Sydney-based energy efficiency startup Ecologic Apps has been selected as one of five startups to take part in the second cohort of the EnergyLab accelerator program, and founder John McKibbin hopes the accelerator will bring startups working in the clean energy sector together to pave the way for a greener Australia.
Billed as Australia’s first clean-energy accelerator, EnergyLab was launched earlier this year and backed by the University of Technology Sydney, Jobs for NSW and Climate-KIC, an Australian knowledge and information-sharing community. Industry heavyweight Origin is a principal sponsor of the Sydney accelerator and will help provide support to the five selected startups in growing their business and securing funding throughout the program.
The EnergyLab accelerator program offers two tracks: there’s an early stage track, which provides budding startups with $50,000 in seed capital in return for 10% equity, as well as mentoring and 12 months of free rent in EnergyLab’s Sydney co-working space; and a fast-track, which does not offer seed capital but gives startups six month’s free co-working space and mentoring in exchange for a minimum of 1.25% equity via a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE).
Ecologic Apps, a cloud-based platform designed to assess energy efficiency, opted for the fast-track accelerator option, and McKibbin says the amount of equity taken will be decided as part of the startup’s first valuation.
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The idea for Ecologic Apps came while McKibbin was undertaking doctoral research in simulating energy consumption in buildings. Not satisfied with the rate of government policy change in the energy sector, McKibbin soon realised “the biggest changes weren’t coming from policy change but grassroots movements”.
In response to this, McKibbin founded Ecologic Apps in November last year with “the aim of unleashing the same analytical insight at the grassroots level” by offering the same services he would usually provide to an energy utility or large business to individual households instead.
The startup secured $100,000 in seed funding in June this year from Jobs for NSW as part of the Building Partnerships Program, and this funding is going towards Ecologic App’s first large-scale platform rollout.
The rollout will see Ecologic Apps partnering with eight councils across Sydney and targeting roughly 800,000 households, McKibbin says, to run a “large-scale energy efficiency and solar campaign” that will roll out “later this year.”
Also selected for the EnergyLab accelerator program is: Everty, a startup building a peer-to-peer electric vehicle charging network; OPTIM Controls, an online technical support platform for industrial equipment; PV Mate, a business-to-business bidding and job management platform for solar PV installations; and Ryde.Green, a scooter sharing startup.
Collaboration rather than competition
McKibbin says he hopes to leverage his startup’s participation in EnergyLab to build relationships in the startup ecosystem, particularly in the clean energy sector, which could then be used to challenge traditional industry players.
“Part of the benefits of EnergyLab is bringing all the disruptive energy startups together and becoming more of an influential policy advocacy group,” he says.
“Within our company we’ve always had the attitude that there’s plenty of climate change [issues] to solve.
“There’s plenty of work to be done and we’re going to be much more successful if we collaborate rather than compete with those startups [working in the space]” he says.
McKibbin notes there’s “very strong industry powers” behind the fossil fuel sector in Australia, and startups in the clean energy sector “need to work together to disrupt those antiquated business models”.
Because Ecologic Apps is still “a small player” with a staff of only four, McKibben says collaboration within the industry, rather than competition, is crucial to its future success.
“More often than not the conversations [with other startups] converge to be about how we can play together, rather than how you are a threat,” he observes.
McKibbin hopes to expand Ecologic Apps offerings to the global market, after gaining mentorship and business know-how from the EnergyLab accelerator.
“We see the Australian market as a really great market to cut your teeth and refine your product and business solution,” he says.
“For a software platform like ours we have to take a global perspective, refine our business model [at home] and then see if we can launch on the global stage.”