Sunday, August 12, 2007

Today's Globe Column: The Amazing Story Behind EnerNOC

If you're running a start-up and you need some motivation, today's column is especially for you. It's the story of EnerNOC, a company founded in the midst of the dot-com aftermath, in which the main lessons are about persistence and unshakable belief in one's ideas.

Here's the opening:

    The first time I met Tim Healy, at a cocktail party in 1999, he was an associate at Commonwealth Capital, a Waltham venture capital firm.

    The next time I bumped into Healy, at a cocktail party last month, the 38-year-old entrepreneur had taken his company, EnerNOC Inc., public on Nasdaq, and he was on his way to Manhattan to ring the stock market's closing bell.

    What happened in the intervening eight years is an entrepreneurial fairy tale.

(That makes it sound like all I do as a reporter is go to cocktail parties. Close to the truth..)

The video is below, in which Healy talks about the challenges he faced raising VC money, and how he tried to tilt the odds in his favor. There's also an e-mail message from Healy, when I asked him about a rumor that he funded the company, pre-VC, with credit cards.

During the process of working on today's column, I asked Healy how much credit card debt he accumulated. He responded via e-mail:

    For a variety of reasons, I don't give out how much debt we accumulated but I can tell you that at the time EnerNOC raised its Series A, I had approximately 17 different credit cards open by that point and I am pretty sure almost all of them had a balance. I can only imagine what David's personal situation looked like [David Brewster, Healy's co-founder] but we tried not to talk about the debt since talking about personal debt wasn't a whole lot of fun and we always believed it would be worth it in the long run. For a little while after we first got funded I couldn't really afford a place to live in Boston so I actually slept in my car and in my office for a month before a friend's place opened up and he graciously let me stay there for a while. I remember that I also bunked at another friend's place -- John Pepper's. The only reason I mention it is that John is the CEO and founder of the Boloco chain of restaurants in town (formerly The Wrap) and also a Tuck and Dartmouth grad so we shared a lot of early startup stories back then, keeping each other motivated and convincing one another we weren't crazy. After I allocated some friend and family stock to him in May, I feel as though I finally repaid him for those free nights and the great dinners his wife made me....needless to say, he's very happy now, since our stock is up and we just finished telling Wall Street about the great growth we see ahead. [EnerNOC's first quarterly conference call was this past week.]

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