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Why Are Tech Giants Buying Energy Analytics Companies?

By Brad Langley on

This post was originally published on Tendril’s website. Tendril is now Uplight.

First, Google purchased Nest. Then on Monday, Oracle acquired Opower. These moves tell us one definitive thing: tech giants recognize that energy analytics and data science will shape our energy future.

Cutting edge energy data analytics technology comes from companies like Nest, Opower, and, of course, Tendril. These independent, or formerly independent, companies have created the platforms that empower the energy industry to rethink itself—to disrupt the traditional ways of working and adopt consumer-centric business models. It’s a shift we’re just beginning to witness as the trifecta of new market entrants, changing regulations and evolving consumer sentiment start to hit the energy market.

While there has never been a more exciting time to be in the energy business, we have work to do. Namely, customer expectations are evolving to match those they have in travel, financial services, entertainment and more: experiences that are personalized and tailored to their preferences. So the necessity for effective customer engagement is more important than ever.

Legacy vendors like Oracle, SAP and others may be well suited to traditional utility business models, but they haven’t matched the pace of the independent vendors in evolving with consumer needs and have (mostly) been late to the cloud computing and SaaS game. So Oracle’s purchase of Opower makes sense because acquiring an energy data analytics platform bolsters their cloud and Saas capabilities. It’s a fit for Opower too, which has lately diverged from its original business proposition into CIS—an Oracle specialty.

But is the acquisition best for continued innovation in energy? That remains to be seen. When big companies acquire small companies, innovation can stall as the focus turns to integration. Will nimble Opower make Oracle faster, or will giant Oracle slow things down?

At Tendril, we see tremendous upside to staying independent and doubling down on investment in our core energy data analytics technology. We’ve never been in a stronger financial position and are going through some amazing, ‘be careful what you wish for’ growth. One of the keys to our success is that we have stayed skeptical of the vertical model.

We are on a unique path. We help real estate brokerages and solar companies, in addition to utilities, tackle the challenges they face around customer acquisition, demand management and digital engagement. This has huge benefits to the utilities that see the value of partnership. So in addition to excellent technology, we bring an exciting ecosystem of partners to the table.  By aligning itself with Oracle’s Utility Business Unit, Opower is perpetuating the isolated solutions that utilities have had in the past, but need to shed for the future.

As we add new dimensions to our offerings, we remain focused on changing the world and improving energy management for consumers. Fortunately, by staying independent we are not distracted by looming pressure for integration and cost reduction that larger technology machines face.

We will continue to make the case for independent technology vendors in the utility space. Yes, it takes a lot of money (over $150m in our case), and yes, it takes a lot of time (over a decade), but it is the only way to be truly innovative and as the largest independent player in our space, we intend to enjoy our time in the sun.


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