Opower, an Energy Efficient Software Company, is PMI’s Newest Tenant at Harrison Property in San Francisco

Our newest tenant on the second floor of 642 Harrison in San Francisco has a goal to make the world more energy-efficient.  It’s a pretty lofty goal for a company only founded in 2007.  Opower is a software as a service company that partners with utility companies to promote energy efficiency.  According to their website, Opower is a new customer engagement platform for the utility industry.  It reinvented the way utilities interact with customers—from the quality of the information provided to the way it’s presented and delivered.  It helps people use energy more efficiently and ultimately save money on their energy bills.  And it vastly improves the overall customer experience by making energy use personally relevant.  For example, when monthly invoices arrive at a customer’s home, they can see the average utility bill cost in their neighborhood, along with suggestions on how to reduce their energy consumption.  If they are well over the average compared to other homes in the area, they then have Opower’s suggestions right at their fingertips to help alleviate some of their energy costs.

Opower decided to PMI Properties’ 642 Harrison would be a great candidate for their next office because of its size and prime location.  Opower’s decision to choose Harrison in the competitive SoMa market was featured in this article as well: Big Race for Space in SoMa, Wall Street Journal, January 26 2012.

They also have established an online presence with social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as having their own, “Hey, it’s OPOWER!” blog.  Their website has many interesting and innovative ways to share information about their vision and what the company has accomplished.  There is an “OMeter” page that keeps a running tab on how many kilowatt-hours Opower has saved, and lists some interesting facts on what could be done with all that energy.  Opower also finds ways to engage and entertain their employees.  Their website lists activities such as a quarterly company outing, innovation day, soccer and ping-pong teams, and the ability to bring your dog to work.

Photo courtesy of Opower's website.

Opower was founded in 2007 by long-time friends Dan Yates and Alex Laskey.  When they started their company, lots of people were excited about cleaner energy production using renewable energy sources, like the sun and wind.  Dan and Alex knew that these sources wouldn’t be tapped in the short-term, even though they are important.  Their answer to reducing carbon emissions right now was curbing wasteful use of the types of energy produced today.  By utilizing the 1.4 billion utility bills that are mailed to customers each year, they would be able to send energy-saving ideas to hundreds of millions of households.  After creating a prototype, they went to two of America’s major energy markets, California and Texas.  The amount of interest they received from utilities, state legislators, and environmental groups soon led to first round venture capital funding from MHS Capital.

Photo courtesy of Opower's website.

They have garnered support from other green centered companies, as well as President Barack Obama. He visited their headquarters in Arlington, Virginia in 2010 and praised their work ethic and success during the hard economic times in addition to their ability to provide clean energy jobs.  They have been featured in articles from The Wall Street Journal, Techcruch, CNN, and Green Tech Media, to name a few.

You can visit Opower’s website at http://www.opower.com. You can read their blog at www.heyitsopower.com and follow them on Twitter @Opower and Facebook: www.facebook.com/heyitsopower

Corporations Aim to Merge Creative Space with Newest Startup Acquisitions

PMI has edgy creative buildings with a lot of startups as tenants.  These startups are attracted to PMI’s creative spaces in smaller buildings.  We emphasize great architecture and build communities for the tenants to interact with each other.  Many of our tenants over the years have been acquired as a method of their exit:  Applied Semantics, AZ Razorfish, Guardian Edge, Apture, Playdom, Techcrunch, and Doubleclick to name a few.

Once these firms are acquired, the corporations want the firm to integrate into the ‘mothership’.  They will either wait for the new acquisition’s lease to expire, try to sublease the space, or offer a buyout option.  These large corporations have facility managers who also demand a different set of services.  They want a state of the art security service and will sacrifice the edgy aesthetics to achieve it.  Sometimes the acquired company fights for their independence within the corporate structure.  These companies want to keep an identity and culture separate from the acquirer.  Zappos is a classic case of such a company.  They stayed true to their culture when they were acquired by Amazon.  In fact, Amazon actually strongly encouraged Zappos to stay true to their roots– it was part of what made them so unique and special in today’s Internet marketplace.

Another example is that in PMI’s buildings, Techcrunch renewed their lease versus moving into an AOL facility.  Keeping their old digs was one way for Techcrunch to retain their independence from AOL and maintain a separate culture at the same time.

Overall, corporations keep their goal of wanting to move the new startup acquisition to a space that falls more in line with the main, home office of the corporation.  This occurs at the same time as having the startup stay true to their founding identity and what made them so attractive to acquire in the first place.  A balance between the two needs to be maintained and sometimes it is a fine line to reach.