Just a few months ago, Gary Bloom, CEO of smart grid startup eMeter talked to me about how he planned to push the VC-backed company ahead of its competitors by sticking with its software niche and partnering with big players like Siemens, IBM and Verizon. Now one of those partners -- German power and engineering giant Siemens -- is buying eMeter.
Siemens will acquire eMeter and integrate its meter data software into the Siemens smart grid product line, both companies announced in a joint release today. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. eMeter develops software that helps utilities collect data from the grid. The software stands out because it can be easily integrated into a utility's existing technology regardless of whether it has a modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) system -- like those developed by Oracle and SAP -- or an old 1960s mainframe system. The software integrates with all utility meters -- smart or otherwise -- as well.
Utilities can use that information to change how they deliver and manage power to reduce costs and emissions without impacting reliability. Utilities can then give customers that information to help them alter the way they use electricity.
eMeter will be part of the smart grid division of the Siemens Infrastructure & Cities Sector, which is housed within the parent company's U.S. subsidiary Siemens Industry. eMeter employees will be integrated into Siemen's business structure, according to the release.
Bloom, the former CEO of Veritas and president of Symantec, told me back in August he wanted to focus on "building a successful company and continue with its expansion." He didn't want to spend too much time speculating about eMeter's long term future only to say it was a little premature to look at the public markets and about an IPO.
The San Mateo, Calfironia-based company's biggest challenge was similar to other small players in the sector, Bloom told me. And that was having staying power (aka capital) because successfully selling to and servicing a utility takes a long time. Bloom said the company was able to maneuver around this obstacle by partnering with big players like Siemens that already work with utilities.
Bloom also understood that eMeter was an asset larger players wanted and would likely pursue.
"My guess is that we eventually land in the hands of a very large strategic player and the reason being there are very few assets in this market and there's a lot of strategics that will need something to manage information within the smart grid," Bloom told me during a phone interview in August. "And we're that unique asset that is very standalone and independent with success in the market."
"Very often, I have the large strategic (companies) and the standard line I hear is ‘It's my intent to eventually own you.' I hear that frequently and generally what I say is, ‘If that's something you'd like to discuss, you know where to find me.' In the meantime, I'm focused on building a really good business."
The acquisition put Siemens on a competitive collision course with software giant Oracle, which has recently ramped up its presence in the space. Bloom, who worked at Oracle for 14 years, said at the time he didn't underestimate them as a competitor. Still, he noted eMeter had live operations running with its software at scale, while Oracle had a "very large sales organization and Power Point [deck]."
Photo: Flickr user Ian Muttoo, CC 2.0