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4 Cleantech Businesses You Should Start Now!

I’m still baffled by how little attention technology startups and their investors pay to the energy/utility industry. And it’s not just me. There are at least 17 utilities with market caps over $5Billion begging for innovative new products/services. How about that for large target markets? Rather than continue to complain I decided to go ahead and share some obvious opportunities, obvious to those in the industry, to pique the interest of any technology entrepreneur looking for her/his next business and uninterested in building the next photo sharing app (yes, those are still being built…). I haven’t had to think too hard. I’ve simply taken the product promise of some hot startups (and by hot, I mean recently funded/getting a lot of press) and overlaid the promise on needs/use cases in the utility industry. No business is easy but I’m pretty sure it would be worthwhile if some folk chose to try to develop technology towards the efficient use of our energy resources…

  1. Periscope + hotspot enabled drone + transmission line inspection: Periscope is the hot new streaming app that was recently acquired by Twitter and is their response to Meerkat (a less polished but similar app). Rig a drone with a hotspot and a mobile phone (loaded with the Periscope app) to capture and stream video images of remote farmland or utility locations and you have a service that is currently lagging in the industry; remote image collection. You’d need a service more sophisticated to work with a utility but you get my point…
  2. Beyond Pricing/Jet + residential rooftop solar + rate design: Beyond pricing enables Airbnb hosts to dynamically price their rooms/homes to maximize returns. Jet does the same for e-commerce companies. Imagine applying the same dynamic pricing algorithms to the residential solar market/distributed power generation to dynamically determining the price that a customer pays for having solar on their roofs? These solar panels could even be supplied by the utility that is currently trying to figure out it’s place in the fast changing industry (ps: fast in the energy space is not internet/web fast).
  3. Improbable + new building + reduced cost for project planning before infrastructure expenses: Improbable (recently funded by Andreessen Horowitz) is building a virtual worlds Application Program Interface (API). This API will enable other technologists tap into Improbable’s platform to build their own virtual worlds. Imagine a startup that builds a virtual/future home with all the trappings and home energy usage models to help the utility figure out how it plays in a ‘future home’? Virtual worlds or simulations as a service to the utility? Or virtual worlds for manufacturers developing energy products for the home of the future? A service like this will reduce project planning costs and help the utility better define/strategize about it’s role in our lives in the next few years when the Internet of Things is fully here. Virtual Reality As A Service (VRaaS)’ anyone?
  4. Sight Machine + Sensors + big and disparate data sets for decision making: Sight Machine is helping manufacturers make sense of data from across different points in the value chain to make better pricing and manufacturing decisions. Sound familiar? Maybe not if you aren’t interested in the complex event analysis that has to happen to get that electricity to your home from wherever the power is generated. Now imagine if something went wrong along that chain of events that brings your power to your home? How quickly can the utility capture that data and determine what the issue is and respond? With self powering sensors and complex event analysis tools that could change. And someone should be building it.

You probably have two questions now; Why aren’t you working on one of these yourself and why do I keep giving startup ideas away? Because even if I tried I could not work on all these business ideas for lack of time and lack of personal interest in these verticals. But I do see the opportunities. More importantly though, I truly believe that these ideas should exist because it is what technology wants and the utility industry, like all other industries, is ripe for innovative ideas to move things forward. And this is good for us all. Better for us than another photo sharing app anyway…

 Read more critical but relatable analyses of the most important industry (utilities) at Asha Labs or reach out for ghostwriting (that doesn’t suck) at HarperJacobs.      Seyi Fabode is an Operating Partner at VestedWorld.  Copied by permission.

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    John Reynolds

    Great Ideas!

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