A familiar tale in cleantech: Serious Energy selling off its assets

The sobering story of once-promising cleantech startups selling off their assets at a discount continues, and the latest is in the green building and energy management space. Over the past few months, Serious Energy has been in the process of selling off many of its various assets, from software to manufacturing facilities.
We’ve learned that Trane, a subsidiary of industrial conglomerate Ingersoll Rand that sells heating and air conditioning, quietly acquired the energy software, team and customers from Serious Energy several months ago.
Serious EnergySerious Energy launched its energy management software Serious Energy Manager back in 2010, and the software-as-a-service enables building owners to manage and reduce building energy consumption. Before that, Serious Energy was known as Serious Materials, and it had been focused on green building materials, selling eco-drywall and energy-efficient windows and doors.
But now Trane owns Serious Energy Manager. On the Serious Energy website, if you click through the Serious Energy Manager log-in on the upper right corner, you’re taken to a Trane Energy Manager log-in. On LinkedIn, former Serious Energy Manager executives Sandy Sherwin and Peter Sharer now list as being employed by Ingersoll Rand, Trane.
Sherwin describes one of her jobs under her new position at Trane as “Responsible for integration of Trane Energy Manager (Serious Energy Manager) SaaS into existing Trane tools and systems.” Both Sherwin and Sharer were formerly part of startup Agilewaves, which Serious Energy itself acquired in late 2011.
We’re waiting to hear back from Ingersoll Rand, Trane on more details, like the price, but we’re speculating that it’s relatively low.
Serious Energy has been in the process of selling off its other assets, too. And has been doing that more publicly.
Empire State BuildingEarlier this month, Serious Energy announced that it had sold off its eco-drywall business QuietRock to PABCO Building Products, which says it will continue to make the drywall at a factory in Newark, Calif. Back in March, Serious Energy announced that it had sold off its vinyl window and door-making plant in Pennsylvania to private investors, which include employees.
Serious Energy also sold its architectural glass and fiberglass window business in Colorado in late 2012. Last I heard of the famous Chicago plant (which Serious Energy once saved from closure and Joe Biden once visited), the workers had created a cooperative and were trying to buy it back after it stopped making windows. But I’m not sure if Serious Energy has sold it to the workers or are planning to liquidate it.
It’s not hard to connect the dots: the company is selling off the bulk of its assets. It’s unclear if the company will completely shut down or not. Over the past year Serious Energy has been shedding talent and has talked about refocusing on building materials rather than its energy software. But it has now sold some of its main materials factories, too.
Serious Energy raised more than $140 million from investors including Mesirow Financial, New Enterprise Associates, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Foundation Capital, Rustic Capital, EnerTech Capital, Navitas Capital, Cheyenne Partners, Saints Capital, VenturePoint Partners and Staenberg Ventures.
We’ve heard that at one point the company had $50 million in revenue from its materials and software sales. But access to capital for cleantech companies has hit a wall over the past few years and many limited partners, which put money into venture firms, have actively sought to avoid having their funds in cleantech investing.
Other capital-intensive cleantech companies have suffered similar fates. Nanosolar is finishing up the auction of its assets today; Solyndra likewise held an asset sale; Better Place went bankrupt and was purchased for $12 million by a group of entrepreneurs. The list of these once promising cleantech companies is long and the losses are large.