Vivint plans for a sunny year ahead

Vivint plans for a sunny year ahead

Todd Pedersen, the CEO and founder of Provo, Utah-based home automation company Vivint, prides himself on his company's competitive culture.

"We're a competitive group, too competitive," said Pedersen, 44, who is prone to wearing bright, wide-rimmed baseball hats emblazoned with his company's name. "But if you don't have that mentality, you won't fit in very well at Vivint."

Vivint is going to need this competitive spirit for what the company is planning in the upcoming year: Becoming a dominant player in the field of solar installation  as well as opening up business in New Zealand in a few weeks and Australia shortly after.

His company, which was recently listed as 46 on Forbes' list of "Most Promising Companies" for 2013, is in a unique position to take on big U.S. solar installers, such as SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity. As a company that first started out as a security company and then moved into home automation and energy management systems, Vivint can hook its solar system in with its automation system already installed.

"When we can bring to bear other services that integrate with solar  lighting control, thermostat, analytics around energy usage  that to me doesn't just like a solid product, that is a more solid product," said Pedersen.

In a system like Vivint's, customers control everything about their homes  lights, thermostat, solar activity, security — from a smartphone or a central control panel in their homes.

Vivint launched its solar program in January 2012. Currently, it has 4,500 solar systems installed and another 3,000 on the way. With 30 to 40 new solar systems installed every day, Pedersen plans to see 10,000 or more systems installed by the end of 2013. Pedersen is also planning an aggressive hiring plan with 600 new hires this year for mostly sales and installation in solar — though in another interview he stated that the number of hires would be 400.

"We have a five-to-six-year lag in our start to be a SolarCity, but we believe with our sales and installation machine, we think we'll track them down," he said.

Vivint's already got 700,000 total customers using one form of its system. Last year 58 percent of its new customers included the home automation system. Now the company needs to convince more of its existing and future customer base to adopt solar.

Even more radical than the future of home automation, Vivint is in the process of developing a zero emission home that includes all of its solar and home automation features and can be rolled out in partnership with homebuilders. Pedersen said it plans to have its first showcase home finished in three to four months.

While the company has so far focused on automation systems for the home, Pedersen is looking at how he can bring the automation technology to small businesses  most automation systems for commercial buildings have taken off in large buildings, not with small businesses.

"Why not have it be available for somebody who owns seven Subway franchises, so he can know what's going on inside and when?" said Pedersen.

Including in this move to the commercial sector, Vivint will be releasing a new panel suitable for a business owner's needs.

Vivint is also looking at how to integrate its energy management systems with utilities. Pedersen thinks its system could help utilities better manage power loads and smooth out demand constraints, especially during the summer months when air conditioners are on at full blast.

"No one's really done this yet, but we really think we have the ability to do it," said Pedersen about the potential partnership with utilities. "We've got the customer concentration."

A lot of Vivint's recent lofty plans for its future has been helped along with private equity firm Blackstone Group's $2 billion acquisition of the company last fall.

So far, the private equity partnership has worked well for this highly competitive company. As the company primes for big growth in the next three to five years, Blackstone has given them the freedom and support it needs, said Pedersen.

"I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to bring the best returns they've ever seen to an investment of this size," said Pedersen.

But that's OK because, "When I'm not stressed, I'm super stressed," Pedersen said.

Photo of Todd Pedersen provided by Vivint.