Company: FirstFuel Software
Source: CNN Money
By Brian Dumaine
The company’s focus is finding energy savings in commercial buildings.
Move over social media. The next hot tech sector might just be the very unsexy-sounding energy efficiency business. Companies in this industry use sophisticated algorithms to analyze how much energy a home or building uses and then suggest energy-saving solutions.
Nest, founded by ex-Apple designer Tony Fadell, is the most famous example. His elegant Nest thermostat “learns” your living patterns and turns down the heat when you’re not around. In January Google (GOOG), apparently seeing a future in energy efficiency, bought the company for $3.2 billion. Opower, a startup that works with utilities to map energy use in homes and find ways to save power, announced in March that it plans to IPO and raise $100 million.
The next disruptor in this space just might be a small Lexington, Mass., startup founded in 2009 called FirstFuel. Its name, says founder and CEO Swapnil Shah, comes from the idea that energy efficiency should be considered the first fuel. In other words, instead of building a new coal or gas plant, get the electrical power you need from energy savings.
The private company, which won’t reveal revenues or profits, seems off to a fast start. Its focus is to find energy savings in America’s 17 million commercial buildings, which account for a hefty 35% of the nation’s energy demand. FirstFuel acts as an intelligence provider for utility companies and commercial building owners, a kind of Dun & Bradstreet for energy efficiency. It has an analytics software technology that allows it to create rich information on buildings ranging from what time the AC goes on to what the weather in the facility’s area is that day. Then the company analyzes this information to make recommendations to achieve large-scale efficiency savings. “The information is very specific,” says Shah. “We don’t just say you need more energy-efficient lights. We can tell the building manager he needs to replace five lights on the 14th floor.”