Paul Shahriari likes data. “I look at things like an engineer and break them all apart. It’s like OCD to the next level,” he says with a laugh.
But he knows that all the information that’s available today can be overwhelming for a lot of people. He’s also seen that people are becoming more aware of the need for sustainability, especially in our built environment, but may not know how or where to start.
That’s why the longtime sustainability consultant and entrepreneur founded Ecomedes in 2014. The company—whose name is inspired by Greek mathematician, engineer and physicist Archimedes— uses a cloud-based software platform to leverage available information about the sustainability of paint, flooring and other building components, helping users make better decisions about all of the pieces that go into constructing and running a building.
“Ecomedes is a way to collect and curate all the data that is out there and make it sensible to ‘normal’ people,” says Shahriari. “My consulting clients would always say, ‘Show me the return on investment. If this stuff is going to cost me more, show me why it matters.’ I saw an opportunity to make it easier for more people to do what they want to do, but to make it so they didn’t need to have an environmental master’s degree from the University of Florida to do it.”
Ecomedes users can search products by category (such as appliances and lighting) or by brand (like Interface and Toto) to see what environmental certifications a product has and the ways in which it’s a sustainable and ecofriendly choice. The site is free for consumers to use but building owners and operators, product manufacturers and folks in the architecture, engineering, and construction industries can pay for customized versions of the software that help them meet their specific goals.
The company has been growing steadily since its founding, averaging 100% revenue growth year over year. It currently has 15,000 unique users per month and features 750,000 products from more than 10,000 brands in 250 product categories.
Shahriari founded the company in Fort Myers and recently moved to an office in the Collaboratory, a LEED Gold–certified, shared working and community space that’s also the headquarters of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. It’s a perfect location for a company like Ecomedes, which holds monthly seminars there to help educate anyone interested in sustainability.
“We can say to people, ‘Look at how pretty this building is, and you can do it too,’” says Shahriari. “There is so much real estate here that is not optimized and not running well. Our platform can help you find all the ingredients to make your entire building just a little less impactful. You’d be amazed how much could be saved even just by buying 10 better lightbulbs. One of our missions is showing people that there are things that are better than what they’re normally buying.”
But Shahriari had to move the official headquarters of the company—which currently has five remote employees—to San Francisco to attract venture capital. The company raised $1.2 million in a pre-seed round of funding in January 2019 and plans to hold a second funding round in 2020.
“Down here we don’t have the large bandwidth of tech resources or tech workers that are needed to grow at the speed the market wants us to,” he says. “We have some good angel investors down here, but they tend to write smaller checks, so we needed to go out west to get larger investments. Until this area matures it’s tough to raise capital here.” He does hope to grow his Southwest Florida staff, but new hires would likely be sustainability experts, not technology-related positions.
Shahriari sees a lot of growth potential for Ecomedes in the commercial real estate sector, an area primed for technological advancements. “Commercial real estate is one of the laggards in overall technology adoption,” he says. “I think there’s going to be a huge growth cycle over the next 10 years to really bring technology in throughout the entire built environment and in how we manage real estate and do architecture and design.”