Meet the 30X30: ChargeLab’s Zak Lefevre is Revving Up the Future of Electric Vehicles
Our sixth annual Bay Street Bull 30X30 guide showcases a group of incredible individuals who are redefining the way we do business, championing their communities, and cultivating entirely new industries. From tech and environmental pioneers to cryptocurrency entrepreneurs and media trailblazers, each of this year’s inductees is challenging Canadians to think (and work) differently for a brighter future.
In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and best advice.
What is your elevator pitch to the world?
Zak Lefevre: I am the founder and CEO of ChargeLab. ChargeLab builds software for managing electric vehicle (EV) chargers, providing full-stack solutions for the future of refueling. Their software empowers fleets, building operators, and utilities to deploy large numbers of EV chargers and manage them as an intelligent network.
What excites you most about the work that you are doing?
Zak Lefevre: Electric vehicle adoption is growing exponentially. In 2021, there were 6.4 million new EVs purchased globally versus 3.2 million in 2020. We are on the front lines of this industry as EVs go from niche to mainstream to dominant.
Where do you think you have made the most impact in your industry and/or community?
Zak Lefevre: A few years ago, it really sucked to be an EV driver. It was difficult to find places to plug in and charge. EV chargers were unreliable and had terrible user experiences. We’re working to make EV charging smarter and easier for individuals, businesses, and fleets.
What was wrong with the status quo in your industry that you saw as an opportunity to change and evolve?
Zak Lefevre: It often feels like the existing user interfaces built for charging electric vehicles were not designed by EV drivers. We’re building the EV charging experience we would want as full-time EV drivers ourselves.
What is your philosophy around problem-solving, specific to your industry and work? How do you approach complex problems through an innovative lens or out-of-the-box thinking?
Zak Lefevre: My biggest strength is persistence. Most difficult problems have non-obvious solutions. Solving these problems takes time, creativity, and a ton of iteration.
How do you hope to impact or change the way that people think about your industry/sector through your work?
Zak Lefevre: Historically, our industry has been about hardware: electric panels, cables, concrete, and EV chargers. We believe many of the biggest problems that come with electrification can be solved with software. We’re excited to show people how.
What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur? Your biggest milestone?
Zak Lefevre: Seeing how much better my team is than me. Our software engineers are far better developers than I ever was. Our product team designs better products than I could. It’s an honour to lead such excellent operators.
Why does your work matter?
Zak Lefevre: Climate change is an existential risk. Clean energy and clean transportation are the solution.
What have you learned about yourself as you’ve built your company and raised your voice?
Zak Lefevre: I don’t have to do everything. My job is to pick the right strategy, find the best people, and give them the tools they need to excel. Everything else is a distraction.
What is a major career goal that you have set your sights on and hope to accomplish in 2022?
Zak Lefevre: We’ve built most of ChargeLab during COVID-19 lockdown. We’ve brought together an amazing group of individuals, but our culture has been in a holding pattern—waiting to see if we will remain a remote company forever, when and how we get together in person, and what we value in a post-pandemic workplace. My goal for 2022 is to build a cultural foundation for ChargeLab that will endure for the next decade, through another pandemic, economic downturn, or whatever may come.
What is your ultimate north star?
Zak Lefevre: We want to lead our industry. If we aren’t doing better than everyone else at the things we prioritize, we’re doing something wrong.