It's the first time the company has turned to venture capital since its founding four years ago.
Dropcountr, a startup offering water tracking and reducing software to utilities, has raised $600,000 in venture capital funding and launched a Spanish-language version.
The new money is the first fundraising round for the company, with the Urban Innovation Fund acting as a leader alongside Zipdragon Ventures and other micro venture capitalists and angel investors. For the four-year-old company, which appeared on last year’s Gov Tech 100 list, the seed round comes a little later than for other startups in and around Silicon Valley. Where many companies pursue funding quickly to grow aggressively, Dropcountr’s strategy has been one of organic growth using its early profits.
“Very recently we thought, 'Hey, we’re profitable, we’re growing' and … we just need additional support in terms of capital to expand our team and grow a little more quickly,” said CEO Robb Barnitt.
At the same time, the company is launching a Spanish version of its website that allows water utility customers to see how much water they’re using, compare that data to neighbors and receive alerts when they have a leak.
“We started taking a look at demographics via census data for our existing deployments, we saw that roughly 25 percent of our service areas identified as Hispanic, and we thought, ‘Hey this is interesting,’” Barnitt said. “We don’t necessarily have insight on Spanish speaking in the home or if Spanish is preferred, but we’re clearly kind of stranding our communication, so to speak.”
The website came through first because it was simply the lighter lift, but Barnitt expects to have its mobile version — which customers use more frequently than the browser site — translated in a month or so. Dropcountr is using computer translation to begin with, then running the result by professional translators.
The places where the company has already established itself — cities like Austin, Texas, and Denver — have sizable Spanish-speaking populations. But the move also supports the company’s growth vision. Barnitt said Dropcountr’s biggest focus is on California, Texas and Florida, which are the top three states for total Hispanic population. To serve the diversity of dialects throughout those states, Barnitt said the company is aiming for a somewhat generic translation.
In some places, the move is a necessity for Dropcountr to be able to sell itself to government organizations.
“We assist dozens of staff members with customer support inquiries, and send thousands of water usage reports, leak alerts and utility messages to our end users every week,” Barnitt said in a statement. “In cities we serve like Denver, Austin and Los Angeles, you must provide Spanish as a language of choice, and this move helps us achieve our goal of making water usage more accessible and coherent to the end customer.”