Clean energy doesn't have to be only for the environmentally conscious--it can be for the cost conscious, too.

That concept is what led David Murray to found Greenspire. The Los Angeles-based startup makes homes more environmentally friendly and, at the same time, more energy efficient. It installs solar panels, provides insulation, and redesigns water systems to limit waste--especially attractive in drought-susceptible California, where water bills can be high.

Murray broke into the industry in 2012 after several years as the head of a Phoenix-based windshield repair company. "Clean tech was blowing up," Murray says, "and I saw an opening." He packed up and headed for California, where state subsidies on solar installations--in addition to the 30 percent federal refund--make the industry extra attractive.

The model has worked: The startup pulled in more than $41 million in revenue in 2016, a surge of 14,429 percent since 2013. It also landed at No. 9 on this year's Inc. 5000, a list of the fastest-growing private companies in America.

Seeds of green.

Greenspire invests heavily in its sales department, a strategy to which Murray credits much of the startup's success. When Murray and his co-founder, Andy Baker, started the company, many of the first hires had sales backgrounds. Today, the sales and marketing departments comprise about 80 percent of the company's 175-employee work force.

And unlike much of the sustainable energy sector, Greenspire is entirely bootstrapped. Murray and Baker, a 50 percent owner of the company who focuses primarily on developing new product offerings, used their own funds to launch the company.

"I didn't take a salary for the first four years," Murray told Inc. in a sit-down interview in New York City, before heading out by helicopter to the Hamptons for a weekend getaway.

Today, Greenspire offers several services, either separately or packaged together. The company turns traditional homes into smart ones, automating things like lights and security systems. It also performs solar installations using panels it leases from manufacturers. Many customers opt for a package deal, retrofitting their older homes to make them greener and more efficient in the long run.

"We're saving people money," says Murray, referring to the cost savings some customers might see after making their homes more efficient. "That's the easiest job in the world."

Greenspire uses several channels to secure leads, including door-to-door marketing, referrals, and partnerships with retailers. Murray says potential customers can be surprisingly resistant to Greenspire's services: Some have had bad experiences or overpaid with other solar companies; some are turned off by the aesthetics of big, bulky solar panels on their roofs. (That could change soon: Greenspire is an official distributor for Tesla, which is rolling out solar roofs this year.)

Courting growth.

Even so, the company is gaining about 1,800 new customers each year. It has expanded beyond the California market into Arizona, and more recently, into New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

As his startup grows, Murray says it receives 85,000 job applications each year and maintains high retention rates for the industry. He attributes some of that, as well as some of the startup's overall success, to its culture. At Greenspire, sales success is highly incentivized: Top workers are recognized at quarterly banquets and rewarded with trips and financial prizes; managers can earn green Rolex watches for heading top units.

Additionally, teams often dine on the company tab, and there are frequent group outings to help build camaraderie. Greenspire also offers a wide range of perks to every employee, including low-level season tickets to local Clippers, Dodgers, and Kings games. "We like to provide a lifestyle they wouldn't have at another company," Murray says.

In exchange, the company asks for full commitment from its employees--not necessarily 50-hour weeks, but certainly laser focus in the workplace and a drive to help the company keep up its crazy fast growth. "It's an awkward place to work if you're not all in," Murray says. "Those people tend to self-select out."

Clarification: An earlier version of this story failed to distill Andy Baker's exact role in the company. Baker, a 50 percent shareholder in Greenspire, focuses primarily on developing new product offerings.

Published on: Aug 16, 2017