After more than a decade in the industry, Alastair Hood knows from experience that energy efficiency has to make good business sense or organizations won’t buy in. He’s used this perspective to build his own successful business — Verdafero — to do exactly that, presenting companies’ existing data in an understandable way so they can capitalize on opportunities to become more energy efficient.
Sparkfund: Describe Verdafero’s software. What lead you to develop it?
Alastair Hood: Verdafero is a utility analytics company. The idea started when I was doing consulting as a professional engineer. I saw the need for a software solution to help the end user make sense of their utility data and use it to make more informed decisions.
Verdafero pulls in data from traditional meters, smart meters and all kinds of IoT devices to organize the data and present it back to the customer so they can make informed decisions. This is especially key for customers with several locations, meters and utilities. It becomes exponentially more complicated in those cases. Verdafero works with all utilities, starting with energy but also including water, waste, propane, wood pellets, and more.
What outcomes are Verdafero customers most interested in?
Our customers may want to cut costs, but their main objective is to make sure their equipment is running correctly. Many of our customers are smaller organizations without a dedicated energy manager whose job it is to look at this utility data in detail. Our software helps them understand this data and alerts them when there’s a problem. We even run billing error checks. Then they can take action, which is what customers want most.
What’s one accomplishment at Verdafero you’re most proud of?
Being invited by the White House and the Department of Energy to Washington, D.C. to showcase our software back in 2014. We were there with Nest, Schneider, C3 — all the big guys. There were 20 companies invited, and we were one of them.
What's standing between the average organization and sustainability?
Dollars and cents. For the majority of customers, sustainability has to make financial sense or they won’t pursue it. Obviously the bigger organizations — the Apples and the Googles of the world — can afford to do a lot of sustainability initiatives, especially ones without a strong ROI payback. But for the vast majority of businesses, it still has to make good financial sense.
What’s the top piece of professional advice you like to pass on?
It’s a bit of a downer, but the reality is that selling energy efficiency is very difficult. I’ve learned this after being a consultant in the industry for many years. It’s frustrating, but there are times when you show a customer how it makes good financial sense, in black and white, and they still won’t pull the trigger. Knowing what makes the customer tick upfront and putting it to them in a way that can help them sell it within their organization is a big part of working in sustainability.
What’s one useful tool you use every day?
I use OneNote to keep track of everything and write lists. I start every day by writing a list of what needs to be achieved. I work better in the mornings than the afternoons, so I get a lot done then.
What helps you focus when you’re stuck?
Taking a walk around the block. When I get stuck, I go for a walk and do something to get my mind off of the problem for half an hour. Then I come back and look at it again.
What’s one small thing you do every day to be environmentally friendly?
We recycle as much as we can, both at the office and at home.