Sramana Mitra: Let’s track the story of how you got this going. What was the beginning of the business? How did you get it started? Did you raise money or did you bootstrap? Give me more color on the entrepreneurial journey.
Kerry Copper: Our founder is Jerry Dyess. He built this business out of his home. Kleiner Perkins was looking at this space and they ended up meeting Jerry. They said, “If we put real technology behind this, we could make this thing work.” They hired a team out here to build the platform and to scale it beyond electricity.
Sramana Mitra: Jerry is based in Texas?
Kerry Cooper: He is. The supply set of our space is mostly in Texas.
Sramana Mitra: So you were recruited into the project as the CEO?
Kerry Cooper: That’s correct. Jerry is the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. It’s hard for someone in Dallas in the energy space to scale and build a team out here. I joined when there were six of us.
Sramana Mitra: At that point, had Kleiner already invested?
Kerry Cooper: Yes, Kleiner had. It was a seed round to prove that the platform would work.
Sramana Mitra: Instead of working on your own idea, you basically took something that was baked and took it to the next level.
Kerry Cooper: That’s correct.
Sramana Mitra: What were some of the first things that you did when you got on-board in this company?
Kerry Cooper: Bringing my love of consumer and the voice of customer forward was one of the first things I addressed. How do we scale this business by really investing and understanding where the customers are getting stuck? When I joined, we were probably in five or six states. We did broader expansion of the rest of the deregulated market. We launched natural gas and the ability to buy multiple products.
What we originally had from a shopping experience was very much based on the cost per kilowatt hour, which is pretty confusing. When you talk to customers, they don’t understand what a kilowatt hour is. The thing that attracts me to this business is, how do you consumerize energy? How do you make this critical part of our lives much more approachable? We spent quite a bit of time revamping that shopping experience and trying to make it easier to see your choices. The commercial side of the business was just a lead business. We transformed that to be able to shop online.
When we reach out to our business customers, they are very busy. This is like number 10 on their to-do list. They didn’t want to be called by brokers to talk to them. They just want to shop online and make it easy. We launched that in August 2014. It really has seen great growth.
Sramana Mitra: When you came on board, was there a critical mass of customers already in the company?
Kerry Cooper: We definitely had product–market fit. I don’t remember the exact number but there were probably more than 5,000 customers that had already gone through the platform.
Sramana Mitra: So you had a base of customers to talk to to learn all these things.
Kerry Cooper: That’s right.
Sramana Mitra: In that 5,000, were there both commercial and residential customers?
Kerry Cooper: They were primarily residential, but there were some business customers.