There’s a popular saying that goes: “Two heads are better than one.” Does the same concept ring true when two companies combine into one?
The collaboration that results from combining two separate companies can have a greater impact on established systems and industries. Huge shifts are happening right now in the Canadian cleantech and energy management sectors due to acquisitions. One great example of this is the recent acquisition of Canadian energy engagement company Pulse Energy by energy intelligence software provider EnerNOC. By joining forces, these companies are now able to offer one platform that helps engage a wider variety of utilities and businesses, and educates them about their energy usage. Educating energy users can catalyze change in their behaviours, leading to businesses and homes that are more efficiently run.
Utilities today are looking for new and creative ways to engage with their customers. They are also faced with an ongoing need to foster brand loyalty. EnerNOC’s acquisition of Pulse Energy not only increases the company’s software product offerings, but it also enables the company to tap into previously inaccessible markets. The companies’ combined efforts enable them to reach both commercial and industrial customers, ranging from small businesses to the largest enterprises.
Pulse Energy’s software enables utilities to deliver targeted energy-saving recommendations in a branded environment, catering to each customer’s unique profile, including business type, location and energy usage. With this partnership, utilities can now increase customer satisfaction, manage system demand and increase operational efficiencies. The platform works by communicating unique recommendations and tips, which can help utilities drive the behavioural changes of their customers.
EnerNOC’s platform gives its users straightforward insights and works to simplify the numbers, letting utilities tell their customers what it all really means and how they can achieve different results by changing their behaviours. Simply, the platform’s analytics take the guesswork out of energy management, which allow utilities to demonstrate exactly what is going on with their customers’ energy usage. You can watch a demo of the platform here.
I sat down with David Helliwell, co-founder and CEO of Pulse Energy and now the vice-president of utility solutions at EnerNOC, to talk about the recent acquisition, EnerNOC’s customers and his thoughts on the future of utilities.
Sarah Aspler (SA): What does Pulse Energy offer utilities customers?
David Helliwell (DH): We started the company in 2006 with a mission to make the world’s businesses more energy efficient. We have over a million businesses in the system, so each business that signs up is receiving a custom energy plan that has been created just for them. Over the last few years, we’ve become the industry leader for that niche of energy intelligence for the whole commercial customer base. There are a whole bunch of companies competing in the residential mass-market stage, but there are even more companies competing on the large commercial custom base, so we decided to own the middle ground between those two.
SA: What were the motivations behind the acquisition?
DH: We wanted to get into the biggest utilities in the world very quickly and that’s why we became interested in teaming up with a bigger partner. What made EnerNOC so interesting to us was that, in addition to the great culture fit, it was a company that was also positioned as a global leader in energy intelligence software. Our strengths appeal to the mid-size and smaller commercial customers, and EnerNOC’s strengths appeal to the larger commercial customers. It’s pretty rare to find a company that is not only already engaged in the same space, but also has no overlap. It’s enabled us to work adjacent to one another.
SA: What are you focusing on now?
DH: On the product side, we will continue to work on the platform’s capabilities and really focus on linking the overall energy intelligence platform with energy efficiency and demand response, and with our ability to cross-sell other products and services to utilities.
SA: In what direction do you see the energy management industry headed?
DH: We’re seeing more and more that utilities are recognizing that residential and commercial customers need to be addressed in completely different ways. We’re seeing products emerging that are working to address residential versus non-residential. There’s a recognition in the industry that people don’t spend much time paying attention to energy consumption, but they do like to have it managed well. Companies need to work harder to appeal to those customers.
SA: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs thinking about entering this industry?
DH: The most important thing to do before you do anything is to talk with the potential users of your product, i.e., your future customers. I would also say to look for existing resources before conducting your own research. For example, I wish I had discovered the research out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory sooner because that would have saved me a lot of time. I would also say that entrepreneurs should stop trying to get everything perfect on their first go. Keep tweaking and move from there.