Greenlancer: Clean Tech Engineering From the Cloud

Bizdom-backed, Detroit-based startup Greenlancer has been receiving a lot of local attention lately. Earlier this year, co-founder and CEO Patrick McCabe was named one of metro Detroit’s rising stars in Crain’s “20 in their 20s” list. In June, Greenlancer won a $10,000 prize in the advanced energy sector in the Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest. Now the company plans to continue refining its business model as it gets closer to becoming cash-flow positive, which McCabe says will happen “very soon.”

Just what is Greenlancer? As the name suggests, it’s a site for green freelancers. Think of it as a team of cleantech engineers based in the cloud, or a Web-based engineering firm, that helps companies design and develop projects incorporating solar, wind, energy conservation, and other sources of renewable energy. Outside of the East and West Coasts, where the market for cleantech professionals is saturated, explains Doug Elbinger, Greenlancer’s chief strategy officer, there’s a dearth of professionals qualified to work on renewable energy building projects.

Contractors, manufacturers, or developers can go to Greenlancer’s website and request a feasibility study, concept design, financial analysis, or permit package. Greenlancer will then assign one of its engineers to complete the assignment. Because Greenlancer has devised a “post-industrial” model, its co-founders say it’s not only more cost-effective than a brick-and-mortar business, but it’s also more responsive to customers thanks to the ease of digital communication.

Greenlancer currently has 100 experienced, accredited clean tech professionals in its network, and Elbinger says the goal is to have 1,000 within the next few months. (Interested potential Greenlancers can apply on the company’s website.) The job appeals to people who want to work a second job on nights and weekends, retirees, and people who are tired of punching a clock, McCabe says. “They’re able to work at their own pace. It’s a system that can monitor collaboration, like a virtual assembly line.”

Though the company couldn’t go into too many details about its clients, McCabe does say that Greenlancer has worked with a Navy base contractor on a feasibility study and site surveys, and they’re currently in the process of helping to turn an abandoned Detroit school into a “sustainable” community center.

Greenlancer’s future plans include growing the team (there are currently three full-time and a handful of part-time employees) in downtown Detroit. Elbinger says Greenlancer’s affiliation with Bizdom and, by extension, the Quicken Loans umbrella companies, has piqued the interest a lot of interested outside investors. “Because we’re creating jobs and generating investment, we’re proof that Bizdom works,” Elbinger adds. “We’ve proven our minimal viable product, and now we’re proving our business model every day.”

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