HOMETREE - THE STORY SO FAR
After months’ worth of work, we are delighted to be launching Hometree – a new UK focused energy efficiency home improvement service provider. What we want to do with this first blog is to give you some background on how Hometree came into being, and to give you a bit of insight into what the future holds.
The journey to Hometree coming into being goes back to my time working for Jon Moulton, one of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs. Amongst the many pieces of advice Jon gave me over 5 years, one in particular led me to leave the world of private equity investing and embark on the next phase of my career. That piece of advice was as follows – due to an increased level of competition and regulation in the private equity space globally, it was likely that the industry in which Jon had made his fortune would be less lucrative in the future. His advice to me was to find a secular trend I was passionate about in the early stage of its development, and to ride the growth of that industry.
It didn’t take me too long to figure out what that trend was. With an undergraduate degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering, I had long been passionate about sustainability and the renewables sector. I had spent a lot of time looking across at the US market where innovative financing techniques had unlocked the residential solar market, and in particular spent a lot of time reading about Elon Musk and his electric car company Tesla. It was Tesla’s release of their Powerwall home storage product which convinced me that the energy market was on the cusp of being disrupted in the same way telephony was 25 years ago as it moved from a predominantly centralised based model of large coal and gas plants, to an increasing distributed model made up of self-generation, storage and efficiency measures in the home. I became convinced that the 100-year-old utility model would be turned on its head over the next decade as new technology made it increasingly possible for homeowners to turn their homes into mini-utilities.
After I moved back to London in late 2015/ early 2016 I incorporated Hometree, bought the domain and raised a small debt round from a group of friendly investors – led by Jon Moulton, and with participation from Irish VC Frontline Ventures & the New Entrepreneurs Foundation founder Oliver Pawle amongst others.
My first goal once I had the funds in the bank was to take in a technical Co-Founder, as it was increasingly clear that data and technology would be a critical differentiator in the future energy market. A mutual contact had introduced me a year earlier to Andreu Tobella, who as head of product at Hive, the British Gas owned smart thermostat, had led all product and some technical teams at Europe’s largest IoT company. Following a year of dinners and skype calls, it was obvious that Andreu was one of the best product people I had ever met – super customer focused and deeply passionate about the shift to a low carbon future.
When I met Simon more than a year ago, I was in a very unique position leading the product team in the best IoT company in the UK – Hive. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed building great products to keep delighting our customers alongside an amazing team, being a startup guy, I knew that I was ready for a new and bigger challenge.
For the past 10 years, I have been heavily involved in two sectors: technology and climate change. Right after the Kyoto protocol was ratified by Russia back in 2005, I decided to join a startup company in the climate change sector called EcoSecurities to try and understand the issue of climate change at its core. With EcoSecurities, I worked developing carbon emission reduction projects and trading biomass in countries across the world including China, Malaysia, Ghana, Morocco, Brazil or Mexico. With this breadth of experience in the ground and working closely within the United Nations, I realised that in order for us all to tackle climate change once and for all, we need to kick start profitable businesses independent of institution based incentives. I genuinely believe that climate change will not only be solved via large cross-country multilateral agreements such as the CDM but also by a myriad of businesses of all sizes that will make money out of it. More specifically, being a true doer myself, I believe that by making small improvements to our households, we can significantly contribute to the mitigation of the effects of climate change.
And there is only one way to empower the home improvements industry to make such changes – via the usage of technology at a mass scale. Technology has been my passion since I was a kid. I have built 4 technology based products myself and launched 3 startups in the past 10 years, each of them tackling a different aspect of climate change such as the access to funding from renewable energy projects in developing countries with Ithaca Environmental Ventures, or efficient mobility in Mexico with Clicab. Putting technology to work to solve big problems is my true passion.
The first time I met Simon, I found the idea to disrupt the energy industry by building technology based products very appealing since the opportunity was right in my sweet spot. And once we had a few beers, I started to realised that Simon and I were an extremely complimentary team with strong backgrounds and contacts to launch a challenger brand with a new approach in the energy industry. After a few more months analysing the business and the opportunity, I decided to join Hometree as a co-founder focussing on the product and tech side of the business.
With Andreu on-board, we spent the last few months putting in place the infrastructure for Hometree including our initial installer partnerships and our online platform.
Today Hometree is a hassle free way for homeowners to get energy-saving products installed into their homes – everything from boilers to windows and much more. We provide homeowners with the opportunity to locate and book energy saving home improvement work online and through our app. Hometree work with a network of highly vetted trade partners who supply an extensive range of top quality branded products which are backed by long-term manufacturer’s warranties, enabling us to supply exactly the right system for every home. Our goal is to help homeowners stay warm in the winter, cool in the summer and keep their energy bills down so they’ve got more money to spend on doing the things they love.
Whilst Hometree is currently offering innovative energy saving products like solar panels and storage, much of the initial focus is to fix a deeply fractured retail experience for established energy saving categories such as boilers and windows. The current issues with these functional categories include a lack of price transparency in the market, the requirement for homeowners to pay double or more if they want a ‘premium’ service from a big company like British Gas, the difficulty to find proper sources of unbiased information, high pressure sales tactics in the home, incompetent and messy work and a long and stressful fall-back option following a poor job.
Hometree brings a traditionally offline industry online, making it really easy for homeowners to make energy saving home improvements: comprehensively checked tradesmen, online pricing, job monitoring & inspection, access to finance within the process and a communication platform which allows for effective dispute resolution. Because Hometree works with local installers, we can leverage their lower cost base, so homeowners get a big company experience, at a local company price point.
Whilst the initial focus is clear, I am increasingly optimistic that technology such as storage is starting to come to market and will in the not-too distant future make it possible for homeowners to significantly reduce their reliance on their utilities. Hometree’s goal is to position ourselves as homeowners trusted energy adviser – helping them take back their power from the utilities and to empower them to live more independently and in a more financially & environmentally sustainable way. More generally, our purpose is to give consumers radical personal control of their home energy consumption, whilst playing our part in accelerating the shift to a low carbon future.