StartupSmart Awards 2011

StartupSmart Awards 2011

16. Direct Energy

Robert RechtmanDonald payne, Direct EnergyFounders: Donald Payne, Justin McFarlane and Robert Rechtman

Revenue: $1.6 million

Started: 2009

Head Office: Victoria

Employees: 7

Industry: Energy



The renovation of an old family home provided the spark for Donald Payne, Justin McFarlane and Robert Rechtman to create Direct Energy.


In searching for a source of clean energy to power the home, Payne sought to install a geothermal heat pump – a system that uses heat from under the Earth’s surface to warm and cool a property.


“It became clear that no one in Australia was in a position to supply and install one in a reasonable timeframe,” explains Payne. “Further market and technology analysis clearly identified a niche for the delivery of GHPs to Australia and a technology with a competitive advantage over most GHPs – less drilling per thermal capacity – was found.”


Direct Energy, which received seed funding from the founders, families and friends, installs the geothermal heat pumps, being the only supplier in Australia to have a licence for equipment supplied by Earth Linked Technologies – a leading Florida clean energy company.


Eight months after launch in 2009, Direct Energy hit its first $1 million in revenue, a figure that could potentially rocket if the sector receives a funding injection in the wake of the Federal Government’s carbon tax.


Payne admits finding the right partners and employees, as well as judging market demand, has proved the most challenging aspects of starting Direct Energy.

However, he adds: “Learning about the mechanism of running and maintaining a business and dealing with different personalities and agendas in a partnership has been a fantastic experience for someone with a purely academic background, in physics.”
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