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Five questions: Yeves Perez on eco investing

24 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yeves Perez is founder of the Eco Investment Club and CEO of EINI, Inc., a green branding company.

The Eco Investment Club is a gathering of individuals interested in learning about green topics for investment purposes. It has more than 1,000 members worldwide, with an average of about 50 attending each meeting twice a month in downtown San Diego.

Its members range from bankers and architects to retailers and bikers, who network at the meetings.

Perez spoke to SDNN in answer to five questions.

1. What do you love most about what you do?

I like being at the forefront of a lot of new technology — a lot of disruptive new ideas that are very risky on paper, but once they prove their viability or their chance to be viable, a lot of times we find out (about investment opportunities) for a lot of other people.

I like being at the forefront of a lot of new technology — a lot of disruptive new ideas that are very risky on paper, but once they prove their viability or their chance to be viable, a lot of times we find out (about investment opportunities) for a lot of other people.

We were hearing about algae before it was what it is today. We were hearing about automobiles that were (run on) compressed air, before they were even talked about being feasible and viable.

We were just in Sacramento for a launch with the Gov. Schwarzenegger last week Thursday, where the state had endorsed a new technology called a microfueler. It is a distilling pump, so you can actually make ethanol at home. You can actually run your own vehicle off your own ethanol. It’s fantastic technology.

It’s all over the news now. The state is interested in a pilot program to have all the state fleet vehicles to be run on alternative-fuel ethanol by July 2009.

We were aware of it several months ago. We were involved in the early testing in California to see if it was viable for the state to adopt it.

All this information is very valuable. To be at the forefront of it before everybody else is an amazing opportunity.

2. What is one thing that happened to you that made you decide to pursue what you do?

I came to San Diego with a small real estate development firm that I had founded, in late ‘04, from the East Coast. I thought downtown was just right for green buildings.

No trust

I was welcomed by community leaders. But at the time, the investment community did not know anything about green buildings. There was more focus on speculation and quick deals and hot locations.

I had one private investor who said (about a green building project), ‘What are you going to do, paint it green?’

Once we told him about (existing green buildings), it made him nervous, because he had no idea what we were talking about. And that’s the number one rule about investing: Never invest in anything you don’t understand, no matter how good it sounds.

There was nothing to build any kind of trust or confidence on.

No knowledge

Then I attended a real estate club. They meet once a month and bring in knowledgeable real estate experts to talk about trends. I thought to myself, ‘They have to be talking about green buildings.’ But nobody knew anything about green.

I got frustrated and said I’m gonna start my own club. San Diego deserves to have innovative projects here. We have a market, we have buyers, we have a market that isn’t being fulfilled.

I thought to myself, ‘An investment club is very comfortable for investors, because they are used to going to other clubs.’ All I had to do was start a club where we would just change the content.

So it’s no longer content about speculating in the real estate market. It was: Here are the facts, here is the return-on-investment on green buildings. Here are the ups and downs of ethanol, the pros and cons of solar, the inside on electric vehicles. We started talking about eco tourism and investing in green resorts.

We would have people come in, who were very well educated on those markets, tell us the pros and cons, what return on investment we can expect.

Creating confidence

We started to attract investors to the club that wanted to know more things they could get involved in. Once they started to attend a couple of our meetings, they had the opportunity to gain more confidence in the technology and the ideas. They actually went out and invested.

They came back to us and said, ‘We were terrified about the technology. We heard about it, we read the business plan, we just didn’t know anything about it. A lot of our friends we trusted didn’t know anything about it, so we didn’t want to do it. But once we came to your meeting, and you had several people at the meeting who could answer our questions, we actually got very excited about it and we decided to invest.’”

That changed me. People found trust within our organization. We weren’t trying to sell it and for us to make a monetary profit. We were out to educate people.

3. What do you worry about in your industry?

The financial industry all together. Greed is what I worry about.

There are a lot of people who got really greedy in other sectors of the financial market, and I’m worried that some people will look at green and get greedy.

(They’ll say:) ‘I made a lot in the dotcom before it burst, and I made a lot of money in subprime mortgages before it burst, and now I’m turning my eyes to the next big thing.’

They could turn to this and get really greedy and screw it up for the rest of us.

Before the financial bust, green investments were looked at as a green apple in a room full of red apples. Now it’s a green apple in the room full of rotting apples.

4. If you could let people in San Diego know, do or have just one thing, what would that be?

There’s a green fund in San Diego. JPS Global Investments is down the street.

We were involved with him, we supported him and he got the courage to start his own green fund. He has a huge advantage from having a global-sustainability perspective.

His fund is actually performing very well. It’s open to private investors and institutional investors.

Whenever there’s one (green fund) that will lead to two. In the next couple of years, it might be five. San Diego has its own local green economy.

5. What’s your vision for San Diego, by when?

Our region has the ability to be a national green leader.

As a city, a county and even a society, we have the talent, the ingenuity, and the financial resources. I think we will be recognized nationally and internationally by 2012.

Just algae (a new biofuels industry), we should be recognized as one of the top regions nationally and internationally. The breakthroughs in algae happened here in San Diego, not only in research and green oceanography, but also in business models, distribution and investment. A lot of investment dollars in algae biofuels come here to San Diego.

We have the opportunity to rebuild the economy as a greener economy.

About the club

Name: Eco investment club.

Number of members: More than 1,000 worldwide. An average of 35 to 85 attend meetings.

Meeting details: Meets second and fourth Tuesdays, 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Location: 655 G Street, Pannikin building, downtown

Cost: Free for first-time visitors. Membership plans: $50/month, $125/quarter, $400/year.

Other programs: Eco Investors Bootcamp; Management training courses; “Chief green officer” certification; “Eco wiki nomics” online forum.

Business model: A for-profit group, owned by EINI, Inc., which has investment capital and sponsorships of about $100,000.

Collaborators: U.S. Green Building Council; California Center for Sustainable Energy; CleanTech San Diego; Connect; City of San Diego.

Contact: 866-960-9495,
Cynthiagreen@einicorp.com
www.ecoinvestmentclub.com

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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