First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jim Metropoulos: As with everyone, we have managed to adjust our lives and have learned to live with Covid-19. It has been challenging, but we are doing well and cannot wait to see what a post-Covid world will look like.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Blue Box.
Jim Metropoulos: I am originally from Manhattan Beach, CA, and went to UCLA. Prior to Blue Box, I was involved with several innovative technologies that involved thin film deposition, diesel emissions control technology, and energy waste. Blue Box was founded with the objective of “Innovating Air” as a new approach to drive reductions in global energy consumption, carbon emissions, as well as improving overall human health.
How does Blue Box innovate?
Jim Metropoulos: Blue Box’s innovation is its patented process for how to penetrate through the heat transfer coils within the commercial HVAC system, so it’s now possible to keep these systems always running clean and healthy. Prior to Blue Box, there was never a way to solve this fundamental problem. Heat transfer coils are what all the air must pass through in order to be cooled or heated to deliver a climate-controlled building. Up to 70% of all the energy consumed in a building goes to the HVAC system, and up to half, this energy is wasted simply because these heat transfer coils are running dirty. To give a sense of this market scale, there are an estimated 2 billion coils currently installed in the world, with the UN projecting this number to increase to 6 Billion by 2050. Climate controlled buildings are one of the main driving sources of carbon emissions. Blue Box delivers the only solution that makes it possible to greatly reduce this carbon footprint in a model that saves business billions in eliminating energy costs and equipment replacement costs.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jim Metropoulos: COVID-19 has elevated Blue Box to a whole new level of awareness within the HVAC industry because it is now well understood that Covid-19 is traveling through the buildings HVAC system, and Blue Box is the only solution that can deliver near-perfect surface area coverage within the coils so to disinfect these systems. Blue Box is now being deployed nationwide to many of the leading medical institutions that disinfect their HVAC systems. We are also being employed by school districts, universities, hotels, sports stadiums, etc., around the country to help make their facilities safe for re-entry.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jim Metropoulos: We recently have changed our core business model from direct service to a platform solution, which is meant to accelerate our scaling efforts. With this change, I have had to make some very hard choices with personnel and let go of parts of the team that did not have the new skill sets we now need. However, through this process, I have learned that constant communication with the team and providing a clear road map of our objectives is crucial in helping everyone make these hard turns and actually thrive in their new roles.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Blue Box in the future?
Jim Metropoulos: Startups are not easy, and it’s pretty rare to go from nothing to creating something and then building this into a real company. Over time I have learned to manage uncertainty by not allowing myself to dwell in issues out of my control and not getting frustrated when unexpected events occur. It helps that we have taken the time to get really good at what we do, and we know our innovation solves a major problem that is quickly recognized by our clients. When you know you have a good innovation, then the game is just about executing and getting good at this. We also envision Blue Box’s future to be a very bright one. Our process is well patented, and our market is massive. Within a very short period, we have developed a very impressive client list in industries that include healthcare, K-12, Universities, hospitality, commercial RE, automotive, food processing, to name a few.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jim Metropoulos: In regards to process, we are competing against pressure washing, which is a commoditized, highly damaging, and completely ineffective process for coil cleaning. Blue Box represents a 20X + improvement against this process. In regards to competition, it’s hard to say who we compete against since we are opening our platform so that the big industry participants can supply their technicians to execute the Blue Box service. As far as I know, we are the only player in the market that has solved the coil penetration problem.
Your final thoughts?
Jim Metropoulos: The average American spends 90% of their day within a climate-controlled environment. Nearly all the builds in the world are currently running at some level of inefficiency and unhealthiness because there has never been a way to clean and disinfect these heat transfer coils. By solving this 100-year-old problem, Blue Box completely changes the efficiency and wellness of a building that is both scalable and cost-effective and will have a major impact on global energy consumption and human health.