Though Prince passed away over a year ago, his legacy still lives on, and not just through his music. According to recent reports, Prince gifted over 25 million dollars anonymously to create Powerhouse, a company which links together investors with renewable energy entrepreneurs.
According to CNN commentator and green jobs advisor to the Obama administration Van Jones, he had a conversation with Prince in 2011.
“He asked ‘If I have a quarter million dollars, what can I do with it?’ Jones remarked. “My wife said he should put solar panels all over Oakland.”
That conversation lead to the creation of Powerhouse, and since its founding in 2013, the company has helped 43 different renewable energy start-ups create 52 million dollars in revenue, and generated some 240 million megawatts of solar power. The grant from Prince allowed Jones to hire talent that would ensure the company’s success, like Billy Parish, the founder and chief executive of Solar Mosaic Inc. Emily Kirsch, who had the initial idea for a business model which centered on advising young companies, was also integral to the company’s success.
Prince’s investment might help Powerhouse and the emerging companies they assist continue to thrive despite incoming cuts to renewable energy from the Trump administration. Prince and Jones also worked together on the #YesWeCode initiative, which encouraged young people of color to get involved in the tech industry.
I was talking to Prince and he said, “You know, every time people see a young black man wearing a hoodie, they think, he’s a thug. But if they see a young white guy wearing a hoodie they think, oh that might be Mark Zuckerberg. That might be a dot-com billionaire,” Jones recalled. I said, “Well, yeah, Prince that’s true, but that’s because of racism.” And he said, “No, it’s because we have not produced enough black Mark Zuckerbergs. That’s on us.”
Powerhouse has a history of backing companies founded by minorities and women, unlike much of the industry. Such companies include: PVComplete, UtilityAPI, BrightCurrent and Hot 4 Solar. As for where Powerhouse is headed now, they remain committed to using their industry specialists to help fledgling companies change the energy landscape.