2023 Rising Star Ryan Arnold: Startup mindset leads to global focus
Entrepreneurship advocate returns to his green rootsSeptember 14th, 2023
Ryan Arnold has channeled his passion, breadth of knowledge, and interpersonal skillset to make a positive impact on not only the Inland Northwest, but the entire world, some of his peers say.
Arnold, 39, is the Coeur d’Alene-based vice president of investments and partnerships at My Green Lab, a San Diego-based nonprofit that offers sustainability-related certifications for laboratories and related services.
Arnold also has been appointed as the health sector lead for the High-Level Climate Champions, a global group associated with the United Nations’ Race to Zero campaign, which aims to cut global carbon emissions in half by 2030. The group will use the My Green Lab Certification as a target goal for biotechnology and pharmaceutical laboratories for the Race to Zero campaign.
As part of his work, Arnold is tasked with shaping and delivering the health sector’s strategy for COP 28, a large U.N. climate conference taking place in Dubai later this year.
Arnold is helping to take what My Green Lab has been doing in the U.S. to an international scale to make it part of the global climate change agenda, says James Connelly, CEO of My Green Lab.
“He has the political savvy and experience to help us navigate a very complex, but very important relationship,” Connelly says. “It’s pretty cool what he’s able to accomplish from his seat in northern Idaho to really change the world on an important issue.”
Before working for My Green Lab, Arnold was the director of regional entrepreneurial strategy at North Idaho College from 2017 to 2022.
While at NIC, Arnold helped create the Venture Network—a centralized entrepreneurship hub in the college’s Hedlund Building, which became home to the Avista Center for Entrepreneurship, North Idaho Small Business Development Center, nonprofit makerspace Gizmo-CdA, and the Venture Center prototype lab, among other entrepreneurial resources.
“That was my focus there for five years,” Arnold says. “Building that network of resources, making sure that the community knew about it, and then connecting it to outside resources.”
Arnold also spearheaded a $750,000 grant that funded the prototype lab, which has led to the creation and retention of 34 jobs and 47 new prototypes that have received a combined total of $16 million in funding, he says.
Through a partnership between NIC and Spokane’s University District, Arnold co-managed the Northwest Entrepreneur Competition, an Inland Northwest business pitch competition.
“He comes across as being a pretty calm person, but he’s also really passionate,” says Lars Gilberts, past Rising Star and former CEO of University District, who co-managed the competition with Arnold. “He has a really broad set of knowledge. … He uses that to draw different people and ideas together to get things done.”
During his time at NIC, Arnold also taught entrepreneurship courses at Gonzaga University for two years, he says.
Arnold was born in Tampa, Florida, and his family moved to Coeur d’Alene when he was in kindergarten. He attended the University of Idaho for his undergraduate studies and received his MBA in sustainable business at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, in Seattle.
His work in the environmental sector began when he was handling energy efficiency work for low-income housing, he says. After that, he launched his own company, Sightline Energy, which performed energy modeling and analysis.
His time as a business owner gave him what he calls his “second calling,” leading to a career change.
“I started getting involved with entrepreneurs in the region,” he says. “Running my own company, Sightline Energy, I was looking for resources, looking for a network, and there wasn’t a whole lot around back in that time.”
Arnold co-founded Innovation Collective, a regional development organization that promotes an entrepreneurship community in North Idaho.
“Through that, I got introduced to a lot of people in Spokane, and Spokane was also building its entrepreneurship community,” Arnold says.
Those new connections led to his invitation to be the first entrepreneurship director for StartUp Spokane, a startup-assistance program through Greater Spokane Incorporated. He continued that role for about two years and managed the organization’s coworking space while connecting entrepreneurs with resources.
He then stepped into the NIC role.
“I focused really specifically on supporting the entrepreneurship ecosystem for about seven or eight years,” he says. “Last year, I decided to take a step back and ... go back to my roots.”
Getting back into the environmental field, Arnold started at My Green Lab in May 2022.
“His star has risen in multiple ways in different industries for the last decade,” Gilberts says.
Arnold says he gets most of his motivation from the passionate people he works with and his devotion to doing something meaningful.
“I just wanted to do something that was fairly impactful with my career, and I think that’s been the common thread, whether it’s focusing on entrepreneurs, or focusing on environmental issues,” Arnold says. “Those are the things that keep me driven.”
Arnold says his short-term work goals consist of focusing on My Green Lab’s mission of making the health care, biotech, and pharmaceutical sectors more sustainable, “because it has such an outsized impact when it comes to waste, energy, and carbon emissions.”
Gilberts says the work Arnold is doing with the U.N. is “phenomenal.”
“He’s helping grow a fairly new business at the global level,” Gilberts says. “The sky is literally the limit for him.”
Outside of work, Arnold says he loves to spend time with his wife, Jaime, and their 7-year-old son at Lake Coeur d’Alene, traveling, and going to concerts.