Our big idea: MyGreenDoor
Hi! What's your elevator pitch?
Net zero targets will not be achieved unless solutions are accelerated and delivered at scale. We’ve created PyTerra’s MyGreenDoor platform to deliver this through group initiatives for residential retrofitting. 20 or more properties with similar risks and opportunities are rapidly identified using AI and then retrofitted under one building and finance contract. MyGreenDoor is both a demand aggregator and a solutions broker, packaging group initiatives so that they get to the front of the queue and generate discounts for property owners.
Why does the market need it?
60% of the 23.7m homes in England are not environmentally sustainable. For owners, incentives for retrofitting are inadequate, decisions are complex, and solutions are hard to deliver. For builders, there’s not pipeline of projects being offered to incentivise them to invest in capacity and innovation. Existing solutions are primarily coming from government and focused on social housing, but the private sector is also in need of a solution where private landlords are increasingly selling up. MyGreenDoor gives solutions to all house owners and helps to build desperately needed project pipelines.
Where is the business today?
PyTerra is currently finishing a grant-funded project supported by the West of England Combined Authority. This has focused on how we deliver our MyGreenDoor product to private landlords through letting agents. Engagement with both groups is challenging, but we are now able to demonstrate how our approach can help them to cost effectively comply with EPC regulations and improve asset yield. We will shortly be pursuing our first investment round so that we can bring MyGreenDoor to the market by the end of the year. Our initial market focus is on Bristol, but other geographic opportunities are being discussed.
What made you think there was money in this?
Our initiative has had a long lead-in, with PyTerra having first explored the water sector. Bad timings meant that Covid took away two pilot projects and a review of the business resulted in a pivot towards energy. I’m originally an architect by background and I knew sustainability in housing was fast becoming a key challenge. The build-up and complexity of issues, plus the growing level of political pressure, shows that there are solutions that someone will want to, and have to, pay for. We knew from our previous work that a solution would need to use extensive data and create a framework within which multiple stakeholders could operate and which could scale to address a range of social and environmental challenges.
How did you research the niche?
Research started in 2021 with a business questionnaire, and more recently with focus groups for landlords and lettings agents through Beautiful Insights. On the way, we have talked extensively to stakeholders and other innovators. We were selected in 2021 for Energy Systems Catapult’s first incubator. In early 2022 we were finalists in the UN Habitat’s Climate Smart Cities Challenge (Bristol) to accelerate the building of net zero social housing. We are therefore very clear about the needs of the market. The insight we have regarding group initiatives which has been missed by competitors is to focus on fundamental economic drivers for those making buying decisions. If you can set out those buying pathways in an easily usable format, then you have customers onside.
What's your biggest strength?
Ease of use and big impact – those are two strengths which will make MyGreenDoor successful. The platform does the hard work up-front, to give letting agents this proposition: “Upload all your portfolio and our AI will give you a retrofit proposal for every one of your landlord customers. When a customer says yes, they get a solution which is cheaper and more easily procured than an individual effort.” The incentive for the letting agents is to better support their customers, stop landlords from selling up, and generate revenue from the leads they provide to MyGreenDoor.
I developed my first product in 2003 and licensed it in the USA within a year, gaining a UKTI ‘Best New Exporter’ award. Up until then, I was personally focused on the world of property-related consultancy. Product development and commercialisation uses very different muscles! I have learned that intuition is one that needs to be nurtured, to see beyond logic and cross the creative gap. If you now lift the bonnet on our product, you will see that innovation – a sophisticated solution to a complex problem. This is what protects us for the time being.
What is the secret to making the business work?
It has taken a while to come up with a business proposition which can be easily explained, where people ‘get it’, and when the response is “that’s a really good idea – how did you think of that?” Listening to a wide range of stakeholders has been important, but until you have made that creative leap and fed back your proposition to get such a response, it is then very difficult to create a narrative around the product which is easy to tell. This story telling is made easier when you are clear about the values which underpin your product.
How do you market the company?
We decided back in 2021 to focus on Bristol as our first market. Much time has been spent developing contacts here. I even moved here last year from the South East! We are now working with Carnsight Communications to market MyGreenDoor, using dedicated LinkedIn and Facebook pages (with some advertising), as well as creating more general interest through PR news stories, articles and networking events. We are also contacting letting agents directly and to demonstrate a wireframe version of the app, developed by Rocketmakers. This is the biggest challenge, and so our focus is to onboard one or two early adopters to help them support their landlord customers with access to cost-effective retrofits.
What funding do you have? Is it enough?
We are self-funded and that has been through personal savings, support from friends and family, as well as grants. This means that we have had to work lean in order to just survive. That creates a great discipline for when we gain investment later in the year. The market for investment is very challenging at present, so a strategy of a modest ask now and a bigger raise early next year may be prudent. Until then, the IP, marketing and digital assets we have created will enable us to more fully engage the Bristol landlord market. However, opportunities outside Bristol are taking root, and we might find that one of these is actually the catalyst for increasing target investment.
Tell us about the business model
Our fundamental proposition is to create value quickly for groups of property owners in the pursuit of social and environmental goals. We create value through group initiatives and brokered solutions. Some revenue can be generated through subscriptions from letting agents. The main revenue comes from commission on solutions. If a builder is offering 15% discount for volume, we take a modest percentage. The business model can then scale based on market network effects. The more that project pipelines are filled, the more discounts are offered, and the more customers are onboarded.
What were you doing before?
I was developing software solutions for river flooding, working with large companies such as WSP and research institutions such as the University of Surrey. The focus was on how upstream flood retention ponds could be controlled as a network to best protect downstream areas. My role was to develop the concepts, assemble teams and initiate grant-funded R&D projects. All this came from a search of new areas for innovation back in 2013, which led to a better understanding of environmental issues. This fuelled my passion for sustainability and a frustration that more wasn’t being done.
Are there any technologies you've found useful?
I am very excited to be working with researchers at the University of Bristol in the use of techniques to identify optimum groups of properties for say a retrofit programme. When you are considering the interests of landlords, tenants, their community and solution suppliers, this becomes very complex! Part of the answer has been to use ‘clustering’ techniques such as the ‘K-means clustering algorithm’. By using this in conjunction with a financial model we have built, we can quickly create multiple groups of say 20 properties and highlight these on a mapping tool (QGIS).
What is the future vision?
Our vision is not to be the ‘biggest’ or the ‘best’. It is nevertheless ambitious. We want to have a presence in every city to local solutions to social and economic challenges. Global challenges are so big and so urgent that only a systems approach to solutions stand a chance of success. Our approach will unlock local investment and create value for our customers, for the communities in which they operate, and for our investors.