Utility energy data specialist Tendril, flush with cash from last year’s investment from private equity firm Rubicon Technology Partners, has made its second acquisition to fill out its portfolio of utility software and services.
Early this month, Boulder, Colo.-based Tendril acquired EnergySavvy for an undisclosed sum. The Seattle-based startup, which has raised $30 million in venture investment since its 2008 founding, has about 45 utilities and public agencies using its software under white-labeled brands, including National Grid, Seattle City Light, Minnesota Energy Resources and New Mexico Gas Company.
With EnergySavvy, Tendril gains a new set of capabilities to apply to the residential energy efficiency, demand response and customer engagement programs it manages for customers including five of the top 10 U.S. utilities. In fact, about 10 of Tendril’s utility clients are also users of EnergySavvy’s software, Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck said in an interview this week.
But the decision to acquire EnergySavvy wasn’t based on capturing its market share, as much as capturing its technology for turning customer energy data into personalized insights, he said. EnergySavvy has dubbed this its “Next Best Actions” platform, and it claims it uses utility-specific data science and machine learning analytics to generate “personalized, ranked recommendations on any customer initiatives, offers or messages.”
In simple terms, EnergySavvy’s platform can find the most useful, cost-effective or otherwise optimal options, out of the multitude of energy efficiency tips, bill saving actions, and other services that utilities offer their customers, Tuck said. That’s a lot more effective than simply asking customers — or the utility employees who work with customers — to figure this out on their own.
In fact, this seemingly simple task of data analytics-based organization can yield big improvements in utility customer service metrics, from overall customer satisfaction rates, to the percentage of customers opting in to new utility programs and services, he said. For example, utilities that have provided EnergySavvy’s Next Best Actions platform to their call center operators have found a 50 percent increase in the number of calls that conclude with a customer deciding to accept a utility program or offer, compared to traditional methods.
Tendril and EnergySavvy both already provide certain utility customer services, such as home energy audits and reports, that will be consolidated under the combined companies, Tuck said. EnergySavvy will retain its Seattle and Boston offices and its approximately 60 employees, including the founding executives who hail from Microsoft, Amazon and other notable IT companies.
EnergySavvy also expands the realm of utility programs that Tendril has traditionally worked within, Tuck said. “Tendril’s typical engagement model only starts when a customer is part of a DSM program,” he said, using the acronym for demand-side management — the utility business unit typically engaged in energy efficiency, demand response and other such outreach efforts.
But EnergySavvy’s relationship with utility customers starts at the moment they sign up for electric or gas service, giving Tendril a much earlier opportunity to start using its data analytics to shape customer behavior — or, for utilities that have to compete for customers, to offer them the kind of perks and savings that keep them enrolled.
Tendril’s latest acquisition also puts it head to head with competitors such as Oracle’s Opower and other big players in the utility customer service and billing software fields. Opower, which first went public in 2014, was acquired by Oracle for $532 million in 2016, and has become a core part of Oracle’s broader utility customer information system software offering. Last month, Oracle announced the latest improvements to Opower’s platform, including data analytics and customer personalization.
Bidgely, a Silicon Valley startup with energy disaggregation technology that it has built into a broadening set of utility software offerings, also launched an expanded set of data analytics capabilities for utility customer service representatives in April. Bidgely has also inked a partnership with EnergyHub to apply its data analytics to the Alarm.com subsidiary's roster of home energy devices under management
EnergySavvy is Tendril’s second acquisition since December, when it secured a majority investment from private equity firm Rubicon Technology Partners, with participation from Morgan Stanley Alternative Investments and Zoma Capital, aimed at giving Tendril’s venture investors an exit and the company cash to fill out its utility offering.
In January, Tendril acquired EEme, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based startup with high-fidelity energy disaggregation technology that it’s folding into its broader data analytics and customer engagement software offerings.
“Our broad approach is to deliver a seamless customer journey,” Tuck said. “What our utility customers tell us is that they’re fed up with being the system integrator of a bunch of different software companies."