Posted: September 01, 2010
Tech startup: GoSmart Technologies Inc.By Eric Peterson
INITIAL LIGHT BULB: With a combined background spanning project management to electrical engineering, Brian Smith saw an opportunity in charging stations for electric vehicles and founded GoSmart last year. "I had a vision and thought it was a good market to enter," Smith says.
So Smith put an ad on craigslist looking for a software engineer and an electrical engineer and got a response from Aaron Melin. Smith quickly realized Melin could fill both roles, and the pair co-founded the company.
Since GoSmart's launch, Melin spearheaded design of the company's products, and the pair found local manufacturing partners. The company enjoyed its first installation earlier this year. Smith and Melin respectively serve as CEO and CTO. The company has eight employees.
IN A NUTSHELL: GoSmart makes public and private charging stations. The latter are aimed at municipalities and businesses, often for use with credit cards, the former at residential customers and fleets - fees would not apply.
The units cut charging time by more than 50 percent, Smith says. "It takes a 110-volt input and moves it over to a 240-volt output. That takes a charging time from 10 to 15 hours and moves it down to two to four hours." The industry set a standard for the plug earlier this year. "The issue is, you don't want 18 different plugs on hundreds of different charging stations," Smith says.
"The charging stations are just one piece," he says, touting GoSmart's back-end software. "It can provide the user with all the statistics about emission reduction and petroleum usage. It's a completely Web-based user interface." He says the units are also Smart Grid-ready. "They can alert the utility company to the charging and intelligently speed it up or slow it down to avoid peak demand." Smith says the software is of special interest to fleet managers.
GoSmart's public stations sell for $3,750 while the private units run $2,000. Smith expects the lion's share of sales to be in the latter category through 2012. The first installation was at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building in Denver. GoSmart also has an exclusive agreement with Green Automotive, a Dallas-based electric vehicle manufacturer, and it inked a distributor in Hawaii.
The city and county of Denver installed a private station for a new all-electric parking-enforcement Jeep at the Webb Building on Colfax Avenue. "It's probably the least popular all-electric vehicle in the country," quips Matthew Marshall, greenhouse gas reduction program administrator for the city and county for Denver. On selecting GoSmart, he says, "The price was right and the model was right for a fleet vehicle."
THE MARKET: "Everybody is dipping their feet in the water to see how cold it is," Smith says of major car manufacturers entering the electric market. He says he expects the big players to make 5,000 to 25,000 all-electric vehicles annually over the next few years. He sees this being the core GoSmart market because "people are going to want charging stations in their garage if they can charge faster," estimating that 80 percent of electric-vehicle buyers will buy charging stations.
FINANCING: "We had a couple of small angel investors," Smith says. "We're actively looking for investors." GoSmart is part of Clean Launch, a nonprofit incubator in Denver, a move that Smith hopes exposes the company to potential investors.
where: denver | FOUNDED: 2009 | www.gosmarttechnologies.com
"There are studies [on electric vehicle adoption] from one extreme to the other. My personal vision is the Chevy Volt is going to be key to reducing anxiety - although I don't think there should be any anxiety. The average person only drives 35 miles a day. The Volt can go 40 on a single charge. A Tesla can go 240."
- GoSmart Technologies CEO Brian Smith
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com