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Amplifying the Mission: Welcome Ceillie to the Building Ventures Team

When I joined Building Ventures in early 2019, I was taking the leap from startup operator to startup investor. Because I knew this would be a huge transition, I considered my move carefully. Of course, the opportunity to work with and learn from GPs as terrific as Jesse and Travis factored heavily. I had a strong desire for my next organization to be intensely mission-driven, too. As an amateur urbanist, as well as someone who had spent much of her career digitizing analogue industries, the opportunity to invest #ForABetterBuiltWorld was extremely compelling. 

Also, I knew I wouldn’t be abandoning my love of working at a startup. I’d be an early stage investor working closely with our portfolio companies— and Building Ventures itself was a startup! Building Ventures was a young firm with a small team of four full FTEs at the time (Jesse, Travis, and I working in Boston, with our partner Allen out West). I knew I’d certainly have the opportunity to wear many hats and contribute to the firm beyond my investment activities. Given my background, one of the immediate opportunities was directing and owning the Building Ventures brand. 

Changes for Building Ventures in 2021

At the start of 2021, having survived 2020, we were eager to welcome in the new year. It became clear early on that this was no time to take our proverbial foot off the gas. Not only had the portfolio grown to 14, but the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for our built environment were more massive than ever. We synthesize the current state this way: Over the next 30 years, we will add 2.5 billion humans to our planet. That will require 2.5 TRILLION square feet of buildings to accommodate those humans. For the record, that means building the equivalent of a new NYC every month for the next 30 years. 

If that isn’t enough of a challenge in and of itself, consider the current state of our built environment. It has a 40% problem. It consumes over 40% of our global energy usage, contributes 40% of our global CO2 emissions, and consumes more than 40% of our natural resources. Plus, more than 40% of its waste sits in our landfills. 

Now that we acknowledge the enormity of the problem, we can embrace the tremendous opportunity ahead of us. We feel the weight of that responsibility at BV, and we knew we needed to call in reinforcements to make the strides needed to rise to the occasion. Earlier this year, we added Gregg to the team out West to double our efforts in finding and funding the brilliant entrepreneurs developing solutions to these global problems. Yet the story is even bigger, and we needed to tell it more broadly and amplify the voices of those already preaching change. We needed a communicator and a storyteller who knew how to get the word out to a broader audience than we were today. We needed a team member who could be much more than merely a steward of our brand but rather a megaphone for our small team, our portfolio, and our network of innovators. I thought I knew just that unique person if she, like me over two years ago now, might also be willing to leap from the startup world to join our mission. 

TL;DR: We managed to convince Ceillie Clark-Keane to join us as our new Head of Marketing & Communications, and we couldn’t feel luckier to have her on board! I could expound upon her many skills and talents, but you have heard enough from me. Instead, I interviewed Ceillie to get her perspective on why she was eager to join us on the mission #ForABetterBuiltWorld. Enjoy, and welcome, Ceillie! 

The newest member of our Building Ventures team

HNW: What made you want to join the team at Building Ventures?

CCK: The first appeal was the people. I was so lucky to work with you at WordStream, where you led product, brand, and customer marketing, Heather.  I learned so much. Even more than your thoughtful approach to marketing and branding, though, your leadership skills and commitment to empowering your team were formative. Of course, when you spoke so highly of Travis, Jesse, and the Building Ventures team, I knew they had to be exceptional, and meeting everyone confirmed this.

The second appeal is working in an environment that’s focused on empowering startups. In my career so far, I’ve focused on creating content and services for business owners, including SMBs and startups. My biggest takeaway by far? Starting a company is hard; growing one is even harder. I’m looking forward to supporting the portfolio companies and amplifying their branding in my role here. The fact that these startups are all improving how we construct and operate the buildings we live and work in makes this even better.

Recently, I read an essay recently where a writer challenged the designation of “climate fiction,” a genre of books that traditionally deals with global warming and climate change. The argument was simple and compelling: All contemporary fiction is now climate fiction. It’s ingrained in the setting and circumstances even when a writer isn’t speculating about wide scale disaster or following characters deeply invested in their environment. This struck me, because it’s true even outside of the confines of fiction—whether we’re deeply invested or not, climate change is impacting the environment around us.

And the built environment plays a huge role in this, with the 40% problem you mentioned earlier. Building Ventures invests in companies that are using technology to improve this with better building and operating processes, and I’m excited to play a part in that.

HNW: What are you most excited about working on?

CCK: This one’s simple: Storytelling. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to the rest of the team. I mean, really listen. Whether it was sitting in on meetings with the Investment Team, flipping through the history of Building Ventures marketing presentations with Jesse, or watching Travis diagram investment theses on a whiteboard, I learned a lot about what the team does and who they are. 

More importantly for my role, though, I started to notice where we could tell our story better. Some lines seemed like great ideas for content; some phrases stood out as a starting place for stronger messaging. Even some of the whiteboard sketches seemed like they needed to be made into graphics for presentations or social sharing. Building Ventures has some amazing built environment leaders, and I’m so excited to work with the team to share their ideas.

Similarly, I’m looking forward to supporting our portfolio companies to tell their stories, too. I’ve already noticed that each member of the Building Ventures team is dedicated to supporting the portfolio companies however they can. That includes talking through challenges, offering insights from years of industry experience, making connections with experts in the BVIN, and so much more. I’m looking forward to being able to assist where I can and help make sure our portfolio companies have strong, compelling stories that reflect the innovative work they’re doing. 

HNW: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far?

CCK: Prolonged meetings in warm conference rooms don’t put me to sleep because I’m not engaged; it’s the indoor air quality, or IAQ. This was so surprising to me because it seems like it should be common knowledge and discussed in the workplace. I remember a few years ago when everyone in my office got standing desks, and suddenly it became a part of meeting conversations and daily check-ins. There was even a short-lived “sitting is the new smoking” catchphrase in office-wide communication. IAQ doesn’t need its own questionable slogan, but it’s exciting to hear that it’s becoming a bigger part of conversations around working in an office and built environment technology with companies like 75F.

HNW: What’s the best book you’ve read during onboarding?

CCK: Everyone on the team has had great recommendations for books and articles to read, so I’ve been working through lots of great material. It’s slow going, though, when I’m pausing every page or so to take note of an interesting statistic that I want to use later or a term that I know I’ll need to remember! 

I’ll go with a team favorite here: Dror Poleg’s Rethinking Real Estate: A Roadmap to Technology’s Impact on the World’s Largest Asset Class

HNW: What are you working on next?

CCK: I’m putting together our quarterly newsletter next. My first one! The team has been so busy working with new companies, supporting our portfolio, speaking at events, and planning our own for this fall—we’ll have lots of exciting updates coming soon.

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