ProcureTechSTARS with Lubomila Jordanova

ProcureTechSTARS with Lubomila Jordanova, CEO and Co-Founder of Plan A

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Lubomila Jordanova, CEO and Co-Founder of Plan A, a science-driven certified SaaS platform for automated carbon accounting, decarbonisation, ESG management and reporting, that serves customers across the globe.

During the conversation, Lubomila shared her thoughts on biodiversity, positivity, science driven solutions, integrity, bad bananas, and … Pisco Sour.

1. What is Plan A’s mission? 

Plan A’s mission is to decarbonise businesses of all sizes, worldwide. 

We do this by using science and technology. What differentiates us is that since day one, we have embedded a fully-fledged scientific team in product development, which gives us the opportunity to be aligned to certain methodologies and standards, but also to really, deeply understand what can decarbonise a certain industry or company.

What are the methods? What are the activities? What are the most effective solutions for that? 

Another differentiating point is that we’ve built a marketplace where you can pick and choose from thousands of solutions that offer alternatives to unsustainable activities or processes or products that you have internally. 

Finally, we enable reporting according to different international standards to be automated.

2. What have been the most significant decisions or milestones in the Plan A journey so far?

We started five years ago, and our one key milestone is our fundraising. In 2021, we closed our seed and Series A funding where we reached a total of $17million.

Another milestone, which is of course the most important, is the team.
We now have 80+ people but will have 120 by the end of Q1, built up of a lot of scientists, product tech people, and people like me with a strong focus on product and science.

The final milestone has been expanding geographically. It is still quite different to define sustainability in different geographies, so we have had to adapt ourselves and we speak about the problem in the way we present Plan A. For some, maybe the maturity of the market is not at the stage where our initial markets are, for example in Germany where we started.

3. What do you look for in the perfect customer?

I guess there are two sides to this. 

On the one hand and more qualitative side, is a good customer that truly understands the importance of sustainability and really wants to embed it in the way they do business. This is where our product really starts making a lot of sense because it enables KPI creation and operationalisation of sustainable activities to be effectively implemented as there’s a willingness to use it. 

On the quantitative side, we’re looking into companies that have regulatory pressure, but also pressure from the employees and customers, which sometimes crosses into the same industry. Sometimes it’s a totally different one. But usually these are the kind of the elements that define whether a client is a good prospect or not.

4. What are the foundations of a great team?

Positivity. 

“I think if you really care about the cause that you are working on, which in Plan A’s case is climate change, it can be quite challenging sometimes because it’s not always the most positive space to work in when you’re working so hard to tackle it.
You really need to be someone with an optimistic and positive mindset that is willing to take on the day-to-day challenges, such as the lack of knowledge or the unwillingness of someone to work on the topic.”

We look at a certain type of mindset from our team, where integrity is embedded in the way you do your work. I think there’s a lot of necessity for collaboration, but also for humbleness and having the willingness to support others even though it falls outside of the scope of your direct responsibilities. With this in mind, having the integrity and this commitment that is without ego is something that really is in British work culture. 

Finally, but not the least important, is the technical skills we believe in. Science is at the core of everything we do and with this in mind, we really want people to contribute with whatever technical knowledge they have. For some people this is sales, for others this is carbon accounting, climate modelling, etc. But bringing this expertise to the table is something that really helps the team grow faster and deliver at the level of professionalism that our clients expect.

5. As we emerge from COVID what will you be doing differently?

Going through COVID itself has not always been straightforward. 

We had to learn to work remote and across different time zones as people went back to their home countries to spend time with family. 

I believe we overcame this. In terms of where Plan A is now, we are scaling in a data driven manner.

“I think one of the key pillars and the backbone of our success has been driven by numbers. If you combine this with the values I mentioned in my previous answer, then you have a recipe for success because you have good people that are well committed and really aligned on the same emotional mindset level to everyone else, but also driven by actual data, which can always make the final decision making unbiased.”
6. What is the vision for Plan A for the future?

We have the ambition to decarbonize our clients within the next few years at an average of 15 to 30%, which with the scale of the companies we work with is quite a big job. However, we truly believe that with the software we’ve developed it is possible, because just the recommendations on the platform itself hold the potential for up to 60%. 

Of course, if someone takes on the job to implement this, it is not something that happens overnight, it comes with engagement from a lot of different stakeholders, partners, but also different kinds of scientific groups and different entities like governmental ones.

7. How are you doing good for the planet? How can you amplify what Plan A is doing and help us collectively move faster towards decarbonisation?

After having gathered a lot of knowledge on the different solutions that are out there on climate change, we need global solutions on a local scale. 

Now, we have a lot of western perspectives embedded in the way climate change is addressed and that’s not necessarily what the planet needs at this time because climate change is really hitting a lot of places in the Global South. These places not only deserve our attention, but also financial support and infrastructural improvements, as well as international willingness and support, especially from a political level. 

“I think when we think about climate change, we should definitely consider the fact that the definition of climate change and every single country on this planet is different. In every single little city, or geography in different seasons it’s different.”

With this in mind, we need to apply technology that is scalable, but according to the local context. What I would hope is that we’re able to support, not only as part of the Green Tech Alliance, but also just as a community that believes in the problem. A lot of these may be ventures that are not as visible in order to allow climate change to be globally addressed, rather than simply from a Western perspective.

INSTANT LUBOMILA INSPIRATION

1. What is your favourite book or blog and why?

One book that really stimulated my climate journey was How bad are bananas? 

I’ve gifted it to many people. It’s an interesting book that tells a story of every single action that a human takes on daily basis resulting in CO2 emissions, which explains how we should contextualise our individual footprint in line with the global climate agenda. 

My favourite blog is definitely the Plan A Academy! We have more than 300 original pieces there that educate people on climate change, that are essentially little pieces of the hearts of not only my team, but also partners like MIT and Imperial College.

2. Who is your favourite inspirational leader and why?

There are 2 main ladies. One is Vanessa Nakate, an activist from Uganda.

I normally shy away from being focused on activism, but I was really impressed having met her at COP26 and listening to her because she demonstrated a level of leadership I sometimes miss even in adults. She’s 25 and she speaks with a lot of eloquence about the structural challenges that lie ahead of us when it comes to climate change, especially on the divide between global south and north. I think she’s definitely someone that is an example of how we can all benefit from learning more about it.

Many people don’t know but one of the reasons why I started Plan A is my love for wildlife and my concern when learning about climate change was the reduction in the biodiversity. Jane Goodall, who studies chimpanzees, has been a big inspiration for me and is a great role model. It’s the small but incredibly tangible actions that create big change.

3. What is your favourite app or piece of technology?

I was actually openly speaking against them, but the Apple AirPods which have honestly changed my life and make it easier to work. 

4. What’s your favourite way to celebrate a success?

With my team.

When we close a deal and are in the office, we take some time out in the day to grab a drink or walk – one time we even went bowling when we closed a really big deal. Celebrating together is the best!

5. What is your favourite cocktail?

A negroni or Pisco Sour.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1. Work with people who share the same vision as you – in Plan A’s case, those who care about the future of our planet.

2. It is unlikely something will become a success overnight – that’s why we need to work together quickly to tackle climate change.

3. Care about the cause you’re working on – be optimistic and with a positive mindset.

4. Embed integrity in the way you do your work.

5. Scale in a data driven manner – be driven by numbers.

6. Data is key for making rational, unbiased decisions.

7. We need global solutions on a local scale, instead of a solely Western perspective.

About Plan A

Plan A is a leading software developer in the field of corporate carbon accounting and decarbonisation. The German company has developed a SaaS platform that combines cutting-edge technology and the latest scientific standards and methodologies (certified by TÜV Rheinland). The end-to-end software solution automates CO2 emissions calculation, carbon reduction planning, and ESG reporting for businesses.

Founded in 2017, the company has already received several awards, most recently Generali’s SME EnterPRIZE Award 2021 and the prestigious The Europas Award 2021. Plan A closed a Series A funding round of USD 10 million in November 2021 (HV Capital and Keen Venture Partners, joining Demeter, coparion, and Softbank as investors). Plan A is a B Corp certified business and adheres to strict social and environmental standards. For more information, visit plana.earth.

About ProcureTechSTARS

Our industry is moving forward faster and faster, empowered by innovative, progressive digital procurement solutions created and led by inspiring teams. ProcureTechSTARS are the digital procurement company CEOs and Founders that are leading the change, they are entrepreneurs, engineers and architects collaborating to transform procurement and the enterprise. In an open conversation with these leaders Lance Younger will be discussing the highs and lows of building the future now, the challenges they’ve faced, their perspective on accelerators and hot topics, and what keeps getting them up in the morning (and keeps them up at night).

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