Williard is well-known in the Triangle tech community. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, then worked at a few design firms in Charlotte before going back for his master’s degree at State. In 1984, he started I-Cubed, which developed and sold educational design software (Today, it’s an enterprise IT consulting firm). He sold it to Adobe in 2005, and immediately dove into the sustainability movement.

When the idea for JouleBug came along, he found a partner in San Francisco developer James Wicker, who also sold a company (Navisware) to Adobe in 2005. They launched JouleBug at South by Southwest in Austin in 2011, earning some early press.

A Triangle accelerator and generous funders

At the time, it was a very simple app to reward sustainable behavior, what Williard describes as “an ugly baby but the parents of that child thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world.” That changed after JouleBug was selected to participate in the Cherokee Challenge green-tech accelerator in early 2012, receiving $20,000, mentorship and office space in Raleigh. That led to $400,000 in funding from an undisclosed set of investors.

Williard and Wicker hired a team, redeveloped the app and secured some early client relationships. Williard won’t comment on the exact number of universities and cities that have subscribed, but he says there’s a large following in Texas. Texas A&M University and the University of Texas and the cities of Austin and Houston are using the app. Williard says the Texas rivalries have helped JouleBug take off.

Future plans, and how the Triangle fits

So when will JouleBug partner with Triangle schools and cities?

Williard says the Triangle’s rivalries are not unlike those in Texas and there are talks underway.

“Universities like to analyze things,” he says. “It’s a little slower than we would like. For a small startup, it takes a while to convince the higher-ups to invest.”

JouleBug took part in Raleigh’s CityCamp in May and is providing its API to the city for integration into a map on its Open Raleigh site, “so the city can see where its citizens are doing what sustainable actions,” Williard says.

Williard’s big mission is to make users understand that sustainability can be fun, and isn’t something to feel guilty about. He hopes that will make it appeal to many different audiences.

“I think that we have a broad spectrum of users, from deep green people that are very environmentally conscious to those that are kind of skeptical,” Williard says.