Over the years, the fight to save the environment has been tough, to say the least. Getting everyone rowing in the same direction and ensuring that we all do the little we can to save the world we live in are key in this crucial battle.
The war against pollution, saving water and energy are challenges we have to meet together. It needs the creative minds of business and other leaders who have the capacity to change how we use our precious resources and invent lasting solutions to preserve the environment for future generations. Solar systems are one of the greatest inventions on the planet, converting sunlight into electricity without harming the environment. Jaco Venter is a CEO making moves to eradicate the use of and dependency on fossil fuels through Zeroth Energy, a consulting company that supplies solar systems for sectional complexes, retirement villages, commercial businesses, industrials, schools and fuel stations. Jaco chatted to Simply Green and shared some insight into what the company is all about.
CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF BACKGROUND OF YOUR CHILDHOOD AND ADULT EDUCATION?
I was born in Vereeniging on 18 July 1985, grew up incredibly poor and often moving from school to school, house to house, neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Even though it was painful growing up in that manner, I appreciate the value it had on my life, as I started asking the question ‘why’, especially in patterns I noticed. This helped me to become a top 10 student in school even though I was a massive rebel and always got in trouble. This foundation gave me the opportunity to go to North West University, where I studied Mechanical Engineering, which I later changed to Actuarial Science. I left university with a few credits short, best decision I made in my life even though I was classified as a failure. This allowed me to pursue my true passion, which was to know me and the universe, so I went travelling, I travelled the world for seven years, where I visited over 90 countries on all seven continents. Looking back I basically got a seven year degree in human psychology, philosophy and learning to think big. For me, knowledge is not the key, but experiences are the key, and experiences leads to the ability to do things smarter with a bigger picture in mind.
CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF BACKGROUND OF YOUR CAREER?
My career has always been sales orientated. I worked for numerous companies while living in London, one of them being a billion dollar fitness/detox company, as well as the biggest art company in the world in America, where I was an Art Auctioneer. Even though I was never actively pursuing a career in art or fitness, I did get interested in sales as it was aligned with the human nature and my philosophically way of thinking was intrigued. The time I spent in sales jobs around the world was great, as I had different teachers and different perspectives, making my view point on sales very unique. For a brief stint I lived in Thailand where I taught philosophy and yoga for free on the beach. This is where I got more aligned with the energy of the universe, as well as learned how I was in control of my own reality and the creator of my own life. I came back home in 2015 for two of my sisters’ weddings, and decided to stay in South Africa.
CAN YOU GIVE US MORE INFO ON ZEROTH ENERGY AND WHAT IT IS ABOUT?
Zeroth Energy is a unique African Energy Brokerage firm, specializing in making renewable energy accessible to the masses. We work with numerous solar and wind suppliers, installers and financial institutions to simplify the process from client introduction to system implementation. We have successfully managed to shorten the process, as well as make it much more cost effective for solar/energy suppliers to operate in the market, bringing the total cost down for the clients. We have also introduced Solar Rental models with our partners to the market. Making renewable energy accessible to the masses by completely removing the upfront costs. Our mission at Zeroth is to change the way we use energy and effectively and productively manage our energy sources – energy in all forms. Our principal objective is to make renewable energy (RE) accessible to the masses and effectively, through a comprehensive paradigm shift, alter methodologies of producing food, as well as personal and produce transportation and power to our industries and residences.
WHAT WAS THE NEED TO FACILITATE CHANGE IN THE ENERGY MARKET? DID YOU SEE A GAP FOR AN OPPORTUNITY?
When I came back to South Africa I wanted a challenge, as I am a big thinker, and after travelling the whole world I felt I wasn’t challenged in my own life anymore – been there got the t-shirt, so I started asking what it is South Africa needs. The rating agencies said two things will make life better in SA, one is the political situation and the other is the energy problem. Since I wont be a great politician with my rebellious nature, I started questioning the energy space. I got my first chance for an IPP company helping them start a division to bring the PPA (Power Purchase Agreements) to the private market. From my sales background and learning to make no’s into yes’s, I started realising that my ability to turn no’s into yes’s was very limited being associated with only one company, even though I was bringing a product to the market that was a no brainer – no upfront cost to get solar and your savings is from day one and growing as time goes passed, and coming from a travelling background where I saw plenty of solar installed even in countries with little to no sunshine, I questioned why Africa is not fully renewable energy, why are the clients not taking it, why is there no competition, why is there nobody representing the clients. I also saw and realised that most solar and energy companies are run and developed by engineers, who are the ones needed for the innovation, but they didn’t have the ability to sell their innovation to the public. This is where I saw the gap, that you need a company that represents both the suppliers and the clients, helping the clients get the best deal and helping the suppliers to sell and to always improve, which will lead to better product offering to clients and better pricing. A never-ending cycle where everybody wins. If it is not a win-win situation then Zeroth don’t get involved. So I started Zeroth Energy. It was a poor start as I lost all my clients I built up with the other company, eventually going from two suppliers to none as I left them for unethical business practises, I refused to do business with people who didn’t treat my clients like I did, even though it almost cost me my entire business. My ability to stick with something, even though it is costing me in my personal and family life, as everything in my life is about Zeroth Energy, helped me keep persisting, and eventually build up an amazing business with talented people all over South Africa. Even though I had the ability to not give up, it was the people who worked for me, past and present, who helped me build this company. Since the beginning I knew this was bigger than me, and I could not have got Zeroth to this point without the people involved. And with the divine energy it places the right lessons and the right people in my path to steer Zeroth to great heights.
WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF BEING IN THE INDUSTRY OF MANUFACTURING RENEWABLE ENERGY IN SOUTH AFRICA?
Con’s – To have a financial model work in renewable energy we can only use Tier 1 products. Tier 1 means they are Vertically Integrated with over five years’ experience. In South Africa we only have Tier 2 & 3 locally produced solar products. So it makes it incredible hard to buy and support local products. Something I would love to change, however this will take a tremendous amount of money and a few years to do it. The pro is that we have one of the best climates in the world to have renewable energy implemented. The only push we need is some education to the masses that RE is now accessible as well as that it works. Funnily enough, solar was invented before AC electricity. JP Morgan saw the opportunity to make loads of money with Thomas Edison and so pushed the funding for the electrification of New York, and the world followed the working model. However, it is changing rapidly.
ZEROTH HAS CONSULTANTS ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA. WHAT IS THE RESPONSE TOWARDS YOUR SERVICES FROM CUSTOMERS AND ENTITIES WHO YOU SUPPLY TO?
Zeroth have an amazing team of Partner Consultants and Consultants, together with a team of Referral Agents. Our innovation does not come from technology enhancements, but from the way we have broken down all the barriers for somebody that wants to get into the renewable energy space at little to no costs. We provide our consultants with everything, from solar to wind to smart meters, to designing to installation to maintenance, to contracts to marketing, as well as one hell of a brand. All they have to do is talk to the people of this world and tell them that they can switch over to renewable energy at no cost. What more can somebody ask for wanting to start a successful business in this incredible space? All our consultants are their own business owners under the brand Zeroth, our model is to make sure we empower people to grow their own business and to run a flexible schedule. We don’t believe in office hours or checking up on each other. They are all business owners and as long as they act like business owners and keep up with our high standard, they will always be part of us. We work on a PRIDE system – Personal Responsibility In Developing Excellence. Make your targets and help the clients and you can take the rest of the month off if you want to. They all are fantastic at what they do and have an incredible product knowledge. However, their best ability is to relate to the clients on a personal level and become friends with their clients. We are in this for the clients. Our number one thing is to make sure every client see’s our consultants and company as a friend. Customers have come in flocks and lately we have experienced a growth rate of almost 4000%. As people learn more about our effortless approach, they are more drawn to doing business with us.
DO YOU HAVE A GLOBAL PRESENCE OR ARE YOU CURRENTLY BASED ONLY IN SOUTH AFRICA?
At the moment we are exploring our entry into the entire African market, and eventually into the entire world. By introducing our app in the near future it will help us to control the demand, as we are struggling to keep up with limited amount of installers and suppliers. So our aim is first to make sure we can handle the demand in effective ways without disappointing our clients in the process. Our goal is to be all over Africa end 2018 and all over the world end 2019. With our current growth rate we might get their quicker.
WHO WOULD YOU CONSIDERS YOUR COMPETITORS AND HOW ARE YOU STAYING AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION?
I personally believe our biggest competitor is who we as a company were yesterday, and that keeps us thinking in a creative mindset, making sure we improve every single day. We are never satisfied with where we are. Currently, our business model is working perfectly, and without any modifications we will be in business for a long time. However, we want to make it even better and quicker and more accessible to every client. Others trying to do what we do in the market are miles behind us, as we have a global view of doing things and they have a local view. We will never chase as we set the example, and with our high standards we make sure the bar is raised high and keep raising higher on a daily basis. This is not to shut down competition, but because we believe we are doing this for the right reasons, to help our clients. And we want our clients to always get the best. And the best is Zeroth Energy.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON COLLABORATION PARTNERS?
As I said earlier, this is much bigger than who I am or my team, so I am always up for more partners and collaboration. We are doing this for the planet and for the people of this planet, the quicker we can stop our dependency on fossil fuel and start relying on Renewable Energy, the better off we will be as a species and leave a healthier and better planet to future generations. In the end, we are all going to die and be buried in the same graves, so its not about us, it’s about the change we make.
Zeroth is here to make change in the masses so the more people we can get involved, the more wonderful change we can make. It was our first client that signed up. As everybody doubted us and the way we were doing things, even suppliers were reluctant to sign up with us, and since our first client signed up, which was a 5 star hotel. All our current suppliers (who at that point were not our suppliers) bid as well. Suppliers have been flocking to us wanting us to do their sales and help them improve in the market space. It took us over a year to get our first client, as the market was not ready and we worked on helping suppliers create products for us to sell. There was also some doubt in our business model. However we learned more in that year than we would have getting sales straight away, so I am grateful for that moment. It took Colonel Sanders 1008 no’s before he got his first yes, and look where KFC is today. It is not the no’s that create a business, it’s the ability to take a no on the chin and improve every day with persistence that makes a company great and will make us stand the test of time.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE TO DATE?
One of my first partners, Terry Tompson died just before we had a meeting with a client. It hit me incredible hard, and really made me re-evaluate what we did and who we did it for. We are in this for the people of the planet, for the people who work with us and their families, for the creatures and plants of this world in any form. I stood up at Terry’s funeral, even though I didn’t know him long, I thanked him as he was one of the most important people in our company’s short history. Thank you so much Terry.
AS THE CEO OF ZEROTH ENERGY, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SA’S MANUFACTURING AND RENEWABLE ENERGY INDUSTRY?
If this industry were a human, at the moment it would be a baby. The baby has just been born and has a whole life ahead of itself. We are at an amazing stage with renewable energy only playing a 1% role in the entire market at this moment. Now is the most crucial time in the growth, as what we do now will either propel the baby into an amazing childhood of superior development or slow him down. I believe that South Africa’s Renewable Energy market will grow tremendously once people get familiar with our brand, and realise that we are there for them, there to help them get the best solution for their business or home, there to tell them straight in their face if it’s a good or bad choice, there for them to save money, there for them to improve their brand and business image to the public, there for them to spend their money on their own business, instead of giving it away to Eskom and get nothing in return down the line. As soon as they see us as their friends and that we will do anything to help them, then we can speed up the process and get everybody on renewable energy. We are doing it for you. All you have to do is call us. From there on sit back and relax as we do everything for you. All you then have to do is make a choice, which will be guided with our expertise and recommendation. If we won’t sell or provide the solution we are offering to our mothers, then we won’t recommend it to you.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE COMPANY?
Amazing things. We are growing super-fast and we actually have an inside goal we are aiming at. That goal is to buy Eskom in three years’ time. We believe our business model will be the downfall of them, and we would like to buy them for their distribution network, shut down all fossil fuel power stations and build huge solar farms. There shines enough sun energy in 1 hour to power the entire planet for a year. It is do-able and Zeroth is not just showing the way, we are making it easy for anybody who wants to be involved.
I would like to thank my accomplished, proficient and marvellous team, Danie Jansen, Gerhard Janse van Rensburg, Mark Venter, Warrick Reynolds, Wietze Post, Saveni Mbhiza, Dries Bester, Waldo Ludik, Brent Wanliss and Willem van Graan. Thank you so much for seeing the vision, believing in it and helping make it work for the people of this planet.