Founders Focus – IncentiFind

The Cannon’s Founders Focus series is back! This week, our Managing Director Brad True sat down with Cannon community member IncentiFind’s Founder and CEO Natalie Campos Goodman at our new Post Oak location, taking a deep dive into the nation’s go-to database for green incentives.

IncentiFind came to The Cannon last fall fresh off of a tour through Capital Factory’s Accelerator program and has been an active participant in our community and with our Venture Studio team since joining. As the nation’s only comprehensively standardized and searchable database of green incentives, IncentiFind captures incentives from the Federal, State, County, City and Utility levels. The platform’s incentives are updated throughout the calendar year to provide fast, accurate data so that commercial and residential property owners can make informed decisions during critical project planning. IncentiFind has also partnered with nearly 500 lenders nationwide to bring their customers solutions to fully finance their green projects.

In a nutshell, IncentiFind connects green projects to incentives. Their innovative match-making process has brought an average $0.5MM in cost-savings to home improvement projects, and $3.6MM in cost savings to commercial real estate projects in 2018 alone.

Brad – How did all of this get started? How did you end up where you are now?

Natalie – I think IncentiFind is different than a lot of other startups because we were a complete accident. I’m an architect, specifically I was a sustainability architect, and I had worked about 10 years with some of the largest firms in the industry, serving big pharma, oil & gas, and more. At some point, I really tired myself out and decided I just wanted to focus on green architecture, so then I had to figure out how I wanted to do that. I phoned up a friend of mine at the Department of Energy (DOE) and said “I know there are incentives out there that encourage green architecture…since I’m coming back to the US, how do I search that database so I can talk more about green architecture?” His response was that it doesn’t really exist yet. So at that point I decided to build it (yes, selfishly for myself).

BT – That’s how all of the best things start right?

NG – Exactly! So, after we were up and running, I talked to my contact at DOE again, and it turns out the government had completely defunded all other green incentive databases, so we became the last-man-standing with the nation’s green incentive data.

BT – No pressure or anything…

NG – No kidding. Luckily, we were introduced to Capital Factory early on, and at that point I wasn’t even sure that we were startup material, but they swooped in, took us into the accelerator and more or less framed us as a company. And that’s how IncentiFind was born.

BT – What do you think some of the main benefits of that accelerator were? What did you not know before you went into that program?

NG – Probably the biggest surprise was learning just how much structure and organization was required for a startup, even more than what I had in the corporate world. Capital Factory taught me a lot of that, and then right now with the Venture Studio I’m learning a lot about the foundations of fundraising and setting up for a hyper growth, and as easy as that may sound it’s so important to have laid that foundation, otherwise you’re going to quickly find where the holes are when you try to scale.

BT – We’ve definitely seen that throughout our community – scaling, and all of the headaches around it around talent, not getting spread too thin, still doing great work for your current customers, can be a huge challenge.

NG – Definitely. And at the beginning, I had a database, and I knew its applicability to commercial and residential sectors, but what I didn’t know was that the ways that you can reach your end users are so different. API’s are a great example. It’s one of the most requested services that we’ve yet to build out just because our current team doesn’t have the time or bandwidth to build it out, but it’s definitely our next task now that we’ve done a great job with our channel partners and subscription services.

BT – That’s another challenge we see a lot as companies are getting started – a product or platform by itself isn’t a company yet, no matter how successful it’s been so far.

NG – Exactly, and I also think, with our startup being a database, that there is almost an infinite amount of ways in which we can structure the data and sell it, but we have to focus on what makes sense, and what is going to be the most scalable, attractive to investors and successful, but all while keeping in mind what’s in the best interests of our team.

BT – You’ve traveled and worked in a lot of places, why did you decide to build IncentiFind in Houston?

NG – My entire life has come back to Houston, no matter what industry I’ve served or what company I was with. I started off at NASA, worked in the Texas Medical Center, and I think there’s a great diverse economy here. And that talent diversity has been a huge asset for us, from recruiting developers while also finding sustainability architects and engineers. The only downfall to Houston is that it’s so massive that finding the right office location can be tough. Commutes can become a topic of recruiting.

BT – Well, I’ve heard of a place…

NG – I mean…the multiple locations do help.

BT – What is one tool you’ve discovered that you can’t live without?

NGPivotal Tracker is actually probably the biggest one. Since I don’t have a tech background, I was using Slack too much to convey new priorities to our tech team and Pivotal Tracker became this really nice, neat dashboard where you can adjust tasks based on priority.

BT – That sounds great, I’ll need to dive into that one. We use for a lot of those items, just recently switched our content calendars and a lot of our larger projects over to that. It’s been a huge help.

NG – Nice! I’ll have to check that one out too.

I think it’s important to look back, and to say to them “You guys are awesome, this couldn’t have been done without you.”

BT – What would you say that is next for y’all? What are you most excited about coming up over the next few months?

NG – Definitely hiring, and rolling out a new product, and a new API. But, I think mostly just taking a moment to sit back with our team and enjoy what we’ve built in just a year. I think it’s important to look back, and to say to them “You guys are awesome, this couldn’t have been done without you.” In the last year year we’ve done what a lot of startups do in a 2+ years and with a ton of funding. So I actually look forward to just having a pause, especially before we roll out that API, which is something a lot of our industry is really excited about.

BT – Agreed! Always nice to take a break and celebrate your accomplishments. Thanks again for the time today!

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