CNBC Disruptor 50
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7 millennial entrepreneurs undeterred by student debt

Elena Lucas, Utility API

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Elena Lucas, UtilityAPI

After graduating from Loyola University Chicago and receiving a master's degree in international economics from the University of California San Diego, Elena Lucas owed some $120,000 in student loans. To pay it off, she took a job as a business finance analyst at Pacific Electric and Gas, hoping that someday she could focus on renewable energy. After 14 frustrating months, Lucas took a job at a utility-scale wind company, but she was laid off six months later, in August 2014.

"I felt completely crushed by student debt, but I knew the large corporate environment was not for me," she said. Lucas began attending tech start-up events and networking. She soon met Daniel Roesler, a development engineer who had come up with the idea of an enterprise software company that would use data to make it easier and more cost effective for customers to shift to solar. He asked if she would be interested in leading the solar start-up as co-founder and CEO.

In late 2014, UtilityAPI only had genesis funding, from Better Ventures and SfunCube. Lucas raised an angel round in spring 2015—and received two investments from SoFi's network of angel investors. UtilityAPI has now raised more than $1 million in funding, including from the U.S Department of Energy's SunShot Catalyst Program.

Source: Martin Backhauss