ENERTIV: Derek Cedarbaum

ENERTIV is an IoT-based platform for streamlining building operations and is one of the NYECC’s newest members. The company reduces operating expenses with a comprehensive suite of tools, which optimize maintenance activities, eliminate energy waste, automate tenant utility sub-metering, and spur data-driven decision making. The company’s focus is on providing the fastest time to value through low installation costs, advanced algorithms, and engineering support. Backed by a team of data scientists and building performance engineers, they have a proven track record working with some of the largest real estate portfolios in the industry, including SL Green, CBRE Global Investors, AvalonBay, Rockefeller Group, Equity Residential, and many others.

In his capacity as the head of Sales and Partnerships at Enertiv, Derek Cedarbaum chats with the NYECC about how he first got involved with the company four years ago and reflects on the childhood interests that led him to the clean technology and sustainability space. Cedarbaum also shares his excitement over how the company’s use of data and IoT is contributing to an increasingly technologically-integrated real estate industry.

NYECC: To start, what does your role as Sales and Partnerships entail?

Cedarbaum: “In terms of responsibilities, I lead all of Enertiv’s sales efforts, and I assist my co-founders with partnership efforts that tie either into strategic investors, strategic technology partners or strategic real estate owner-operator organizations that we co-develop technologies with. I also assist with our product and market direction as I was one of the early members of the team; I was part of the founding team when there was about 6 of us.”

Could you share a little more about your professional journey before your current company?

“I’ve been interested in sustainable technologies, real estate and cities of the future; probably because when I was young, I was into all the geeky stuff like Star Trek and Star Wars. I received my undergraduate degrees in Economics and Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Upon graduating in 2011, I looked for clean technology start-ups to work with. Starting in California, I worked with one of the early solar installation companies: SunPower. We were trying to create some of the earlier monitoring technologies for residential and commercial solar monitoring when monitoring was not really a viable thing, so it was hard to take off the ground. I was working with some early stage consultants in the environmental, health and fitness space in LA. I spent some time with the Los Angeles Clean Technology Incubator – only for 3 or 4 months, but I did what I could to work with other start-ups. I then started working with a group of people from the ideation stage for small wind generation; we created a vertical wind axis turbine with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s aerodynamics department, partnering with Caltech to develop new small-scale power generation. But it turns out that the laws of physics are not very friendly towards small wind generation. I was working with the product development team and it unfortunately, did not work so after a few years, we folded that effort.

So a well-run building is a sustainable building, just like a well-run business is a sustainable business.

From there, I moved back to New York and started helping some companies in a consultative capacity at the NYU cleantech incubator that is now referred to as the UFL, or the Urban Future Labs.”

How did that then lead you to Enertiv?

“I’ve always been working with very early stage clean technology companies from a pre-funded stage; some of them got funded, but none of them really got to commercialization. Some people in the sustainable tech field told me about the founders of Enertiv when they were still quite early stage at the TechStars accelerator program for IoT-type technologies. I picked up the phone, gave the co-founders a call, had a chat, and started working as one of the first salespeople… and the rest, as they say, is history.”

From a partnerships perspective, how does Enertiv’s work relate to the NYECC and what do you hope to accomplish with the Council?

“We don’t look at Enertiv as an energy management or a cleantech company, per se. We really turned ourselves into an overall advance building operations platform. If the building runs well from a maintenance, repair, and operations perspective, it’s going to – just as a by-product – use as little energy as possible while maintaining its operational capacity. So a well-run building is a sustainable building, just like a well-run business is a sustainable business.

In terms of NYECC, the cost of electricity to large landlords is a pretty big line item in the operating budget. The interplay of the government, utilities, policies, and real estate organizations has always intrigued me. What we do is tangential to procurement-based issues and other utility-based issues. With the data that we are collecting, we are able to capture more granular power data and equipment and environmental specific data than anyone in New York City today – and I would argue, anywhere in the country. Our data is going to become extraordinarily valuable to helping support real estate owners, and operators cooperate and communicate with the city, the State, and utilities so that more empirically-driven policies can determine some level of cost and regulatory factors that affect both owners and operators of real estate and the tenants themselves.”

Great answer! Now on a more personal note: who are some inspiring people or mentors to you? And what are some key lessons you’ve learned from them?

“I like to take bits and pieces of the most positive traits of people that I work or interact with. I try to integrate that into my day-to-day life. There’s a lot of people who have mentor-like aspects to them; for me even sitting in front of prospective clients, I’ve been thoroughly impressed by their work ethic or belief structures. I can’t say that I necessarily have a mentor – there’s always Elon Musk to fall back on! From a sales world perspective? Mike Bloomberg. He is someone who started a tech company in an industry that did not really use technology in it – similar to what is happening in real estate today.

At an event that [Bloomberg] was speaking at, I asked him the question: ‘in the 80’s when you were first selling the Bloomberg terminal, how did you deal with people saying no to you for years?’ He said one thing that changed the way that I sell: that good salespeople will knock on a door trying to sell, have the door slammed in their face and say ‘that’s okay, I’ll get them next time,’ and go to the next one... The greatest salespeople; however, will knock on the same door again right after it’s been slammed in their face. He ended his answer by saying that if you truly believe in what you’re doing and that you’re the best at it, you shouldn't take peoples’ advice that you should not have an ego or be big-headed, you should keep knocking on the door; otherwise, there’s no way you’re going to change the world.”

What Enertiv is doing now is existing at a precipice and turning point, where real estate is really beginning to integrate new technologies into their portfolios at every stage of the lifecycle of a building.

What are you excited about in this new chapter of your career?

“Again, growing up I loved science fiction and the future of the world. When I was younger, I didn't really tie it together but any cool movie that has futuristic cities, planets, and whatever... As geeky as it sounds, what are those advanced cities made up of? Buildings that have had technology thoroughly integrated with it. What my company, Enertiv, is doing now is existing at a precipice and turning point, where real estate is really beginning to integrate new technologies into their portfolios at every stage of the lifecycle of a building. Seeing where that is going and how that could potentially change the world – and in the end, maybe it doesn't and all a building ever needs to be is a box – but it’s very exciting to be part of that journey both within real estate as an industry and in the technology sector itself.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“With the free time I do have: I love to read – I’m a non-fiction person. I’m a huge fan of podcasts. I like to be active. I like walking around the city looking at the buildings and the water, seeing how the urban landscape continuously changes over time. I usually take that walk every Sunday.”

Following up on that, name a podcast and a book that you think people should definitely be listening to or reading.

“I’m reading a book that was written in the 70’s by a French guy [Jacques Ellul] called, “Propaganda.” It’s about how propaganda developed in the 20th century and I think that now of all times, people should be aware of it. One of my favorite books is “The Gulag Archipelago” but I don’t think anyone is going to read that. So… I’ll go with “The Road to Serfdom” by Fredrich Hayek. For podcasts? You can never go wrong with the occasional Joe Rogan podcast. I would also recommend Tim Ferriss, who interviews amazing entrepreneurs.”