Budweiser is back at the Super Bowl, as usual, with another high-profile commercial in the contest for eyeballs, clicks and chatter among Monday morning advertising quarterbacks.
The biggest beer company in the world is using a windblown Dalmatian, a beer wagon pulled by its famed Clydesdale horses, a Bob Dylan song and some huge wind turbines to try to blow past the competition in an ad touting its commitment to brewing with 100-percent renewable energy. And a small Seattle company is along for the ride.
Drift is a 4-year-old software startup that operates a peer-to-peer marketplace which allows residential, business and commercial customers to buy power directly from local solar, wind, hydroelectric, and other renewable energy providers.
The company is teaming with Budweiser as part of a Super Bowl promotion that offers a one-month free trial of any of Drift’s green energy plans. For its part, Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch has also already laid out ambitious sustainability goals with a 2025 deadline.
“Not everyone has a corporate social responsibility team to do what Budweiser is doing,” Drift co-founder and CEO Greg Robinson told GeekWire. “So when Budweiser found out that Drift was helping people and businesses do what they did, which is matching their electricity consumption with clean power from actual power makers, they wanted to amplify the message that we can all make a real difference today, using Drift.”
Founded by Robinson and Ed McKenzie, Drift originally operated only in New York state, but went national at the end of 2018. Fast Company named Drift one of the world’s most innovative companies in 2018 and Drift first teamed with Budweiser last September during Climate Week in New York City.
Drift uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict how much energy a customer will need; it earns revenue via the efficiencies created by its technology, eliminating waste by increasing accuracy on matching demand and supply. There are no extra fees for the service or any penalties if people want to leave at anytime.
Many incumbent utility companies, meanwhile, make money off how much power is used. They tend to prioritize providing reliable and secure power, versus offering lower prices, as was noted in this 2017 GeekWire story when Drift announced a $7 million funding round.
Carmen Cano, chief product officer at Drift, used the analogy of buying local produce in explaining why the connection between providers and consumers matters.
“Electricity is hard to grasp because it’s not something that you touch,” Cano told GeekWire. “We use it all the time, but it’s not like an object that you buy — it’s not like a tomato. People understand the difference between a tomato coming from the farmer’s market — you know the guy that planted that, when it was planted. This is pretty much the same concept. That person should get paid for the quality of what they are offering, for that fresh, local tomato, and you should be able to afford it.
“The concept of making an impact and empowering everyone, like you and I, to actually make a difference instead of depending on large organizations to move the needle … the platform we’re building is what makes it possible.”
Hitching its wagon to the King of Beers’ Clydesdales certainly won’t hurt the small startup’s profile. After all, Dylan sings in the ad above that the answer (perhaps to climate change?) is blowin’ in the wind.
“If we keep paying what we’re paying for power through our utility bills, there is no economic incentive for clean power makers to put more clean power onto the grid,” Robinson said. “We built Drift to empower people and brands who vote with their wallets for the food they buy or the coffee they drink to do the same for the power they use.”