Gene Wang is the CEO, Chairman and Founder of People Power, a startup focusing on energy efficiency. It's Wang's fifth startup and he's been very successful in his previous companies, which he sold to Agilent and HP (Photo Access and Bitfone, respectively), and with another, Computer Motion, that went public in 1997.
This might be an example of investors betting on the rider, not the horse.
The startup is VC-funded by New Cycle Capital along with angel investors and already has 57 employees.
I spoke with Wang over coffee and he's dynamic and smart, but it felt like the company's message was a bit unfocused or just stealthy, perhaps. According to the website, People Power is helping consumers save money on their energy bills while helping to save the planet by reducing carbon pollution. A People Power slidedeck exhorts consumers to observe Earth Day, use the GreenX CO2 calculator, and listen to the song, "Happy Birthday Mother Earth." You can buy reusable grocery bags, a People Power T-shirt and the Smart Grid Dictionary at their website. Wang is a surfer and the company has a water and surf theme.
Wang adds, "We dedicate an entire coal-fired plant to power the nation's TVs while they are turned off." Apparently People Power will have something to do with fixing this.
In Wang's words, "People Power is accessing the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency." He calls the firm "a multi-faceted energy efficiency and smart grid company," adding that "the smart grid starts in the home" and "the consumer has to be educated."
The firm has not announced their consumer products -- although they have announced their $150 developer's kit. According to the CEO, "We intend to create an ecosystem." He went on to explain that, "We needed to build this platform to enable our products." Wang hints at the consumer product by saying, "It needs to be drop-dead simple to let the house or building shut off devices, to learn the activity in the house and to dashboard the activity of the home."
The main idea seems to be a multi-mode 900MHz HAN that has extreme reliability and extended range. Wang claims that this network will have twice the range of the 2.4GHz ZigBee spectrum while consuming half the power. It will be the only HAN that directly connects orphan appliances like the dryer in the basement with the outdoor electric meter without repeaters.
People Power just announced their SuRF (sensor ultra RF) set of open source developer's boards based on OSHAN (Open Source Home Area Network) with wireless sensors enabled by TinyOS.
In GTM smart grid analyst David Leeds' view, "I think it's important to realize that specs/standards don't necessarily lead to interoperability because everyone may interpret the spec slightly differently -- with open source code, on the other hand, developers have a common ground to start from."