Chief financial officer
Location: Boulder, Colorado
Somewhere during her rise to CFO at Uplight, Jaylene Kunze recalibrated how she wanted to lead. She found that leading with empathy rather than aiming for perfection from her teams resulted in better performance and productivity. It was her greatest leadership lesson, she said.
“My teams are made of real people with real lives,” she said. “Leading with empathy required me to really see them as people, to know what motivates them, what their struggles and goals are and what their basic needs are. This allows me to lead them with clarity, to adapt when necessary and really value them and to allow them to show up with their full authentic self.”
In 2016, Kunze left her longtime role at MWH Global, a global construction services firm in Colorado, to join Tendril, a venture-backed tech startup in Boulder focused on reducing energy and carbon use. Starting as vice president of finance, she ascended to CFO in less than two years and transformed the accounting and finance team. She helped guide the company’s rise from startup to private-equity backed rollup to private tech unicorn in less than three years.
Under her leadership as CFO, the $25-million revenue Tendril grew into what is now $100-million Uplight, the technology partner for energy providers and the clean energy ecosystem. Kunze helped manage the subsequent acquisitions, mergers and integrations of five other companies, in a six-month span, and a recent strategic investment round led by two Fortune 500 companies that valued Uplight at $1.5 billion. Uplight now employs nearly 600 people.
Kunze’s work at Uplight has positioned the company to become one of the most influential software companies in clean energy transformation in the next five years. “While current media focuses heavily on highly visible hardware, such as solar panels, electric cars and smart home devices, it is software that connects these devices together, unlocking higher performance, better customer experiences, lower costs, a more resilient electric grid and most importantly, faster reductions in carbon emissions,” the company said.
Uplight has set ambitious goals to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 100 million metric tons and save consumers more than $10 billion on their energy bills over the next five years. It would be the equivalent to removing more than 21 million cars from the road, the company said.
Uplight plans to keep its headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, while also growing its presence in other locales, including Chicago, Boston, Vancouver and Seattle. While Uplight is currently focused on expanding its customer base in North American, in the next five years it plans to expand to Europe and South America.
Kunze was instrumental in building a corporate headquarters in Boulder that was energy efficient and carbon neutral. She found and hired an all-female design firm for the office and a women-owned general contractor to lead the build out.
“She has been a tireless advocate for DEI at Uplight, pushing for adding more women and minorities to the executive team and board,” her staff said. “Jaylene spearheaded several salary audits during her tenure at Tendril and Uplight to ensure inclusivity at the most important level.”
"My teams are made of real people with real lives leading with empathy required me to really see them as people, to know what motivates them, what their struggles and goals are and what their basic needs are. This allows me to lead them with clarity, to adapt when necessary and really value them and to allow them to show up with their full authentic self."