University alumni Jack Dean and Steven Sherman know what’s up— or, watt’s up, to be more precise.

In March 2013, the duo founded YouKnowWatt, a startup whose biggest product is an app — — that allows users to monitor their home’s energy consumption and the cost of that energy consumption in real time.

“We were originally interested in doing something to make energy consumption more sustainable, so we went into it wanting to make consumers more aware of their energy consumptions,” said Sherman, a College of Engineering alum.

Dean and Sherman, both 25, met during their freshman year at the University and developed a closer friendship in their senior year when they discovered their shared interests in entrepreneurship and energy consumption. Both graduated in May 2011, Dean with a degree from the Business School and Sherman with a degree in chemical engineering.

The University was instrumental in launching YouKnowWatt, Sherman said. In November 2012, the startup won 1000 Pitches, an annual competition on campus that allows students to present their business ideas in the hope of winning the $1,000 prize to help make their pitch a reality.

Sherman added that TechArb, which provides resources to entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor, and the Master of Entrepreneurship program, which he completed in August 2013, provided him and Dean with the resources to make their startup a reality.

While YouKnowWatt helps improve energy consumption at the individual level, the creators hope that it will assist in solving a larger crisis — the terawatt problem.

“Basically the terawatt problem is if you look at how much energy the world is consuming and you look at what we’re projected to consume in 2050 — we’re on an unsustainable path: huge upward trends in population, energy consumption, and 85 percent of energy comes from fossil fuels we dig up from the ground,” Sherman said.

“This is an infrastructure that takes decades, if not generations, to change,” he said in a talk about the terawatt problem he gave at the Business School in November 2013.

Dean and Sherman are also focusing on a new project called Customer Discovery Ninja — which Sherman said allows entrepreneurs to do “on-demand, live interviews” with customers.

The market research tool allows entrepreneurs to call potential clients from their Internet browser and conduct a recorded interview. The project’s overall aim is to allow businesspeople to make their ideas more accessible to customers and get feedback on these ideas.

“Most people think market research and think … surveys and focus groups — those have really big flaws,” Sherman said.

He said he thinks that the on-demand interview system will be more effective.

“We do have some customers with this and we’ve developed some traction and we hope to develop some business soon,” Sherman said.

While the pair said they hope to work again with YouKnowWatt and the problem of energy consumption, they are happy with their current project as well.

“We really learned a lot going through YouKnowWatt and jumping in headfirst and now we’re applying those lessons in Customer Discovery Ninja and we can kinda already see that we know what we’re doing.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.