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In startup culture, resourcefulness is a necessary trait, one that Bractlet and its founding team have come to know well. After starting in a series of apartment-offices, they’re enjoying incredible success today, but they haven’t abandoned their dedication to finding solutions—no matter what it takes.
Alec Manfre, Matthew Lynch, Brian Smith
The idea for Bractlet, an energy analytics platform that increases efficiency, was born while Alec Manfre, current CEO, was still a student at Georgia Tech University. To get their idea off the ground, Manfre, Brian Smith and Matthew Lynch looked to find funding wherever they could get it.
That’s how they came to apply to Start-Up Chile, a program run by the Chilean government to encourage international entrepreneurs to stay six months in the country in exchange for $40,000. Once accepted, the fledgling company took the plunge. Spending seven months in the country, the three founders worked out of a 500-square-foot apartment in downtown Santiago, building their own circuitry and firmware to bring Bractlet to its next stage.
Apartments-as-workplaces didn’t phase out in Chile. When the founders brought Bractlet back to Atlanta after a change in business model and a few pilot programs, they operated out of a one-bedroom apartment because, “that’s what we could afford at the time,” Manfre says. “We were doing whatever it took to keep the business going and we got other trials and pilots off the ground.”
And their hard work paid off. Eventually, the trio moved their company to Houston, Texas for an accelerator program called Surge. From there, the company jumped to Austin, its current resting place. Manfre says, “We kept progressing on our business model and focusing on our customers and at this point, we’ve really hit on something that’s unique in the marketplace and we’re getting a lot of demand for it.”
The demand is coming from end clients, like hospitals and commercial real estate, as well as energy service companies. For this latter group, Bractlet is revolutionizing part of their business. For companies that do multi-million dollar retrofit projects and will offer a performance guarantee, Bractlet’s savings forecasts (gained through analytics on the buildings themselves) are much more accurate than what’s being offered today: a utility bill check-in once, twice, maybe four times a year after a project has been completed.
“If there are any issues, it takes a lot of manpower and truck rolls to figure out what’s actually happening. Our solution does this automatically and figures out if there is an issue but can also figure out where and why the problem is occurring, so it can be taken care of.”
But they weren’t just welcomed with open arms by their current clients. Manfre notes the energy service companies operate in a pretty conservative industry.
“They’ve seen a lot of technologies that have made lofty claims. At first, they were really skeptical and we had to prove what we could do to them. We’ve shown them how our process works and compares to what they typically do and now we have a number of them looking to do additional projects with us.”
Now creating partnerships with one of the largest property management and ownership groups in the country and one of the largest hospital chains in Texas, Manfre says the founders, and even the new hires, are still dedicated to the culture that finds a way to get it done while executing on a high level.
“In one case, our CTO and co-founder, Brian, probably took four trips in the span of two or three weeks down to an install site to try to figure out a problem with our gateway device— basically a miniature computer—because we couldn’t get data. He just spent hours and hours day-to-day traveling and trying to figure out the problem.
“It turned out that he discovered a bug in the core operating system that’s running on the hardware. He was able to fix it and it required him to go into the depths and doldrums of the operating system in order to do so. That’s not something he had done at a previous job; it was just something he was able to figure out on the fly, but it took a lot of hard work and perseverance in order to pull that off.”
Despite the naysayers—and Manfre says there were plenty—the team has proven its durability and tenacity: “We’ve shown we’re a talented team that can not only deliver on the technology we envision, from hardware to software to analytics, but we can also be very resourceful to keep going.”
As the team grows to 10 members, including a project manager who brings in more than 20 years of experience in the energy space, the team remains determined to reduce the energy consumption of the built environment. For now, that will take the form of energy efficiency, but in the future, the company hopes in incorporate renewables, like solar and energy storage.
This blog was created in collaboration with iSelect Fund, a member of the EQ Partner Network.