Luke Fishback believed the energy monitoring company he started had some potential. But when General Electric handed him a $100,000 check from its Ecomagination competition earlier this summer and touted his company Plotwatt in the media, he found himself with an express pass to the big leagues.
"We were flying under the radar and then after Ecomagination all of sudden the phones were ringing off the hook--we got a huge influx of customers," said Fishback. "It just put us on the map."
More important than the money is the marketing muscle and technology depth GE could bring to a tiny company like Plotwatt, which has relied largely on word of mouth to find customers.
"GE is one of those companies that could make our service available to a massive number of homes really quickly," said Fishback. "And it's opened lots of doors for scaling in different ways, including raising funds. Investors look at GE as a smart discriminator in this space."
For the thousands of green-tech start-ups out there, big brothers like GE have never been more important. Corporations, once the nemesis of environmentalists, have emerged as vital partners in getting new energy products to market. Whether businesses continue making bets on smaller players will determine how quickly many green technologies, from solar power to plug-in vehicles, become mass-market or remain niche products. … Read more