Some 130 clean power and energy efficiency companies have already signed up to use Wattbot — a San Francisco-based startup developing a web site aiming to connect those companies with residential customers — even though the site is still in beta, according to CEO Kurt Brown. That means the startup has already surpassed its goal of getting 100 providers to register less than six months after launching its beta site and another six months ahead of schedule.
Wattbot, which judges picked as the top startup at our Green:Net conference last week, is developing a web site to help residential customers calculate the most cost-effective green technologies, including everything from solar electricity and solar water-heating systems to more efficient lightbulbs, dishwashers and refrigerators. Homeowners get free lists of recommendations, potential providers and different financing options, along with estimates of the upfront costs and the monthly savings they can expect. And, once the beta test is completed, registered companies will begin getting a list of sales leads for potential customers that have demonstrated interest in their specific products and services.
Diane Loviglo, co-founder and vice president for business development, says cleantech companies are keen to get more targeted tips on customers interested in their specific products and services. She told us that one big solar company — which she wouldn’t name — that signed up for the beta later tried to hand Wattbot its credit card to ensure that it would get leads as soon as they became available. “We’re saying we’re not ready yet, but they’re desperate for qualified leads,” she said. “Every day we have providers saying, ‘Where are our leads?’”
Wattbot doesn’t plan to launch a full-blown site — complete with sales leads — until around the third quarter, Brown said.
Aside from the 130 registered providers, the company has preloaded nearly 3,000 additional providers into its system, he added. Once the full site is up and running, Wattbot plans to let those providers know when they have leads, though they will have to register to see them.
On the other side of the equation, Wattbot has already received more than 500 requests from residential customers wanting to join the site, but is only allowing 60-70 residents to test the beta version at a time, Brown said.
Brown thinks that in one way, the struggling economy is actually working in Wattbot’s favor. “Providers are an easy sell and the economy is making it easier,” he said. New government incentives are also making it cheaper for residents to install many of these technologies.
But the economy is also making it more difficult for Wattbot, as the company is trying to score its first round of funding. Wattbot back in October had said it was seeking a round of anywhere from $3 million to $5 million, and to close it in January.