Amid the rubble of Hurricane Sandy, there is a quiet success story: not a single one of the many data centers supported by Marin County-based battery monitoring firm IntelliBatt lost internal power.
A standout case is recounted on the company’s blog by Executive Chairman Steve Cotton (who was also interviewed for this article). For new customer Cologix, IntelliBatt’s monitor rig covered not only the main battery backup bank, but also the batteries for the generators and a secondary telco DC bus. In each of the latter, a single cell nearing failure was found and replaced, days before the hurricane struck.
The San Rafael, CA firm presents a refreshing contrast to the smoke-and-mirrors world of startups. A second-generation family endeavor, IntelliBatt was founded as Data Power Monitoring Corporation in 1991 by (father) Bart Cotton (now serving in an advisory role), has 55 employees, and never took venture funding. According to (son) Steve Cotton, “Of necessity, we run a profit in an average 60- to 90-day period.” He continued, “We thought about owning our building, but decided that property management was not our core competency.”
IntelliBatt considers itself to be in the business of greentech. “You have to see the fleet of 18-wheelers delivering the batteries for one of these data centers to realize how much lead they consume.” Careful management can extend the life of the batteries by 30 percent, reducing the lead consumption (or recycler smelting). Temperature monitoring can also save energy wasted from over-air-conditioning.
Competitors include smaller dedicated companies such as Btech and Cellwatch, and services provided by large technical firms such as Emerson, Eaton, and Schneider. “Actually, our biggest competitors are apathy and stubborn do-it-yourselfers, but these people eventually learn a hard lesson,” comments Mr. Cotton.
Last July, the company broke with its tradition by taking $22 million of investment, mainly from Columbia Capital and CBC Capital. The latter gives a connection to mainland China growth markets, via mover-and-shaker Edward Tian.The money is stated to be for broad development of products and services, with several release waves in the next twenty-four months.