The Case of the Home Energy Boom: 3M Invests in The Energy Detective

Updated: Looks like this is the weekend for some unusual firms to dabble in the increasingly hot home energy management (my take on how Apple could jolt the energy management space here). Minnesota-based manufacturer 3M, which makes such disparate products as post-it notes and medical supplies, and more recently renewable energy and batteries, said it has invested in Energy Inc, the makers of the home energy management device The Energy Detective (TED), through its New Venture Business. Energy Inc. is well-known for being the first gadget partner to connect with Google’s online energy management tool PowerMeter.

Terms of the investment were not disclosed but 3M New Ventures, which is based in Seefeld, Germany, said it made the investment because of Energy Inc.’s “high speed of innovation and entrepreneurial approach to serving customers,” in the “fast-growing energy monitoring market.” When companies don’t disclose the size of the investment, most of the time it means it’s pretty small. Update: According to this filing the investment was $2 million.

It’s unclear to me just what 3M plans to do with the Energy Inc. investment. 3M sells both utility electrical transmission and distribution equipment as well as technologies for consumer electronics like touch screen systems and also communications products. But in a statement 3M said synergies with its other businesses would have a “high commercialization potential.”

The investment seems like a way for 3M to experiment in the increasingly hot market of home energy management products. Computing giants like Google, Microsoft and Intel have been developing energy management tools, startups have been building energy dashboards in droves, and smart grid players like Silver Spring Networks and GridPoint have recently bought their way in.

Energy Inc was actually founded back in 2001, before energy management was a hot topic anywhere. President and CEO of Energy Inc, Dolph Rodenberg told me in an interview in October that about 40 percent of its sales come from utilities, though declined to name its utility customers, while the majority of its sales come from the direct to consumer market.

Energy Inc.’s TED 5000 is the device that works via Google PowerMeter, and it costs abut $200. All the attention from Google’s partnership means that the TED5000 has been constantly sold out and on backorder for months. Rodenberg told us that the company was in the process of raising funds back in October, but not via the traditional venture capital route. I’d speculate that the PowerMeter link only helped with this financing deal.


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