New CEO Brings ModCloth Retail Expertise to Energy Startup

While clothing and electricity don’t have a lot in common, new ChooseEnergy CEO Kerry Cooper says her retail experience will come in handy at the energy marketplace startup.

Cooper, who most recently served as CMO/COO at e-commerce startup ModCloth and before that worked at Wal-Mart and Levi’s, was publicly announced as ChooseEnergy’s new CEO on Thursday, replacing founder Jerry Dyess, who will stay with the company as chief commercial officer.

The same day, the company also announced a $7.5 million Series B round of funding from investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Stephens Capital Partners, who invested in ChooseEnergy’s $4 million Series A round in March. ChooseEnergy’s online platform offers to teach consumers about energy options – allowing them to switch providers via the portal -- in eight of the 19 deregulated energy states in the U.S.

“Startup founders that are women are building a very different view of how females want to buy, and I think that fits very well here,” says Cooper, referring to women as the “CEOS” of the household. Cooper says understanding that role will help her make the energy industry more accessible to female consumers.

Deregulation: The Future of Energy?

ChooseEnergy estimates that consumers can save up to 25% on energy bills by switching providers.

“A friend in Pennsylvania just changed and saved half … it’s a lot of money,” says Cooper.

She says one major challenge facing the company is simply educating consumers living in deregulated states that switching is even an option.

“I think a lot of us forget about our electricity bill. It’s something … you just pay it every month and you don’t think about it,” says Cooper. In deregulated states, the energy lines going into homes and businesses are still regulated, so the quality doesn’t vary from provider to provider, but the costs can fluctuate.

Cooper believes deregulation is the future – meaning that ChooseEnergy has plenty of room to grow.

“I think it will very quickly expand, as people see how much savings there is for the society,” says Cooper.

“All these dollars go back into the community, whether you’re a small business and it allows you to hire a new worker, or a home, or a large business. There are large opportunities to drive money straight to the bottom line,” she says.

Traditional Marketing a No-Go for Energy Startups

Taking over the helm at ChooseEnergy, Cooper says there’s great momentum thanks to the new injection of capital and the next chapter will be focused on marketing and growing the team. When it comes to marketing, however, Cooper suggests innovative techniques will be crucial.

“I’m not sure traditional means have worked really well … I think there are opportunities for us to continue to rethink what is the way that we go out and create that education and create that ease of making your choice,” says Cooper, rejecting more traditional methods like direct mail.

Cooper likely has plenty of experience to draw from in that regard. Though Cooper left ModCloth in May, the company released a statement in July announcing that the company made more than $100 million in revenue in 2012 and was experiencing year-over-year growth of 40%. ModCloth attributed that success to a focus on customers and the steps taken to get the community involved with the company.

With ChooseEnergy, Cooper seems ready to take another startup in the same direction – albeit in a very different industry.

“We can build a great community of people who recognize the savings and are able to help each other get through this decision,” she says.