Friday, March 30, 2012

Energy Management Technology - Poised for Takeoff

The Energy Management Technology market has a compelling ROI, proven technology and concrete examples of cost savings that have made a significant difference in the bottom line for business users as well as consumers. So why hasn't the market taken off as quickly as expected? Where are the opportunities? The MassTLC Energy cluster explored these questions on Thursday at Foley Hoag in Waltham, MA.Unlike other technology markets such as mobile, curiously there is not a lot of pull from consumers demanding new products. Energy management is not easily accessible as yet to the casual user and although the ROI is there, it is still a high ticket item for both commercial and residential users. But with big data and mobile apps on the horizon, this market may be on the verge of taking off.

The morning started with great excitement in our showcase of technologies from
MicroDesk, Millennial Net, NSTAR, OutSmart Power Systems, PepperDash, Powerhouse Dynamics and Save Energy Systems. Attendees saw dashboards, software demos, hardware and talked to representatives from these companies about how their products and services are helping businesses manage energy consumption as a strategic asset -- and save money in the process.
Moderator, Scott Clavenna, CEO, of Greentech Media then led an interactive panel session on the challenges facing energy management and the opportunities as we move into the age of big data. The panel included:
  • Domenic Armano, Director, Strategy & Innovation, Energy Solutions, Johnson Controls
  • Martin Flusberg, CEO, Powerhouse Dynamics
  • Carlos Alonso-Niemeyer, Program Manager, Energy Efficiency Services, NSTAR
  • Howard Nunes, CEO, PepperDash
The slow adoption is due in part to finding the right way to engage customers with the issues that they care about most, managing their energy costs. Except for the 'wealthy geeks', most people do not care about the technology' what they care about are the business results that the technology offers. For the larger utilities like NSTAR, that engagement happens through the CFO or working with architects and engineers in the design stage to decrease costs. The primary driver for CFOs is energy costs, says Armano. For many of Powerhouse Dynamic's smaller commercial customers there isn't a full time Energy or Facility Manager. So finding the right person to demonstrate how energy management can critically impact the profitability of their grocery store or restaurant is important. User experience is also critical for this set of customers as well as the high-end residential customer. PepperDash is partnering with groups like RealComm to reach CIO's and Facility Managers who are interested in managing energy as an asset with business intelligence and data analytics.

Adoption will happen once people are fully engaged - on their terms. This is true for any business interaction. Currently energy management is a nascent market and companies are focused on their technology. A shift is needed to focus more on the business results for the targeted market regardless of whether it is the person responsible for the HVAC system or a CIO.

Another issue is that VCs think of this space as 'noisy'. Companies need to think about how to reverse this impression. The development of standards would help address this issue. According to Armano, standards are critical to success in this market, and would also make it easier for the buyer to buy. Buyers fear vendor 'lock-in', says Clavenna.

So how is Massachusetts doing compared to the rest of the country in adopting and investing in energy management? In 2011 Massachusetts was first in the nation for energy efficiency and had its highest investment in cleantech on record. Domenic Armano highlighted the great organizations here like the Cleantech Open. Massachusetts utilities like NSTAR offer incentives to support new technologies, . Martin Flusberg spoke from the investor's point of view and reminded the audience that Boston is a conservative investment market, but that he is seeing signs that VC's are looking to make earlier investments in energy management companies.

With the onset of the cloud, big data and data analytics, there are ample opportunities for businesses to see patterns in the energy data and realize the potential for cost saving. Specifically, fast growing sectors like IT data centers that have intense cooling requirements and associated energy costs associated with them, can benefit from monitoring tools. There are also many opportunities in healthcare, though perhaps harder to realize given the regulatory environment.

Johnson Controls has recently announced the creation of an open-source platform able to integrate into building systems with third parties developing applications. According to Flusberg more executives with access to data are seeing energy costs as a controllable expense which provides motivation to invest in energy management systems. NSTAR has also started a pilot program for home energy management and mobile reporting, .

The true power of this data is yet to be realized. There will be challenges along the way, such as privacy and security issues, as well as questions regarding the ownership of the data and ultimately how the data can be used to the advantage of service providers and consumers in providing visibility to energy consumption and the ability to realize savings.

Links to participating companies:

Thank you to our Sponsors:
Autodesk & Foley Hoag

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 to Acquire MassTLC Member Kiva Systems for $775M

Kiva Systems robots at work (Dawghause Photography)
Big news in the Massachusetts robotics community this week. Local robotic warehouse automation company Kiva Systems announced plans to be acquired by for approximately $775M in cash in Q2 of 2012. At MassTLC we know Kiva Systems as an excellent example of innovation in Massachusetts and an active member of MassTLC’s Robotics Cluster.
According to the Boston Globe, this is the second largest acquisition ever made by Amazon.
Here are a few quotes right from the Kiva press release:
Kiva Systems CEO and founder Mick Mountz remarked in a statement that, “For the past ten years, the Kiva team has been focused on creating innovative material handling technologies…. I’m delighted that Amazon is supporting our growth so that we can provide even more valuable solutions in the coming years.”
Dave Clark, vice president, global customer fulfillment at noted that “Amazon has long used automation in its fulfillment centers, and Kiva’s technology is another way to improve productivity by bringing the products directly to employees to pick, pack and stow…. Kiva shares our passion for invention, and we look forward to supporting their continued growth.”
The good news for Kiva Systems employees and for Massachusetts is the headquarters will remain in North Reading.
For more information, read Hiawatha Bray's Boston Globe Article, Amazon buys robot maker Kiva for $775m.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

MassTLC Annual Meeting Featuring Bill Campbell Draws over 500 from Tech Community; Attendees get a Candid and Insightful Look at the Economy and What it Takes to Succeed

Wow! What a day. More than 500 Massachusetts’ executives, entrepreneurs, investors, students and tech lovers met at the Cambridge Hyatt for MassTLC’s 2012 Annual Meeting. The event was power-packed with insights into the state of tech in Mass today, the future of the US economy, and what it takes to be a successful leader in technology.

Bill Taylor interviews Bill Campbell
The highlight of the day was the candid and insightful fireside chat with Bill Campbell, the “Coach of Silicon Valley,” and longtime friend and advisor to Steve Jobs. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO said of Bill Campbell, "His contribution to Google is literally not possible to overstate. He essentially architected the organizational structure." While Steve Jobs commented, "He loves people, and he loves growing people."

Campbell was interviewed by Bill Taylor, co-founder of the magazine FastCompany, who started the interview asking that it not be recorded or live blogged so that Campbell could be as candid and colorful as possible, and that he was. He shared his opinions about Google, Apple, Steve Jobs, media, and the Massachusetts’ venture capital community. Additionally, he provided coaching to a dozen audience members, many students and entrepreneurs who sought out his advice for starting and running companies.

We caught up with Bill briefly after the event and did get some of his insights “on the record,” including what students coming into tech should focus on, the biggest mistakes CEOs make, what we can learn from Steve Jobs “maniacal” focus on creating great products and lastly, a challenge to the Massachusetts tech community. Catch the interview below.

Other top highlights of the morning included:

MassTLC Chairman, Mohamad Ali, Senior Vice President of Avaya shared his vision for the council and the Massachusetts tech community as whole, calling companies to innovate “or you won’t be here in 5 years” 

A new MassTLC video that includes the voices of tech leaders shows why Massachusetts is the place for technology and how MassTLC supports this vibrant community.

Roger Brinner, Economist and Principal of the Parthenon Group offered a deeply insightful and surprisingly humorous perspective on the economy, challenging media’s take on the subject.

Pamela Goldberg, CEO of Mass Tech Collaborative and Pat Larkin, Director of the John Adams Innovation Institute, shared Massachusetts Technology Collaborative findings from the 2011 Index of the Massachusetts Innovation Economy report. The stats that garnered the most twitter activity were:
  • 38.4% of MA jobs tied to the innovation economy, highest of any state
  • MA is still top in US per capita in patents with 4900 patents in 2011
  • MA companies got more than 10% of all Venture funding in 2011, #1 per capita among US states

Get the full report here.

Big thanks to our event sponsors,  AT&T, PWC, Akamai and Iron Mountain.

Thank you also to MassTLC Trustees for underwriting tickets for 70 students and young entrepreneurs and to MassTLC Trustee Dan Bricklin for photographing the day. See his photos here.

Bill Campbell's Challenge to Massachusetts

MassTLC caught up with Bill Campbell after his fireside chat at this year's Annual Meeting and asked him what his challenge was for the Massachusetts technology community. His answer? That VCs need to do more to fund and keep entrepreneurs here in Boston. 

Watch the clip below and weigh in. Do you agree or disagree? Have you had an experience that runs counter to his POV or that supports it? Are you a VC that has great programs and initiatives going on that you want to share? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Over 500 Registered for MassTLC Annual Meeting with Bill Campbell

MassTLC is pleased to be hosting Bill Campbell, the "Silicon Valley Coach", Chairman of Intuit, and member of Apple's Board of Directors, in a fireside chat with Bill Taylor, co-Founder of FastCompany for a deep and personal conversation about success. If you are a CEO, entrepreneur, executive, or enthusiast in need of inspiration and stories of success, you will not want to miss this. The meeting will also feature Council highlights, an economic outlook, and the release of the Mass Tech Collaborative’ s 2011 Index of the Massachusetts Innovation Economy. Click here for more info on our Annual Meeting.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Launch of Massachusetts State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grants Program

Application Period Now Open!

The Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment (MOITI), the Massachusetts Export Center, and the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center announced yesterday the availability of grant money for small businesses seeking to increase their exports.

Small businesses can apply for up to $10,000 in State Trade & Export Promotion (STEP) Grants, funded by the Small Business Administration, to grow their exports.

The grants can be used for:
- trade shows
- trade conferences
- trade missions
- translation and localization costs
- services offered by the U.S. Commercial Service, such as the Gold Key Service and Trade Winds - Asia.
...and more!

Applications are being accepted now through April 2nd, and again April 16th through May 15th. The funds must be spent by September 29th. For more information on qualifications and for the application, please visit MOITI's website.

U.S. Commercial Service Boston looks forward to working with you and our state partners on this opportunity. If you have any questions, please contact MOITI's Naomi Grossman at 617-830-5404 or email or your trade specialist at the US Commercial Service.