Sramana Mitra: Talk about your financing strategy. You just mentioned that it takes a lot of cash to acquire those customers upfront and it takes time for them to really pay off. What is the financing strategy?
Kerry Cooper: We’ve raised $25 million over three rounds. We’ve got a great set of investors who are really supportive. I’ve read a lot of your blog on bootstrapping versus venture. I find great value in having a Board that is connected to the industry. To me, there’s a benefit of having a client of Perkins who sees a really high deal flow. You can connect disparate points and say, “Have you thought about this business?”
Sramana Mitra: I’m not against venture capital at all by the way.
Kerry Cooper: I know. Jerry bootstrapped and had a great business he built on his own. We took the VC money to invest in technology, which I think is a wise investment.
Sramana Mitra: Our general philosophy is bootstrap first, raise money later. Even though you didn’t do the bootstrapping phase, ChooseEnergy fits exactly that model.
Kerry Cooper: There you go.
Sramana Mitra: $25 million in three rounds. The latest round was in 2015?
Kerry Cooper: The latest round was in April 2015.
Sramana Mitra: What customer metrics do you have right now? How many customers are transacting?
Kerry Cooper: When you talk about eBay, you talk about their GMV. We’re originating about half a billion dollars in energy spend on our platform. It’s the equivalent of about 450,000 homes. We have four households switching every minute on our site.
Sramana Mitra: But that’s not your revenue number. I don’t expect you to share your revenue numbers. The number I was looking for is how many households or businesses there are. You said 450,000 households. Are there businesses on top of this?
Kerry Cooper: This year, we have over a hundred thousand residential customers and 10,000 small to medium businesses.
Sramana Mitra: What percentage of the gross merchandise volume are you getting paid?
Kerry Cooper: It’s a reasonable amount but it’s something I don’t want to share.
Sramana Mitra: What else is interesting in your entrepreneurial journey? What other facets would you like to highlight?
Kerry Cooper: It’s a very open-ended question. Part of it comes back to you on what you think is interesting. As I look at my career over the last 20 years, I’ve always chosen to seek the things that I think are interesting. Being driven by curiosity is a much better path of finding what your career is than trying to meet some metric of, “I’m going to become this by the time I’m this age.”
I have run finance, supply chain, ops, and marketing and merchandising. All of those things were incredible learning experiences to understand how a business operates and how a customer impacts the operation of a business. I joke that I’m the jack of all trades and master of nothing because I don’t come from a background that’s clear. Clearly, jumping from e-commerce and fashion to energy is not one that is an obvious leap. With that, I love the fact that this is a space where I’m driven by curiosity to learn a new industry. I’m driven by being able to do well in the world and having a job where I can make impact. I think encouraging people to be open to new ideas and necessarily get stuck with, “I need to do something because that’s what’s expected.”