April 17, 2016

GMP contest seeks energy innovators

Mike Reilly

GMP employee Freddie Hall gets some work done in the Inspire Space.

Green Mountain Power recently launched a contest inviting energy entrepreneurs from across the country to make a pitch to relocate their companies to Vermont — specifically to GMP’s new Inspire Space.

Up to five winners will be chosen to move their companies to state-of-the-art co-working space at GMP’s corporate headquarters in Colchester.

In announcing the contest, Mary Powell, CEO at GMP, said, “This exciting initiative is our way of encouraging businesses to locate here in Vermont by supporting energy entrepreneurs who will deliver the latest in new technology and clean energy for customers. Innovation is the key to cost-effective, clean energy and making the world a more sustainable place. Working together is the best way to achieve this energy vision.”

Kristin Carlson, director of media and chief corporate spokesperson at GMP, said the contest is focused primarily on out-of-state entrepreneurs and companies. “We think there are a lot of incubator spaces happening within Vermont right now, so we thought attracting out-of-state companies could add value,” she said.

Contest winners must relocate their business to the GMP Inspire Space for a minimum of one year. Each receives a relocation stipend and is provided with free working space, parking, Internet and other support functions. Beyond that, Carlson said, winners receive coaching and professional support to help their companies succeed. “They’ll have access to our CEO, Mary Powell, and all our innovators here at GMP, as well as other energy leaders we partner with around the country.”

Contestants apply online at www.GMPInspire.com. Applicants must represent the electrical energy sector and be focused specifically on new energy technology or clean energy solutions. The deadline is May 15, with to be winners announced May 30.

“It’s our first time doing this, so we’ll learn a lot just getting it launched,” Carlson said. “The good news is that Vermont [is] such a small community and we all work together, so a number of people outside GMP have volunteered to be mentors and advisors, and help vet applications. There’s an sense that what is happening here in Vermont is unique, and I think the idea has people excited.”

Carlson said a team of people, representing both GMP employees and people from energy technology companies, would review and evaluate applications. She also foresees Skype interviews with strong applicants.

GMP’s internal focus on open and shared workspace helped generate the idea for the contest. “We really think that working closely together leads to better collaboration and better ideas,” Carlson said. After a recent consolidation aimed at further strengthening that approach, she said, “We realized we had a bit of open space and we thought. ‘Wouldn’t it be a great idea to attract some national energy entrepreneurs to Vermont to come up with cool, real-world solutions that could benefit our Vermont customers? To host a contest that matches the passions GMP has for energy innovations with those of others who share those passions?’ And that’s how the GMP Inspire Space Contest was launched.”

The Inspire Space itself is laid out to foster collaboration, while retaining the potential for five “pods” to contain teams of six to 10 employees from each co-located company. Powell had the initial vision for the space, according to Carlson. “She wanted it to be fun, fresh and bright.“

Tania Kratt, of Tania Kratt Interiors, helped conceptualize the final design. Carlson called it a “collaboratory,” that breeds better ideas than a “silo” work environment. She noted GMP employees are sometimes using the space now, and expects continued sharing once the new companies’ staffs arrive. “We hope it will be a real blended community,” she said.

Marguerite Dibble, founder of GameTheory, a gaming company, is among those helping out as an advisor. A tenant of Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) co-working space in downtown Burlington, she experienced the benefits of such an environment.

“Starting and growing a new business is one of the most exciting and frankly terrifying things a person can do, so having spaces like this where businesses can collaborate with each other, share ideas, and enjoy camaraderie is so important,” she said.

For Carlson, bringing rising stars in the field of energy innovation fits GMP’s mission and may well benefit its customers.

“As Vermont’s energy company of the future, we are focused on innovation,” she said. “A new system that moves away from the bulk, big poles and wires system to one where energy is generated and used closer to where it’s needed, leveraging the latest technology. Bringing in more people with great ideas breeds further innovation, and this contest brings in people passionate about innovation to generate new ideas to serve Vermont.”

As for the potential of the contest generating more than five solid applicants interested in moving to Vermont, Carlson said, “It would be a great problem to have.” She was confident that if the contest identified additional innovative companies eager to come to Vermont, GMP would work with partners within Vermont to help make it happen.

Carlson hopes the contest does attract more companies to Vermont, and more people to live in our state. “I’m from Vermont, I love living here, and I’m raising a family here,” she said. “I hope this incents others to come here and fall in love with the state, too. Of course, we also hope that the results of the work here will be, at the end of the year we have something we can offer Vermonters that makes their lives easier in the energy field.”

More information about GMP is available at www.greenmountainpower.com.

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