SXSWorld May 2014


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4 2 S X S W O R L D / M A Y 2 0 1 4 ompanies that fall under the recently coined "cleanweb" des- ignation include everything from utility monitoring interfaces to car-sharing companies to vacation home rentals. Since they employ two existing resources (the connectivity of the web and existing goods or infrastructure), they are easier to start than clean- tech businesses, which can require a much larger physical investment. And while they encompass a variety of services, they all use informa- tion technologies to address resource challenges, the definition used by the Cleanweb Initiative. Some of the more intuitive examples of cleanweb companies are those that provide a consumer-friendly way to monitor and reduce energy use via connecting consumers and utilities to monitor elec- trical and water use. Opower, which went public in April, and WaterSmart work with local utilities to show customers how their usage compares with their neigh- bors', and inform them how best to reduce their usage (and spending). But the companies that might be familiar to more consumers are ones that allow people the short-term use of more obvious durable physical goods. Businesses like Air BnB and Lyft have been cited as examples of this type of resource-efficient model. Another new entrant in this category is San Francisco-based Yerdle, where users can post household goods they wish to give away free to other users, accumulating credits both upon enrollment and for each item they successfully give away. "Eighty percent of durable goods in the home are used once a month, so there's all this inventory sitting there. People go out and buy a coffee maker, boots or backpack, and even within just a few blocks of them are people with the same thing who wouldn't mind parting with it," said Rachel Barge, Yerdle's director of marketing. "e definition of cleanweb is using information technologies to more efficiently utilize resources. We definitely fall into that cate - gory," said Barge. "Buying something brand new has a tremendous resource impact. For every pound of final product, there are, on average, 71 pounds of waste in the supply chain, not to mention the energy to ship it." Ali Adler, co-chair of Cleantech Open Northeast, said many of the companies in the accelerator's Energy Efficiency category—like Sealed, which tracks the results of home efficiency installations— could be considered cleanweb companies. "We would say cleanweb is part of the cleantech industry sector. We see an increasing number that fall into the information and com- munications technologies category," said Adler. "We purposely added that category because of the increasing trend in companies that define themselves at the intersection of communications and technologies." Adler said it's increasingly attractive for investors: "It's clear that a VC investment model is a good fit for companies that would fall into cleanweb." e Houston-based SURGE Accelerator works with both tradi- tional and cleanweb energy businesses. "What we're concerned with are companies that are using software specifically within the energy industry," said Director of Marketing Melanie Jones, especially ones able to stand out in the pack. "e other big thing for us is a unique way to access public and pri- vate data," she says. "We're interested in where people get data from and what they do with it." Houston, Jones explains, has a pair of conditions that make it an interesting market for cleanweb: it has the largest deployment of smart meters in the county, and a deregulated utility market, which means more possible points of engagement. Cleanweb companies also can serve as an entry point to the mas- sive energy sector. "Cleantech as a broader cat- egory has always been attractive to investors because it's such a large sector," says New Enterprise Associates' Rick Yang. "You're talking about the energy industry. Usually we get interested in bil- lion dollar industries—this is a trillion dollar industry." Yang also explains that clean- tech has its own challenges for investors with capital-intensive companies entering a highly regu- lated market, and taking a long time to show returns. For the investor who wants to move more quickly, cleanweb companies are the alternative, with a lower bar- rier to entry and more immediate impact. "[Cleanweb] takes something as large as the energy market and combines it with more traditionally venture-funded aspects of the web, data and analytics and delivery through a browser. It brings all these together in one category which is also potentially very capital- efficient," said Yang. e ability of cleanweb to engage the individual, whether it be in getting her to participate in a virtual swap meet or compete with her neighbor to see who can conserve water most efficiently, is its critical strength, because changes in resource use necessarily mean changes in actions. "When you think about the adaptation of cleantech, it takes some behavior change," said Yang. "Prior to Opower, very few people looked at the data around their energy usage and were able to compare it to folks around them. It's a great benefit for the consumer. ey're saving money and changing behavior." n Low Entry Barriers, Immediate Impact Spur Interest in Cleanweb by Susan Elizabeth Shepard C Peter Yolles of WaterSmart A L L I S O N G I B B O N S

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