San Diego’s Solekai Moves to Catch Wave of Smart Grid Software Development

6/4/10Follow @bvbigelow

Solekai Systems was founded in 2002, and quickly became one of San Diego’s fastest-growing privately held companies. By specializing in digital video software development and engineering services (set-top boxes and related hardware) for customers like Sony Electronics, TiVo, Pioneer, and DirectTV, Solekai’s revenue soared by 1,536 percent from 2003 to 2006—to $18.2 million.

That was enough to land Solekai on Inc. magazine’s 2007 list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies, but Solekai founder and president Martin Caniff has become more circumspect since then. Nowadays Solekai executives say the company’s revenue falls somewhere between $20 million and $100 million a year. Today digital video development still accounts for roughly 70 percent of Solekai’s work, and vice president of engineering Tim McConnell says the company’s software is running in more than 50 million devices. But Caniff and longtime friend Marco Thompson, who joined Solekai as CTO in February, tell me they are now targeting a huge new opportunity for exponential growth that’s ideally suited for the company’s 75 employees.

It’s called the smart grid.

Martin Caniff (left) and Marco Thompson

Martin Caniff (left) and Marco Thompson

To Thompson, who helped start and run CommNexus, the San Diego telecom industry trade group, and who also co-founded Express Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm, the smart grid is “like a new hunting territory for a new San Diego sub-industry.”

Most people don’t understand what the smart grid is, and the definitions tend to get bogged down with IT buzzwords and acronyms. Still, it represents a transformation nearly as fundamental as rural electrification was 70 years ago. (We have organized a panel to explain just how fundamental the changes will be at the Xconomy Forum: The Rise of Smart Energy that is set for Tuesday June 8 at UC San Diego.) The smart grid basically calls for overhauling the existing power grid in ways that … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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