As told to John Jonelis
Tonight I stop at a downtown Chicago drinking establishment and run into Joe Perogi. There are several good events going on the same time. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find out about one I missed. Joe may come off as rough around the edges but don’t let that fool you. He’s a really bright guy. He’s coached plenty of startups to success. I respect his opinion.
I set my recorder on the bar. “So, Joe,” I say. “You pick up anything at BNC tonight?”
Joe takes a long draw on his glass of stout and smacks his lips. “Yeah, a number of things.
- “Old houses don’t need to waste so much energy no more.
- “Foot traffic is gonna be high tech.
- “Car dents aren’t gonna be a problem.”
He goes on: “These is high-tech solutions to everyday stuff. There’s this interesting company.”
He shows me their card then slips it back in his pocket. I quickly scribble the contact info on a pad.
MyHomeEQ – Christopher Coleman – www.MyHomeEQ.com
“They wanna make old single family homes energy efficient. ‘Course you know, the biggest share of carbon emissions comes from older homes, right?”
That’s news to me, so I just sip my scotch and let him make his point. And he does.
“So you got all these old houses—fifty million of ‘em,” he says.
I take a slug of straight scotch right down the windpipe and bend over coughing and choking.
Joe pounds me on the back till I clear my throat. “You okay?” When I finally nod and wheeze out my thanks, he goes on: “Anyway, these guys give you what they call an EQ score.”
“Energy quotient?” My throat is burning and it’s hard to talk.
“Yeah it’s like MPG for a house. Here’s where it gets good. The multiple listing service is gonna want that score so’s they can post it along with the price. And who’s gonna buy a house with a lousy EQ? So you gotta fix it.” He smiles and sips his stout. “Now, maybe you don’t know what needs doing. Probably don’t even know who to get to do the work. Maybe you call contractors and they don’t follow up. Maybe you wonder if you can re-capture the cost. So waddaya gonna do?”
“Probably the wrong thing.” I take a gulp of water and it goes down good. “And maybe hire the wrong people.”
“Right—and spend way too much. These guys solve all that. You get on their website. Enter your address. That’s it. They got access to a lotta data. The specs on your home. Your history of energy use. What projects cost. Which ones give the biggest bang for the buck. You get a list of ready, willing and able BPA and LEAD certified contractors to choose from—all free and confidential—and the company sets up an appointment for you. And the guy that shows up already knows what needs doing.”
“How do you monetize that?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. They handle all the logistics. Take a percentage off the contractors. Take a percentage off the material providers. The thing I like is they even make money off their advertising ‘cause the MLS pays ‘em for the EQ score.”
I finally get it and smile. Joe goes on. “Hey, they won a $400K competition for this idea, right here in Chicago,”
“Who else was there?”
Joe massages his brow with a finger as if trying to recall. “Gimme a minute—it’ll come to me, but the thirst—the thirst—”
I signal the bartender to refill his Guinness. When a tall glass of black beer shows up, Joe grins and downs three fingers worth then sighs with obvious satisfaction. “There is one interesting little outfit.” He plunks down a business card in front of me and I look at a thin sheet of paper made from a reused road atlas.
Green Guestbook – Ellie Carleson – www.greenguestbook.com
“This one’s really early stage—if you can stomach the risk. Just two people right now: the gal and her developer. But it’s a proven model. She’s already doing it for museums and it works. Now she’s pivoting from not-for-profit to direct marketing.” He takes another draw on his stout and I wonder how a startup that small can catch his attention. Joe charges really high fees.
“It’s a digital guestbook for any arena with lotsa foot traffic. Customized. Uses touch screen technology insteada paper. It gets your email addresses Does surveys. Collects demographics. All the stuff you wish you could do when you run an event. Some systems give you a list of who’s there but this one’ll let you send a message to the ones wearing pink neckties.
“Thing I like best about this outfit is the gal running it. Lotsa smarts. Lotsa energy. Good sensa humor. Says if ya ask people for their email, they usually give you a phony one. She calls those “sacrificial lambs”—that was rich. Her system’s better. Offers incentives so people cough up their REAL email. Central database. Good privacy protocol. Pilot projects in restaurants, wineries, park districts, trade shows. This one won an award too and got 92% of the votes.
“She needs a lotta help. And John, keep out on this one. You been takin’ too many jobs away. If you wanna invest, okay. If you want a spot on the management team, glad to have ya. I’ll be sure to call you when it comes time to get the writing done. But I’m coaching this one if I can land it. Like I say, I believe in Ellie.”
I go along with that because Joe is passionate about the company. But Loop Lonagan would be better still because he’s not so expensive. I’m not sure he’s available–have to ask. I signal the bartender to fill Joe’s glass and he continues his tale.
“There was one more outfit.” Joe shows me the card.
Dent Recon – Brendon R. Halcott – www.dentrecon.com
“This guy’s really got his act together. University of Chicago. Harvard Business School. Former investment banker. Company’s already profitable locally and looking at a new contract with a major company. He needs to scale and do it fast.
“Okay, so I’m impressed. So what does he do?”
“It’s like Pea Pod for dent repair on your car.”
“No listen. Say you lost an argument with a taxi. It takes a lotta time and hassle fixing a fender-bender. Running around for estimates. Driving a rental car. Now lets say you pull into yer regular parking garage and they can fix your car while your at the office. Or maybe you want it fixed at your home. This guy inflates a special painting booth and works anywhere. Car’s ready when you are. No hassle. Oh yeah, these guys do the paint too, not just the dent.
“Anytime you needed their help, just use yer smartphone. Put in your VIN number and some info. Instant quote. Oh, yeah—you’re too cheap to own a smartphone so you gotta find a hotspot for that laptop you lug around.” He grins.
“I like my laptop. I like my Trakfone..”
“Okay, okay—don’t work up a lather. Point is, you get an automatic estimate instantly. Complete the transaction right then. And that’s just the retail side. They white label this thing for any company. Car dealerships, car washes, parking garages, anything. Their people are trained. Neat. Professional. I expect to see this one launch soon.”
My antique Palm Pilot lets out an alarm. Time to head for the train. I drop some bills on the bar, say my goodbyes and hoof it to the station.
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© 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.