By Adam Spivack, Principal, Comcast Ventures
Venture capital investing is a people business. While we thoroughly examine business models, markets, and growth potential, founding teams make or break the decision to invest. In every investment we ask ourselves: why does this founding team have a distinct advantage to win in their specific market?
From my first meeting with Alex Ince-Cushman I knew he was building a winning team with unique experience at Branch Energy. The company is a direct-to-consumer green energy platform that uses 100% renewable sources, lowers customers’ energy bills, all while making the end-to-end process simple.
Alex earned a PhD in Nuclear Physics at MIT, spent six years with McKinsey, four years at Palantir, and was most recently CTO of a public retail energy company called Just Energy. His cofounder Daniel MacDonald (Alex’s childhood best friend) has had multiple exits as an entrepreneur. Most recently, he sold his company, Filter Group, to Just Energy in 2018. It was there Alex and Dan came together with co-founder Todd Burgess, another expert in the field who worked as COO of Home Water before it was acquired by Just Energy.
Beyond the team, I resonated with Branch’s mission: “Green Energy, Made Simple, For Less.”
Options for electricity in deregulated energy markets can be overwhelming and most energy companies score low on customer NPS. Branch Energy sets themselves apart by being more than a renewable energy provider. They are champions for intelligent energy management, leveraging smart home technology and analytics to help customers save on bills and reduce power consumption, all while building a trusted consumer brand.
Over 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are due to the burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation. With the UN reporting this week we are in a “code red for humanity” with respect to global warming, Branch helps empower consumers with immediate solutions that we can take to reduce carbon emissions
The potential market for Branch Energy is huge. Americans spend $1.3 trillion on electricity every year and the average household pays $115 in monthly electricity bills. It’s easy to see how Branch could grow into a multi billion-dollar business. Success for upstarts in deregulated energy markets is hardly unprecedented. Just look at the United Kingdom, where multiple companies in that deregulated market grew into multi-billion dollar revenue businesses over less than a decade.
Winter storms and a deep freeze in Texas this February led to blackouts and skyrocketing utility bills. This made it even clearer that the deregulated energy market needs a trusted energy brand with transparent pricing. It also showed that in the energy sector, hands-on experience is critical because mistakes in weather modeling and energy acquisition can be devastating for both consumers and businesses. This black swan event highlights a unique moment when millions of Americans are reevaluating their utility providers, and an ideal time for a new provider to step up and earn market share.
One of the core criteria in evaluating investments for Comcast Ventures is whether we feel we can provide value over and above our check. We think Branch Energy can lean on Comcast’s assets to accelerate through distribution and using aggregated energy use data to identify the types of homes that could be a fit for smart home offerings. Comcast also recently made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2035 in Scope 1 and 2 emissions across our entire global operations.
We are excited to watch Branch Energy grow into a powerhouse in the energy sector — and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.