Company: Gridco Systems
By: Josh Wolfe, Contributor
The excerpt below comes from Forbes/Wolfe Emerging Technology Report’s recent full-length interview with Naimish Patel, CEO of Gridco Systems, a provider of intelligent power control and management solutions for the 21st century electric grid. Previously, Naimish served as Entrepreneur in Residence at General Catalyst Partners, where he focused on investment opportunities in clean technology, advanced materials, and life sciences. Prior to his role at General Catalyst, Naimish was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Sycamore Networks, a leading provider of optical networking solutions for mission-critical networks. As Sycamore’s CTO, Naimish was responsible for the company’s technology vision and product strategy. Naimish was one of the four founding team members of Sycamore Networks, where he made key contributions to Sycamore’s product development since its inception in 1998. Naimish holds BS, MS, and MEng degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is the holder of 18 patents.
Tell me a bit about your personal background and what inspired you to found Gridco Systems.
I did my Master’s thesis at MIT in Electrical Engineering with a focus on optics, and shortly after graduating, co-founded Sycamore Networks. I remained there for about seven years in the capacity of CTO. I then joined General Catalyst Partners as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence (EIR), and when I was there, I was exposed to the power distribution world doing some work where we built a data center in Iceland. Around that time, I posed the question: “Is there an opportunity to build a leading company offering a fundamentally new class of infrastructure to electric utilities?” This question gave rise to a lot of customer discussions and interactions, which nine months later led to the founding of Gridco Systems.
What did you see in your survey of the utilities sector that answered this question?.
Having been on the investor side and seeing a lot of the innovations and investments that were being made and applied to the electric grid, I noticed that there was one class of investments being made, primarily application of information technology to the grid. Whether that was communications infrastructure, grid analytics, or sensor technologies and the like, we found that it was quite difficult, if not impossible in many cases, to render a business case that didn’t rely on some form of societal benefits to make them whole. Fortunately, there were subsidies available from ARPA and state equivalents to support the testing and deployment of those technologies, and that was good from my perspective, because those are necessary ingredients of a modernized grid. But we founded Gridco on the core principle that what we provide to utilities must have an associated business case that stands alone and does not rely on subsidy.