Opower’s IPO and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

April 5, 2014
Opower’s IPO shows us that Mr. Rogers was right. Neighbors are really important. We want to measure up to those who live near us. That’s one of the five universal truths about energy consumers that Opower parlayed to reach an extensive customer base and move from being Opower to OPWR.

Opower’s founders Dan Yates and Alex Laskey announced the start of the company’s IPO today in a blog that took a walk down memory lane.

The founders showed how far the company has come  by resurrecting a back-of-an-envelope doodle from its infancy in 2006. Yates and Laskey had sketched what look like coal trains, bar charts and dollar signs while brainstorming how to make energy more real to people.

This was when behavioral efficiency was still a “Huh?” idea. I looked hard at the sketch for Mr. Rogers. But he wasn’t there, so perhaps they hadn’t yet hit on what would become one of Opower’s hallmark ideas: that neighbors are a big deal.

We want to measure up to our neighbors – that’s one of the five universal truths about energy consumers eventually defined by Opower. With this premise in mind, Opower started programs for utilities that allowed consumers to look at how well they manage energy compared with their (anonymous) neighbors.

It’s not such a new idea really – merchandisers figured out years ago that we are driven to keep up with the Jones. What’s different here, of course, is that Opower is trying to get us to buy less of something, not more.

The Virginia-based company has parlayed the idea into partnerships with 93 utilities, collected energy data from more than 52 million households and businesses, and helped save over 1,900 GWh in 2013 —  Opower calculates that this is how much power Miami uses in a year.

And now Opower is OPWR on the New York Stock Exchange. The company priced its IPO at the high end of $19 for 6.1 million shares to raise $116 million. Trading opened Friday at $25 per share and closed at $23.  Morgan Stanley and Goldman, Sachs & Co. are acting as lead book-running managers for the offering.

We’ll be hearing a lot about the meaning of this IPO – it’s being watched with great interest in the energy efficiency industry. For starters, take a look at the blog posted in our Industry Perspectives by Adrian Tuck, CEO of Tendril, another successful company in the space. Tuck offers a vision for the industry post-Opower IPO.

And if you’re planning to attend the Alliance to Save Energy’s EE Global 2014 forum, stop by an executive dialogue that I will be moderating on behavioral energy efficiency. It’s in Washington, DC on May 20. We’re looking forward to a lively discussion.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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