Matt Harper

Forty Under 40 Winner 2016: Co-founder and chief product officer, Avalon Battery, Age 39

It wasn’t uncommon in 2008 for business people to get upended in some way as the global financial crisis unleashed economic turmoil across the world.

But Matt Harper’s own upending came of his own volition.

“I woke up and went to work one morning and realized I had kind of done everything I had set out to do in my career,” recalled the co-founder and chief product officer at Avalon Battery.

After graduating from the University of British Columbia’s mechanical engineering program in 2000, Harper’s bucket list consisted of designing “cool technology,” getting some patents to his name and leading an international team.

“I realized I had done all those things far faster than I thought I would,” said Harper, who started off in the clean-tech sector interning at Ballard Power Systems before becoming a product manager at VRB Power Systems (which would later become Prudent Energy).

So when he was accepted into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) master’s degree program in management and engineering, he uprooted his life in Vancouver for 18 months to hit the books in Boston.

That meant temporarily leaving his fiancée (now wife) on the West Coast to usher in the next phase of his career.

He returned to Prudent Energy after finishing school, parlaying the new master’s degree into a job as vice-president of product management and marketing.

But by 2013, he and a number of colleagues were ready to depart the Beijing-owned company to found Avalon Battery in Vancouver and develop a turnkey energy storage system.

Harper said even if he hadn’t attended the MIT program, his “entrepreneurial bent” and proclivity for tinkering would have likely pushed him to launch his own company.

“The thing that I realized after the fact was that when MIT lets you in, you don’t turn them down,” he said.

 Join us to celebrate the 2016 Forty under under 40 Awards January 25, 2017 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40.