Part 1: Building an Industry Leader: Thoughts from Uplight’s Founders

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It’s been only a month since we officially announced Uplight, a company combined from the merger of market leaders Tendril, Simple Energy, FirstFuel, EnergySavvy, Ecotagious, and EEMe, all uniting together to accelerate the clean energy ecosystem. Bringing together nearly 400 people, while still continuing to deliver on our mission and bring even greater value to our utility partners, has been an incredible journey thus far.

I recently sat down with the founders and former CEOs of the component companies that now make up Uplight to discuss the best, the most surprising, and the most challenging parts of the process. Read more about what Bruce Townson (Ecotagious), Aaron Goldfeder (EnergySavvy), Swap Shah (FirstFuel), Yoav Lurie (Simple Energy), Justin Segall (Simple Energy), and Adrian Tuck (Tendril) each have to say.

You’ve all had an amazing journey building your own companies from the ground up. What inspired you to become part of Uplight? 

Justin: The impacts of the climate emergency are being felt by people around the globe. For example, there are people without access to water and the ice is melting in Greenland at a record pace––and there are many more examples of this. Every step we can take to accelerate the clean energy transition in scale and speed is imperative. This makes the creation of a company like Uplight more important than ever. 

Aaron: At EnergySavvy, I dreamt for a long time about what it would be like if all the innovative companies in this sector had the same jerseys. The energy industry has been asking for a solution that can span customer service, EE/DSM and value-added programs through a common analytical framework. I really wanted to make that happen and could only do it by teaming it up with others. 

Bruce: At Ecotagious, we were always inspired to be a part of a sustainable business that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. But, we also realized that we only had a piece of the solution with a fraction of the customers. By joining these other great companies, we can not only accelerate our collective ability to achieve those ambitions but also broaden them. The Uplight team may not be finished adding pieces, but the companies that have already come together are much stronger and have a greater potential than I could have foreseen at this stage.

Adrian: I had this burning feeling that we could do so much more to further our mission and goals if we could operate at scale—and our customers kept telling me the same.

Swap: At FirstFuel, we had recognized the need to consolidate this space to deliver all the benefits already discussed. When Adrian, with Tendril, approached us earlier this year, having already begun the execution of the strategy with Rubicon, it was a no-brainer.

Leading up to the acquisition/merger, what were you most excited about? 

Aaron: I’ve been most excited about going out and seeing what we can do for clients as one company. It sounds cliche, but we have all partnered, integrated and sometimes competed for so long that it’s so much better to have it all together! 

Swap: As the largest and most successful non-residential player in the market, the possibilities of complementing the range of offerings on the residential side of Uplight was exciting. It would have been much more difficult for us to do this independently—requiring partnerships with multiple smaller players on a deal-by-deal basis, which is hardly productive for the company or the customer.

Bruce: As I got to know the folks we were going to be working with after the acquisition, I became even more impressed with their intelligence and determination to address the climate emergency. It was clearly going to be a better fit than I had expected, and I had high expectations from my first interactions.

Adrian: It was amazing when I heard stories from the other CEOs and how similar our journeys have been. These journeys have shaped the way we do things, the way our cultures have grown and the values that drive us.

What’s been the best part of putting together these companies? 

Aaron: For most of our clients this has meant real acceleration. We’re already seeing a positive impact on our utility partners in pulling together solutions from our various companies. Things that would have previously been on the roadmap are now fully available and proven in the market. 

Swap: The best part has been the validation of Uplight’s strategy from our combined customers.

Bruce: We were the 6th of the companies to join Uplight, and so far I have been astounded by the warmth of the welcome by everyone.

Justin: Uplight can now provide a full, end-to-end customer action solution where utilities can really lean in with a partner. There has been a palpable challenge for our utility partners to deliver against their regulatory, business, and customer needs and they’re rapidly seeing a path for change through Uplight.

Yoav: I think the best part is the opportunity to serve our customers at a greater scale and, thus, to have an even bigger impact on our mission of creating a sustainable future. 

What is the most challenging thing you’ve encountered in this process? 

Aaron: I’ve been a CEO for over 10 years, which is a role with a certain structure to it. Learning how to be part of a team instead of leading it has been a really fun challenge and opportunity at this stage of my career. 

Bruce: We have such an enormous opportunity to build an unparalleled solution set, but as the 6th company in, our challenge is trying to catch up with the product information already shared amongst the other companies while simultaneously trying to contribute to how we can strengthen the future solution!

Justin: Focus and prioritization. There are an abundance of opportunities we could pursue, ideas people have, and requests from partners/the market. Getting clarity about what is most important is the quintessential growth company challenge. 

Adrian: Making sure we get the culture right, from the get-go.  We want to make sure that we live our mission and values and that every decision we make is informed by these. Building trust with our co-workers in other locations is hard, but worth the effort.

Stay tuned for the second part of the interview coming next week!

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