Have you ever found yourself shivering in your corner of the office, only to stride into a conference room for a big meeting and start to sweat – not only because of a hike in temperature, but also a shoddy IT setup that could jeopardize your presentation? Fiddling with the thermostat and projector prove fruitless, and you wish there was an easy way to relay that message to the guys in charge. Fortunately, CrowdComfort has just the solution you’re looking for.
The Somerville-spun startup empowers people to share information about their comfort levels and environments to building owners and operators, all over a sleek and simple smartphone app, with the goal of cutting down on energy costs.
In a room that’s too cold or too hot? Occupants report their thermal comfort on a sliding scale. If there’s a burnt out lightbulb or broken projector, they can also quickly shoot a picture or message in the form of a maintenance request. CrowdComfort’s tech then converts this crowdsourced feedback into time stamped, geo-located heat maps with actionable reports to the building’s facility managers. The result: The facility managers can act fast on the incoming issues to address occupants’ concerns.
The company got started at 2013’s Cleanweb Hackathon, an event that will take place for the third time this weekend at Greentown Labs. Two of CrowdComfort’s 10 co-founders, Eric Graham and Kevin Loos, were at the hackathon as sponsors with their employer at the time, cleantech company NextStep Living. Graham recalls that interest perked, however, when Galen Nelson, the chief innovator at the Mass Clean Energy Center, posed the following question: “Why don’t we use smartphone tech to gather human feedback around comfort for heating and cooling?”
“It was like he hit me in the head with a two-by-four,” joked Graham. “We were there as sponsors, and weren’t planning on even competing.”
After a long weekend trying to tackle the problem, the team presented their pitch in front of the hackathon’s panel of judges, and walked away champs. The Cleanweb win kicked off a streak of other successes for the burgeoning business. Soon after, CrowdComfort won “Judge’s Best Pick” at Green Biz’s VERGE Accelerate competition. Leveraging local cleantech connections, the team signed EnerNOC to pilot the technology; and, after mere months under their belt, CrowdComfort raised a seed round worth $300,000; the company’s currently looking to raise its Series A.
“The idea’s captivating for sure, and people really get it on the thermal comfort side. It gets the conversation going,” said Loos, in terms of wooing investors and pitching corporate partnerships. CrowdComfort has since garnered an impressive list of clients, including Boston University, GE and the MBTA. The company offers free installation and two months in a free trial period.
“There’s a trend, and a large amount of interest in how to improve efficiency and better manage buildings using mobile technology, while also seeing what’s happening on social side,” added Loos.
Want to learn more about CrowdComfort? Stop by the opening party, which the startup is sponsoring, for the Cleanweb Hacakthon at Greentown Labs this Friday, or take a look at the video below.