Verdigris: Greening the grid
You’re working at your desk in your office building when suddenly -- the lights go out. One of two things will happen: either some maintenance guy grabs a flashlight and clipboard to go investigate the entire building, or Verdigris co-founder and CEO Mark Chung will come crashing through a window, do a barrel roll, and summon the electricity back by touching the nearest breaker box with his index finger, ET-style.
Okay, so that might be a little over dramatized -- but you get the point. Without the epic action hero movie effects, Verdigris is a SaaS platform and hardware sensor system that tracks, measures, and analyzes energy data within a building. The smart sensors attach directly to electrical circuits, measure data in real time, and send that data to the cloud which customers can access across all their devices. The AI-enabled platforms learns the energy patterns of a building to offer energy forecasts, maintenance reminders, and faulty equipment alerts. The purpose is to help building management reduce electricity consumption by knowing exactly where and when wasteful behavior is originating, in turn identifying cost-saving opportunities.
According to Verdigris, buildings are the largest consumers of electricity in the world and over half of it is wasted -- $400 billion dollars worth every year. 400. BILLION. To put that into perspective, $400 billion dollars stacked is equal to the height of 207 Eiffel Towers. (Tip of the hat to our motherland.) Needless to say, lots of companies like Jabil, Verizon, Hyatt, and Marriott are seeing the light (and dollar signs). Verdigris is seeing tremendous growth this year. Their latest round of funding came last October with a $6.7 million Series A lead by Jabil and Verizon Ventures. Not so shocking, Verdigris was also named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Energy Companies among giants like Google, Tesla Motors, and GE. They also made CB Insights AI 100 list in 2017.
I had a chance to chat with co-founder and CEO Mark Chung to hear more.
How did you team up and decide this idea was worth pursuing as a business?
Initially, we had this really cool technology that we’d developed but we didn’t know that it would become a viable business. Then we started talking to companies managing conference spaces and offices - some of whom, like NASA, would become customers - and they all described the same problem... not being able to see the energy use. It became obvious that if we could build a system based on our technology, we could solve this really prevalent pain point, and in the process solve a really important human problem by directly affecting climate change.
What has been the company’s biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
After working at a few startups and larger organizations, what seems to be a unique challenge at Verdigris is recruiting and hiring team members who are truly a fit. In the past we have hired people based on technical skills or background, but that doesn’t always add up to success in this environment. We have adjusted by considering people who are a match with a very specific set of cultural values. Alignment with our mission is the best indicator of how well a person will fit with the rest of the team, and many skills can be trained and learned when the employee has a solid foundation in our values.
Describe your proudest moment with the company and what it meant to you.
I guess the moment when our potential impact started to feel real was when we raised our Series A. What it meant to me was a validation that we had suppliers and partners who believed in what we are doing, and chose to put their money behind us. Being sure that we could not only continue to employ our 18-member team, but that we could also continue our mission and build what we were hoping to achieve - that was a moment I will never forget.
Where do you envision Verdigris 5 years from now?
Our five-year plan includes becoming a leading company in artificial intelligence for commercial buildings and a dominant market player in the U.S., and maybe in other geographies as well. It feels good to be part of reducing carbon footprints and the growing energy efficiency trend, so I hope that our technology continues to make a big impact and eventually enable the smart cities of the future.
If you’re interested in finding out how to keep your share of the $400 billion, contact Verdigris here. (Mark Chung’s stunt double sold separately.)