At the Earth Day launch of the 2021 TechUnited:BetterPlanet Challenge, Ralph Izzo, CEO and president of PSEG, discussed briefly what he had learned about working with startups during the 2020 Challenge.
First, he said, “I found that when we deal with the entrepreneur, we do have to serve two masters. On one hand, we’re delighted to meet people who can come up with innovative solutions to customer problems, like not wanting to pay extra money for having your home heating the neighbor’s. On the other hand, there are a whole variety of regulatory standards and conditions that we have to meet.”
He added that what may seem bureaucratic to the entrepreneur is a necessity to PSEG. For example, “an underwriting lab has to have measured the effectiveness of your technology. Is it tamper resistant? How easy is it to install? How much training do we have to put our folks through to have them do this?”
Izzo noted that there is a procedure-bound aspect of working with PSEG that may be a source of frustration to the entrepreneur. “We have to realize that we are dealing with someone that doesn’t have resources, and we have to constantly rein ourselves in and realize that’s OK.”
He added that the company and the entrepreneur have “to navigate those waters together, and I know we are getting better at that. I promise that we will continue to emphasize that.”
However, being aware of what the utility is dealing with will help entrepreneurs as well, he said, because when they start working with some of the larger utilities out there, they’ll already know what they have to do. The larger utilities will, in all likelihood, impose the same burdens on them that PSEG does, he said.
Aaron Price, president and CEO of TechUnited:NJ, who hosted the Challenge launch event, said that, by working with PSEG and learning the ropes, startup founders can find the right market fit for their product, and they’ll learn how to scale their company.
The BetterPlanet Challenge has a $50,000 cash prize for the startup with the most innovative solution for realizing equitable electrified transportation. The prize also comes with introductions to, and mentoring from, PSEG executives who can directly help the startup gain entry into the company to implement its product. The deadline for applications is August 13. A video of the entire event can be found here.