Coordinating residential energy efficiency, onchain.

I’ve been close to the challenges of shifting the built environment toward NetZero for a couple of decades now. First in venture capital, then as a founder in the residential thermal energy domain, and since as a board member of Windfall Ecology Centre.

The goal has always been to simplify and incentivize changes in behaviour and technology adoption. Turns out, massively multiplayer coordination challenges can prove to be incredibly sticky.

Until we change the game…

Introducing the Windfall Protocol Research Group

We are designing a blockchain-based protocol to accelerate residential energy efficiency; a key pillar in achieving net zero targets across the developed world.


Energy usage in residential buildings is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In the City of Toronto for example, residential buildings represent 33% of total emissions for the city. For Toronto to reach NetZero emissions, 2.1M residential units require retrofits at a cost of $52B.

Toronto is not alone. Cities across the developed world are in the same situation with $124B already going into residential energy efficiency investment a year. Indeed, governments at all levels have long recognized energy efficiency retrofits as effective programs that simultaneously achieve environment, employment, and civic awareness goals, with many of the short-term, low-cost improvements already complete. 

Deeper, more intensive retrofits however require building owners to make choices where the direct benefits may be unclear or extend beyond the term they intend to own or occupy a building. While incentive programs have helped, it remains difficult to target the highest impact retrofits due to a lack of data and the complicated web of stakeholders involved in the retrofit process including owners, occupants, contractors, vendors, utilities, and governments.

Exploring the Opportunity

Advances in blockchain-based smart contracts, data privacy, and incentive mechanisms point to a potential breakthrough in this challenge. 

Windfall Ecology Centre and Possibilian, in partnership with Durham Region, BlockScience, SuperBenefit, and the support of Natural Resources Canada, are exploring the design of a blockchain-based protocol to accelerate progress toward NetZero targets. The protocol will do this by radically reducing coordination barriers in energy efficiency labeling, auditing, incentives, financing, and installation of energy conservation measures for residential buildings.

Using Windfall Centre’s  v-HEAT (Virtual Home Energy Assessment Tool) project as a reference case – which is providing virtual energy audits and efficiency labels to 200,000 homes in Durham region, Canada – we are exploring the design of a blockchain-based protocol that would provide every building with its own blockchain-based ledger that could:

  1. hold proofs of audits and retrofits; 
  2. allow owners and occupants to provide access to energy data to verify efficiency outcomes; 
  3. allow incentive, finance, and energy conservation measure providers to design and deploy tailored retrofit upgrade offers and conservation incentives directly to homeowners.

To design this protocol, we are actively engaging the network of stakeholders representing different players in the energy efficiency audit and retrofit process from across Durham Region. This genuine community engagement is central to how we are developing the protocol. It is a crucial component of addressing the fundamental coordination challenges in this system.

Pathways Forward

We are currently four months into our research on the context and requirements for this initial protocol. While our research is anchored in the experience of stakeholders involved in running and incentivizing residential energy efficiency audit and retrofit programs in Ontario, Canada, we know that the same coordination challenges exist in jurisdictions across the developed world.

To align our work with experiences and needs around the world, we are opening up a community of interest where we aim to share our learning and invite a collective exploration into the challenges this underlying protocol could solve, what additional benefits it could deliver, and how it might best be implemented as a universal protocol serving jurisdictions around the world.

The Windfall Protocol community will play an important role as we explore the design, funding, and governance of the protocol. To learn more and join in our mission to eradicate barriers to residential energy efficiency, please visit:

Written by Michael Lewkowitz, with thanks to Brent Kopperson, Rowan Yeoman, Jeff Emmett, Jessica Zartler, and rathermercurial.eth for edits and contributions.

Climate X

The impacts of climate change are everywhere, giving rise to new risks and accelerating the need to adapt our physical infrastructure and societies. Regulators are introducing new regulations to disclose those risks to protect the financial system. Investors are adjusting portfolios and adopting new products to accelerate infrastructure adaptation to manage risk and returns. Governments are planning large-scale investments into new infrastructure to prepare for an uncertain future. People are wondering if they are safe and secure where they live and work.

Better data, and inference of those changes, are a key lever in being able to minimize those risks and accelerate the transition to a climate-compatible future. This is easier said than done. Waves of new data are coming online as the cost of sensor and data collection declines, and a flood of new techniques for analysis and inference makes it harder than ever to keep up.

This is where Climate X comes in. Climate X is building a unified data ingestion and inference platform from the ground up to enable dynamic, detailed scenarios of asset-based physical and economic impacts from climate change. They call it a digital twin of the earth. By automating data ingestion, modularly applying inference algorithms, and exposing an API for accessing the latest in climate data and intelligence they aim to build a foundational climate intelligence resource that is clear, transparent, and continuously improving to empower better decisions.

For asset owners, it means more granular insights into portfolio risks based on the changing climate and potential scenarios of action. For investment managers, it means insights into new products and investment opportunities. For governments and companies, it means earlier identification of climate-related vulnerabilities and better informed, long-term investment decisions. And for everyone else, it means a faster path toward a climate-compatible society.

Harnessing climate intelligence to accelerate decarbonization and adaptation is an integral part of our Transition Economy narrative. Our research initiatives into the use of scenarios for systemic finance, or the effects of inter-systemic cascades all pointed us to the challenge of understanding and navigating the complex, systemic risks that are rippling across society. And so, today, we are excited to announce our investment in Climate X alongside Pale Blue Dot, a100x, Blue Wire, New Chic, and a global group of strategic angels.

Lukky, Kamil and their growing team have come to this with first-hand experience modelling and managing risk across asset portfolios, partnering with leading experts in climate science and artificial intelligence to arrive at this new approach.

If you are looking for better data on asset-level climate impacts, reach out to learn more about how Climate X can help.

Two economies, for our future.

As the twin crises of climate and inequality continue to ripple through society, we have a growing imperative to address them both. If either continues unabated, neither can be resolved.

From a venture perspective, we are starting to think of the set of solutions that venture can contribute as economies of Transition and Cooperation. 

The Transition Economy recognizes the need to accelerate decarbonization and adaptation. It is not about climate or environment, but rather the solutions that allow us to build a future in harmony with both (e.g. CalWave, Leap, Wren).

The Cooperation Economy recognizes the limits and insufficiency of our current modes of organization. It is not about efficiency but rather the solutions that unlock radical improvements in participation and sharing of the value we create and hold (e.g. Otis, Murmur, Unit).

Decades of technological development and diffusion combined with accelerating cultural shifts lay the foundation for these two economies as we emerge from the pandemic today. Over time, we expect exciting opportunities to arise where these two economies overlap, making the transition more participatory, and directing more participation toward transition.

While no single set of solutions is enough, the quality and success of the collection of solutions that arise in these two economies hold a key to addressing our existential crises and arriving at a future that’s better for all of us.

If you are buildinginvesting, or otherwise interested in this future, we’d love to meet you. 

Transformative Ventures

Putting a ‘dent a in the universe’ is the goal of many mission-driven ventures. Those that succeed will create the new normals for a more vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive future. At Possibilian, we call them transformative ventures.

Seeking and achieving transformative impact is what we are most interested in. It’s also different than achieving incremental improvements, regardless of how valuable they might be.

To bring more colour to the differences, and what we’re most excited about in the years ahead, we’re pleased to share our perspective on:

  • Where does transformative potential comes from?
  • What are the current hotspots for transformative potential?
  • What do transformative ventures look like?
  • How can ventures manage for transformative outcomes?

Here’s to a better future, sooner.

Download of this deck is available here.

Transformation Hotspots

At Possibilian we are interested in how ventures can create a better future, a future that is more vibrant, prosperous, and sustainable. In this post, we’re highlighting a few areas where we see extraordinary opportunity for progress in the next few years as we emerge from the pandemic. While these overlap with existing transition pathways, and will evolve over time, they focus in on certain characteristics of the types of innovations we think have particular momentum and potential for transformative impact.

We call them Transformation Hotspots

  • Human Centred Social Infrastructure: Helping everyone and each other thrive.
  • Smart Food: Engaging, local, and sustainable food and agriculture.
  • Resilient Supply: Resilient supply chains and sustainable production ecosystems.
  • Collective Culture: Vibrant, participatory, cultural resurgence.
  • Boundless Collaboration: Working better, together, beyond boundaries.
  • Integrated Decarbonization: Building back, better, through decarbonization.
  • Embedded Interdependence: Crypto and cooperative inspired product, services, and systems.

Human Centred Social Infrastructure

Social infrastructure from education and healthcare to employment and social security, have all gone through dramatic shocks as a result of the pandemic. Old approaches and assumptions have been broken and bypassed, creating space for new solutions to emerge, particularly solutions that enable and put people first, remove barriers, and focus on the outcomes of their participants.

Catalysts: Regulatory resets; experiences of vulnerability; government funding.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Cloud, Mobile Connected Devices, Frictionless Value Transfer

Existing Example: MeetFrank keyed in on the power imbalance between employees and employers, and uses technology to enable a new behavior that they believe can help democratize the job market.

Smart Food

Dramatic shifts in daily habits and lifestyles during the pandemic have meant more people are eating at home, often with limited supplies, while governments have had to respond to food crises among the most vulnerable. Collectively we are reconnecting with the importance of food. This connection will likely spur accelerated innovation around simple, smart, and sustainable food production, distribution, preparation, and delivery, with consumers expecting better quality and experiences, and governments investing in greater food security within their borders and for the most vulnerable.

Catalysts: Forced experience of prolonged home-cooking and staying at home; government investment in food security.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: AI, Robotics, DNA Sequencing

Existing Example: Jow is an example that shifts the behavior of grocery shopping to simply swiping and selecting simple, delicious and nutritious meals, making home-cooking easier, healthier, and fun.

Resilient Supply

Disruptions in supply-chains during the pandemic has raised the value in resiliency over efficiency. Buyers everywhere will be more conscious of ensuring essentials are always available. Part of that will include a rise in ‘good-enough’ solutions as well as enhanced use of intelligence and automation to ensure sufficient buffers, redundancy, and responsiveness.

Catalysts: Shift in procurement policy and practices across government, corporate, consumer.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: 3D Printing, Autonomous Mobility, Robotics, Frictionless Value Transfer

Existing Example:ProducePay grew out of the desire to build trust in every transaction, leveraging market intelligence and financing to create a stronger and more resilient produce supply chain.

Collective Culture

The COVID-19 pandemic is a profound collective experience, shared by all of humanity. That experience will undoubtedly be reflected in our art and culture. Our need to process that experience, reflect on life, and reconnect with each other will intersect with new media and technologies to spark a wave of innovation in media, entertainment, gaming and culture, including how we create and value it.

Catalysts: The pandemic experience; shift in how people value connection and culture.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Mobile Connected Devices, Blockchain, Cloud

Existing Example: Otis believe that culture is a new asset, democratizing ownership of fresh, emerging cultural assets like collectible skateboard designs, sneakers, comic books, and art.

Boundless Collaboration

Mass physical-distancing forced organizations to adopt remote collaboration and coordination technologies. In addition to breaking down past limitations, as these technologies and practices persist, new opportunities for cost-savings, efficiency, and coordination will emerge alongside innovations that break down barriers in participation based on who and where people are.

Catalysts: Mass experience of remote work; blurring of work and social interaction experiences.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Cloud, AI, Mobile Connected Devices.

Existing Example:Hopin aims to create better connections and a better planet by using online technology to re-envision how people can come together for offline, online, and hybrid events.

Embedded Interdependence

As organizations and individuals have heightened appreciation for our individual and systemic vulnerabilities there will increased acceptance and interest in our systems being more resilient. This creates and opening for the technologies and practices of the crypto and cooperative movements to become embedded in products, organizations, and systems across society.

Catalysts: Systemic failures from unaddressed externalities; recognition of interconnectedness; value of resiliency;

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Blockchain, Frictionless Value Transfer, IoT, AI

Existing Example: Leap connects distributed energy resources and owners of all types with grid operators through an energy marketplace that facilitates dynamic demand response.

Integrated Decarbonization

The pandemic provides a working example of the types systemic shocks and risks of inaction that have been feared from the climate crisis. As governments around the world introduce stimulus to stabilize and restart local economies, decarbonization solutions that also create jobs, improve wellbeing, increase resiliency and facilitate future infrastructure will have heightened interest.

Catalysts: Government stimulus; pandemic experience makes climate crisis implications more real.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Energy Storage, Autonomous Mobility, IOT, AI

Existing Example: Wren helps consumers live carbon neutral through a simple monthly subscription, which gets invested in measurable, community-based decarbonization activities.

For more background:

Possibilian: Transition and Transformation Landscape

The world after COVID-19: A framework for considering the future.

TLDR: We already see signs for how our world might change, we just can’t be sure which changes will stick. There’s a wide range of possible futures ahead.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been collecting a range of perspectives on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, to get a sense of what the world might look like after.

Here’s where I’m at.

Why is this so disruptive?

Systemic failures as a result of the pandemic are impacting daily life and order. The speed and severity of these breakdowns is leading to rapid testing of what were previously ‘radical’ ideas. This creates an opening for meaningfully different futures to emerge.

How disruptive will this be?

The disruptions have been jarring. Almost no one could imagine the world as it is now only a month ago, nor can do they have a solid idea of what the future will look like next month let alone next year. So if we can’t yet see the future, let’s start with thinking about “how bad will this get”?

While we can’t be sure, it does look like our answer will depend on the following variables.

  • Duration of the pandemic
  • Depth of economic impact
  • Stability of the financial system
  • Quality of international cooperation
  • Level of civil unrest

How are we responding?

Next, we can look at how we are responding. In crisis, these are almost like existential missions, or a systemic immune response. These responses paint a picture of what our priorities will be during the crisis and as we emerge on the other side. How consuming and enduring these priorities will be depends on the previous question.

  • Solve the current pandemic
  • Prevent future pandemics
  • Create stronger safety nets and failsafes

Why could the future be different?

Once we have turned the corner on the current crisis, what is it that creates the opportunity for a meaningfully different future? From where we stand, it looks like there are three factors at play that could affect the rules, behaviours and beliefs that governed how our world worked before. While each are shifting already as we respond to the crisis, it isn’t clear if, how, or how far they will shift, or how permanent those shifts will be once we are through it.

  • Regulatory reset
  • Governance, leadership and responsibility reset
  • Individual reset of values, behaviours, and beliefs

How will the future be different?

From the changes that we are seeing so far, it looks like the shifts happening as a result of the crisis will follow along these paths.

  • From physical to digital
  • From efficient to resilient
  • From individual to collective
  • From market driven, to goal driven

While it seems a pretty safe bet that an accelerated physical to digital transition will stay with us, it is quite possible that the other three transitions don’t stick, or even, retrench. For example, if there is largely uncontrolled and unmitigated economic disruption, or significantly unequal disruption among nations, inequality could spike while also leaving everyone worse off, driving a further retrenchment towards nationalism and individualism.

The Bottom Line

Personally, I’m now leaning more optimistic in terms of our capacity to deal with this crisis and recover more quickly than our more dire predictions suggest. I expect that there will be significant and permanent shifts that come from this, but also expect a strong retrenchment that limits the advances we might think we can make based on where we are.

More than anything though, I’m seeing a broader range of possible futures than I did a week ago. While I’m no more certain which version will play out, I’m finding it a bit easier to process what’s happening and move forward. I hope this offers some of that to others as well.

New Capabilities, Behaviours, and Systems: How ventures change the world.

A few weeks ago I started sharing how we think about the transformative potential of ventures, or in other words, what’s the potential for a company to ‘change the world’.

While it’s impossible to predict if any venture will actually ‘change the world’, we can be sure that if it does, it will have done so through some combination of the following:

  • introducing meaningful new capabilities;
  • sparking a change in behaviour;
  • enabling new systems of people, things, and information.

Let’s take a look at Twitter as a simple example.

  1. Allow people to post a simple text message that is publicly available (new capability)
  2. People start publicly sharing seemingly trivial updates such as ‘what they ate for breakfast’ (new behaviour)
  3. Allow anyone to subscribe to someone’s posts without their permission ( completes the loop to enable a new system)
  4. … effort, investment, and good fortune …
  5. The world’s information source for what’s happening right now.

Step 4 is what makes it happen, but steps 1, 2, and 3 set the stage for what’s possible. While few had any reasonable belief that step 5 would be the outcome when it started, it would have been easy to see from the earliest days that a new capability (1) was leading to a new behaviour (2) and giving rise to a new system (3). The behaviour of ‘sharing what you eat for breakfast’ was easy to dismiss, but enough of those that experienced it, sensed it could be something more.

Now, let’s see what how those components show up in early-stage ventures (click on the links for deeper dives):

Sparking a change in behaviour:

Jow lets people shop for groceries by browsing and choosing recipes instead of ingredients. Could this lead to more people cooking more meals at home?

Introducing a meaningful new capability:

Hopin introduces online technologies into offline event formats to enable new types of events. Could this lead to a more connected and engaged population?

Enabling new systems of people, things, and information:

Produce Pay combines real-time market intelligence, easy to access financing, and trading to enable a new high-trust produce supply-chain. Could this lead to a more sustainable and resilient produce industry?

Of course, like with Twitter, there is also often a combination of capabilities, behaviour, and system that make the change possible.

MeetFrank encourages people to explore new job opportunities, anonymously (capability), before they are looking for work (behaviour). They aim to leverage that into a talent-driven marketplace (system). Could this lead to a democratization of the job market?

In each of these cases it’s impossible to predict the outcome. We can however see that they each have some key components around which a world changing company could be built. And if your goal is to see a better future, those are great places to dig in to understand what might be possible.

You can see our growing set of perspectives here.

An experiment in describing transformative potential in venture.

I’ve started an experiment to share how I think about ‘transformative’ or ‘future defining’ ventures.

Transformative potential is the core of what we look for at Possibilian and it can be hard to describe. In our thesis we talk about it as the potential to:

…change the way we think and act, shift power and relationships, and create the foundations of a vibrant, sustainable and inclusive future. 

But what that looks like and how a venture might get there is not often obvious. Using basic diagrams and the constraint of short-form video I’m going to see if I can make it a little easier to dive in and explore.

I’d like to do one a week for now, and refine the approach to see what works best.

The first one is below. Watching at 2x is can get it down to ~2min which is where I’d love to be. ?

(While there is always more I could do, suggestions that might make them simpler and faster to produce are particularly ?.)

Breaking the bottleneck: The shift from social to systemic impact

Igniter - Systemic Incubation Model

I just read Tris Lumley‘s post Transforming our Anti-Social Sector along side three posts by Dom Potter: The Story of Social Investment; Rethinking how we support impact driven organizations to start-up; and Collaborative and collective impact for social change.

Together, they tell a story of how our best approaches to investing in impact-first ventures are falling short. Incremental improvements to what we are doing are not enough. At the same time, the answer is not in trying to replicate the financial-first startup support ecosystem. Nor is it likely to be ‘something in the middle’.

If our goal is a future that is hospitable to humanity, our best efforts will be those that actively help produce systems of society that make it possible. This is quite different than working to make sure that every investment has an impact.

Efforts around collective impact, social innovation labs, and social venture incubators and accelerators all hint at how we might do things differently but mostly appear hamstrung by the limitations and constraints we are trying to break free from.

A while back I had put some thoughts together around what systemic incubation might look like, but just realized I never shared it. It’s full of challenges of course, but reminds me what it might look like to shift our focus from generating returns to funders, to creating the conditions for entrepreneurs and innovators to create our future. Maybe sharing it now, can provoke some more questions and ideas for those working to make it happen.

How are you doing?

It’s a simple question and it’s the heart of Pine’s daily check-in. As we’ve been building Pine over the last six weeks, I’ve answered it about 120 times. This is my experience.

At the beginning I’d look at the question, not sure where to start. Often I’d quickly tap in a few words. Sometimes those words turned into paragraphs. Sometimes I’d check-in with a simple emoticon.

After a while, I started noticing things throughout the day. Little thoughts. Sudden reactions. Sometimes I’d reach for Pine and tap them in. Sometimes I’d just pause and watch them play out. And then, it hit me. There was a pattern in my responses, a common theme lurking below the surface that had been shaping my days. Now it’s not like I’ve even done much to change that pattern yet, but simply noticing it lessened its influence and my days are noticeably flowing a little more lightly. Not bad for a simple question.

Looking back, Pine also helped set the stage in a few other ways.

First it’s private. These are my experiences, my thoughts, expressed in a way that’s unfiltered and unedited. Not shared, they are raw and real.

Second, the simplicity. I can check in just about anywhere at any time, and I can do it in a few seconds whether I think I have anything to say or not.

Third, while it’s private, I’m not alone. I can’t see what my friends are saying, but I know that they are checking in. It’s like we’re walking the Camino trail together, silently nodding to each other as we discover a little more of ourselves with every step.

In summary, our lives are made up of the experiences we collect every day. In that journey, Pine is my silent partner, helping me pay attention to whatever happens. Founder bias aside, I think that’s something we can all benefit from.