BrightBox Gets Acquired! What Does This Means for Energy Startups?

Acquisition details:

  • BrightBox Technologies, an energy software company, announced they were acquired by NEXTracker.
  • NEXTracker was purchased last year by OEM giant Flextronics in a $330 million deal.
  • NEXTracker builds, manufactures, and designs single axis trackers for solar power plants and plans to integrate BrightBox’s predictive modeling software into their current software stack for predictive control and performance optimization.
  • BrightBox founders, Allan Daly, Francesco Borrelli, and Rob Koch, will join the NEXTracker team.
  • Details on the acquisition can be found in Fortune (by our good friend Katie Fehrenbacher).
BrightBox CEO, Rob Koch, announcing their acquisition by an unnamed company at Energy Excelerator Interactive in April 2016.

What does this mean for energy startups?

This acquisition highlights four interesting trends we’ve been tracking through our work with 42 portfolio companies at Energy Excelerator:

1) Large corporations, no matter how sophisticated, continue to seek innovation through acquisition.

2) All hardware needs a brain — nearly 100% of the hardware startups that entered our pipeline in the last 12 months also featured a software brain.

3) Software’s power can lie just as much in its flexibility as in its accuracy. While BrightBox originally built its technology for automated commissioning, performance optimization, and M&V for HVAC in buildings, they are now able to apply these same tools to the commercial PV market.

4) Finally, people make or break an idea. One of our core investment theses at Energy Excelerator is that the success of a company rests on the strength, creativity and resiliency of the founding team. Along with the technology, NEXTracker will acquire the BrightBox team.

What does this mean for Energy Excelerator?

It’s an understatement to say our team was excited to see one of our companies succeed! And it couldn’t have happened to a better team.

Our portfolio companies donate 1–6% equity to our nonprofit once they are selected as an Energy Excelerator company. Why?

1) To align our team with our companies’ teams. We have 12 full-time people working to help our companies succeed.

2) To support future entrepreneurs. Exits provide a funding stream for our program, and through that funding we can help future entrepreneurs.

So how did this play out with BrightBox? Through this acquisition, we received a check for an undisclosed amount. The money is going toward running the piece of our program that makes us different from a typical grant-funding organization, where we connect entrepreneurs to customers, investors, and each other to accelerate the pace of innovation. More on the acquisition of BrightBox can be found in NEXTracker’s press release.

With this acquisition, we bring our count of acquired companies to three:

  • Ridescout was acquired by Daimler, and later rebranded to Moovel.
  • Spider9’s assets were acquired by energy storage company, Pathion.

Who will be Energy Excelerator’s next exit?