Greening America through Knowledge
360Chestnut’s Quest to Educate the Average Consumer
Do a quick search on the Internet, and it is obvious that CFLs are a scam instituted by big lightbulb lobbyists to force the everyday taxpayer to spend tens of dollars on new bulbs. Add to that the fact that hundreds of companies across the U.S. purport drastic energy efficiency savings at low, low prices. And for good measure, throw in a few quotes from Michele Bachman that an increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is fine because human beings breathe carbon dioxide every day.
The world of energy efficiency is full of bad information on both sides of the debate. As a result, many consumers have become both jaded and confused at the prospect of reducing their energy consumption and saving money.
Recognizing this problem, 360Chestnut’s solution is to utilize digital media to educate the consumer about the truth of energy efficiency. Its mission is to become the trusted source of energy efficiency solutions, and to connect consumers to experienced, knowledgeable energy efficiency service providers. As 360Chestnut Co-Founder Harold Simansky described, “It’s about being even-handed and balanced…. It’s about connecting users with the right service providers.” Further, 360Chestnut wants consumers to consider energy efficiency in all of their purchases, be it replacing a boiler or an HVAC unit.
The service providers are unable to market themselves effectively or educate the consumers because 65 percent of these firms have less than five employees. Thus, they are too resource-constrained to do so.
Co-founders Andrew Belt (HBS 1981) and Harold Simansky previously founded and managed Green Guild, a boots-on-the-ground weatherization startup. While there, they discovered the importance of consumer education, and also realized that an education-focused energy-efficiency solution could be a very scalable model.
Thus far, 360Chestnut has performed well in garnering a consumer and establishing relationships with service providers. However, with the minimum viable product complete, 360Chestnut is switching gears to fundraising mode so that it can further expand its reach. One possible direction of expansion is to help finance the cost of implementing the energy efficiency solution.
How can HBS students add value to a startup like 360Chestnut? Simansky described, “If you can present yourself as someone who can get something done with minimal supervision, then you will be valuable.” Prior background matters much less in a startup environment.
Harold Simansky worked at Bain, and has started multiple companies including an investment company and a LEED building company. Andrew Belt worked in Bain London, started a soup company, and has worked in the telecom, energy efficiency and alternative energy spaces.