When Seyi Fabode attended the entrepreneurship event held at the Booth School of Business’ Class of 2010 admit weekend, only a dozen or so prospective Boothies attended the session.
This year, Seyi returned as a speaker for the same session and, “It was packed,” he said. “They needed to have two sessions to accommodate all the admitted MBAs who were interested in entrepreneurship.”
In just three years, everything’s changed for entrepreneurship at business school, and everything has changed for Seyi, too.
Along with Booth classmate Phil Nevels, Seyi is the co-founder of Power2Switch, a company that provides information about the complex utilities industry to allow consumers to shop and change residential and commercial energy suppliers.
An engineer by background, Seyi worked in the utilities sector in the U.K., conducting operations analysis on electricity demand generation. He realized that the United States suffers from the same information asymmetries as the U.K.; simply put, electricity suppliers understand more about energy generation than electricity consumers, and as a result consumers spend too much on products that don’t suit their needs.
“Our mission is to empower the consumer to make smart decisions,” Seyi says. “In the utilities area, the only information out there is distributed by the dominant player. Basically whoever shouts the loudest gets heard.”
The Mint.Com of Energy
Seyi emphasized to me that they’re looking to become the Mint.com of energy. “We want to help people benchmark their energy usage against other people who have the same number of people and appliances in their homes, and to ask themselves, ‘Where should I be in terms of energy usage?’”
With the heat wave that’s hit America this summer, electricity outages and usage are hot topics across the country. Indeed, Power2Switch provides the ancillary benefit to the environment of focusing on reducing electricity usage among consumers.
And because of this focus on consumers, consumer pocketbooks, and energy, Power2Switch was selected as one of five startups to present at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting on the economy held in Chicago in late June. It’s also one of 10 companies in the portfolio of Excelerate Labs, a Chicago-based summer accelerator supported by entrepreneurs Sam Yagan of OKCupid and Troy Henikoff of SurePayroll, as well as venture firms New World Ventures and Sandbox Industries.
Entrepreneurship at Booth and business school
Despite all this recognition, Seyi assures me that it’s, “…not a flashy lifestyle. I haven’t taken a holiday since before I started school. But I know that I wouldn’t be happy in any traditional job.” He also reminds me that when Power2Switch entered the New Venture Challenge at Booth, they didn’t even make the finals. In fact, the winner that year was Bump Technologies, an iPhone app and formidable competitor. Of the 60+ companies that entered the New Venture Challenge that year, though, only three remain: Bump Technologies; his classmate and friend Charisse’s startup, Smarteys; and Power2Switch.
Even though Power2Switch wasn’t a contender in the 2009 New Venture Challenge, The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship continued to support them. Seyi mentions in particular Linda Darragh, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs, “…who was amazing when no one else was paying attention. She checked in with us, and really kept us going.”When I asked Seyi for his advice for budding entrepreneurs, he said that too many people are chained by their need to start paying their business school loans back right out of school.
Give the startup thing a go, he says, especially if you have a little money saved up. Seyi is inspired by his partner and co-founder Phil, who was moonlighting at Power2Switch while his wife was pregnant until he realized how much fun he was having working as an entrepreneur. The two are now committed full-time to the venture.
“The loan payback lasts a long time anyway,” he lamented. “The loans will get paid; you won’t starve. You were resourceful enough to get an MBA. Remember that people with fewer skills don’t starve.”
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