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20 Questions: Chris Kemper

The founder and CEO of solar energy solutions company Palmetto shares his favorite things. 

Photo courtesy of Palmetto

Chris Kemper is deeply passionate about the climate crisis. And as the founder and CEO of Palmetto, a company helping bring solar energy to the masses, he’s helping do something about it. Palmetto’s mission is to help stop climate change before it becomes truly irreversible. The company made the Techonomy 10 list, which was featured in our Fall 2021 Worthy 100 print issue. Here, we dive deeper with Kemper, finding out his favorite way to give, his investment philosophy and what keeps him awake at night. 

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1. What are you currently reading?

Right now, I’m rereading Titan, a biography of John D. Rockefeller. I have a huge thing for business history and read as much as I can about entrepreneurs, business models and how industries came into being. 

2. What’s your favorite way to give?

The core of my work and dedication to the environment is delivered through Palmetto, the company I founded in 2010 that is focused on accelerating the national adoption of clean energy. I also believe in supporting nonprofits, especially ones that are aligned on mission and can accelerate climate change mitigation. 

3. Favorite city?      

San Francisco, hands down. 

4. What do you love about it?

First, the cool Bay Area breeze is so refreshing. The hikes are endless (and shaded). My favorite sports teams—the Giants and the Warriors—have awesome venues and an energetic vibe. Most of all, I really enjoy the excitement from all the entrepreneurs I’ve met and people with a vision on how things can improve for the better. 

5. How many days a year do you travel?

Prior to COVID, I believe the number was about 200 days per year. I really enjoy traveling and the newness that comes with meeting new people and visiting new places.

6. Do you fly private or commercial?

Commercial. I prefer trains, however.

7. Other than your phone, what do you never travel without?

I always travel with a journal. I love to write, build up ideas and outline plans.

8. Your investment philosophy?

Invest in the right people and the rest takes care of itself.  

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9. What does “worth beyond wealth” mean to you?

Creating an impact or societal value that supersedes any monetary value.

10. What do you wish more people invested their time/money in?

Reading up on climate change and becoming familiar with things they can do to make a change.

11. What advice would you give to a younger you?

To take my time and enjoy the journey more. Too often I was focused on the end result and forgot to slow down and enjoy the ride.

12. Drink of choice?

Old fashioned. I’m from Louisville, Ky.; I have to stay true to my roots.

13. Favorite artist or activist?

Maya Angelou.

14. Most difficult part of being a CEO?

Turning it off. Going from an execution mindset 18 hours a day and then trying to flip the switch to enjoy dinner with a friend, for example, is impossible. Work is on my mind nonstop.

15. What keeps you awake at night?

The speed of execution on market adoption. We are addressing a major environmental catastrophe in climate change. We need to try harder and work more efficiently in order to mitigate this emerging crisis.

16. Favorite movie?

Fletch. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

17. What’s at the top of your bucket list?

Releasing Bromates in 2022—I cowrote the film that centers on the clean energy topic in partnership with Court Crandall, creator of Old School, and it is being produced by Snoop Dogg.

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18. Biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Being insolvent. It was a challenge on nearly every level. It was a huge learning experience, and I’m a better CEO for having had that experience.

19. What do you deny yourself?

Radishes.

20. How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who helped stop climate change.

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