Hug Energy, which had developed an application for computer energy management, is shutting down. CEO Marcus Tallhamn made the announcement in a blog post as well as an email to users. The company was so new I hadn’t had a good chance to review it yet (though I’ve been using it for a few weeks) but it had been covered by bloggers like Robert Scoble, (see video) and was a semi-finalist in the business competition the Cleantech Open.
Tallhamn said in the blog post that the company failed to draw a lead investor “willing to commit enough capital to fill out the round with follow on investors.” His insights are an indicator of the struggles for the entire energy management sector, including potential competitors that Tallhamn used in a slide from the Cleantech Open including Ecofactor, EnergyHub, AlertMe, and Control4.
The investment community’s perspective on this space had become significantly more critical since we got started, and probably for good reasons. A lot of capital has been destroyed in Series A-Z rounds of funding by our competitors, and most investors made it clear that they’d want to see massive traction before committing capital. They were taking a “wait and see” approach.
The business of helping consumers reduce and manage energy consumption in homes and across appliances and devices is such a small market right now, there can’t be too many players going after basically non-existent revenue. OPower, which provides data analytics and software for utilities for energy bills, is one of the few companies in energy management that I know of that is doing well.
Many of the revenues right now depend on scoring utility deals, which can take months and years to implement. Though, there has also been recent attention from the telcos and consumer electronics companies in the energy management space. But as we’ve mentioned pure play energy management gadgets probably won’t be that interesting to consumers — the gadgets will have to do something else, too, like manage your media or run a home security system. Tallhamn said in his blog post: “On a micro level, the average household’s energy costs are so small ($4k on average across electricity and fuel) that any direct to consumer product aiming to reduce them needs to deliver something beyond just savings.”
Hug was taking a free approach, and looking to mine energy information, with Scoble calling Hug the “Mint of your energy bill.” The company had launched a downloadable energy management application for computers that compiled how many minutes your computer slept and basically called your attention to how much energy you were saving. That app was only a “trojan horse” into a plan to grab a greater piece of the energy management sector, and the company’s idea was to start building a user base before the smart energy devices hit the market, “so that we’d be in a great position for becoming the leading supplier of analytics and control software once they had arrived,” writes Tallhamn.
But alas, you can’t build a product without funding. Tallhamn writes:
Knowing when to push through and when to call it quits is probably one of the hardest things for an entrepreneur, and while I’ll never know for sure, I feel quite confident that this was the right decision for everyone involved.
For more research related to smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):
- Z-Wave: Gaining Ground on ZigBee for Home Energy Networking?
- Is the Opt-Out Model the Future of Home Energy Management
- The Developer’s Guide to Home Energy Management Apps