She’s Taking on Elon Musk on Solar. And Winning.

Here is another superb article from for The New York Times in which he shares his conversation with Lynn Jurich. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain information about deep-discount subscriptions, please click here.

Credit:  Guerin Blask for The New York Times

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As the head of Sunrun, Lynn Jurich won’t rest until the photovoltaic cell module is as common as the fireplace.

Lynn Jurich, the chief executive of the residential solar company Sunrun, starts every morning with a mantra: “All people and all circumstances are my allies.”

It’s a relentlessly positive outlook, and one that has served her well as she overachieved her way from the woods of Washington State to the pinnacle of Silicon Valley. A bookish child, she overloaded on extracurriculars and got into Stanford. After a stint in private equity, she went back to graduate school and wound up cofounding Sunrun.

There were clouds along the way. She and her husband were stretched emotionally and financially as they both got companies off the ground, his the skin-care brand Tatcha. Sunrun’s stock sank after its initial public offering in 2015.

But today, Sunrun is the leading installer of residential rooftop solar panels in the United States. Last year the company overtook Tesla, which got into the solar business after it acquired SolarCity, which was founded by Lyndon Rive, the cousin of Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk.

This interview, which was condensed and edited for clarity, was conducted in New York City.

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in Tacoma, Wash., in the woods. I was a voracious reader, and I wanted to learn everything. I wanted to do everything at the highest level possible, and was into self-improvement at a very young age. My sister tells stories about how I would make a to-do list at age five which would be: “inventing, practice ballet, practice the piano, singing, read the dictionary.” If there was something to do, I was going to do it, and try to do it at a really high level.

Did that come from your parents?

Not at all. My father was a dentist, and first person to go to college in his family. My mother worked for the government, originally just taking claims for Social Security, and then made her way up. I remember them trying to say, “You’re going to the University of Washington, that’s the school you go to.” And I said, “No, I worked a little bit too hard. I’m going to apply to some of the top schools.”

I was very disillusioned with adults at a young age. I was like, “Hey, you’ve had this whole life to be wise and to learn things.” And I just found them to be a little sloppy and hypocritical.

Do you still feel that way about adults?

I have more empathy now.

So where did you go to school?

Stanford. In my college application essay, I remember I wrote about the importance of leisure, which is so hypocritical. But I feel like that was always lingering in the back of my mind. Like, “Oh, there’s this whole other way to experience the world.”

College was easy after having so many demands on my time throughout my childhood. I worked for a couple professors doing research on how technology would shape work, and that became my day trading strategy. I would interview Silicon Valley companies, and I could basically kind of get a read as to how well the stock was going to do, and would do a little investing on the side. I remember thinking I was a genius, because it was really easy to make money then.

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Here is a direct link to the complete interview.

David Gelles writes the Corner Office column and other features for The New York Times’s Sunday Business section, To learn more about him and his work, please click here.


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