Calgary entrepreneur dedicates himself to participating in green industry
When considering the idea of an “environmentalist,” it’s not often that the first thing that comes to mind is a high-powered CEO sitting in his downtown office, sipping coffee and running meetings, but one Calgary businessman is challenging the stereotype.
Dan Balaban may not regard himself as an environmentalist, but his passion for renewable resources has been a guiding light for his entrepreneurial endeavours over the last decade.
Balaban, who first and foremost considers himself a businessman, lives in an environmentally friendly home and is the CEO and founder of Greengate Power, a highly ambitious wind-power company based out of Calgary.
His father, who runs a junior oil and gas company, was always interested in renewable energy, and Balaban said it was his father who sparked his own interest in it.
Balaban has had a successful career as an entrepreneur. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in computer science and began his career at Ernst & Young, followed by PricewaterhouseCoopers —two professional-service firms.
It was from these experiences that he learned how to manage his own company, and with this knowledge he founded Roughneck.ca Inc., now Zedi Inc., in 1999. At the time, he was 24.
The company achieved a fair amount of success, becoming “the leading provider of oil and gas operations management software for Canada’s oil and gas industry,” Balaban said.
It was through his software company’s management of greenhouse gas reporting that Balaban got a taste for working in the green industry.
After selling his first company for more than $5 million, he moved on to real estate ventures, dealing with energy efficient projects and buildings.
However, he was still looking for a more avid way to participate in the green industry.
To this end, Balaban identified wind power as his next entrepreneurial conquest, and founded Greengate Power. He said he felt developing wind-energy projects would be the best way for him to become more involved in the green industry.
“I think what we’re doing now is the ultimate environmental business by developing wind energy projects that are going to have a real intangible impact on our environmental performance,” Balaban said.
At the age of 37 Balaban has already founded three separate companies and sold two of them for substantial amounts of money. He was named by Avenue Magazine as one of Calgary’s top 40 under 40 in 2009, and named one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People in 2010 by Alberta Venture magazine.
While he may be young, his success is inspiring and influencing those who have been in Calgary’s business world for a much longer time.
Greengate’s vice-president of stakeholder relations, Dan Tocher, said: “Dan [Balaban] has been a great mentor, even though he’s 10 years younger than me. He’s taught me a lot about business, and taught me a lot about perseverance.”
Deekay Fox, the manager of marketing and communications at Greengate, has known Balaban for years, meeting him when he was the owner of Roughneck.ca Inc.
“He’s a friend, a mentor, my boss — and he’s amazing,” she said.
A bright future
Greengate has been highly ambitious in getting its development projects underway. The company has introduced wind energy to areas that never considered it before, and is slated to begin construction on its first two projects in the next coming months. Once completed, the company’s Blackspring Ridge 300-megawatt wind farm, which will be located 50 kilometres north of Lethbridge, is predicted to be the largest of its kind in Canada.
“With these two projects, we’re going to be increasing the amount of wind energy installed in Alberta by 50 per cent,” Balaban said. “I look forward to an exciting, and hopefully much cleaner future.”