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Greenbuild Shows Entrepreneurial Spirit is Alive and Well

Greenbuild Shows Entrepreneurial Spirit is Alive and Well

Eco-conscious product suppliers and their prospective customers descended en masse this week on Phoenix for the annual Greenbuild convention. It is quite an event with over 1,800 exhibitors, several full days of educational conferences, and headline ‘bring on the crowd’ brand names offering inspiration and entertainment. To wit, last night’s marquee event was held at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and included a speech from Al Gore, and a concert by Sheryl Crow!

Beyond the headliners, I was really impressed with the level of entrepreneurship on display at Greenbuild. I think a good way to measure entrepreneurship in a sector is by the amount of small-sized booths at an event. Entrepreneurs typically can’t pay much, so they buy the smallest space available and go pitch their tent. The bottom line … lots of small booths at Greenbuild.

Among the areas where it seems Entrepreneurs are diving into the green space are:

  1. Green Roofs, which are essentially a container of live plants and a drainage system that can be snapped together on a rooftop. Once installed, the systems dramatically reduce the heat absorption of the rooftop and thus reduce energy costs. There were at least 20 companies present at the show from various regions of the country marketing differentiated products and business models in this category.
  2. Energy Efficiency Analysis and Improvement Service Providers offer a relatively low-cost capital efficient way for entrepreneurs to enter the green space. Residential and commercial energy efficiency plans employ a myriad of techniques from lighting and HVAC system improvement to insulation and window improvement to reduce energy expense in a structure. Given the multiple tools available, it’s not surprising that entrepreneurs have rushed to develop services and business models to help building owners get the most energy efficiency improvement per dollar spent … and prove the savings through software and reporting tools.
  3. Geothermal Heat Pumps rely on temperature differential between ground and below ground levels. Certainly, more capital intense than the first two items, this category represents an area where entrepreneurs with a mechanical focus are probing.

I believe next year’s show will be in Chicago, and if it’s anything like this year’s, it won’t be one to miss.

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  1. Terrific overview of the event, thanks Paul. I wonder how many start-ups the market will sustain for these sorts of enterprises. Certainly the low barriers to entry of the green roof and building energy efficiency and analysis businesses make them attractive; but are small shops likely to populate these sectors in the long run? Or will large players drive many smaller ones out of the market by exploiting scale efficiencies?

  2. I found your comment about gauging the amount of entrepreneurship in a sector by the number of small booths at a trade show insightful. I had never given this much thought but it seems to make sense and if nothing else could serve as a rough predictor of entrepreneurial activity within a market.

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