As the first Harvard graduate in his hometown, Jason gave up his promising career in finance and dedicated himself to environment/energy industry thus starting his company, Blue Skies.
“I’m impatient and want to help people, not talk about how others should help people.”
Can you tell me about your background?
I grew up in Rockwood, ME. Its official name is Unorganized Territory #60. My parents never went to college. I was the first person from my county to go to Harvard for undergrad. Afterwards, I went to do finance at JPMorgan because I didn’t know any better. About three weeks in, I realized that making wealthy people into wealthier people was not fulfilling, so I left to make people’s lives better in energy/environment instead. I got a masters in atmospheric chemistry and am finishing mPh.D.hD in environmental engineering at Harvard.
Can you share the reason why you quit your former job and started Blue Skies?
I’m finishing my Ph.D. Instead of going academic, I’m doing a social impact startup. Most academics don’t make impact on short time scales. I’m impatient and want to help people, not talk about how others should help people.
What’s the impact you want to create with Blue Skies?
Simply put, I want to sell products that reduce illness in the US and others advanced countries by reducing asthma rates in infants. I want to do buy-one-give-one to give away similar products that save lives of people living in poverty (7 million people die of air pollution worldwide each year. That’s one of every 8 deaths). Simply put, I want to reduce asthma rates and save lives.
How did the idea of the buy-one-give-one campaign come about?
The idea of buy-one-give-one: Blue Skies has a product that costs less than a penny per day that a child can breathe through to reduce air pollution to safe levels while parents are cooking (think of it as lifestraw for air). We don’t want to be beholden to grant writers to get this product out, so we’ve been trying to figure out a way to do this profitably and sustainably. The buy-one-give-one model is a proven method to make an impact while having a free hand.
Who/what was inspired you to become the person you are today?
I grew up poor and ignorant. Harvard gave me more opportunities. One day I was a redneck from rural Maine and everyone assumed I was dumb. The next, I was suddenly in a place where people gave be the benefit of the doubt. Most don’t get this opportunity and are held back by the societal/environmental constraints they are born in. I want to help people to get better opportunities. That’s what drives me.
Do you have any story funny, touching, or important to you that you?d like to share with us?
I think the quitting finance to get into a position where I could save lives and help people covers that one, no?
What are your passions in life?
I play rugby (with HBSRFC), I exercise a lot, I get together with friends and play board games, and I cook a lot (I own a meat smoker). Also go with friends to The Tam frequently. We used to also go to Storyville, but Storyville now sucks 🙂