Apple’s App Store Economy in Pictures

We’ve seen smartphones for years but it seems that only recently is the software piece of the equation fitting into the puzzle. Useful mobile apps are surely helping drive sales of smartphones, and in turn, more smartphone sales deliver larger captive audiences to mobile app developers. While each major platform has its own store — Nokia’s N900 gained the Ovi store just today — the current granddaddy of them all is Apple’s iTunes (s aapl) ecosystem. I’m not suggesting it’s the best, but it arguably has the most impact on consumers and developers at the moment.

How much impact are we talking about? This awesome info-graphic at GigaOm sums it up quite nicely with numbers ranging from the average application approval time, the average app cost and a breakdown between Apple and developers of the $550 million in monthly revenues. With numbers like these, it’s no wonder everyone is trying to get in on the app economy. And what’s really mind-blowing is that this specific economy didn’t even exist for Apple until July of 2008!

People Power Revs Up Wireless Energy Management With Open Source

logoPeople Power, the latest Silicon Valley venture focused on the home energy management space, will officially launch today, hoping its consumer-friendly product design and open-source home area network platform will make it stand out in an increasingly crowded industry. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup has raised an undisclosed amount in its first venture round from New Cycle Capital and several angel investors to support the commercialization of the company’s product launch. “We think we can build something that is significantly better than what we’ve seen on the market so far,” founder and CEO Gene Wang told us.
The startup isn’t revealing much about the products themselves at this point, saying only that they’ll connect home fixtures and appliances like refrigerators to a “simple-to-install system that automatically cuts power consumption” and transmits data to a web-based portal, according to a release from the company. We saw Wang present his startup at the West Coast Green conference in San Francisco, where we learned that People Power is developing a suite of devices that can easily be connected to the major power hogs in a home and then wirelessly transmit energy use over the company’s open-source platform.
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How to Avoid a Smart Grid Bubble

smartgridbubbleWhile the idea of an investment bubble growing for the smart grid isn’t new, the rhetoric around the question of whether or not we’re in the midst of a smart grid bubble has only risen in recent weeks. At the AlwaysOn Going Green conference in Sausalito, Calif. this week, a panel of tech execs indicated that they had seen a lot of unwise over investment in the smart grid space and Adrian Tuck, CEO of home energy management firm Tendril said, “We’re falling into a classic trap: a bubble.”
Tuck’s industry — home energy management — is certainly one of the areas that has seen over-investment from venture capitalists. In just the past few months, home energy management startups Tendril, AlertMe, Control4 and EcoDog raised multimillion dollar rounds. There’s a low barrier to entry for companies in this space (basically a couple of developers) and for venture capitalists that have a history of investing in web firms, home energy management is something they can easily understand.
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Smart Grid Startup Win: EnergyHub Connects with ConEd

energyhub1The current momentum behind the smart grid industry, which includes billions of dollars from the smart grid stimulus funds, is convincing utilities to partner up with new startups. Here’s the latest: Two year-old startup EnergyHub, which makes a sort of ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) for home energy management, says this morning that it is working on a smart grid trial with Consolidated Edison Company of New York (Con Edison), through which it will provide its energy dashboard, an energy web portal and other tools to a select group of ConEd’s customers.
The startup, which raised a first round from investors .406 Ventures and Physic Ventures in April, has been touting a 50-home pilot with an unnamed “east coast” customer for about a year now, and this pilot with ConEd (which is seperate from that other deal) with involve about 100 homes. (Updated) so we’re glad to see that it’s finally been unveiled. EnergyHub’s tools will be part of a $6 million pilot project which will look at a variety of technology pieces and vendors.
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Smart Grid in a Box Courtesy of Foundation Capital

powergrid3The idea behind vertically integrated companies is that each of its subsidiaries produces a part of the value-chain that, when connected together, delivers a stronger force. Think of steel barons owning mines, mills and railways, or American Apparel controlling production, distribution and marketing. For the smart grid, there’s a certain venture firm that’s got investments in enough pieces of the grid that, while the startups aren’t technically vertically integrated, it means the venture firm’s got enough players to cover the entire length of the smart grid network, which can be mighty attractive in a utility deal.
The venture firm is Foundation Capital, and an announcement this morning from Foundation-backed Control4, a home automation firm, illustrates how a vertical integration approach to smart grid plays is paying off for the investors. Control4 will supply its home energy management products for Texas utility Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s smart grid project, according to the release this morning. Control4’s technology will connect with software by eMeter to supply smart meter data management, and it will also connect with Silver Spring Networks smart grid networking component.
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What the Smart Grid Stimulus Funds Will Do For Startups

powergrid2Scan our list of the companies lining up to get a piece of the roughly $4 billion in stimulus funds for the smart grid and here’s what you’ll find: utilities far and away dominate the queue. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that a growing number of startups are finding a stake in the smart grid stimulus funds, either by joining up with various consortia to jointly apply for the grants, or by working on projects with utilities that are contingent on the stimulus funds. For startups that played their cards right, the boost could enable young firms or companies with new technology to leapfrog the competition.
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How Utilities Can Avoid “Driving Off a Cliff” With Home Energy Tools

energyawareimageThis week, once again, we heard even more noise from both startups and large firms looking to grab a piece of the smart energy home space. On Wednesday dueling announcements emerged from energy management startup Tendril and conglomerate General Electric (s GE) about a smart appliance partnership, as did a strong showing from home automation startup Control4, which has raised money to connect with utilities and smart meters. But a post from Jesse Berst on SmartGridNews cuts through the press releases and sums up the dilemma of this market quite nicely:

As I’m watching utilities make their first forays into the space, I see most of them driving full speed straight over a cliff. They are piloting HANs [home area networks] and in-home displays (IHDs) that are the worst of both worlds. They have neither the power necessary for utilities nor the sex-appeal demanded by consumers.

The problem is this: Consumers have conflicting demands when it comes to home energy management. In one group are consumers that are actively engaged with their energy management and will want interesting tools — a sleek gadget, a rich interface — in order to take a proactive position in changing their energy consumption behavior. That’s who German utility Yello Strom and Texas energy retailer TXU Energy are counting on to buy their new, fancy energy management tools.
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Control4 Raises $17M to Connect With Smart Meters

control4thermostatHome automation company Control4 is already predicting annual revenue of around $70 million from its wireless home entertainment, security and lighting management products. Now the company has set its sights on one of the buzziest areas in cleantech: smart meters. On Wednesday morning, Control4 will announce that it has raised $17.3 million from new and existing investors, largely to launch a division to connect its wireless home products with smart meters, smart grid services and utilities.

While the 4-year-old company has been selling its wireless home products through resellers and home integrators, now it will start selling its energy management products through utilities, too. It’s a good time to get into the smart meter biz. Many utilities are starting to do deals with energy management software and hardware companies looking to both test and partner with consumer-facing energy management tool makers (examples of 10 energy management options here).
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