Sustainable start-ups: Wattblock
Posted on June 1, 2015
5 min read
Wattblock is one of the ten companies that graduated from the second round of Telstra’s start-up accelerator program, muru-D last month. Now that all is done and dusted, we’ve asked Brent Clark and Ross McIntyre from Wattblock to give us the run down on what it was like to be involved in muru-D and what’s next for Wattblock.
Hi guys, tell us about Wattblock
Brent: Wattblock is an energy efficiency start-up for strata buildings. We provide online energy assessments that work out how much energy can be saved in a building, without the need to plug-in devices or hire expensive professionals. For committees that manage these buildings and want to move forward, we provide building upgrade, finance and maintenance services using a network of local electricians and product suppliers.
How is Wattblock promoting environmental sustainability?
Ross: Wattblock reports are revealing up to four times overspend on electricity. For most building committees this is the first time they get to see the problem quantified and they are often shocked by the amount of waste. Most of the waste is in common areas like basement car parking, foyers, fire escapes, and lifts. Typically these facilities are not actively managed for energy efficiency and can be decades behind.
Brent: As we speak, we are actively lowering the carbon footprints of over 300 people in our first 10 building upgrades. Over 200 buildings across Australia have also benefited from our FREE online energy assessment, which means we’ve now created environmental awareness in strata complexes housing over 6,000 people.
When you set out in November, what were you hoping to achieve?
Ross: We set ourselves the lofty goal that we could “crowdsource” the national carbon emissions target without the need for government intervention. Crowdsource is a bit of a buzz word, but we mean mobilising people in the community to realise the problem and take action.
Brent: Through Wattblock we wanted to show that committees responsible for buildings could improve the sustainability of their block while also benefiting financially. It is no longer costly to be green and sustainable. Through selecting and implementing the right energy saving projects you can actually benefit economically as well as saving the environment.
Did you get there?
Ross: We haven’t solved the climate challenge yet, but we’re still trying! We spent a lot of time talking to customers about our Wattblock reports. We found that committees still had a number of pain points. The biggest concerns were choosing the best quality products, negotiating with electricians, and overall cost of projects. Based on this feedback we realised we could provide more value with our data than just reports.
We decided to offer a full package building upgrade service and we already have 10 buildings signed up. Four of those buildings have already been completed. The biggest saving so far was 77 per cent, with one building’s annual electricity spend reducing from $24,000 down to just $5,500 without any loss of amenity.
Brent: After we built this momentum we hit all the targets set by the muru-D team for us and more. We ended up doing two trips to China and a trip to the U.S. We were also fortunate to be judged Australia’s “Best Social Change Entrepreneur” by the leading startup magazine, StartupSmart.
What was your favourite muru-D experience?
Brent: The muru-D demo day at the Telstra Customer Experience Centre was the hands down winner. As well as presenting live to hundreds of people, it was streamed into four other countries.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Ross: Our biggest challenge has been trying to get a better rating on the “X-O-Meter”. At the beginning of the program all the muru-D start-ups decided to rank themselves in terms of X-Factor. Of course all the sports start-ups got ranked really high and Wattblock was somewhere down the bottom. It seems silly, but there is a broader truth that energy efficiency doesn’t capture people’s attention. Therefore it is all the more important that we make it easy for everyone to make this change, so they can get back to doing the things they love.
What is your most important take-away from the program?
Brent: Talk to customers of all different shapes and sizes. You never stop learning as each customer is different and has their own set of challenges. Engaging with them and building relationships helps improve your value proposition.
Ross: You also can’t underestimate the importance of people and networks. Brent and I have been friends for 28 years and we make a great team. However, we are also joined by some pretty amazing people on our advisory board who have provided some fantastic input and guidance. We have advisors from the energy and environmental engineering industries who have co-invested alongside Telstra’s muru-D and given up their time and energy to support us.
What’s next for Wattblock?
Ross: Wattblock is currently raising seed funding to enable us to grow to 100 buildings under management in 12 months. If we can get to one per cent of Australia’s strata buildings we will have a $100 million revenue business.
Brent: We’re also planning to move into smart metering and solar upgrades, and are developing relationships in electric vehicle recharging, which we’ll see more and more of in residential buildings moving forward. It’s busy times ahead!