Young Guns: Powering Down Your Energy Bill

Think of it as a diet plan for your electric bill.

“We can rank hundreds of ways for you to reduce your energy costs and then we can show the specific payback period for you for each of those measures you can take,”explained Tom Scaramellino, the founder of  Efficiency 2.0.

Efficiency 2.0 is a Web-based startup designed to help consumers cut down on their utility bills. It uses algorithms and statistical data that, Scaramellino said, creates an accurate picture how a particular household consumes energy.

“Energy use varies on a variety of factors. It depends on the type of electricity you’re pulling from the grid, how that electricity was created. It also depends on the type of home that you live in, what year your home was built, the number of rooms, how many people live in your home,” he said.

And just by providing your account information, Scaramellino said his company can give you recommendations that can save you energy--and money. The programs, which are provided through your utility company, deliver targeted information that he said saves people an average of $188 a year on their energy bill.

In an effort to reduce energy usage, states like Illinois and Massachusetts, where Efficiency 2.0 runs programs, have energy-efficiency goals set up that actually incentivize utility companies to get their customers to cut down on their energy intake.

“For 100 years in the utilities industry utilities have been incentivized to sell more energy because they make more money,” Scaramellino explained. “Now for the very first time...utilities are actually required to sell less energy up to a certain amount.”

And that mandate has created a business for this 28-year-old graduate of Harvard and Yale Law School. To date, his startup, begun in 2008, has raised more than $8 million in funding and has half a dozen programs up and running in California, Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts. And Scaramellino said there are plans for further expansion into other states later this year.

“It became obvious when I started that everyone was talking about what is now often referred to as green noise. All these different ways that you can be greener but nobody knows which one they should be doing,” Scaramellino said.

Now he and his team are cutting through the noise and quietly offering real options for a smaller energy footprint.Six Shooter with Tom Scaramellino of Efficiency 2.0

1. When times get tough, what inspires you?

I'm constantly reminded by the world around me of how my struggles pale in comparison to those of most people, so I try not to take myself too seriously or let bad or good news affect my demeanor and approach. I do have letters in my desk from a friend of mine who had a very difficult life in Zambia, which helps me keep perspective. His name is Dominic, and he became very close with my sister while she was building an educational center in a refugee camp in Zambia. Dominic and I have known each other for almost a decade now. His parents werepolitical dissidents and were murdered right before his eyes. He lived in a pack of young boys growing up and was almost murdered on a number of occasions. After spending years trying to flee the continent, he finally received approval to move to Denmark, where he got married andnow has a beautiful baby girl. There is no greater lesson for me that hard work and persistence can pay off than Dominic.2. What rule do you live by?

Understand where people are coming from before you try to show them the value of going where you want them to go.3. What is your favorite quote and why?

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny." - Upanishads

This quotation reminds me that thought, judgment, and reason are all affected by temperament, and temperament needs to be cultivated. There are many things affecting my temperament that I am not aware of, and being aware of what's going on inside your mind and where your attention goes when you're not paying attention to it is important in understanding why you make the decisions you do. Little things that may seem unimportant can build up over time to change the way you approach a wide range of things in your life. The more you can be aware of these things the more likely it is that the person you want to be is the person you actually are.

4. Why is your startup different from the competition?

We have created the most effective way to engage millions of Americans around their energy use and are in a position to scale that approach in a way that could contribute more to solving the climate crisis than the U.S. solar and wind industries combined.

5. Why don’t you consider yourself an entrepreneur first and foremost? 

I think a first-time entrepreneur builds a great company out of passion for solving a particular problem. I think a more generalized passion for entrepreneurship is something that is cultivated during your first startup, and I can certainly see how starting a company might be a bit addictive. But I don't think you typically build a great company by saying you want to start a company first,and then figuring out what problem that company should solve. Starting the company comes after you've already decided that it's the best way to solve a particular problem you are passionate about.

6. What is your biggest tip to other entrepreneurs?

Get feedback on your idea from as many people as possible. Know in advance how you will know when your product fits the market. Success is 90% execution and it will always take longer than you think - build that into your story in advance. Always under promise and over deliver. Persistence is key. Block off time where you do not think about the company at all. Building a great team around you is the most important thing you can do.

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