My name is Barrett Brooks. I live in Portland, OR. I’m an experienced startup operator.
After growing ConvertKit to $28M in ARR over five years, I retired from my role as COO in August 2021. I spent the rest of 2021 decompressing, getting my energy back, and serving as volunteer managing editor on The Carbon Almanac with Seth Godin. In 2022, I started writing long form essays about the most fascinating companies helping to solve the climate crisis.
I’m especially interested in working on:
- Nature-based solutions to the climate crisis
- Carbon dioxide removal and storage
- Improving agricultural systems for human and animal well-being, especially regenerative agriculture solutions
- Growing the economy without negative externalities, especially by growing the circular economy through low- or no-harm physical goods
Read on below for details on:
- The problems I want to help solve
- My professional background, strengths, and weaknesses
- The qualities of people and companies that will allow us both to thrive
- Sample roles I have or would consider
- Sample companies I’d love to co-found
- Recommendations from former co-workers
- Salary expectations
The problems I want to help solve
After hundreds of hours of consideration over the past several months, I’m focusing 80% of my energy on climate tech. I’m reserving the other 20% for considering opportunities I wouldn’t be able to imagine in a vacuum or particularly high impact roles in other industries.
When I say “climate tech” I have a few key areas in mind:
- Carbon removal – I’m interested in joining teams working on natural and technological solutions for carbon removal. From re/afforestation to direct air capture to biochar and everything in between.
- Sustainable agriculture / food – In this realm, I’m fascinated by natural and technological solutions to support or enable regenerative agriculture, vertical farming, restoring soil health, reduced food waste, and low impact or organic fertilizers and pesticides. Anything that gets nutrient-dense, whole foods on to the plates of more people around the world with lower carbon impact is of interest to me.
- Net zero consumer goods – In the future, every product we make will have the ability to be fully recycled from top to bottom, fully biodegraded with no harm to the environment, or reused in an equally functional way. I’d love to help build or scale companies creating consumer products with a cradle to cradle mindset.
- Net zero construction and built environment – If you’re working on net-zero buildings or homes, alternative cements and bricks, green roofs, biodegradable and low-VOC and/or recyclable insulation/paints/finishes/glass/etc — I’d love to help you scale.
- VC funds investing exclusively in climate tech – I’d also love to spend time alongside the best VCs investing in climate tech today. Every one of these solutions is going to need a visionary funding partner to help it scale. I’d love to serve as an entrepreneur-in-residence, analyst, or partner in a fund dedicated to solving the climate crisis.
Outside of climate tech, I’m also interested in and committed to the need for policy solutions to the problems that individuals and businesses alone can’t solve. Within this space, I’d be willing to work for think tanks, political campaigns, or as an elected official to further city, state, or national climate policy.
Finally, if you have a pitch for something that contributes to human progress in a meaningful way but doesn’t cleanly fit into one of the buckets above — please reach out.
If you are working on anything mentioned above and believe I could help accelerate your momentum, please @ or DM me on Twitter and I’ll send along my cell and email.
My background, strengths, and weaknesses
My name is Barrett Brooks. I live in a beautiful multi-generational household in Portland, OR with my wife, my two sons, and in-laws.
I think of myself as:
- A dedicated father and husband
- A servant leader
- Insatiably curious
- Earnest and optimistic
- An effective verbal and written communicator
- A skilled and experienced operator
- A data-informed decision maker
- An architect of company culture
- A brand visionary
- A committed environmentalist and conservationist
When I’m not working, with my family, or outside, I love cooking delicious food and sparking deep conversations with friends. I’m an avid hiker, skier, camper, and fly fisherman. You can read my writing here on this blog or my short form thoughts on Twitter.
My background as an experienced startup operator
Here are the high level career highlights:
- As COO at ConvertKit, we grew the company from $3.5M ARR to $28.5M ARR in the five years I was there. We raised no funding and grew revenue while growing the team from 20 when I joined to 70 at the point of my departure. I was responsible for engineering, operations, data, marketing, sales, and customer success — everything but product — with a total of more than 50 people reporting in to me.
- As director of growth at Fizzle, led 34% revenue growth in 2015. Fizzle was an early stage company educating creators — think early Lynda for creators.
- As a strategist working for Seth Godin in 2013, I helped architect course content that led us to launch (and shutter) Krypton Community College. This became the precursor and jumping off point for Seth to launch the altMBA.
- As founder at Living for Monday, I earned a real-world MBA in entrepreneurship. I learned how hard it is to grow a company from scratch, how important it is to have clarity of vision and the hardship of being a solo founder.
- As a new college grad, I started my career as a management consultant at Ernst & Young. There I got a glimpse into the world of big business, organizational politics, and navigating existing systems to create positive change.
You can read more about my professional experience on LinkedIn.
My strengths as a deep generalist
I’m a deep generalist. I know enough to effectively manage across every major function of a growth stage startup. Here are some of the strengths I use to rally teams to achieve great things together:
- Altruism – I’m driven by my desire to create a positive impact with my life. I have a strong moral compass. And I believe the future will be much better than the past.
- Standard of excellence – I’m ambitious in the sense that I’m always trying to reach my highest potential and use that potential to create progress for my company and society at large. As a leader and manager, I see it as my job to help people do the best work of their lives.
- Research and analysis – I am insatiably curious. When there is a problem or opportunity, my instinct is to learn everything I can about how to solve for it. I read widely, speak to people with more experience than me, and crunch numbers to help me better understand the world around me.
- Decision making – I’m comfortable making big decisions and being held accountable for the results. Running a company means making important decisions quickly – I combine vision, data, research, and perspective from my team to arrive at the best path forward given what we know. I regularly build quick financial projections to help me understand how different decisions might play out.
- Pace of execution – Speed matters to me. I want to do big things, to a consistent standard of excellence, as fast as possible. When we’re working to solve important problems in the world, speed means lives saved or improved.
- Culture creator – Of all the things we did well at ConvertKit, I believe our culture was the most magical element and I was a core architect of that culture.
- Fun – when it comes to making an impact, I’m dead serious and intense. But when it comes to building relationships, culture, and understanding that life is a long journey best enjoyed along the way — I’m a goofball on a mission to help everyone have fun. Part of that fun is in building deep, meaningful relationships along the way.
Every person has weaknesses. I’ve learned it’s more important to be aware of what they are than to act like they don’t exist. Here are mine:
- Either/or thinking – at times, I fall into the trap of seeing only options a and b rather than seeing a and b as either end of a full spectrum of options. Over time I’ve been able to mitigate this challenge by creating a mental model of a spectrum anytime I feel myself being pulled towards either/or decision making.
- Inner critic – in holding myself to a high standard, I often end up beating myself up before anyone else can get around to offering feedback. This can make it hard for me to process critical feedback when it lacks personal care. On the flip side, I’ve learned to proactively communicate how I best receive feedback to create the most productive working relationships.
- Impatience – because I like to move fast and make an impact, I can be impatient with a lack of progress. If I feel we’re losing time due to bureaucracy, lack of commitment, or lack of trust I can get frustrated. When this happens, it’s helpful for me to simply say it out loud in a conversation with my team to disarm it.
- Intensity – I’m a passionate and structured communicator. I’m also an ambivert who hates small talk and surface level interactions, which means I typically prefer to dig in on deep/meaningful conversations. The combination of these things means I can sometimes come across as intense or intolerant before people get to know me fully.
I work very hard to be aware of my weaknesses and put myself (and my teams) in situations to avoid the negative effects of those weaknesses. My teammates consistently tell me I’m open and receptive to critical feedback in a way that makes them feel safe delivering that feedback on an ongoing basis.
Both of these things will remain true in whatever I do next.
The qualities I look for in business partners and companies I work for
Here are the general qualities I’m looking for in joining or starting a company:
- Mission-driven – I want to work with people who want to solve an important problem in the world and improve the lives of others. Money is not a sufficient motivator for me — impact is my number one goal.
- Culture matters – companies take years to make an impact. It’s important to me to join or build a team that has depth, which means working together for years to come. That means we need to create a culture that respects people as individuals, supports joy and balance in life, and strives to take care of one another.
- Ambitious – I’m looking to take a big swing in this next stage of my career. I want to work with people who define ambition as competing with ourselves to get better everyday and make a bigger impact with every passing year. Fast pace with high standards in service of others is my goal.
- Thoughtful – I thrive alongside other self-aware, caring human beings. You probably apologize when you’ve cause hurt or harm. You probably value building inclusive environments, creating space for deep conversations to understand each other better, and/or giving individualized gifts or recognition to show appreciation.
- Builders > talkers – I’m interested in building more than talking about building. Let’s get to the point of failure as fast as possible and then learn from our mistakes to get closer to solving the problem at hand.
- Expert – I’m an exceptional operator. I’d like to team up with a domain expert to build something important. Perhaps you’re a soil scientist, industrial engineer, PhD, or chemist. Maybe you’re a software engineer who’s spent the past decade in carbon removal, forest monitoring, or regenerative agriculture.As a company, you probably have an effective technological solution you know will make an impact if we can turn it into a viable business.
Sample Roles I Have or Would Be Interested in Pursuing
- Chief of Staff at LowerCarbon Capital, Rewiring America, or My Climate Journey
- COO at Pachama or LivingCarbon or Charm Industrial or Terraformation or [insert your climate tech startup here]
- Strategy and ops at Stripe Climate
Sample Companies I’m Interested in Co-Founding
Here are some of the solutions I’d love to exist and that I’d be eager to build alongside a technical co-founder who is a domain expert in the field:
- Software helping farmers transition from a traditional to a regenerative or silvopasture agricultural system of farming
- Technology to turn any abandoned warehouse into a high yield farming operation
- Negative carbon, no-VOC brick and concrete that can be made from local materials + captured carbon on any continent
- Technology-powered cradle to cradle clothing company that micro-manufactures clothes to personal fit and then biodegrades within 24 months at the end of its useful life
- Technology-powered low- or no-carbon natural fertilizer company with deployable systems to deliver the exact amount of fertilizer required to optimize soil health + crop yield without excess nitrogen runoff
I’m still digging into the research and existing solutions coming to market right now. If you know of gaps in the climate tech market that need to be solved, please let me know what they are. I’m eager to learn.
Recommendations from former coworkers
[More inbound – making sure I have permission to post. Happy to provide references if you’d like them.]
Most importantly: If you’re interested in working together, please reach out even if you know you can’t pay what I made in my last role. It’s more important to me to do high impact work than it is to earn a specific salary.
As a co-founder of a company, I am in a position to work for low or no salary until we can prove our thesis and raise a substantial Seed or Series A.
As an exec or teammate, I understand market/standardized salary rates and am willing to work within the constraints of the pay range for specific high impact roles. I’m also willing to forego higher salary in favor of equity-based compensation.
As a benchmark, I made a base salary of $255,000 per year as COO at ConvertKit. Roles ranging from $150,000-250,000 are a sweet spot and, again, don’t let this be the reason we pass on a conversation.
Get in touch
If you’re a domain expert who’s been looking for a good reason to start a company to solve the climate crisis, please get in touch asap.
If you’re a climate tech startup founder in need of ambitious, impact-oriented leaders to help scale your team from early to growth stage, please get in touch asap.
If you run a climate tech fund (or a company like Stripe or Shopify investing heavily in carbon removal) and are open to EIR, chief of staff, or operational roles to help you move faster and find the most promising solutions to the crisis, please get in touch asap.
And if you’d just love to work together but don’t fit neatly into what I’ve laid out, please pitch me anyways. It might turn into the most meaningful experience of our careers.
Here’s my contact info (happy to provide my cell for calls/text by Twitter DM):