Energy conservation startup plugs into growing green market
For ecobee Inc., opportunity runs both hot and cold. The Toronto-based startup company delivers energy conservation solutions - and its green-minded approach is proving to be a winner with customers south of the border.
"We help consumers save money, conserve energy and reduce their environmental footprint. We build technologies to help consumers do that," explains Stuart Lombard, president and CEO of ecobee.
"Our first product build is a more intelligent, programmable thermostat. Fifty to 70 per cent of your home energy use is due to heating and cooling."
Established in July 2007, ecobee's product platform is built around the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system, an internationally recognized set of standards for environmentally sustainable construction.
Fast-forward to February 2009. Lombard and his staff of 25 are selling the ecobee Smart Thermostat at a healthy clip in the U.S market.
"We've been selling products since February 2009, with 95 per cent of our sales taking place in the U.S.," he says. "We sell in every single state and we have over 350 installation partners that install and service our product."
ecobee also works closely with about 20 electrical utilities across North America including Toronto Hydro via its Peak Saver Program.
"We work with utilities on those types of applications and our product ties into the smart meters that are rolling out across the continent."
Headquartered from day one in downtown Toronto, much of ecobee's success is tied to being rooted here, says Lombard.
"Toronto is a great place to start a business. There is serious technology talent in Toronto. The city's location is ideal as an easy way in and out of other major urban centres across North America. And access to the University of Toronto is also very important from a research perspective."
"A lot of our staff and customers come to our office via public transit," he adds. "And that's something we strongly encourage."
Lombard is no stranger to success. The 30-something Toronto entrepreneur started out by launching an Internet service provider company in 1994. That led to him to the data encryption realm. As CEO, he built a data encryption business profitable to the tune of $15 million annually before selling his share in the business in 1998.
Lombard then dabbled as a venture capitalist for a few years before deciding he needed a greater challenge, and ecobee was it.
The company is currently enjoying another growth spurt, says Lombard. "We've hit all of our milestones so far, so we're very happy. We're expecting 300 to 400 per cent growth year-over-year.
He says energy conservation solutions like the Smart Thermostat appeal to green-minded homeowners and consumers who want to reduce their carbon footprint.
"We have a very differentiated product on the market in that it's Internet connected. We use things like weather data retrieved from the Internet to make intelligent heating and cooling decisions for customers."
"We converted a thermostat into a consumer electronic device that's easy to use and that can be managed via a Web browser," he explains.
"In the future, as we move toward new technologies, there will be a platform to manage the consumption and generation of electricity in your home and we'd like to tie into all of those things."