By Eric Peterson | Jul 08, 2014
Self tinting windows
RavenBrick is scaling up in a big way.
After eight years of R&D, the company is flipping the switch on an automated production line at its new $10 million factory in Denver's Stapleton area by the end of July.
The manual process that it has used to make its energy-efficient "smart windows" to date nets about six windows a day, says CEO Alex Burney. The automated line has the capacity to turn out 600 windows daily.
And not just any windows. RavenBrick's patented RavenWindows automatically change color in response to temperature: transparent to better allow light in when it's cold, then transition to a tinted state to keep light out when it's hot. The end result is as much as a 30 percent reduction in a building's heating and cooling costs.
"We're the next generation of windows," Burney explains. "Most people are used to windows that are static. We've innovated on that, and we've made it affordable."
Many competing electrochromic windows require electricity and a manual intervention to change color, but not thermochromic RavenWindows, making for a considerably more efficient window than the most energy efficient windows that are currently on the market.
Burney touts a two- to three-year return on investment for a RavenBrick window, which he says are about 20 percent more expensive than traditional windows, including the cost of installation.
RavenBrick will initially sell through five regional glass companies that have already signed on before looking for national partners. "We have a pipeline before the manufacturing starts," says Burney, noting that the plan allows for any kinks to be worked out before the company scales up.
RavenBrick recently installed its windows on its facility in Denver. "We've always been the cobblers without shoes," jokes Burney. "We corrected that by putting our own windows on our own building."
Installations in Massachusetts, California, and Texas will follow by the end of July and Burney anticipates the first Colorado installation in August.
"We'll probably have more demand than we can handle," says Burney. "That's a good place to be."
Burney expects the staff will more than double to 52 employees by year's end. Many hires have been "high-risk individuals," he adds, including older workers and others with non-violent criminal histories. "It works well for us."
The manufacturing skills are teachable, he adds, and the strategy results in less churn. "The technology is no longer rocket science. As long as they have a good attitude, we can give them a second chance, or a first chance."
After closing on a $12 million equity round last fall, the company just landed a $250,000 grant from Colorado via the U.S. department of Energy, and Burney says that another $12 million equity round is in the works for the fall.
He says Colorado has been an ideal location to launch RavenBrick, crediting the state's universities, angel investors, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.
Challenges: "We primarily had to change from an R&D company to a manufacturing company," says Burney, noting that the shift necessitated bringing in new executives and engineers. "We've paid our dues. We've been struggling and scratching, but until we're battle-tested, we won't know how that worked."
Opportunities: A piece of the $2.3 billion window market. "The main driver is energy efficiency with the fortitude of the return on investment," says Burney, noting that most cleantech has a downside, financial or otherwise. "In our case, we don't have a 'green penalty.’"
Needs: Above all, execution, says Burney. "Our needs are to execute on the things we know we need to do. We don't really need anything."