The Fund Founder Spotlight Interview: Cat Long of Trace
The Fund is a founder community and early stage fund, by founders for founders.
Welcome to The Founder Spotlight where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at The Fund. This week the spotlight is on Cat Long, co-founder and CEO of Trace, a climate tech empowering individuals, employers and consumer brands to become carbon neutral through accessible and engaging digital tools.
What is your company doing to reduce their carbon footprint and reach net zero? Regardless of your answer, Trace is here to help, removing the barriers to climate action by making it simple to measure, reduce, and offset your emissions and then share your story to amplify your impact.
Cat has a background in strategy consulting and most recently worked for Australia’s largest investment bank, where she led various projects in the renewable energy and sustainability space. This piqued her curiosity in climate tech and she decided to focus her energy on climate full time. After taking the leap and leaving her corporate job in 2019, Cat and co-founder Joanna Auburn are helping small to medium businesses reach net zero through their simple and engaging digital software platform.
What's Trace’s “North Star”?
We have a vision that every single company should be able to reach net zero emissions before 2050, which means they need to measure their carbon emissions today and then reduce them by about 80 to 90%! That is no easy feat, especially for small to medium enterprises who don’t have a dedicated team or budget for this kind of thing. It's ambitious, but we believe that Trace can help them by providing accessible tools and attainable solutions within their budget.
What makes Trace a “must-have” versus a “nice-to-have”?
Two years ago it would have been a nice-to-have, but luckily there are many external forces that are at play here making it a must-have. Now we're seeing the demand for businesses to have a climate strategy coming from multiple angles. Regulation is coming, albeit not really touching the SME space yet. I'm pretty convinced that in the next five years there will be a requirement for every company to have some sort of carbon target, a carbon tax or something similar. The other source of demand is employees: the war on talent is real! The younger generations really care about climate and if you don’t have a story and compelling answer to “What are you doing about climate?,” you're not going to be able to attract the best talent. We believe climate action is a team sport and so we help our customers engage employees and unlock the power of the workforce to reach net zero.
How does Trace inspire “customer love”?
We launched our software platform at the beginning of the year so this is always a work in progress. We hear time and time again that people are surprised by the simplicity and accessibility of it, which makes them feel good. There’s a lot of noise and jargon surrounding climate so often people have a bit of trepidation going into the process. Getting to net zero should not be a chore and Trace simplifies the journey and makes it fun. That’s really where the love comes from.
What have been some of your greatest challenges founding Trace?
I think they're only getting more complex to be honest. At the start it was trying to work out our Northstar and mission, and what the product is and how to articulate it, which we’ve now defined. I think the challenge for me and probably many founders is how best to execute on your mission. One of my favorite phrases is “startups are more likely to drown than starve” and I think that's the biggest challenge for us. We hear customer needs all the time. We read about new competitors. We see emerging regulations and trends. We could try and respond to every single one, but we simply don't have the time and we have to remain super focused. So the challenge and the opportunity comes from being laser focused on your goals and not getting distracted by new ones.
Any favorite podcasts/books?
I read a lot and I really try to encourage the team and people around me to share relevant content; my co-founder Joanna and I are very good at that. We both listen to many different podcasts, summarize it for each other, and send the links. One that I found super helpful is 20 Sales, which talks about growing the sales function, which is a big part of my role at Trace. I also love the book The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster because it resonates so much with the emotional journey of being a founder.
Do you have any advice for other founders?
You've just got to back yourself to solve every single problem because you will face a new one every day. It can either freak you out or you can see it as an opportunity and you just have to trust yourself that you will make it through. It doesn't get easier, but if you believe you can solve it, then you will.