Andy is the managing director of TechStars in Seattle, the co-founder of Founders Co-op, and the co-founder of Revenue Loan.
I became the lead investor in Tom Staple's company, Cooler Planet, in July 2007. The company was originally conceived to do lead generation in the energy efficiency market. Neither Tom, Chris DeVore (my partner at Founders Co-Op), nor I had experience in anything remotely related to the energy efficiency market. We didn't let that ignorance stop us; we were knowledgeable about online marketing and we thought the trend toward green energy was going to grow a bunch over the next five years.
Tom decided to focus on and win the solar market first. His theory was that energy efficiency was too broad a market to cover; solar was narrower and it'd be easier for us to matter to both consumers and merchants if we narrowed our focus. At first, Tom thought that winning the solar market would take about six months. We were right about narrowing our focus but totally underestimated the time that it would take to win the solar market.
Tom spent the first two years building a series of web sites that provided the backbone of becoming the Number One consumer resource for solar information online. The business model is simple: The company attracts user traffic interested in solar (both paid and organic) and then monetizes the traffic by selling ...