GE, Autodesk join $14 million bet on smart building boom

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GE, Autodesk join $14 million bet on smart building boom

The smart building technology boom has attracted a new eight-figure investment from Autodesk, GE and Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

Large companies and venture capital investors are both seeing the wisdom in smart building technology.

As of this week, you can add cloud software company Lucid to the list of energy-efficiency startups — particularly those that monitor building power consumption for lighting and climate-control systems — attracting substantial cash infusions this year.

Among those contributing to the $14.2 million Series B round disclosed by Lucid this week: GE Ventures, Autodesk, Formation 8 and Zetta Venture Partners. 
 

Lucid plans to use the new funds for enhancements to BuildingOS, a cloud service that analyzes data from more than 160 hardware and software building technologies.

“Lucid’s technology is rapidly connecting many disparate building systems together, making the vision of truly connected buildings and real-time management possible,” said Ben Sampson, an associate with GE Ventures.

Its reference accounts include Genentech, along with more than a half-dozen educational institutions such as Cornell University and Stanford University.

Lucid joins a respectable list of companies attracting private capital this year, as businesses and organizations become more comfortable with gathering data from the Internet of Things.

Research firm Mercom Capital Group reports that startups focused on smart grid and energy efficiency raised more than $325 million in the first quarter.

Two deals last quarter that explicitly focused on building management or analytics: Blue Pillar, which scored a $14 million deal after more than 250 deployments; and Enbala Power Networks, which raised $11 million.

All told, the last year has been incredibly active in the sector, reaching $944 million in 2014. Those investments covered more than 111 deals at a time when the broader field of cleantech has suffered a decline in available capital, according to a separate report from Lux Research.

“While cleantech is declining from its peak of 291 deals in 2008, building energy deals have risen steadily since then, growing by 208 percent over the same period,” Lux wrote in its presentation about funding trends.

One of the more notable deals over the past two years was Distech Controls, which raised about $37 million in May 2013.

Lux analyst Alex Herceg said investors generally favor later-state deals, putting their money into organizations with demonstrated customer installations. “There’s almost more money than good deals right now,” he said.

Why so active?

The spike in funding reflects the rather bullish revenue projects for building energy management technologies over the next decade. Depending on how broadly you view the market, projections vary dramatically.

If you focus just on building energy management, revenue is likely to reach around $2.4 billion this year, growing almost fivefold to $10.8 billion by 2024, according to the forecast from Navigant Research.

Players in the space include not only a slew of startups, but also multinational companies such as Siemans and Intel.

“Building energy management systems (BEMS) represent an important evolutionary step in the approach to facilities and operations management,” said Casey Talon, senior analyst, commenting on that projection. “As the market matures, more integrated and sophisticated BEMS solutions are delivering energy efficiency improvements while also enabling comprehensive business intelligence and strategic management.”

Indeed, if you consider smart buildings from a more holistic perspective, the growth potential is much larger — up to $17.4 billion by 2019, compared with $6.3 billion last year, according to IDC Energy Insights. In North America, spending is being driven by large corporate operational efficiency initiatives.