by Jessica Kirby. Photo credit: Saleh Jairoudi (far left). Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Business Class magazine.
Travelling may broaden the mind, but for Saleh Jairoudi, MGB ’20, it did so much more: it fuelled a passion in sustainability and eventually led him to work at a Victoria-based company whose next generation of solar cells could be a renewable energy game-changer.
Jordan-born Jairoudi explains that during his early travels he realized that no matter what country he visited, the concerns seemed to be the same.
After starting his undergrad degree in business in the United Kingdom, he became even more intrigued by international culture. This led him to pursue the Master of Global Business (MGB) at Gustavson, which he credits for guiding him further along his sustainability path. “The MGB was an opportunity to immerse myself in new environments that I hadn’t experienced before,” he says.
During the program, Jairoudi spent several months studying at the universities of Victoria, Maastricht in the Netherlands and Centrum Católica in Peru. “These international experiences greatly enhanced my global mindset and gave me the skills required to work with professionals all around the world,” he says.
It was during his co-op work term at the Ministry of Natural Resources in Victoria—where Jairoudi helped manage the Ministry of Environment’s technology product portfolio—that he had a revelation: he wanted to create an even bigger impact. “Burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, so I started looking at new innovations in the renewable energy space,” he says.
During this hunt, Jairoudi came across Solaires Enterprises Inc., a Victoria-based cleantech company—co-founded by UVic PhD graduate Dr. Sahar Sam—that is changing the renewable energy game with the next generation of solar cells. Its key product is a proprietary perovskite-based Solar Ink that can replace silicon, the conventional material in solar panels, or other semiconductor materials in photovoltaic solar modules.
When he learned about Solaires’ Solar Ink technology, he realized it had the potential to drive the transformative change he was seeking. He believed that the cutting-edge ink technology could facilitate the rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewables and make a significant contribution towards achieving a net-zero future. He was sold.
In 2021 Jairoudi joined the company and became the lead for investor relations, spearheading efforts to secure funding for research and development. Thanks to his team’s contributions, Solaires became one of the few startups on Vancouver Island to receive funding in 2022 through a successful $2.1-million pre-seed round. The company has also won 10 notable awards in 2022 alone, including Clean50, CIX Top 20 Early Company and BC CleanTech awards.
Jairoudi attributes his success in advancing Solaires to his international experience. He believes that in his line of work, building trust with entrepreneurs and investors from various parts of the world is crucial. “For them to feel confident investing in an emerging technology that is being developed hundreds or thousands of miles away, being able to establish trust in the team behind the project is vital. How to build that trust is one of the most important skills I learned from the MGB.”
For others looking to make a global impact, Jairoudi advises them to explore emerging technologies diligently. “This is a growing sector, and you might stumble onto a potential unicorn-level venture—a startup company with a value of over $1 billion.” However, he warns, “There is a lot of hype around environmental sustainability. Most ventures will fail if they don’t offer solutions that add value to peoples’ lives at a lower cost—so don’t get caught up in an opportunity that isn’t also financially sustainable.”