SCIenergy is a building energy efficiency startup with a lot to prove. It’s raised about $50 million to date to tackle the building energy efficiency sector -- first as San Francisco-based software provider Scientific Conservation, then as a software-plus-services company after its 2011 acquisition of Atlanta-based engineering firm Servidyne, and finally as a software, services and financing player with its March acquisition of Dallas-based Transcend Equity.
The idea was to combine high-tech building analytics, hands-on energy services and financing tools in a triple play of sorts for the building energy efficiency market. But despite landing a long list of showcase pilot customers, the startup has struggled over the past eighteen months or so. Last year, it underwent a public legal battle with the startup’s original founder, John Pitcher, and other executives after they left to join rival efficiency startup Serious Energy (the parties settled in March).
Then, in May, SCIenergy replaced CEO Russ McMeekin with Steve Gossett Jr., the CEO of Transcend. McMeekin’s departure came amidst layoffs and reports of problems with the company’s core software products in the field. All of that had put a good deal of pressure on SCIenergy to grow its list of customers -- and not just pilot customers, but paying customers, as Gossett put it in May.
Last week, SCIenergy delivered on that pledge, naming three big property management firms – Shorenstein, Lend Lease and LBA Realty -- as new customers. Each new partner is installing SCIenergy’s core software products, including its SCIwatch building energy analytics engine and its SCItrack building dashboard system, in at least two buildings each, Gossett said in a Friday interview.
SCIenergy also announced that it has reached 150 million square feet of property under management amongst its existing customers, up from about 15 million square feet two years ago.
That’s a pretty hefty figure, as compared to, say, SkyFoundry’s 125 million square feet of building space under analysis, or EnerNOC’s 200 million square feet of customer real estate under energy efficiency management, to name two competitors in the field.
Of course, measuring by the square foot ignores all kinds of important distinctions in the ways these different companies bring their technology and expertise to market. Big demand response company EnerNOC, for example, offers a network operations center and engineering staff with its efficiency projects. Small startup SkyFoundry, by contrast, licenses its software to third parties that use it to support a variety of efficiency projects.
SCIenergy’s situation is even more complex, because it offers both software and services. On the services side, Servidyne competes against a host of regional energy services companies, as well as international players like Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Siemens, Schneider Electric, and the like. On the software side, those exact same companies could use SCIenergy’s software to improve their service offerings, Gossett noted.
SCIenergy has tested its software with such property owners as Boeing, Neiman Marcus, Apple, Google and NASA, and General Electric and Intel are both partners and investors. Competitors on the startup side include the likes of Viridity Energy, BuildingIQ and others with building energy dashboards and analytics. SCIenergy is also deploying a third software platform, called SCItendant, that links building staff to the energy intelligence coming from the startup's other software platforms via web interfaces and mobile devices, Gossett said.
In the meantime, IT giants like IBM and Cisco are enhancing their building energy efficiency offerings, while energy services giants like Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Schneider Electric and Emerson have been rolling out their own IT platforms to tie their building equipment together into more intelligent building management systems.
In the meantime, SCIenergy’s efficiency project financing business, built on Transcend’s managed energy services agreement (MESA) model, continues to work with big partner Mitsui on lining up customers, Gossett said. That includes a Chicago-area project backed by $9 million in federal funds, as well as ongoing development of a second-phase fund with undisclosed partners, he said.