footprint
It seems like there is an app for just about everything; photo sharing, calorie counting, shopping, and many, many more.
Joro, a company out of the Harvard i-Lab, has an app for a specific sort of action. Its users can track their daily carbon emissions and, in turn, help the planet.
The startup’s Co-Founder and CEO, Sanchali Pal, had a chance to connect with us to talk about what impact its users can have on the environment. Pal also discussed how she and her co-founder wanted to make a difference and what their time in the i-Lab has been like for an early-stage cleantech company.
Colin Barry [CB]: What is the story behind Joro? What made the team come together to found the company?
Sanchali Pal [SP]: Joro was born when our founders met in 2017 at MIT and realized that we had been thinking about the same question from different perspectives. Many of us want to live more sustainably. But how do we “walk the walk” to create a low-carbon future? How do we know which actions can really make a difference?
I had seen the documentary Food, Inc. when I was in college and started tracking my carbon footprint in an excel spreadsheet. I had an “a-ha” moment when I realized that even small changes add up to big impact over time. By limiting my meat consumption to two meals per week for the last seven years, among other actions, I reduced the greenhouse gas emissions of taking four cars off the road.
Cressica, our CTO, grew up in rural Maine where she saw the effects of climate change on her hometown first hand, manifested in changing shorelines and growing incidences of Lyme disease. As she moved to New York and Shanghai and saw the rapid pace of urban development, she saw how disconnected we are from our climate impacts. In her research as a Ph.D. Candidate at MIT, she saw an opportunity to use the data that our smartphones are already collecting to help people better understand and act on their climate impacts.
CB: Does everyone on the team have experience working in the cleantech space or work in environmental activism?
SP: Actually, not exactly! Each of us has been on our own journeys to Joro. Cressica previously studied and practiced Engineering, Architecture, and Urban Design. She also founded a modular housing startup in China and worked on developing tools for planners and developers to improve energy efficiency.
I previously worked at a management consulting firm, Dalberg, where I focused on smart cities and emerging markets. I received my MBA from HBS, and then worked at Tesla on their battery and smart home projects before Joro.
As we’ve gotten deeper into the cleantech and environmental space, we’ve realized that part of the problem our sector has is communicating effectively. Most people don’t understand what kilowatt hours are, know how many kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent their car creates, or even understand their utility bill. That’s why part of what we’re doing at Joro is making it easy to see where you are using energy across daily activities and realistic steps you can take to improve your impact.
CB: Now moving onto the app. If I just downloaded it, could you care to explain how it works to someone who is new to Joro?
SP: The idea behind Joro is to make tracking and improving personal carbon footprints easy and accessible. A person who downloads the app sets up automated data feeds across location, spending, and home energy, and after setting up their account, can check their daily carbon footprint as easily as they check their daily footsteps on a Fitbit. Users can also validate and improve their carbon footprint by entering information themselves if they prefer.
The app is currently in development, but anyone can sign up to request access to our beta on our website.
CB: If someone is looking to get involved with Joro today, what would you recommend?
SP: We just launched a climate pledge called #OurAccord that allows anyone to be a part of reducing carbon emissions in 2019.
You can go to ouraccord.com, and with just a few clicks, align yourself with the Paris Climate Goals for this year. The website walks you through how to reduce emissions either by committing to specific, effective actions to lower your footprint or by creating carbon credits by supporting reliable clean energy projects. If every American were to take the #OurAccord pledge, we’d achieve the Paris Goals for 2019.
We’re also always looking for committed, talented, passionate people to join our team. If you or someone you know wants to help us build the tools and community to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, get in touch! If you’re a full stack developer, check out our recent post.
CB: Who are the average users of Joro? Have there been any use cases that have stood out to you?
SP: Average Joro users are likely people who are already trying to live sustainably or who are eager to do more - maybe by limiting meat intake, walking and biking more, conserving energy at home, buying less stuff, recycling or composting better, the list goes on. For these users, Joro is a tool to make better choices for and to see how their small steps add up to big impact - for themselves and for the planet - over time. It’s also a social platform to connect, share, and compete with friends.
As our platform grows, we envision communities working together and competing on Joro to collectively create large-scale emissions reductions. Eventually, these communities will inform companies and governments and help them make investments in a low-carbon future.
CB: Joro is part of the Harvard i-Lab and the Arthur Rock Center. What has your experience been like at the incubators?
SP: The Harvard iLab’s Venture Incubation Program and the HBS Rock Center Accelerator have been incredible resources for our team.
The iLab is a very supportive environment, in which we’ve met students from across Harvard’s schools and entrepreneurs and mentors from the Boston entrepreneurship ecosystem and benefitted from a great coworking space and community that have helped us learn and grow.
The Rock Center Accelerator’s intensive approach helped us focus on what it would take to prepare to take on external financing. Going through the program over a short period of time with a limited group of teams was a great opportunity for us to hone in on our core value proposition.
CB: Could you share some advice to other startups who are looking to get involved in the cleantech space?
SP: Both MIT’s Clean Energy Prize and the Cleantech Open Northeast Accelerator Program have been incredibly valuable programs for us to gain networks, resources, credibility, and community in the cleantech sector. We would certainly recommend to other cleantech startups to participate in these programs.
In Boston, MassCEC, Greentown Labs, and The Engine have also been great connectors and resources that bring together people and programming in the space.
CB: It’s always interesting how a startup comes up with its name. How did the team come up with the name Joro?
SP: Joro is the goddess, protector, and personification of the earth according to Norse mythology. We found it to be a great analogy: at Joro, we’re building the technology and community to empower people with the power to protect the Earth.