The pathway that Jason Massey—the Co-Founder and CEO of Raleigh-based ndustrial— took into startup life and working to transform the industrial sector’s energy intelligence was not exactly linear.
After graduating from NC State, he started as a self-professed “stock jockey” on Wall Street and then stumbled into venture capital right as the Internet tech bubble was getting ready to crash. He worked for eight years in Silicon Valley, helping startups get up and running through venture capital and ultimately raising and managing $200 million.
When it came time to move back to North Carolina to start a family, Massey worked with some startups locally, including a cleantech microturbine company that was way ahead of its time. But one idea stuck.
It was based on a problem experienced by Massey’s friends, a Belgian family that had moved to North Carolina and started Nomaco, a foam extrusion manufacturing facility in Zebulon. They wanted to operate more sustainably and use energy more efficiently, but in a way that paid for itself financially.
Originally launched as Sustainable Industrial Solutions in 2011, Massey started his business working in factories, completing energy efficiency projects, LED lighting upgrades and solar development projects.
During that time, Massey also found himself thinking about what type of technology would be most useful in the space. So in 2015, the more fleshed-out version of ndustrial was born as an energy management software company that served manufacturers globally.
At its core, Massey said ndustrial tracks energy intensity of production, enabling companies to understand how much money they spend on energy per “widget” made in the factory. Once they know this, they can start to implement procedures to use less energy per unit of production.
“In addition to the building, where you can just get more capacity and existing buildup, energy intensity quickly converts to carbon intensity,” Massey said. “It’s a whole new level of carbon accounting and reporting.”
As a SaaS platform, Massey said ndustrial sets itself apart because they also have a services business to help companies with energy audits and design IoT implementations. This is especially helpful as each client differs in exactly what their needs are.
“Every industrial vertical’s a unique snowflake, and every factory is a unique snowflake,” Massey said. “So there’s some level of customization that ends up happening.”
ndustrial has gained significant traction since its early days when Massey saw the potential to help just one family. Now ndustrial has 10 large clients, 48 employees and has taken on more than $7 million in funding from two rounds. Last year’s Series A round totaled $6 million and was led by ENGIE New Ventures.
Massey said that since Day One, ndustrial has remained steadfast in its vision to accelerate the industrial transition to a low-carbon economy and use modern software architecture to focus on the energy-intensity side of the equation. But it’s been a long path to get here, and Massey finally feels the market is catching up to cleantech.
“We thought we were crazy for so long, focusing on this when it wasn’t really popular,” Massey said. “And now it feels like it’s the ‘in thing’ in terms of what folks are investing in and where the market’s moving.”
Getting here came down to persistence and grit, Massey said, as well as recognizing the importance of shedding the VC mindset.
“What’s helped us sustain ourselves is really being focused on doing a business that was customer-first versus trying to ride the waves of investor VC proclivities at the time,” Massey said. “So as a former VC, I had to lay those bricks down, let go of that baggage, and really focus on operations. What is going to give us sustainability as a company ourselves, and how are we going to outlast everybody?”
Outlasting other companies through Covid proved not to be as insurmountable a hurdle as one might expect. Some of ndustrial’s biggest clients were critical in the food supply chain. So while there was an initial dip in revenue at the onset of the pandemic because their on-site services were shut down, Massey said software revenue went up as they sharpened their tech and performed analysis remotely.
Even though it’s been a year, it feels like just yesterday that ndustrial closed its Series A round, Massey said. Looking ahead, he’s focused on growing the business and the staff count. Part of that means taking advantage of the Triangle’s close-knit and more down-to-Earth tech community.
“The talent here has been super, what I would call very pragmatic, very practical, grounded engineering,” Massey said. “Having spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, there’s a lot of philosophy, a lot of really interesting things, but you can stumble across some hubris and some arrogance there.”