CHS Graduate And IB Local Named 30 Under 30 By Forbes - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Home And Business

CHS Graduate And IB Local Named 30 Under 30 By Forbes

by Alessandra Selgi-Harrigan | Posted: Friday, September 6, 2019 5:41 pm

Jonathan McKay believes in making a difference and when his company HC-3, a rooftop solar installation without the accompanying solicitation calls, was merged with 3D Robotics, a drone company, he was helping build toys, but he didn’t feel fulfilled.

“It was not a critical product important to existential challenges in climate change. It made me feel frustrated not working on something impactful,” he explained.

McKay first became interested in renewable energy when he and his then girlfriend and fellow Olin graduate helped his mom research solar panels for her home.

Driven by his interest in the environment, solar power and renewable energy McKay and business partner Dan Lopuch co-founded Nanogrid and it spun off Swing Electric. Nanogrid is a cost calculating tool that allows electric vehicle owners to find the best electricity rate to charge their car. Swing Electric helps customers interested in purchasing electric vehicles find the best car for their needs without even stepping on a car dealership. Swing Electric negotiates the price and delivers the vehicle to your door.

McKay, 28, was recently nominated by Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 for Energy for his tech start up Swing Electric based in Oakland. McKay was surprised to be chosen. He explained that a friend of his, who is an angel investor, had been in the 30 under 30 list. She called and told him she had nominated him. “It’s hard to get selected for that list. I didn’t think about it,” he said.

After he received a call and answered some questions from Forbes he put the issue out of his mind until he was notified. “There are many energy people my age worthy of that list. I felt special. I jumped into energy start up trying to find problems I can solve. It feels like an uphill battle. Being recognized is a rare moment…the journey has been worthwhile and I’m on track to make a difference,” he said.

McKay grew up in Imperial Beach attended Imperial Beach Elementary and later a charter school called Centers of Learning by the Sea. He went to Coronado High School where he founded the Crown City Robotics Club, graduating in 2009. His ultimate goal was to attend Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, whom his then girlfriend had recommended for him. Olin College had a 8.8 percent acceptance rate and only 370 students at the time. McKay had read that many of the Olin College students had started a robotics team so he decided to give himself a better chance and started one. He recruited students, raised $22,000 and one teacher, Bill Lemei, helped the team find a space to store tools and prototypes. Lemei was McKay’s AP Physics and Algebra II Trigonometry teacher and also his mentor. That program started by McKay has spread to the middle and elementary school.

“It’s been very impactful,” he said.

When McKay asked Lemei for a recommendation letter or Olin, Lemei told him, “Nobody gets into Olin,” recalled McKay. But McKay was accepted and did well at Olin. His first company was a spin off of his senior year project. It was a tool the size of a credit card with a chip that connected to the internet, a sort of small computer with sensors, he explained.

“I just love the independence. I get to pay myself to find solutions to global problems. I decide how hard I work or who I work with. It’s very empowering. It helps me live the lifestyle inside and outside of work,” he said.

About four months ago, he and his business partner got in the 500 Startups a venture capital firm that discovers entrepreneurs and helps them succeed by providing funds, mentorship and office space. “I was surprised and excited. It was important to give [us] legitimacy to get into 500 Startups,” he said.

What does he love most about his job? “Being independent and the notoriety that comes around allows me to pursue more opportunities,” he explained of the 30 Under 30 recognition.

Long ago when McKay was in high school it came down to choosing between engineering or acting, specifically doing improv theatre, for his future. McKay has been able to do both. He is an engineer by day and still does improv by night. He rides a motorcycle when he has to, but mostly takes public transportation. On his time off he likes working on his motorcycle, learning Mandarin, rock climbing, doing improv and screen writing. He works hard and has realized he needs to take time off to reenergize.

“I learned the hard way you can easily get burned out. It’s important for me and my co-founder not to work more than 10 hours a day,” he said.

For more information on McKay’s start ups log on www.nanogrid.tech and www.swingelectric.com