We Started A Carbon Offsetting Company [From New Zealand]

Dave Rouse
We Started A Carbon Offsetting Company [From New Zealand]
from Auckland, New Zealand
started May 2019
alexa rank
market size
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
270 days
growth channels
Brand Authenticity
best tools
Verifigator, Twitter, Instagram
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
24 Pros & Cons
1 Tips
Discover what tools Dave reccommends to grow your business!
social media
Discover what books Dave reccommends to grow your business!
Start A Carbon Offsetting Business

My name is Dave Rouse, founder of CarbonClick. CarbonClick’s mission is to help humans restore the planet and our vision is to be the offset platform of choice to the world’s leading businesses. CarbonClick makes climate action simple, cost-effective, meaningful, and transparent.

I am a kiwi born entrepreneur who strives to bring a unique set of sustainability and Tikanga Maori values, into a variety of businesses. I’ve owned over a dozen businesses and co-founded a charity, as well as voluntary mentoring and holding board seats. I set high standards and a great culture of stretch goals, leadership, and support to reach them within our CarbonClick team. Every business or charity is entered into with purpose, vision, and quadruple bottom-line results in mind.

CarbonClick is my current focus and is on the right track to becoming another success story for NZ, both at a financial scale as well as a global impact level. I started looking at CarbonClick as an Angel investor to the two other founders, before its formation, but they asked me to lead the business as well as invest. The offering was sound for Airlines and Airports were the next targets once the technology was built. With presales ahead of schedule, they were on a very strong path before the Covid hitting. Together, we’re accelerating meaningful impact with 800 businesses and 99,600 individuals. We've offset 27+ million kg of carbon emissions.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My Co-Founders built and monitored the carbon offsetting module for an international airline and discovered four things:

  1. People were concerned about their travel footprint and wanted to do something about it.

  2. People didn’t have much trust that their dollar wasn’t being taxed by the airline as a revenue-generating activity, because there was no transparency.

  3. If we could increase the quality of offsets as well as uptake rates of offsetting globally by airlines, we could really help to restore our planet long term.

  4. There was no “off the shelf” solution. It cost half a million to custom build the offsetting software, took a long time, and cost about $150k per annum to continue running the program and software updates.

The idea was formed to build a better platform that included full transparency & traceability of each offset, and in turn, provide better ability to highlight the more expensive but much higher impact projects we need to be funding. The fact that airlines could save money at the same time by making it a plug-in to their e-commerce solutions was compelling. The founders of CarbonClick got together as we all had a shared purpose and passion for sustainability and bettering our planet. We all knew of each other through the Aviation sector and this led us to come together to offer a solution that is more accessible, trustworthy, meaningful, and most of all, simple.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

We were lucky in that we had built a crap solution in the airline, which matched other crap solutions in the market. We were able to gain market validation insights from the customer questions, comments, and these matched the focus groups we ran market validations with.

Our co-founders applied for an accelerator to explore how to take this idea into a potential business, and this is where the re-design and prototyping began. We are continuously redefining our product.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We started with an accelerator program to polish and validate our idea, make up a prototype, and then seek pre-seed funding to further develop our idea into a working platform that could be utilized in the market and expanded further. We then ran a seed round to commercialize and further refine our platform.

Seek experience sharing rather than advice, as everyone’s situation will be a little different.

We tested different paths to market but our starting point was a direct reach out for months, to find our early adopters who we could leverage. We then launched an official PR campaign in NZ. We used the campaign to drive people to our website and phones.

We referenced our first adopters including Mighty Ape, AA SmartFuels, Placemakers, and 10 Shopify stores. We marketed a “spray and pray” model first to sense and check different market opportunities, then tested sales and marketing strategies that worked in these key areas. Where we found a strong interest plus a marketing or sales strategy that worked, we doubled down. We had to say “no for now” to those where we hadn’t found either demand or an economic path to market.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The vast majority of our customers are resource/time-constrained but are passionate about taking climate action. One of our core pillars, to make climate action simple, helps address this need.

Social media and marketing activities have helped to drive people to know more about our brand. Utilizing Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook, and EDM’s and PR opportunities. We found that on our social channels, when we include a essence of authenticity by adding our team experiences or creating a shared purpose with our audience that was easily relatable enabled us to connect more with our audience to build and add another layer of transparency and trust with our clients on social media because we don’t want to filter anything - we want everyone to truly see who CarbonClick is and what our mission is. Having this mentality really helps us to stand out from the rest.

We also found that doing now and then doing giveaways and boosting posts (ie. partnership announcements) will get a better outcome with thousands of people being reached on socials which then adds more brand recognition and could potentially lead to a prospect client stumbling across our posts.

We mainly use Instagram to attract a wider audience - be it SMEs, larger enterprises, or just individuals who are passionate about sustainability. Instagram enables us to communicate with them on the climate crisis and to educate them on ways they can make a positive impact on the planet.

LinkedIn on the other hand, we definitely use more professionally and target the bigger enterprises and we use sales navigator on LinkedIn to reach out to our target clients and LinkedIn campaign manager to run ads with educational content or partnership announcements which will then have a CTA to our website or an email address they can contact from our team.

CarbonClick’s vision for our social channels is to lead by example and for us to be the ‘Apple’ of the carbon offsetting world. We want to educate our audience about sustainability and ways they can take climate action through their personal carbon footprint. Leading our content with authenticity and thought-leadership educational pieces have helped drive us more brand exposure across our social channels.

I think the secret to social media is to just be real and transparent. That’s what CarbonClick is all about. We’re just a team of passionate individuals willing to take action on climate change and we happen to be sharing a hint of personal touch into our content to provide a shared purpose with our audience. We want people to relate to the story we’re trying to convey.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today we are back on the growth curve in the airline/airport space, which was last year wiped from our earlier success, due to covid. We have had to scale quickly in the wider e-commerce space to fill the void left by aviation last year, but now we have two strong pathways to success (wider e-commerce such as Shopify stores, and aviation e-commerce).

We are working on the ‘middle of the sales funnel’ with converting the high interest into tangible business in order to drive our CAC down to more sustainable levels, while our direct enterprise sales strategy is a long play. We now have over 80,000 individuals who have offset with us once or more, and almost one million trees supported as a result of those offsets.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One mistake is insufficient communication with our board of directors. While we communicated well with shareholders, we underestimated the time required to get the most out of our board, and this resulted in a few challenges such as identifying that the board should be on a fixed term with skills appropriate to the stage we are at in business.

We learned to test marketing campaigns on a sacrificial URL website address because for a while our carbon. Clicking the domain (originally our primary one) was tagged as spam because we were sending too many mailers from that address. This means none of our important emails were getting past firewalls and google spam filters, and this was a real roadblock to progress.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We utilize Hubspot as our CRM tool to help us with our EDMs, social media post scheduling, and managing our deals.

Asana is a great platform that we’ve found extremely helpful for project management. This has been a great way for us to keep up-to-date with tasks, delegate things to tasks owners and make sure things are progressing the right way.

We also use Slack to communicate with our team, this is useful especially when we have team members scattered across the globe too and when we are working from home.

We use Coda as a place to navigate all our documents, keeping them filed and tidied. This is easily accessible for our team.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Primarily we networked a lot with our investors and their ecosystems to pick and choose information and experiences relevant to our stage of business and the challenges we faced.

Books include Rich Dad Poor Dad, and the IPCC report on climate change is our bible that gives us credibility when we talk with industry experts where we share an in-depth knowledge of it’s contents. Same with the Paris Agreement. By appearing very quickly as experts, we are welcomed into panels alongside much more senior incumbents.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Seek experience sharing rather than advice, as everyone’s situation will be a little different. Successfully exited founders have applied similar strategies to a second business and failed, so repeating someone's advice from their learnings may not actually work for your business. Instead, write any advice down, sort it into categories of “pearls of wisdom to draw from”. Like a deck of cards in a poker game, you may choose not to play certain cards, but where it makes sense you’ll have a library of ‘ideas’ to consider for the unique situations you find yourself in.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes absolutely - we are also looking to expand our Sales and Marketing resource, especially leading up towards Series A. We want to amplify our branding and our social media presence to educate and raise awareness.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Dave Rouse   Founder of CarbonClick
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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