Together with CLP, NationalGrid, Orsted and additional new and existing investors we participated in the Series D for AutoGrid, a rapidly growing Silicon Valley-headquartered company that is set to change the face of distributed energy through its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data. This round of $32million is the largest raise to date in a pure-play software platform focused on applying AI to real-time optimisation and controls of flexible energy resources. The investment will enable innogy to co-innovate very innovative technologies for the decentralising energy system and will allow AutoGrid to accelerate the commercial deployment of its products globally as well as develop additional use cases for our industry. We talk to Florian Kolb, MD at innogy New Ventures, LLC and Matthias Engel, MD of innogy Ventures, about why AutoGrid is such an exciting prospect.
What is the core business of AutoGrid?
AutoGrid is a software company that provides an analytics platform for managing decentralised energy systems via machine learning and AI. The company has more than a dozen customers that use its platform and applications in various energy-related areas such as flex management, demand response, grid management and planning.
What attracted you to the business?
There are three main reasons why AutoGrid is a compelling business for us. First, there’s the technical expertise of the team: Amit Narayan, who is the co-founder and CEO, has extensive experience in energy management systems, having founded the business based on his research at Stanford University. We also believe the company’s technology stack is cutting edge for big data analytics and that this can be used to solve many types of problem, now and in the future. Finally, we already have good relations with many of AutoGrid’s current shareholders, which include leading energy and utility companies from around the world.
How important is cooperation both before and after investment?
As part of the innogy Innovation Hub we take a highly collaborative approach - it’s one of our founding beliefs that the future of energy will be achieved through collaboration, co-creation and the convergence of different technologies and businesses. This investment is based on a comprehensive co-innovation and product development roadmap. We therefore have a close cooperation both with AutoGrid, as well as with other investors.
Can you tell us about the strategic fit between AutoGrid and innogy?
For us, the four core global trends for the future of energy are decentralisation, digitisation, decarbonisation and democratisation. We look to identify, mentor, invest in and actively promote the companies that we believe will build this digitally-enabled, connected and sustainable future. AutoGrid is a perfect fit with this strategy. By combining innovative technology with innogy’s proprietary access and domain expertise, we can create new products, better products and achieve significant operational improvements.
Which part of AutoGrid’s product portfolio do you see as having the greatest market potential and who are their potential clients?
AutoGrid customers are typically utilities and energy aggregators. We see multiple opportunities to co-innovate with AutoGrid, using their talented team and technology to drive ‘Data-driven business models’, particularly in the grid business (e.g. grid management/planning) as well as in portfolio management (e.g. flex management/ demand response). One current priority area is outage prediction for sub stations.
How do you rate AutoGrid's market position compared to its competitors?
The space is really too new to talk reliably about market share. But we do know that AutoGrid is particularly strong in terms of scalability, speed, efficiency and functionality, which is why it has been regularly beating the competition in procurement processes. Altogether, we see that AutoGrid has a very unique position and we believe is leading the field in its key areas of focus.