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⚡Building a Clean Energy Marketplace

My Climate Journey

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Jason Jacobs
Guest: Naman Trivedi | Co-Founder & CEO | WattBuy
Category: ⚡Renewable Energy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[4:17] “At WattBuy we are focused on what I think is a simple but very ambitious vision. We want to get every household access to more affordable, cleaner electricity. And the way that we are doing that is by building a clean energy platform that empowers enterprises to help their customers choose more affordable, clean energy options for their home. So we have a series of API integrations where we have enterprise partners in the FinTech space, in the real estate space and in the consumer energy space. We're providing personalized electricity plans, solar offers, and more to their customers in a single click, oftentimes helping them both save money and go renewable. So in many ways, what we're doing is helping some of the biggest brands and enterprises in the world launch their own cleaning energy marketplaces and provide their customers with climate friendly cost saving energy solutions.”

[10:39] “Initially, it was [about] can we build trust and transparency? And the way that we were thinking about it was, if we can help every homeowner and renter understand how their home uses electricity, then we can be sure that we are recommending the right plan for them based on their home, and its usage characteristics. And what we very quickly found out after building this machine learning model and helping people understand usage and capturing data from our own users […] was that no one cares about electricity, that no matter how hard we could work to help people with visibility and transparency, you can't deny the fact that electricity and energy does not take up a lot of the consumer mindshare. And so we were left with this problem where we built a product that we thought worked, but similar to many startups at that stage, you're building […] for yourself, you're not building for your customer. So we struggled with that for a while. And so it took us actually a couple of years to transition from that, which was really just a electricity marketplace where you can enter your address, and we can show you how your home uses energy. And you can choose the right plan into what we are today.”

[11:46] “I think the big shift that we had was in realizing that we need to reach consumers at the point in time, where they are making a decision about their utilities. And when you think about that, it's not a lot of time. Americans spent about 8 minutes a year thinking about their utility. So we have a very short window to get into people's minds to make this decision. And the thesis that we had was there are probably two points in time. One is when you move, you have to set up electricity one way or another. And then the second is when you get your bill. […] So where we first started was in the real estate space, saying can we strike some partnerships with real estate companies in the multifamily space or single family or some of these prop tech companies that are arising to say, as a part of your moving process, can we help you set up electricity and the single click because we've automated this whole process end to end from choosing your provider all the way through paying your bill. And so that's where we found a set of companies where we kind of launched our first integration. So that initial product market fit was with energy and real estate. And that was probably about two years ago, we felt that there is actually a really good model for us to build, where we can plug into every point in time, where a customer's making a decision about utilities, and be the seamless, intelligent way to make that choice. So one of our biggest initial partners was this company called Updater, which helps about 10 million people a year move across the US. And as a part of your process for moving, they're helping you choose your moving company, they're helping you choose your Internet, your TV, and they've integrated WattBuy API as the one click utility setup as a part of that movement process. And we're able to nudge those customers towards choosing renewable plans in their area.”

[14:00] “The way that we do it right now is any customer comes through either WattBuy’s platform, or a partner that is integrated, WattBuy’s APIs, and then we are able to take in your zip code or your address […] [and send] recommendations back to you. And then we have a machine learning model, where we've gathered training data from a mix of proprietary and public data sources. So we capture usage data, from our status as a broker in many states, we also have real usage data from our own customers, we got our housing characteristics from a variety of different sources, […] we gather weather data […] and then we also actually have a custom built climate zone map to measure how your property is prepared for specific temperature. […] So we have kind of built that all into a model that helps us figure out on a 15 minute increment basis, how does your home use electricity. We obviously aggregate that up to the kind of monthly and annual level, and then match that against the plans. So we say, here are now about 200 plans, and we have the direct relationships with the retail providers and all of these markets. And then we can do that matching to say, for your home based on this usage, we recommend that this plan is going to save you this much money, and you can go 100% renewable by going with it. So there is kind of mixing and matching of characteristics in the plans that sometimes customers have preferences on. But in general, we have found that in the cases where the renewable plan is at par with the default rate, or even a little bit higher, there are a significant amount of customers choosing that plan.”

[16:53] “It is impossibly confusing to figure out what is the right set of things that you should do for your home energy ecosystem to be a steward of the planet and make sure it doesn't break the bank. That is a lot of what our product roadmap and vision is about.”

[19:16] “What we're trying to build is to be that neutral marketplace that is helping you make the right decision for your home. Our allegiance is to the homeowner, is to the renter, is to the individual. […] We are also heavily focused on the distribution of how do we get this solution in front of consumers. And that's where we have partnerships with large FinTech companies, banks, buyers in the real estate space, real estate marketplaces, […] to build the largest distribution network for consumer clean energy [and] to make sure that we are reaching as many consumers as possible. […] We take our APIs and white label it to a partner, so that we can harness their already strong brand to get in front of consumers to say, here's our energy marketplace, and we can help you make decisions for your home.”

[22:28] “One of our missions is to make sure that renewable energy does not stay a luxury good. In most cases, renewable energy and buying an electric vehicle up until now for a long time was expensive and out of reach for most Americans […]. So we are working towards a world where we only serve 100% clean products for everyone. But in our minds, there is no value in being dogmatic if the market is not supporting it. And we initially want to bring as many people into the fold as possible to help them start thinking about their energy use, and help them get comfortable about making decisions around energy. And what we found is a lot of partners we work with know that their customers primarily care about saving money. And so to that end, we may have a few plans that are not 100% clean, […] but are saving customers north of 20-40% a year and get them involved in the process of making decisions from their home energy. And over time, as we kind of hit that critical demand, we hope that we can start working with a lot of our supply side partners or potentially our own, creating a lot of these 100% green plans for customers far below market cost.”

[38:30] “Everything comes down to scale and getting more customers. And in our mind, right now, every company needs to become a climate company. And if every company hired a Chief Climate Officer, we would have kind of a path to getting to hundreds of companies that we want to talk to you to help them launch their own clean energy brands, and build this massive customer base that is going to push for cheaper price renewables, more options, and a better understanding of how to go renewable. So […] let's get a Chief Climate Officer into every enterprise.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify (Original Title: "Startup Series: Wattbuy")
🕰️ 44 min | 🗓️ 09/09/2021
✅ Time saved: 42 min

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