A start-up called Weave received this year’s Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize, a $25,000 award given annually by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment to early-stage, for-profit businesses focused on innovations in sustainability.
Weave is an online platform that tackles the three biggest barriers— awareness, credibility, and complexity—facing widespread energy efficiency retrofits in residential and small commercial markets. While full of potential, these two markets are highly fragmented and often exhibit low adoption rates of technologies and services that target energy efficiency.
Working with hardware providers, home performance professionals, and utilities, Weave (WeaveEnergy.com) uses a method of social referral and incentives among existing customers to encourage friends to purchase efficiency products or programs.
The Sabin Prize is offered annually at Yale and, on top of start-up funding, provides contestants with feedback from professional judges, extensive mentoring from faculty, and opportunities for participants to meet and pitch their ideas to top venture capitalists and leading industry professionals. At least one core member of every team must be affiliated with Yale.
“Competing for the Sabin Prize forced us to rigorously define our market and listen to our customers. Winning the prize is a huge honor,” said Max Webster, one of the winning team’s cofounders and a 2012 graduate of Yale College. Sherwin Yu, also a 2012 graduate of Yale, is the other cofounder.
Also announced was the 2013 Sabin Prize Audience Award Winner, Electric Currency. Like Weave, Electric Currency focused on making efficiency retrofits simpler by selling a bundled service of electric power and home upgrades to customers through three-year contracts.
“Up until last December, I had planned on going to law school, said Webster. “I credit Yale's incredible entrepreneurial resources with helping Sherwin and me, two novice entrepreneurs, believe that we could use social enterprise to help tackle two of the biggest challenges of our generation: climate change and energy security.” Webster was recently featured by Forbes as a top “30 Under 30” for energy-related work.The Sabin Prize is an initiative created with the generous support of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation. The next round of applications will be due in March of 2014. More information is available through the website of the Yale Center for Business and the Environment (cbey.yale.edu).