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Uplight’s Second Year: Customer Relationships, Innovation, and Partnerships

By Adrian Tuck on

In my last post I chronicled Uplight’s first year, including the challenges of creating Uplight from six companies and the successes that we’ve earned with our utility partners. Given what we were able to achieve in Year 1 in the midst of integrating, you can only imagine what we might achieve now that the bulk of that work is behind us.

 

Recently we’ve been taking a long hard look at our relationships with our customers to find out what works and what doesn’t. We’ve broken down these relationships into three types. These aren’t characterizations of our clients, (we value them all!), but rather how we find ourselves working together.

1. Strategic. These are our closest customer relationships. We have totally candid conversations about our respective objectives and constraints and work hard to deliver out-sized outcomes with our partners. These are treasured partnerships where the two teams work hard together to really drive change. You know you are in one when C-level to C-level texts start with “What if we?….”, or “We want to do X, any ideas how you could help?”. Great examples include

    • Consumers Energy where we launched a 100k thermostat program together with Google in just six weeks.
    • AES where we are working in hand in hand to re-imagine the digital customer experience from the ground up.

2. Commercial. The bulk of our customer relationships fall into this straightforward category. Here, we are using our software to help our customer deliver against a defined program. We have goals we are measured against and healthy roadmap visibility that makes sure input from our customers informs what we build next.

3. Sub-contractor. I’ve found this type of relationship makes innovation much tougher, especially if one party is more interested in protecting the relationship rather than being focused on the work at hand and how to best deliver. When people aren’t focused on the work, they can’t expand their mindset on what innovation the project demands to accomplish the best results.

Going forward, Uplight will be focused on where we can add the most innovation and value. We’re excited by what we’ve accomplished so far, and those are the relationships we want to double down on.

 

Now to innovation. We have the market’s largest R&D organization focused on innovating around the Utility / Customer relationship. In Uplight’s second year, we will focus on three things.

1. Application innovation. We’re investing in more software development so our individual applications continue to lead the market. This means more performance, more features, more automation, more reach into hard to serve customer groups. And there is certainly growth in these areas. We expect to see 3-4x growth over next year in Demand Response as existing programs expand and our market share continues to grow. I am particularly excited to work with key clients to leverage the power grid modernization and data analytics to deliver more innovations in pricing, transportation electrification, and program expansions to enable a flexible and sustainable energy system. Expect more announcements in the coming year in this space.

2. Connected Applications. We have seen great examples of how we can achieve step changes in performance when our applications talk to each other using a common interface and common data set and collectively reduce friction in the customer experience. For example, Uplight’s demand response pre-enrollment on our Marketplace is >80%–4X more than a standalone DR program. We can drive better outcomes for consumers and dramatically reduce integration costs for our customers – expect to see more of that in Year 2.

3. Access to our AI layers. Our customers should start deriving more value directly from the data and insights we hold inside our connect platform, in addition to the value gleaned from the data through our applications. We will continue to drive further access to those layers for the set of customers who want to self-serve.

 

Finally, I’d like to talk about partnerships.

This is a time of significant change in the utility software market. In the next five years, companies thought of as unassailable will struggle and new, significant players will emerge.  Uplight intends to play a leading role in re-drawing the lines in this new landscape, but we can’t do that alone. We need to partner with the best to bring about the change our customers need.  I am looking forward to announcing some new and exciting partnerships to really drive the digital transformation that our utilities so rightly demand of us. As I mentioned in my last post, there is a new mood of optimism in our customers about what technology can do for their businesses, no more will people begrudgingly accept more of the same from the old guard.  Change is coming and we and our partners intend to be in the driving seat.

With one year behind us, the Uplight team has already exceeded expectations. But the best is yet to come as we grow our strategic customer relationships, continue to innovate in both individual applications and connected solutions, and build our base of partners–resulting in a more sustainable planet. 

 

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