The Download: For Arlington-based Opower, 2013 was a year of great growth

December 22, 2013

By many metrics, 2013 was a year of significant growth for energy software company Opower.

Ninety utility providers now use the Arlington-based firm’s software, which goads their customers to reduce energy consumption. That’s up from 75 at the end of last year.

As a result, roughly 20 million people use Opower’s software, double the number of users at the end of last year.

Those users hail from eight countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and one that has not yet been named.

The company now employs 460 people in five offices worldwide, up from a head count of 303 in December of last year. Half are based in Virginia.

But what about revenue? Ogi Kavazovic, vice president of strategy and marketing, declined to discuss the private firm’s finances, or whether plans for an initial public offering or acquisition are in the works.

He did say, however, that Opower isn’t seeking more venture capital than the $65 million it has raised to date. Instead, the firm’s revenue will fuel its growth plans, which include new offices, new hires and new products.

The firm could grow to 700 or 800 employees next year, Kavazovic said, many of them based in Europe and Asia. Opower also has its eye on the Latin American market, though there aren’t concrete plans to expand there just yet, he said.

Most new utility providers seek out Opower’s software through word-of-mouth referrals, Kavazovic said, because utility companies often keep tabs on how other providers are innovating.

“The utility industry is one of the largest industries in the world and yet it’s also a community because a relatively small number of utilities span the globe,” he said.

Leading the angels

NextGen Angels plans to hire its first executive director in early 2014, according to founder Dan Mindus.

The seed-stage investment group, which is comprised of wealthy entrepreneurs age 40 and younger, has been on an investment spree since it launched earlier this year. But now the organization is ready to become a more visible part of the region’s entrepreneurial community.

“We want to increase our activity and reach,” Mindus said via e-mail. “Among other things, we’d like to do some public events in the D.C. area.”

The ideal executive director will be “exceptional at managing a large group of type-A personalities,” “thrive when working in an unstructured environment with minimal oversight” and be “willing to have compensation closely tied to your success at revenue-generating activities,” according to the group’s Web site.

“We list nine criteria on our hiring page,” Mindus said, “but one essential is that they have to be entrepreneurial.”

NextGen Angels has made seven investments this year, most recently cutting checks for Uknow.com, a firm that helps parents to protect kids online, as well as an undisclosed big data company, Mindus said. The group has also invested in local upstarts Speek, Social Radar, Apx Labs, Spinnakr and Dashboard this year.

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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