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Engaging with Goliaths, Part 2: Now that We’ve Finished “Accelerating” with Black & Veatch’s IgniteX

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about Extensible Energy’s decision to participate in the Black & Veatch IgniteX accelerator. At that time, we had just begun working with the BV Innovations team, and were working out the objectives for our participation in that program. Fast-forward to last Wednesday, when the accelerator wrapped up with a big Demo Day event in Kansas City with more than 250 executives, investors, startups, and BV team members in attendance.

Throughout this brief accelerator, my co-founder Ari Halberstadt and I made a combined seven trips to Kansas City and met with several dozen BV team members. We overcame (mutual) skepticism, IT headaches, installation logistics, and business model alignment issues to make the most of our time together. In 75 days, we managed to:

  • Select a BV building for implementation of DemandEx, as a pilot to prove the ease of installation and results from our demand-charge management software

  • Install and test the software and enabling hardware at that facility

  • Meet with members of the BV Commercial Solar team to integrate our sales process with theirs

  • Complete a proposal to a real mutual customer prospect for a BV solar installation with Extensible Energy’s DemandEx software

  • Negotiate (partially) a reseller agreement so that BV can resell DemandEx on any of its commercial solar deals

  • Establish working relationships with key departments and individuals who will bring this combined offering to market

Overall, we had a lot to be pleased about, and a lot to convey in our seven-minute time slot during the Demo Day event.

As an aside, I find the actual pitch-night type of activity both energizing and terrifying. There’s almost no way to do these tightly timed events except to memorize them (not my strong suit); or forget some key point (a missed opportunity); or wing it and run long (the worst no-no for these events). All things considered, I got most of the words out and hit the clicker at the right time, so at least there’s that.

I got lots of positive feedback, including from my wife Marian, who came out to Kansas City with me – but embedded in her mostly-positive feedback was the telling comment: “would it kill you to smile?”

In any case, it’s not about Demo Day, and it’s not about the accelerator – it’s about what Extensible Energy and Black & Veatch actually do to follow through afterward. And that’s where I’d say we’ve made the most progress. We are already working on specific materials for our BV contacts to follow up on specific new joint customer proposals, and we’re working productively with multiple BV team members to close our first sale together.

So, to my startup buddies who are trying to decide whether or not to participate in one of the (gazillion) startup accelerator / incubator / speedy-uppy programs, I’d say be very picky. As for us, only time will tell, but I think we’ve actually chosen wisely on this one.

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