In Founder Focus we introduce entrepreneurs and change-makers working on innovative startups, social enterprises and SME’s around Aotearoa New Zealand.

At a glance

Founder: Tom Hallam

Business: CarbonTrail

Founded: 2022

HQ: Canterbury

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

CarbonTrail is AI-powered cloud software that makes it really simple for SMEs to understand their carbon impact and then make meaningful change. SMEs can plug in their accounting apps — like Xero or MYOB — and get an accurate carbon footprint in less than 15 minutes. CarbonTrail also provides AI-generated insights into how SMEs can most effectively reduce their emissions.

Why do SMEs use CarbonTrail? Some folks need data for accreditations like B-Corp, or because they want to become carbon neutral. But many other SMEs use CarbonTrail because they contract to large companies — like Countdown. These large companies are starting to require this data from their supply chain, so they can more easily calculate how those companies impact their carbon footprint.

CarbonTrail means that SMEs don’t have to pay for consultants or wrangle spreadsheets when their clients or customers ask for this data. They can simply pay a monthly subscription and get an accurate, complete, and real-time view of their carbon impact, whenever they need it.

What’s the backstory for your business idea?

CarbonTrail was founded in May 2022. Before that, I had created an app called Uppsy, which helped people save for good things, such as saving for your kid’s university, offsetting personal carbon emissions, or giving to charity. This app worked by connecting to people’s bank accounts and then categorising their spending, to help them figure out where they could save money.

After launching the app, we realised that we could have a much bigger impact if we focused on businesses, instead of individuals. Instead of connecting to personal bank accounts, I rebuilt the app to connect to accounting software such as Xero and MYOB. And that’s how CarbonTrail was born!

What programmes, learning or mentoring, or resources have been of assistance so far?

We started an advisory board relatively quickly after setting up the company, with Ben Reid and Jeska McHugh, to assist with the technology and sustainability standards sides of our business, respectively. We also worked with the Ministry of Awesome Founder Catalyst Programme in Christchurch, which has been really valuable to us.

I’d also add that NZTE have been great to work with. They helped us to finesse our pitch and go-to-market strategy with our product.

In terms of books, I’d recommend:

  • Good Strategy / Bad Strategy by Richard P. Rumelt. This helped us to articulate a clear strategy to investors, and helped us avoid the pitfall of thinking a strategy is a collection of goals, which it definitely isn’t.
  • The Startup Way by Eric Ries. This is a really interesting book on innovation. Even if you don’t work at a startup, it gives a useful perspective on how to build a culture of innovation in existing businesses.


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