Bill Oesterle, the former CEO of Angie's List Inc., has accepted an invitation to sit on the board of a startup launched by a former Angie's List employee.
The company is MeterGenius, an Indianapolis-based firm that makes customer-engagement software for energy companies. Its CEO and co-founder is 31-year-old Ty Benefiel, who first met Oesterle in 2008 during a fellowship at Angie's List and never let that connection grow cold.
"So I know Ty. He did great work for us and then went off to the Kellogg School at Northwestern [University]," Oesterle said in a phone call Thursday.
"Then he took what he knew and applied it in a really interesting way. He won, not just one, but a number of business-plan competitions and started securing business. So all of those things combined caused me to invest in the company and to join the board."
MeterGenius launched in 2014 in Chicago, moved to St. Louis for a one-year business grant, and moved to Indianapolis earlier this year, partly because of Oesterle's influence, Benefiel said.
The company primarily does business in states with deregulated energy sectors, where power companies can compete with one another. It sells those companies applications that allow energy customers to track usage, earn rewards, and get predictive reminders, all aimed at increasing retention.
Benefiel said he has four customers, two employees, six-figure annual revenue and a high three-figure growth rate. While it doesn't have dedicated office space yet, that's likely to change when it adds another employee later this year, he said.
Besides Oesterle, MeterGenuis also secured board member Stephen Fernands, the founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based Customized Energy Solutions. Benefiel rounds out the three-member board.
"We knew what we needed as far as experience and expertise gaps on our team to take the company to the next level," Benefiel said. "And we're very excited that we were able to achieve all of our goals with the addition of Bill and Stephen."
An Indianapolis native, Benefiel graduated from Monrovia High School in 2004 and from Wabash College in 2008 with a degree in economics.
He then joined the Orr Fellowship, a two-year post graduate fellowship co-founded by Oesterle. Benefiel chose to conduct his fellowship at Angie's List, then stayed on for another two years as a marketing analytics manager.
He went to business school at Northwestern, met his co-founder Yan Man and conceived the idea for MeterGenius. It won its first business plan competition, the Illinois Clean Energy Challenge, in 2014, pulling in $10,000. It went on to secure $230,000 from similar competitions.
Benefiel said he stayed in contact with Oesterle and reached out to him "right after he announced he was stepping down" from Angie's List in April 2015.
"He'd been advising us, informally, over the last nine months or so, and has taken a formal role now as a board member and an investor," Benefiel said.
The company just wrapped up a seed round of about $215,000 from angel investors in and outside the state.