Mike Dubrovsky recently won the attention of the attendees of StartupPalooza in NYC in late May. We asked the bright minds behind Simply Grid to give us a bit of insight into their winning innovation.
What’s the history of your firm? What problem did you set out to solve?
Mike Dubrovsky started the company. He has an engineering background and developed our technology. My background is in operations – I’ve been an attorney, the CEO of a web development studio, and an exec in another energy startup. I joined to provide operational expertise and milestone focus.
We wanted to solve the problem of the provisioning and control of electric service in markets where metered electricity is either not available or there is significant overhead in providing it.
When did you become interested in power fractionalization and charging for limited use access? Can you describe how you developed your love/interest/expertise in fractionalization and charging for limited use access?
Mike lived out in Brighton and there were several food trucks near him using very noisy and polluting generators. He ran the numbers and realized that if we could somehow provide them with electricity, we could both eliminate the noise and pollution as well as save the food truck vendors money on their energy costs. At first we were just going to use standard off the shelf electricity pedestals from Eaton. However, we quickly realized that the legacy 3rd party metering and control system included in their pedestals would not meet our needs. Therefore, we stripped out the legacy 3rd party hardware and built our own custom hardware controller and cloud-based software management system. This gives us a turnkey solution for provisioning, metering, and billing – and we realized that this could be a much bigger business than just selling electric access to food trucks.
Your firm has been investing in fractionalization and charging for limited use access. What are the general areas of your research activities?
Hardware development for our controller and software development for our cloud-based management system. We are also beginning to explore other areas such as wireless electric service.
What is the primary application of your firm’s invention / innovation?
Right now our focus is in food truck rodeos and food carts in metro markets. We have revenue generating deployments at the Atlanta Food Truck Park in Atlanta, GA and the Moontower Saloon in Austin, TX. In the next few weeks, we will be launching a pilot deployment in Union Square in NYC in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. We are also targeting marinas and RV parks where, although they do already offer electric service, their method for provisioning, control, and metering is often antiquated. For example, the metering is often done by an employee walking around to each service point and recording meter readings on a clipboard.
Without divulging your firm’s methods or clients, will you characterize a typical use case for your firm’s technology?
A food truck park or municipality that wishes to provide electric service to food trucks/carts to eliminate the noise and pollution nuisance. A marina or RV park that wishes to enhance their metering model or their ability to provision and control electric service to their customers.
What are the benefits to a commercial organization or a government agency when working with your firm?
For the food truck/carts in particular, there is significant demand by consumers to have these amenities available, particularly in metro areas, which is counterbalanced by the desire to do it in as “green” a method as possible without the noise and pollution nuisance. Our solution directly solves this issue, and it’s why so many municipalities are interested in what we can provide.
How does an implementation project with your firm move through its life cycle? What’s unique to your firm’s approach?
If we are dealing with a public/municipal site, there is a specific permitting process we need to go through. If a private lot, we don’t have the permitting process, but the remainder of the implementation would be the same. We first need to verify the location makes financial sense for deployment. We then work with a local contractor to implement our hardware on the ground and connect it to the grid. We then sync up the on the ground hardware with our cloud-based management system via 4G/3G or wifi and we’re off to the races. Our customers then use their mobile phones to initiate/terminate electric service from the particular outlet in our pedestals they wish to use.
One challenge to those involved with “green energy” and “environmentally friendly approaches” is getting organizations to invest. How are you dealing with this?
As I noted previously, one of the great things about our solution is that it actually saves the vendors money over their existing energy source. Therefore, it’s a no brainer for them to use our service, which means we generate revenue from day 1. While we love the “green” and “environmentally friendly” aspects of our business, the fact that we make a very solid margin is what gets organizations to invest.
How does your firm see the main trends in power fractionalization over the next 12 to 18 months? What products or services will you be focusing on to deliver on your next vision?
While our initial markets are food trucks/cars and marina/RV parks, we believe there will eventually be a significant demand in the EV space as well. Our technology is well placed to take advantage of the projected growth in EVs over the next several years as the demand for more charging locations increases. As mentioned previously, we are beginning to investigate the possibility of replacing electricity pedestals with in-ground wireless charging stations. While this technology would require our customers to up-fit their existing infrastructure with a piece of hardware, we think this might be the future of our service in metro locations.
Where does a reader get more information about your firm?
COO – Simply Grid
Constance Ard, June 18, 2013
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