Innovation. It’s the principle that guides me. How can I take what is already good and make it even better? It’s how I approach my work and it’s what motivates me. As far back as I can remember, I have had a passion for two things: big ideas and systems—engines, computers, networks, you name it. Decades ago, I got my first computer, it was an “Adam” and it had a whopping 80kB of ram. I didn’t know it at the time, but this is how it all started for me.
Today, as founder, CEO, and lead software designer for Accelerated Innovations, I lead a remarkable team of programmers and engineers. Together we have developed, and continue to develop, products that literally change the way the world uses energy & water. Our MyMeter platform, which allows utilities and customers to make informed choices about their energy & water use, is currently operating in more than 100 utilities in more than 45 states. We are building new partnerships in energy conservation every day.
My story begins in Brainerd, Minnesota, in the mid-eighties, when my family got our first computer—an antique today, but novel in every way at the time. Immediately, I fell in love with it. It felt revolutionary. There were qualities of exploration in games like Kings Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest that captivated me—I loved the idea that there was a problem and that I had the ability to solve it with my critical and creative thinking. I truly believe that these first adventure-type games first evolved my skills in debugging and troubleshooting.
In 1997, at the nudges of my brother, Todd, I moved to the Twin Cities to study programming at Brown College, where I thrived. One day, I got an email on my Juno account—which, back then, got about five messages a week—it was from the University of Minnesota. I soon found myself in their Veterinary Teaching Hospital helping them build a Y2K-safe medical record system. Not only did I land a great first job in the field I loved, but I also landed a mentor, my boss, who taught me a great many things about creating a vision for my career. His guidance and mentorship are qualities that I continue to pay forward today with my own team.
After a few years, the university hired a new dean who backed PowerBuilder software, as opposed to the already in-place Visual Basic 6.0, and I sent myself packing. I started my second career job at Shavlik Technologies where I did a lot of consulting and security work with Fortune 500 clients. There, I got to lead user interface efforts and build tools for companies like Microsoft, CardioCom, and Hunt Technologies (now Landis+Gyr).
At each turn I was learning more and more about the nuances of this industry—my projects with Hunt planted the seeds for the work that I do today. Through my work at Shavlik, I was also able to play a small role in the major successes of some key innovators. For example, Daniel Cosentino, founder of CardioCom, recently sold his work to Medtronic for $200 million.
Loving life on the consulting-side, I launched my own enterprise in 2003, High Output Software, which focused on project-based software consulting. My clients included Agstar, Otto Bock Healthcare, and Crow Wing Power, out of Brainerd, my hometown. Crow wanted their customers to be able to track their daily energy use, so I created a custom energy usage feedback portal. It was such a success that it won some awards, including one from the Cooperative Research Network for customer service innovation. As client demands and user numbers grew bigger, the features of our technology also expanded—we added elements like the “Energy Challenge” and the neighborhood comparison capability.
Outgrowing my home office, in 2008 I offered to trade my tech services to a customer in exchange for some space in their new building. This allowed me to branch out and reach more and more utilities in need of my services. Not long after that, I partnered with other innovators, secured significant investors, and officially founded Accelerated Innovations. Together, among other endeavors, we productized this portal offering as MyMeter.
Relationships are key to good business, so, from the start I have built connections with people and businesses and maintained them through solid, steady work.
It has been thrilling to have the support, resources, and infrastructure to pursue big ideas. In addition to MyMeter, Accelerated Innovations also launched platforms such as the Fan Connection Network. Potentially too early for its time, FanConNet offered an interactive experience for fans at events—things like real-time trivia, ordering concessions, streaming video from stadium cameras all from your smart device. We landed dozens of teams, including the Houston Aeros, the Phoenix Coyotes, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Lynx. Exciting as it was, we chose to focus exclusively on MyMeter in 2011, which is now worldwide, servicing dozens of utilities.
Over the years the ways that I spend my hours may have changed but my vision hasn’t. Sure, I don’t find myself cranking out hours of code very often these days—instead I spend countless hours working closely with customers and partners firsthand. Making eye-contact and shaking hands with another satisfied client is one of the best feelings in the world. That, and leading a team of impressively talented engineers and designers in new directions. And, for me, because it cannot ALL be about shaping the future of energy & water consumption, in my spare time one can find me working on my award winning custom bikes and cars.