Tech Startup: Hygge Power’s line of smart energy storage products for home
Undergoing final testing, three OPO products are slated for their retail debut in Summer 2021
Initial Lightbulb: CEO Caleb Scalf founded Hygge Power after working as a consultant in the energy industry. “I scoped multi-million- and multi-billion-dollar-scale projects,” he says. “I always recognized a need for energy storage, the way the market was going.”
With renewables on the rise and a parallel push for a more reliable grid, Scalf saw a need for “flattening the curve,” which meant something entirely different in those halcyon, pre-COVID-19 days: smoothing out midday peaks in electricity consumption to minimize the need for more generation capacity.
Two experiences informed Scalf’s entrepreneurial approach. First, he got locked out of his web-connected home during a power outage that took his smart locks and wireless router offline.
Later, a brainstorming session involved Scalf drawing Tesla Powerwalls (stationary energy storage products) on a whiteboard. After he “scribbled” in frustration and walked away, Scalf looked back and “saw 20 little Powerwalls,” he says. “What if this was lots of tiny, little distributed energy storage units around the home? Would we need as much energy?”
In a Nutshell: Hygge (Danish for coziness, pronounced “hyoo-guh”) Power is developing a line of smart energy storage products for the home.
Six months of R&D and a friends-and-family fundraising round later, Scalf and company had devised the system: plug-and-play products that stored and deployed power based on data on grid-wide electrical consumption and other factors that could cause outages, like weather events.
Undergoing final testing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, three OPO (short for orchestrated power outlet) products are slated for their retail debut in Summer 2021.
“Energy storage is energy storage,” Scalf says. “After that, it’s: How accessible is it? How easy is it to use? How smart is it?” Then there are aesthetic considerations, he adds. “It’s got to look good and add emotional value.”
The products tie into a cloud-based software that can trigger the on/off switches for charging and powering and range in price from $100 to $1,250. Unlike a Tesla Powerwall, you don’t need an electrical upgrade to install it, and that also opens up renters as potential customers.
COVID-19 has proven challenging. After growing the Boulder team to 18 employees, Hygge Power scaled back to three in Colorado and five in Taipei, Taiwan, that’s closer to the supply chain and manufacturing of the products. “We had to act fast due to not having access to all three of our labs,” Scalf says.
Scalf and company put their collective heads down when he was locked out of the lab to lead development of a new consumer-facing app called CO-Z that debuts for Android and Apple users this year. Hygge Power is partnering with electrical utilities to provide to their customers and flatten consumption peaks. “It’s trying to make electricity information accessible and easy,” he says.
Marissa Hummon, the Colorado-based CTO of Utilidata, a software provider to electrical grid operators headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, has been an informal adviser to Hygge Power. “Distributed storage has a lot more potential from an economic perspective if it gets connected to the grid,” she says. “What Caleb really strives for is to make the product have inherent value to the customer and be ready to play with the grid.”
Anthony Florita, a principal engineer at NREL who has been involved with the testing of Hygge Power’s products, echoes the sentiment. “It’s not whether it works — it works,” he says of Hygge’s technology. “We’re trying to help with the pig picture of how it ties into the grid.”
The Market: Homeowners with expensive or unreliable electricity are the main target. Since you don’t need an electrical upgrade to install it, renters are also potential customers.
Financing: After self-funding the launch and raising a pre-seed $170,000, Scalf won about $600,000 in grants and awards and closed a seed round of $1.8 million earlier in 2020. Next up: a Series A with a target of $5 million.