Alejandro Burgana has always been a car guy, even as a little kid. “I knew everything about the race car drivers, the technology and the internal combustion engine, the collections, all of that.”
Burgana, an entrepreneur, is also environmentally conscious so maybe it’s no surprise he purchased the second Nissan Leaf electric vehicle in Miami way back in 2012. And as soon as he drove it, he said he believed it would the technology that would change the world.
About the same time, the biofuel concept Burgana began developing as a company in 2009 wasn’t taking off and he knew it was time to reinvent. He also wanted to do something that would reduce the carbon footprint even more.
Electric vehicle charging was the answer. Burgana rebuilt the concept of the company, called Brickell Energy, moving from jet bio fuels to “EV charging-as-a-service.”
While other companies sell or lease stations, Brickell Energy installs and maintains smart charging stations in high-demand places — workplaces, condo developments, shopping malls, universities – at no cost to the host. Whoever connects to the station pays Brickell Energy for their charge through the cloud; the host gets a cut. “Better yet, we reimburse the cost of electricity so the host doesn’t see an impact on their electric bill,” said Burgana, who owned a couple of small businesses – one in logistics and one in office furniture — before founding Brickell Energy.
Companies like Tesla and Electrify America are focused on building fast-charging stations on major highways connecting the urban centers. “While they are doing that, we are focused on urban environments, where people spend most of their time. We are complementing each other,” said Burgana, Brickell Energy’s CEO.
Once people see stations everywhere, they feel more confident to go electric. And Brickell Energy’s charging-as-a-service is taking off.
Today Brickell Energy is growing about 10 percent a month.
Customers include the City of Miami, the Miami Parking Authority and Marlins Park, major developers such as Stiles and Related Group, property management companies, Nova Southeastern University, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and many others.
Still, from the staying alive phase through the growth phase, a small business has many needs – and Brickell Energy was no different.
Investors were interested but Burgana needed a third-party valuation. “An accounting firm will charge thousands for that service and we didn’t have that budget available at the time… I was trying to be as resourceful as possible with limited resources and make miracles out of it. Then I heard about SBDC.”
Last year, Burgana called Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center within FIU’s College of Business that provides consultant services free of charge to small businesses. “Then I got the privilege of working with one of the SBDC financial consultants who offered us very relevant advice in terms of financials and valuation,” Burgana said.
“The consultant offered a very professional and very well detailed service, a super job I will say, at no cost to us. For that reason, we are extremely grateful and I am always recommending to aspiring entrepreneurs: ‘the first thing you should do is go to SBDC’s website, look at all the services they offer, call them and start there’.”
With the third-party valuation, Brickell Energy landed a good investor. “With that investment, we were able to grow a little bit more, to acquire more equipment, to hire a couple more people to help us in sales and marketing and keep growing,” Burgana said. “I will keep SBDC always top of mind when we come upon a new challenge.”
Now, Brickell Energy and its sister company that Burgana co-founded, OBE Power, are developing a technology platform and plan to launch it in 2019. With all the data the platform collects, the companies offer EV drivers an app to locate stations, activate sessions and get reports about the sessions and account balances. For hosts, there is a portal with a dashboard for reports about energy being consumed, number of unique drivers, the share of revenue they are getting, the carbon footprint, and more.
Now the sister company, OBE Power, which manages all the assets for the network as well as the digital platform, is raising a Series A round to expand to the rest of Florida and to other states. Within the next two years, Burgana plans to expand to Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
But it all starts in Miami. Says Burgana: “Miami is ground zero for sea level rise and we would like to make a statement. We need to start here, because our way of life will be affected. It is important to spread the message of the importance of reducing the footprint of transportation.”