Written by Kelly Stincer.
Many people don’t know what to expect when opening their electric bills. Did you use more or less energy than last month? Which appliances are driving up your bill? Are there ways to reduce your usage? These are common questions that can be difficult to answer, because most of us don’t know how much electricity we’re consuming on a day-to-day basis. Potential Labs, in Athens, Ohio, is solving this problem by developing a sensor that can tell you how much energy you’re using in real time.
“On average, households in the U.S. waste about 40 percent of the energy they pay for,” said Ben Lachman, CEO of Potential Labs. “People generally know they’re wasting energy, but can’t tell exactly when or how. Our device alerts them to excess energy use, so people can identify where the extra usage is coming from.”
Potential Labs’ technology involves a two-part device. The first element is a sensor that tracks how much electricity you’re using in real time. The second is a hub that sits in your house and uses a color to notify you of wasted energy.
“If you’re about to leave for work and the device is red, you know you’re wasting energy. You can look around the house to see what was left on, or identify a device that uses a lot of electricity. For example, perhaps you can unplug your computer so it’s not tapping energy all day long.” said Lachman. “If the device is blue, you know that your house is in eco-mode for the rest of the day.”
Lachman has a computer science background and spent the last 10 years working as an iOS app developer, creating software that helps users leverage technology to solve problems. That carried over into his work at Potential Labs. By showing users instant feedback on their energy consumption, Lachman is helping people form habits that will lower their bills in the future.
Lachman was introduced to his business partner Robin Kinney by TechGROWTH Ohio, a southeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier. Lachman took an interest in developing an energy efficiency software tool after installing solar panels on his home, and Kinney wanted to find a better home energy monitoring system after trying some that required him to connect to potentially dangerous wires inside his electrical panel.
Together, the two decided to merge their interests to create Potential Labs and received an early investment from TechGROWTH Ohio. In the spring of 2016, the company also worked with Rev1 Ventures, another partner of Ohio Third Frontier located in central Ohio. Lachman and Kinney completed Rev1’s Concept Academy, where they worked with mentors to determine what users want in home energy monitoring, and develop a product that will perform well in the highly competitive marketplace.
Lachman and Kinney are growing their team, and working to bring the company’s product to market as quickly as possible. Lachman says Ohio has the talent, entrepreneurial resources, and support to help their business succeed.
“Ohio provides great support to entrepreneurs. There are mentors to help you take an idea and walk you through each step in building a company,” said Lachman. “They provide counseling that every new business needs, and it’s easy to access those resources in Ohio.”