Nexamp Unit Purchase Helps Retroficiency Inflate its Energy Efficiency Footprint

4/19/12Follow @xconomy

It’s not often that a two-year-old company acquires part of another startup, but it looks like a recent purchase for Boston-based Retroficiency is paying off.

Last November the energy auditing software maker closed $3.3 million in a Series A round led by Point Judith Capital, and in the process acquired the energy efficiency division of the solar technology developer Nexamp (also in the Point Judith portfolio).

Around that time, Retroficiency had evaluated about 25 million square feet of commercial building space, using its Automated Energy Audit software, which hit the market in March 2011. Since the fall, Retroficiency has quadrupled that accomplishment, just announcing Tuesday that it has so far evaluated more than 100 million square feet of building space.

Retroficiency got its start as a research project done by CEO Bennett Fisher during his time at MIT Sloan School of Management. It was officially founded in 2009 and raised about $800,000 in convertible notes the following year, from investors like World Energy and angel investors Jean Hammond and Jill Preotle, whose previous investments include Zipcar.

Prior to the Nexamp purchase, Retroficiency had focused on enabling energy service companies and the like to more intelligently audit commercial spaces. Building managers would supply about a dozen pieces of data on a building—like its lighting and heating, occupancy hours, and square footage—and the Retroficiency software modeled the energy consumption of the building and recommended places for improvement. It pulls data from thousands of other energy audits to better inform the models.

“Using 10 minute of somebody’s time, what are high level questions we can ask them without walking around building poking holes?” Fisher says. “We zero in on information they need very quickly.” The technology can help auditors cut the time it takes to evaluate a building by 80 percent, Fisher says.

Meanwhile, Nexamp, a producer of utility-scale solar power, was incubating technology that would allow buildings to be assessed remotely, using the street address and data on intervals of energy consumption from a utility. That type of software is also being developed and marketed by a local competitor, Lexington, MA-based FirstFuel Software, which has nabbed utilities and government agencies as customers.

Retroficiency has since developed the Nexamp technology into software called the Virtual Energy Assessment, which has enabled it to also go after the utility market. The ability to evaluate a building’s energy consumption and potential for efficiency upgrades remotely works best for utilities, because they can compare a large number of properties and prioritize which ones need to be worked on first.

But buildings ultimately do need a physical, on-site audit, which is why Retroficiency’s original software is still crucial, says Fisher. The technology allows energy service companies to more efficiently navigate specific building characteristics and upgrades. “It’s a sales tool to help them streamline their approach,” he says.

By putting the two products together, Fisher says the company is helping its customers “fine tune which buildings they want to focus in on, and the auditing product is squeezing out all the inefficiencies.”

The pairing of the two technologies has been a boon for Retroficiency, which is also on a hiring spree. The company grew from 10 to 19 employees when it picked up the Nexamp energy efficiency division. It’s looking to add about six more employees, in positions like sales, web developer, and front-end and server-side engineers.

Earlier this month Retroficiency announced its Virtual Energy Assessment software was a finalist for the Utility Technology Challenge, designed to help utilities with their energy efficiency programs. The competition is sponsored by the Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization, TechConnect, Fraunhofer TechBridge, the Department of Energy, and the Kauffman Foundation.

And if you want to hear more from Retroficiency, Fisher will be sitting on a breakout panel at XSITE, the Xconomy Summit on Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, which will be held at Babson College on June 14.

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