Scientific Conservation has filed a lawsuit against its founder, Serious Energy, and another employee for allegedly misappropriating trade secrets and other causes of action.
The suit -- filed in the Superior Court of Georgia -- revolves around the sudden defection of founder and former CTO John Pitcher and sales vice president Chip Pieper to Serious Energy late last week. The complaint includes allegation of violation of trade secrets, breach of contract and other actions. Scientific is currently combing its computer systems and databases to determine what Pitcher allegedly may have taken with him. Much of Pitcher's work has taken place in Georgia.
"This action is necessary. We've been left with no choice but to do it," said Scientific's General counsel Dana Dufrane, who added that Pitcher's departure was "a complete surprise."
Pitcher, she added, is also still a shareholder in Scientific. The case was filed today and we have yet to contact Serious about it.
The case will likely not go away overnight. Both Scientific and Serious have grand designs in this rapidly growing market. Here's the story we wrote last week:
John Pitcher, the founder of Scientific Conservation Inc. (SCI) and one of the more prominent experts in energy management, has left the company he founded to join Serious Energy, according to sources.
Vice president of sales Chip Pieper has also left.
The sudden departure of Pitcher is clearly a coup for Serious, which has repositioned itself as a building management company, and will likely raise questions about what, if anything, is going on at SCI. Pitcher, after all, is not departing because he's a founder that insisted on being CEO. Russ McMeekin, a Honeywell vet, has been CEO of SCI for more than two years. Before SCI, Pitcher worked at Sterling Planet, Envenergy (whose software became the basis of Cisco Mediator) and served as the first energy manager at McDonald's.
SCI has been a rising star in building management, pulling in investment from General Electric and Intel Capital. In June, it bought a company called Servidyne, which provides facilities management and demand response services.
SCI takes the mathematics behind neural networks (Pitcher's area of expertise) and applies it to building management, examining data concerning weather, the HVAC system, and occupancy, and then compares the data against computerized simulations to determine what's not working, or what's about to fail. The system then feeds this data into the existing building management system. Maintenance workers can go fix AC units or replace overheating parts while the building management system adjusts the air conditioner. In the end, the building is continually commissioned.
SCI, however, only points out problems and inefficiencies with buildings. It doesn't manage or control HVAC systems. Competitors like Serious and EnerNoc can pinpoint inefficiencies as well as manage buildings, and in the past they've had no compunction about pointing that out. Whether or not SCI's strategy would be a plus or a shortcoming in sales has been the subject of debate in the industry.
SCI has had grand growth plans. Back in November, McMeekin, CEO of building management specialist Scientific Conservation Inc., told us that the company's goal for 2011 was to expand the amount of commercial real estate it controlled from 15 million square feet to a whopping 100 million to 150 million square feet. Much of that expansion has been expected to come through deals with GE and Intel. GE and Intel have agreed to put SCI's software in place at some locations, but massive, industrial-scale rollouts have yet to be announced.
We haven't received official word from either company on the executive switch. We hope to get more updates and explanations soon.
Serious is mostly known for trying to popularize green building products like energy efficient windows and green drywall. The decline in building and new construction, however, made building products a tough sell. A commercial-scale factory for EcoRock, in fact, has never been built.
To that end, Serious in September 2010 bought Valence Energy, an energy management company spun out of Santa Clara University. Serious Energy used to be known as Serious Materials.