British Cleantech Start-Up Raises 9.1 Million Euros

AlertMe, a Cambridge, England -based company that helps consumers understand their electricity consumption and reduce it through a device and software, has raised 8 million pounds (€9.1 million) in venture capital in a B round. The June 10 announcement comes just one week before AlertMe, which was co-founded by two serial entrepeneurs, is scheduled to present at a CleanTech Summit in Switzerland organized by the European Tech Tour Association.

 

AlertMe’s technology is targeted towards home energy usage, which accounts for more than one quarter of total energy consumption across Europe and the U.S.. Finding ways to cut that usage is one of the fastest and lowest cost ways to close the large gap between demand and what renewables supply, according to the company. It claims it can save consumers up to 25% of their residential energy costs, year-upon-year. It works like this: Purchased through a utility company or a retailer, such as a phone company, AlertMe’s  energy kit is connected to the Internet via the home’s broadband connection, providing an online service that is easy to use from home, office or even on a trip. It constantly measures and controls individual applicances within the home as well as measuring and managing the home’s overall energy usage. The home-owner can then view this infomation and change settings. The intelligent monitoring systems and text or email suggestion service means that even if a user is away from their home they are able to adjust heating controls, turn off switches and plan usage for non-peak times. AlertMe provides regular updates of current energy usage with historical comparisons. As domestic energy consumption and demand is reduced in the home, consumers benefit by immediately saving money on their utility bills.

AlertMe claims it pays for itself in about one year and saves approximately one ton of C02 per home per year.  Phone companies around Europe are already trialing the technology, he said. The series B round will help the company to extend its product development program and expand geographically. Investors in the Series B round include Index Ventures,  Good Energies, SET Venture Partners and VantagePoint Venture Partners.

Beart, AlertMe’s CEO and a co-founder, (pictured on Informilo’s home page) is a computer engineer with 20 years experience working for high tech companies. After six years working in Silicon Valley in the 1990s for computer maker Atari and Chromatic Research (now AMD), Pilgrim moved back to England in 1999, settling in Cambridge. He founded two companies in Cambridge: activeRF, an early implementor of asset-location systems, using a variety of short range radio frequency technologies and Antenova, a manufactur of antenna technology that provides WiFI and Bluetooth connectivity to laptops and mobile devices such as the Blackberry. Most recently he was vice president of research & development at Splashpower, where he was responsible for the company’s core technology.

Adrian Critchlow, the company’s other co-founder, is also a serial entrepreneur. He founded ActiveHotels.com, a European on-line reservation system which sold in 2003 for £90 million pounds, delivering a 16 fold return to investors and Iota Software, which developed and marketed software used in over 5,000 schools across Britian. Most recently Critscholow founded Sawston Hall, a luxury eco-hotel outside Cambridge which is being converted into a carbon neutral hotel.

The two met through a group called the Full Moon Club, a Britsh association for successful entrepreneurs, says Beart.  They hit it off and arranged to have lunch together to discuss what to do next.”We have a particular passion for seeing just how good you can make the consumer experience”, says Beart, “and with Adrian’s experience in Web services and my background in wireless technologies we thought we could solve a big gap in the market by focusing on on-line products for the home.”

Home networks are still pretty primitive, says Beart. But with broadband networks now at 60% penetration and mobile penetration at 100% in some countries what was expensive to do ten years ago is relatively cheap and easy now.

The two serial entrepreneurs seeded the venture themselves, then set out to raise £1 million in local angel money. They got lucky two years ago because one of the angels brought in U.S. investors who offered to invest £5 million. The investment allowed AlertMe to quickly build a team and the technology platform.

The company has so far shipped 15,000 units and is “rolling out in Europe with a number of telcos,” says Beart. He declined to name them, citing confidentiality agreements.

Beart says he believes AlertMe will be boosted by a perfect storm: governments, big utilities and consumers are all looking for ways to drive down energy consumption. Utilities are looking to move from energy revenues into services revenues and AlertMe gives them a way to do that. Such services are also on the top of the agenda for phone companies in Europe who want to offer users new services, he says.

In order to network devices in the home AlertMe will need to partner with a variety of companies, including controls manufacturers. The company said it will be on the look-out for potential partners at the Clean Tech Summit in Switzerland June 17-19, which will bring.Europe’s most innovative cleantech start-ups together with leading venture capitalists and senior industry professionals.   Twenty-five companies will present to an international delegation of more than 140 influential investors, technology industry leaders, service providers and academics, offering participants the opportunity to network, develop partnerships and potentially generate financing. 

Given the current market dynamics and government policy and investment priorities, cleantech is one of the key growth areas for Europe’s technology industry. “Both the U.S. and Europe will play a big role in cleantech but in many ways Europe has a head start because some of the infrastructure is more advanced and some of the countries are smaller and more agile because of it,” says Neil Rimer, a co-founder and partner at Index Ventures.  AlertMe represents Index Ventures’ third clean tech investment. “We have high expectations for this company,” he says.

 

 

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