Verdiem’s New CEO, Jeremy Jaech, Sees Big Opportunity in IT Energy Savings
Updated Dec. 3 with comments from Ed Lazowska (see below): Seattle-based Verdiem, a cleantech-meets-computing firm, announced its new chief executive today. He is Jeremy Jaech, the co-founder of software powerhouses Aldus and Visio, a University of Washington alum, and a certified tech-entrepreneur giant of the Northwest. I’ve had my eye on Verdiem as an interesting company to watch, and spoke with Jaech by phone this afternoon to get his thoughts on his new position (he’s in New York for customer meetings).
“I’m kind of an old guy in this business,” Jaech says. Earlier this year, he stepped down as CEO of the Seattle online startup Trumba, which he says was “downsized to profitability.” What got him excited about Verdiem was three things. First, the company’s concept—software to monitor energy consumption and turn off computers when they’re not being used—is simple and powerful. “This is a really easy [return on investment] argument with large organizations,” he says. “It’s a simple concept with a quick ROI.” Second, the technology is mature and based on a fair bit of research. “It’s a simple concept, but hard to do right,” he says. And third, he says, “the political winds are shifted. They’re at the company’s back now.” With the incoming Obama Administration, he says, companies are more concerned with going green, and in that regard will move more in the direction of European companies.
A quick snapshot of the problem, and the opportunity: something like 60 percent of personal computers are left on 24 hours a day. Companies could save $30 to $60 per PC and monitor per year, if they shut them down for the roughly two-thirds of the time they’re not in use, says Jaech. Meanwhile, the average computer puts out about 1000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year. What’s more, IT accounts for a sizeable and fast-growing chunk of total energy usage around the world—roughly 4 percent, based on a 2006 EPA report.
So what’s unique about Verdiem’s product? Jaech says it’s the only software out there completely focused on managing, measuring, and reporting the energy consumption of corporate IT. That includes dealing with “troublesome computers”—those that won’t turn off or won’t turn back on, which is a technical issue. Verdiem also provides free software to consumers for personal computers; that tool has about 175,000 users.
I asked Jaech about his goals as an incoming CEO in this field. “A lot of my focus right now is executing on what we already have,” he says. Verdiem’s product is “mature, it works, customers like it. Big companies—that’s where the energy savings are, and a lot of [carbon dioxide] emissions can be saved.” Most of Verdiem’s corporate customers have 10,000 computers or more, he says. As for Verdiem itself, it has about 55 employees and has had 300 percent revenue growth in the past year, Jaech says.
On selling Verdiem’s product to corporations, he says, “Oftentimes, IT doesn’t care that much about energy savings on their own. It’s pressure from a C-level executive, or it comes through facilities people who worry about the energy bill. You have to convince IT that this isn’t going to make their job harder, it makes it easier. The place to start is outside of the IT organization…It doesn’t require a change in user behavior. That’s pretty easy. We have something for them that’s a quick win, and relatively painless. As more things are connected to the network, the environment is very receptive to thinking about IT energy savings.”
On that note, I asked Jaech for some broader thoughts on the future of cleantech and IT. “The reception we get is quite remarkable,” he says. “Companies are starting to create C-level positions, like chief sustainability officer, that are responsible for the carbon footprint of the company…They want to be a step ahead of the government, and a lot of it starts with measurement.” He adds, “Companies are starting to get really interested.”
Reached for comment on Jaech’s appointment, Ed Lazowska of the UW’s computer science and engineering department writes, “Jeremy is arguably the most successful serial software entrepreneur in Seattle. He’s smart. He’s technical. He’s insightful. And he’s a genuinely good human being…He brings out the best in people.”