FirstFuel Software, based in Lexington, Mass., is a software company that offers the energy industry a deep data platform that provides detailed analysis regarding how energy is used in buildings.
Using this data, energy providers can better engage with their commercial building customers to uncover new revenue opportunities and deliver services such as energy efficiency, demand management and onsite generation to scale.
FirstFuel has “turned the electric meter into a point-of-sale device, giving them a lot of what they need to serve their customers better,” said Indran “Indy” Ratnathicam, vp of marketing and strategy. Their remote energy auding software requires only electric or gas utility meter data and address.
FirstFuel, which describes itself as a software-as-service (SaaS) company (its platform applies analytics to meter and business data, enabling energy providers to deliver individual insights to all their business customers), currently has more than 20 customers, including Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Efficiency Maine. It also has signed on government agencies, including the General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Department of Defense. It also has expanded significantly overseas with one of Europe’s largest energy suppliers, E.ON.
FirstFuel caters primarily to utility companies—it does not sell directly to individual energy managers or building owners (the exception being the GSA, which is a big agency that owns a portfolio of buildings).
In terms of its pricing, the company doesn’t share details but noted that prices vary based on the customer’s project scope. FirstFuel says it operates like similar SaaS platforms by offering a subscription/per-user type pricing model. Also, it is often white-labeled through utility customers.
The company has seen massive growth in the past two years. It doubled the size of its staff, to 90 employees, and quadrupled its revenue in 2014 over 2013, though the company doesn’t reveal sales figures. (FirstFuel Software CEO FirstFuel Software CEO Swapnil Shah has said that he expects the company to reach profitability in two years.)
FirstFuel also plans to open new offices in San Francisco and London by the end of 2015. All these factors were no doubt key considerations for FirstFuel’s investors, who collectively provided $23 million in Series C funding this past April.
Using FirstFuel, companies have access to very detailed information. “We can know how much energy is going to lights, to plugs, and at what time of day.
“We can tell when you’re heating and cooling. We can tell when lights come on at night. How you’re doing against overall consumption in another similar building. All that info about what is going on is available.
“We tell them about trends on the meter. We help them serve their customers better.”
The electric energy market has undergone massive transformation in the past few years.
The building efficiency, distributed generation, microgrid and storage markets reached almost $250 billion globally in 2014, an increase of more than 70 percent in the past three years alone, according to Navigant Research.
In the commercial sector, where more than 36 percent of all electricity is used, companies are investing heavily to reduce high energy spends, improve resiliency and meet regulatory mandates.
FirstFuel has taken a foremost position among a group of emerging energy efficiency software companies that use analytics software to help companies digest large amounts of energy data and find savings.
Among its competitors are Boston-based Retroficiency and Seattle-based EnergySavvy. FirstFuel differentiates itself by offering a sophisticated software system that can drill deep and offer “individualized analytics for hundreds of thousands of buildings,” Ratnathicam said.
“We provide information at a very detailed level so it can be easily understood by the utility companies’ customers.”
FirstFuel received its last round of funding this past April. Next World Capital led the round, along with a new investor, Electranova Capital. All the company’s prior investors, including Battery Ventures, Rockport Capital, Nth Power and E.ON SE participated as well.
Some $23 million was raised in Series C funding, which the company is using to help it accelerate growth. The round brings FirstFuel’s total funding to $45 million since its founding in 2010 (though its commercial launch didn’t occur until late 2012).
The new round of funding will support the next phase of the company’s aggressive growth strategy by increasing sales and marketing, furthering its European expansion and expanding investment in its platform capabilities.
The latest investment is expected to last the next two years or so, “to a point where we contemplate either an IPO or a large institutional round of funding,” founder and CEO Swap Shah said in one report.