GREEN

Virgance, Web Startup, Helps Speed Up Environmental Action

03/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Internet has revolutionized politics and activism, making it much easier to organize large groups of people in relatively short periods of time. Add to that the growing use of microloans and you get -- or maybe Sam's Club is more accurate -- the very interesting start-up called Virgance. It's a company that wants to band people together to use less of their money for more good.

TechCrunch, which says the startup has announced it's already profitable, gives an example of one of Virgance's programs:

Over the course of the next two years Newcomb plans to deploy as many as 20 campaigns, in the hopes that a handful of them will be "homeruns" (he calls this the 'EA' model, likening it to the video game giant that produces dozens of titles a year, a few of which are very successful). The company's first full-fledged campaign is 1 Block Off The Grid (1BOG), which helps homeowners looking to install solar power systems team together, using their collective buying power to get discounted rates from solar providers.

The system seems to work: in Q4 2008 only around 250 people in San Francisco transitioned to solar; during the campaign's first quarter, it has already signed up 1,200 people (Virgance's cut translates to around $1000 per house). Virgance was apparently so pleased with 1BOG's success that it acquired the effort in November - and it's likely we'll see similar acquisitions in the near future.

For more on 1BOG, check out Virgance's description:

1 Block Off the Grid (1BOG) is a nationwide effort to create local community based buying clubs for products that reduce our energy footprint and promote energy independence. By banding people together and negotiating on their behalf we take the fear out of buying new green technologies and significantly increase the adoption rate of these technologies while helping everyone in the process obtain a better price.

1BOG started as a consumer-based initiative in San Francisco and quickly grew to the largest group-purchasing program for green products in the country. By organizing a large group, we drive down pricing by negotiating with service providers. 1BOG's early success has allowed us to grow into exciting new product offerings like solar hot water and energy efficiency improvements.

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