WegoTalks: A Briefing with Barun Singh
Over the past six years, WegoWise has grown from a team of a few people to a fantastic group of over 50! As the company continues to grow, we strive to stay as connected as possible, even with our team being spread across the globe. Through this series of WegoTalks interviews, we hope to share with you the stories of the people who’ve been here since the beginning of WegoWise and introduce you to those who have helped shaped the company into its current form.
Follow the WegoTalks Series to learn more about more about our wonderful colleagues!
This week, we sat down with Barun Singh, the founder of WegoWise. As the Chief Technology Officer, he leads all aspects of product development and technological innovation. Prior to this, Barun was owner and CEO of Thinkify LLC, an internet technology development and consulting company, and did his graduate research at MIT in the field of Artificial Intelligence.
Tell us about how you started WegoWise.
“It started as a side project to do a visualization of my own utility bills while I was in grad school. I was already quite interested in recycling and conservation. At the same time, New Ecology and Boston Community Capital, had received a grant to retrofit a bunch of buildings, and realized they didn’t have a good way to benchmark the buildings they were looking at. By chance, we happened to get connected at the right time by a friend of mine from grad school. So I was toying around with this idea that wasn’t really anything serious yet, and they were concerned with a domain where it could be quite useful.
Benchmarking multifamily buildings was this unique opportunity that could have a much bigger environmental impact, and it allowed me to work in a space where I could bring forward some legitimately interesting and new ideas, which was exciting. So, I built the initial prototypes, and we got great feedback from potential users that helped us define the market and product more clearly. After a couple years of this initial work, I convinced BCC and NEI to join me in forming the company.”
What are the most interesting and worthwhile parts of being the founder of a company like WegoWise?
“Being a founder has a lot of different aspects to it, but you have to always keep in mind that you’re building a company, not just trying to sell a product. I mean you are trying to build a product, sell a product, and be successful, but it’s more than that: you’re creating a community of people who are working together towards something. If you want to do that successfully, you have to be able to define very clearly (not only for yourself, but for your partners, for your employees and for your customers) exactly why you are doing it and what drives you to do it.
For me, it’s the question of how to create a company that I would want to work at. How do I create the company I can be proud of that does something meaningful and helpful in the world? As the company grows, I can’t be part of everything, so how do I instill a culture where the people who are responsible for driving different aspects of the business reflect and approach a value system that I can feel proud of, and that they can feel good about. That is the most interesting part and that’s also the most challenging part.”
This year marks the 6th anniversary of WegoWise. Where do you see WegoWise in the next few years?
There is this fundamental question of ‘why does a company exist?’ You can give the more cynical answer that companies exist to generate revenue and make profits, and that’s not exactly false. There is also a more honest, not as cynical, answer: to accomplish something in society, and to provide goods and services.
There are a lot of ways I could imagine earning money and imagine building something. So why this one? The answer is the social impact part of it - I can feel good about it. Everybody has to have some answer to that question in their mind if they’re going to be spending all this effort and time on it. The thing I focus on in thinking about the future is how we can continue to build an organization where we make it enticing to do things that have a net positive effect on society and the environment, and to maximize that benefit.
So what is WegoWise going to be in a year, two years, or five years? Hopefully it’ll be something which I can feel like we are having an even bigger impact and we are moving in the right direction. The amount of opportunity out there is vast and I think we're on a very good trajectory. It's a matter of continuing to build upon the efforts we made that have been successful. We want anybody who has any sort of interaction with the real estate market to be thinking of WegoWise as a tool they can gain value from, for anything they're doing for their building. Efficiency should be an integral component of decision-making for everyone. In five years I want us to be a lot closer to realizing that goal, and to have a much more established place in the market.The more we can grow, the more successful we can be, as long as we don’t lose our fundamental reason for being.”
Interested in joining a motivated team to reduce energy and water usage wherever people live and work?
Kristina Johnson also contributed to the compilation of this blog post.