In our final installment of our Focus on the Fellows 2012 series, we look to New Jersey native and Boulder resident, Duer Reeves. With a BA in Political Science from Williams College and an MBA in International Management from the American Graduate School of International Management, Duer’s background lies mainly in computer systems, spending the majority of his career in various roles at Sun Microsystems, a developer of enterprise computer systems. Aided by Sun’s supportive internal learning and development culture, Duer moved among the company’s divisions from finance to manufacturing operations and planning, to marketing, and then to services. His last move to the services division came with a change in location, which brought the Bay Area resident to Boulder, Colorado where he helped Sun open a new office. When Oracle acquired the company in 2010, Duer decided to branch out on his own and take his passion for large data and analytics with him. The ensuing years as a planning and strategy consultant were where his interest in cleantech really began.
Cleantech appealed to Duer because he recognized the application of his vast experience at Sun to the cleantech industry; he saw an abundance of data produced by the cleantech infrastructure but little actual application of the data. “I learned by working at Sun that you can take data that traditionally has been a byproduct, in Sun’s case it was the data from the transactions system, and apply it to increase efficiency and make a profit.”
Duer immersed himself in Colorado’s ecosystem of VC’s and executives, and launched GreenLite Labs, a local business accelerator for web mobile internet companies that are engaged in the transportation or energy industries. Around this time, Duer met Wayne Greenberg, Director of the Cleantech Fellows Institute and Chris Shapard, Executive Director of CCIA, the parent organization of the Cleantech Fellows Institute.
Through his participation in the Fellows Institute, it became clear to Duer that the program provided unprecedented insight into the cleantech industry and its opportunities, so he and his associates decided to put GreenLite Labs on the backburner so that he could focus on his capstone project.
Duer’s project focuses on the intersection of cleantech and large data, creating a company called WeatherCloud. The concept is based on the vehicle translator initiative at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which is designed to treat cars and trucks on the road as mobile weather sensors. It will then take the data, interpret it, and gain insight into the conditions of the road. WeatherCloud aims to significantly decrease highway-related mortality and increase the overall efficiency and safety of the transportation infrastructure. Duer has incredible faith in large data and cleantech. “All of this data exists, it is just how you can take techniques that have been pioneered in other industries and apply them to energy and transportation.”
Clearly passionate about bringing his project to fruition, Duer kindly credits the Fellows Institute for instigating the relationship that spawned between WeatherCloud and NCAR. “One of the real strengths of the Cleantech Fellows Institute is the recognition that Colorado has a lot of foundational institutions, whether they are universities, research institutions, or national labs. The Institute has provided the Fellows with access as well as impetus to dig into these institutions.” But he doesn’t just leave it at that. He appreciates the network created by the Fellows Institute, people and organizations such as the Colorado Motor Carriers Association and the Department of Transportation, weather companies, attorneys with expertise in policy, regulation, and liability, as well as entrepreneurs skilled in startups, manufacturing and systems development. “The quality of the curriculum that the Fellows Institute put together, as well as the quality of the faculty, has been a real plus. The diversity of topics that were covered in the program, everything from the Denver Zoo Waste To Energy Program, to SolarTAC, Front Range Airport and the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory at Colorado State University – it was a tremendously broad curriculum and I think that CCIA and the Fellows Institute have done a great service, not only for the Fellows, but I think it has been a real benefit for the professionals who have participated as well.”
Duer is optimistic about cleantech but also recognizes the challenges of the decreased flow of equity to drive new ventures in cleantech. “I think that one challenge that we all have in terms of cleantech is to continue to reach out both to adjacent industries, such as software, and also to adjacent geographies to start to attract more money into Colorado from both coasts and to nurture the investment culture in Colorado and cleantech.”