DEADLINE EXTENDED: Initiate! DISTRIBUTECH’s start-up challenge continues in 2020

DISTRIBUTECH International’s test bed for start-ups, students and young professionals, called Initiate!, will be back in 2020 at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Our judges will select 20 companies this year, and our Initiate! Hub will include speakers in addition to the elevator pitches made by the Initiate participants.

Nominations were set to close September 27 but have been extended to October 15. For more information, click here.

In 2019, DISTRIBUTECH – the largest annual event for the transmission and distribution industry – hosted 12 start-ups in New Orleans and gave them each a chance to pitch their companies to a panel of judges.

Those twelve start-ups represent the future of the grid, showcasing technology that utilities can use today to better manage their grids and customers. From DERMS to IoT to microgrids, they offered software and hardware to help improve the utility industry.

Deepa Lounsbury, Director of Products at Extensible Energy shows off the company’s winning plaque at DistribuTECH 2019. 

Each participant was given 5 minutes to pitch their company to a panel of judges who then had 5 minutes to ask questions. The judges evaluated each company on its fit to the market, execution and risk. The judges also evaluated the effectiveness of the pitches themselves.

The three Initiate! winners that were announced on Thursday, February 7 all address issues that plague utilities today: billing administration and tariff setting; load management as DER increase; and energy poverty. A summary of each winning company is included below.

  • GridX is a provider of big data billing and billing analytics solutions to utilities and competitive energy suppliers. The company helps customers and utilities answer the “what if” questions regarding billing. For consumers, those questions might be along the lines of how much their bill will increase if they were to get an electric vehicle. For utilities, the system helps analyze prices, revenues and costs thereby helping utilities arrive at more precise tariffs.
  • Extensible energy helps turn buildings into a flexible load. According to the company there are more than 5 million buildings in the U.S. but less than 2 percent are managed with “smart” technology. The company has solar load-balancing software that it says saves customers 30 percent on their demand charges and provides utilities and grid operators the flexibility they need to operate a renewable-heavy grid.  
  • Gridmates is working on the issue of energy poverty in an attempt to help the estimated 48 million people in the U.S. alone that struggle to pay their utility bills. The company has created a cloud platform for smart energy donations that helps electric and gas utilities “digitize” their payment assistance programs using crowdfunding, mobile payment gateways, and social media APIs.  Users can donate using their smart phone, share on social media, share their solar credits, and save and donate energy using their smart thermostats.

Other Initiate! participants included Anax Power, Brenmiller Energy, Delta Thermal, Go Electric, Logical Buildings, Omega Grid, OnNow Digital, Pathion and Sabreez.

Andrew Griffis, CEO of Delta Thermal said that it’s difficult for new companies to get exposure to the right audience and that “we found the Initiate! venue at DISTRIBUTECH to be very effective to align our offer with the conversations of the T&D marketplace.”

He added: “The unspoken yet communicated narrative of “Ëœcome see what’s new and helpful in technology’ by virtue of the platform at the conference proved to be quite effective.”

Griffis also said that he was appreciative of DISTRIBUTECH advisory committee member and Initiate! judge Ross Malme, who connected him with several strategic companies.

Scott Engstrom (left), VP of Corporate Strategy at GridX poses with Ross Malme, one of the Initiate! judges at DistribuTECH 2019. 

Malme, a partner at Skipping Stone added that “attendee feedback was extremely positive for Initiate, which gives early stage energy technology entrepreneurs a platform to present their solutions to potential customers, utilities and investors.”

He congratulated the winners GridX, Extensible Energy, and Gridmates.

DistribuTECH extends its heartfelt thanks to our 2019 Initiate! Judges, listed below:

  1. Paul Yarka, Principal-Client Lead, Energy & Utilities, North Highland
  2. Raj Chudgar, President, Viridity Energy Solutions Inc.
  3. Howard Scott, Managing Director, Cognyst Advisors
  4. Ross Malmie, Partner, Skipping Stone
  5. Michael Danziger, Managing Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP
  6. Joe Zerdin, Manager, Large Customer Accounts Distribution, HydroOne
  7. Jason Hadley, Director, Smart Grid Emerging Technology and Operations, Duke Energy
  8. JoJo Hubbard, Co-Founder and COO, Electron
  9. Debarshi Das, Director of Energy, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator
  10. Tom Crews, Managing Director, Bowen Advisors, Inc.
  11. Bill Malcom, Executive Director, Clean Tech Open Southeast

DistribuTECH 2020 will take place in San Antonio, Texas January 28-30, 2020 and will include a larger group of Initiate! companies.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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