eHub Interviews MakeMeSustainable

Posted by Emily Chang on Friday, October 26th, 2007. Filed under: eHub Interviews

Visit MakeMeSustainable, originally added to eHub on Jul 04, 07.

imageThanks to David Delcourt and the rest of the team at MakeMeSustainable for this email interview.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

MakeMeSustainable: MakeMeSustainable is a catalyst for change, empowering individuals to reduce their environmental impact by connecting how we feel about our environment with how we choose to behave. We provide users with industry-leading energy management tools that allow them to fully understand their carbon footprint and begin taking actions to decrease their environmental impact and financial costs on a real-time basis. MakeMeSustainable also seeks to foster the growth of communities concerned with the environment and the rising cost of energy, helping individuals encourage their friends, and family to be a part of this growing movement for change.

eHub: Why did you start this project?

MakeMeSustainable: We wanted to empower people to make a difference in their everyday lives. We felt the environmental movement was bordering on elitism. It’s not just about buying a hybrid and installing solar panels; small changes to daily behavior add up. At its roots, MakeMeSustainable is about giving users the tools and information necessary to recognize that you don’t have to make large sacrifices in order to be environmentally conscious.

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth?  Do you have a day job?

MakeMeSustainable: We have been synthesizing the idea of MMS since Mid-2005, and have been working for about a year and a half on the project’s development. We launched a private alpha version of the site in January, then subsequently our public beta July 2nd. We were initially working on the site part time and have now been full time for the past 9 months.

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

imageMakeMeSustainable: Currently we are 3 members in the MMS core team with outsourced development. The team is made up of the three founders, Ben Brown CEO, David Delcourt COO and Adam Brown Chief Creative Officer. Ben’s background is in energy and environmental modeling, first as a consultant for the EPA and subsequently for consulting firm Charles Rivers and Associates and renewable energy provider Constellation NewEnergy. David started his career in Natural Resources Investment Banking for Banc of America
Securities (spelled with a “c”, yes), then moved to NERA Economic Consulting as an economic and financial modeling analyst in the their communications practice. Adam is an English professor at Brooklyn and John Jay Colleges in Brooklyn, NY. He worked previously at Young and Rubicam and studied at the Miami Ad School portfolio program.

We have all been and continue to be environmental advocates in our daily lives.

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

MakeMeSustainable: From the outset of the project, we have concentrated on keeping the design simple, clean and user friendly. We wanted to enable the broadest possible participation. The tools underlying the site are robust and we wanted to translate very complex data into a palpable, simple UI. The site is meant to educate and engage with the user applying graphics that are illustrative and diagrammatic while remaining stylistically tight.

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

MakeMeSustainable: The website is built in Ruby on Rails using Ajax applications and an SQL database. Moving forward there are flash applications we have been developing. The underlying data models are all proprietary to MakeMeSustainable and were built by the founding team.

eHub: If your project is live, what are the most requested features from your users/community?

MakeMeSustainable: The project is live in its Beta stage. Currently our calculator and action features are most demanded followed by the blog. We are working to launch a second iteration of features in the next month, in addition to some other exciting pieces of development outside of our site.

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

MakeMeSustainable: Our user base is currently concentrated in the U.S., but we look to expand on that as we open up the site internationally. Within the U.S. there is no clear concentration of users as of right now.

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months?  The next 2 years?

MakeMeSustainable: Over the next 6 months we would like to fully develop out our core ideas, brand MakeMeSustainable as the premier environmental assessment community and build a set of widget tools in order to make our tools available to users across many different platforms (facebook as a first step).

Over the next 2 years we are expanding to become the central sustainable/green portal. By leveraging our quantitative tools, importing great content from other sources and fully utilizing the current openness of the web through open API’s, we want to give users access to the maximum amount of green tools and information. MakeMeSustainable will be branded as the destination site for green. In the process, we want to move beyond the idea of a social networking site. The user community is a very important aspect to the site and social networking tools empower individuals to spread the word, but we want users to consider us a homepage and portal where they can use a variety of tools and widgets to accomplish much more then reaching out to their community.

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

MakeMeSustainable: Timing. Environmental awareness is sweeping the country and it’s clear there has been a sea change in the public mindset on global warming issues. There are other sites very effectively covering ecological news (grist, treehugger, etc) and a select few providing some basic carbon footprinting services. No website has established a presence as the de facto portal for sustainability. As more sites seek to simply take advantage of this eco-phenomenon, the space could become awash with sites “jumping on the green bandwagon.”

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

MakeMeSustainable: Ideally we would get evangelists, advocates and long-term funding.

eHub: Do you have a business model?  If so, what is it?

MakeMeSustainable: MakeMeSustainable drives revenue through targeted advertising and commissions on energy efficiency products sold through our affiliates.

eHub: How much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?

MakeMeSustainable: Currently these numbers are low, which was to be expected given what we launched for our public Beta. We have not given users enough reasons to return to the site. Our next iteration of functionality is designed to improve the tools and increase daily usability.

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

MakeMeSustainable: We have been developing this idea for about three years and our vision for the site was established well before the Inconvenient Truth bubble. We built out the site as social entrepreneurs and activists, and did so on a shoestring budget. We’re proud of staying true to our original vision of a website to educate, inform and empower users in their search to connect how they feel about the environment with what they do about it.

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

MakeMeSustainable: I think the web is increasingly a resource for action and change. It is and always will be a great way to connect with people and a common space for free thought. However, as more people come online, there is a re-orientation in the web, one that is re-connecting the virtual and local/real worlds. Web gatherings aren’t just for dorks, designers and for vices. It is a place to mobilize people, empower people, remove the middle-man and add together our collective voices, actions and desires for change.

eHub: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?

MakeMeSustainable: I visit Grist.org, NY Times, treehugger, the huffington post, facebook, and gmail (news alerts) on a daily basis. Currently we do not have RSS feeds but will very shortly to much of this great content on the website.

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

MakeMeSustainable: We try to get 6, at times that’s a stretch.

Thanks to David Delcourt and the rest of the team at MakeMeSustainable for this email interview.

Visit MakeMeSustainable
Originally added to eHub on Jul 04, 07