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With funding from Obvious Ventures, startup Enervee goes after utilities

May 26, 2015, 1:00 PM UTC
LG Electronic's David VanderWall introduces the LG front loading washing machine with the new Twin Load System allowing the consumer to do two separate washing loads at the same time, at the LG press conference at 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Nevada January 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Robyn Beck — AFP/Getty Images

Ever wonder about how much energy one TV model consumes over another? What about an even bigger energy-hog in the consumer product category, like a washing machine or a refrigerator?

If you have, you’re not alone. Bringing more energy transparency to purchasing decisions was what motivated entrepreneur Matthias Kurwig to start Enervee with co-founder Don Epperson back in 2010; Kurwig was building a house and filling it with new appliances and found himself wondering where he could go to find this type of energy information.

Now five years later the platform has been built out to incorporate 75,000 products, including washers and dryers, fridges, light bulbs, water heaters, and more. Each product page features an “Enervee” score that shows how energy efficient a device is (100 for most efficient, 0 for not efficient), as well as a calculation of how much the device will cost to power for a year. The site also tracks deals for product offerings (where you can buy the appliance you want and for how much) and Kurwig says there’s about 700,000 product offers on the site a day.

Photograph by Daniel Acker — Bloomberg/Getty Images

While Enervee has been mostly boot-strapped, this year will be a pivotal one for Kurwig and Epperson. On Tuesday Enervee is announcing that it has raised $3.7 million in first round funding led by Obvious Ventures, a venture firm co-founded by Evan Williams and focused on “world-positive investing.”

Enervee, which is based in Santa Monica, Calif. and has 14 employees, will use the funding to help it develop deals with utilities, a relatively new way for Enervee to make money off of the site. Utilities have long participated in rebate programs, mandated by public utility commissions, that offer consumers and small businesses discounts for buying more energy-efficient appliances. Enervee’s utility programs are like a modern, online, social media-laden version of these old-school rebate programs.

Enervee has already been working with utilities such as PG&E in California (see PG&E’s Enervee site) and a group of utilities in Connecticut that collaborate on a state energy efficiency group called Energize Connecticut (Energize Connecticut’s Enervee site). Kurwig tells me there’s another big utility deal in the works that the company will announce shortly.

This photo shows a television screen displaying the French user interface of US online streaming giant Netflix, on September 15, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)Photograph by Stephane de Sakutin — AFP/Getty Images
Photograph by Stephane de Sakutin — AFP/Getty Images

Enervee white labels and customizes the site for the utility, drives traffic to the site using social media, and charges the utility a per-household fee. In return, Enervee’s site can engage with and convince utility customers to buy more energy-efficient devices, leading to less energy used on the utility’s grid. “The [Enervee] marketplace drives significantly higher energy savings than the traditional brick and mortar energy savings programs of the past,” says Kurwig.

The biggest value embedded in Enervee’s site is likely in the data itself, which the company has amassed over the years about consumers’ purchasing decisions and how those relate to energy. That’s basically what makes it different from the dozens of other startups that are analyzing energy data and looking to make utility deals.

The use of a score is also a consumer-friendly way to make energy efficiency easy to understand. Other companies like GoodGuide (bought by Underwriter’s Laboratory) have managed to build businesses off of creating scores out of sustainable attributes.

Down the road Enervee’s score and site could be used to move into other sectors, too, such as water-efficient shower heads and toilets. That could be particularly interesting in drought-laden states like California.

For now it’s still early days for Enervee. Even though the company has been around for five years, it’s in the early stages of turning its site into a money-making product.