SERIOUS CONTROLS - Smart Commercial Building Controls

Grid-Integrated building automation company, looking to raise $1M for growth.

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Serious Controls is a building automation company committed to tackling the unique challenge of fully integrated energy management. Serious deploys world class building controls to the small commercial space - a largely untapped controls market accounting for more than 90% of commercial buildings in the United States. 

Serious’ enterprise level, integrated building automation technology is uniquely designed for small commercial clients. Leveraging IoT standards and technologies, and leaning on the founding team’s strong energy and controls expertise, Serious will quickly win market share by delivering a superior controls product to electricity end-users. Further, the company and its products are positioned to leverage end users’ newly flexible energy loads in the electricity marketplace, unlocking significant additional value streams and a number of new potential partnerships and distribution opportunities.

With the vast majority of initial research, design, and development complete, the company is installing initial customer pilots and preparing for growth. Serious is seeking $1 million in seed funding to scale hardware production, build its core sales and operations teams, and establish itself as a major player in the controls and energy space.

Market Opportunity/Problem Statement

“Little research has been done on technologies and strategies that optimize the interplay of energy efficiency and demand response, much less fully explore an optimized approach to demand flexibility.”     DoE Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings report, August 2020

The advent of renewable energy technology has revolutionized how the electricity grid operates. While the grid of the past was dominated by large-scale, centralized, and inflexible generation, the modern electric grid is increasingly beholden to smaller, distributed, and intermittent resources, like solar and wind. This evolution presents immense challenges and opportunities. As storage technology costs decrease, batteries will be rapidly deployed to help “balance” this intermittency. Renewable technologies are increasingly adept at communicating with one another to optimize power production in tandem and create “Virtual Power Plants” composed of hundreds or thousands of distributed generation resources. These supply side trends are multi-billion dollar disruptions to incumbent utility and electricity business models, and they are well underway.

On the contrary, demand side technologies and strategy have evolved at a slower pace. To some extent, the electricity supply and demand sides are independent of one another, separated by market constructs, technological barriers, and incumbent business models. Most behind-the-meter generation assets operate independently of the buildings they are installed at, unaware of how they interact with the energy consuming assets at their sites.

Compounding these issues, traditional building automation systems are cost prohibitive to all but the largest commercial clients, and even those systems are closed and inaccessible to the outside world. Serious will quickly find a foothold in the small commercial controls space, delivering a superior product and significant value to end-users through energy savings and operational transparency.

While progress has been made in passive reductions to energy usage - i.e. energy efficiency projects, like lighting retrofits - active strategies, such as demand response, lag behind, due in part to controls industry incumbents’ unwillingness or inability to participate. Enabling this participation is Serious’ true transformative opportunity. By building a growing footprint of flexible, controllable demand-side assets, and integrating those assets to on-site generation, to suppliers, to utilities, and to wholesale electric markets, Serious will help bring the demand side to the forefront of the 21st century electric grid.

Company Overview and Facts

Mark Lane (founder) is a demand response pioneer and 35-year controls and building automation industry veteran, holds patents in demand response, energy controls, and refrigerated case design. He has previously held senior level positions at THG Energy Solutions (EVP & Partner), RTP Controls (President & CEO), Micro Thermo, a Division of United Technologies (Division President), and Emerson (Director). Mark invented and designed the Serious system (hardware and software).

Quick Facts

  • Current Staff: Three full time outsourced, two part time outsourced software developers; one full-time in-house support technician. Two commercially focused team members will join contingent on securing funding.
  • Company locations: Headquarters and technical services in Woodstock, GA with commercially focused members in Texas and California.
  • Funding history and current ownership: Funding requirements to date have been fully met by Mark Lane; the company is wholly owned by Lane. 

Market Analysis

Serious’ primary focus is the small commercial market, a large and almost untapped controls market representing 93% (5.2 million) of the total commercial facilities in the United States. Commercial building controls market participants can be grouped into two major categories:

  • Large Incumbents like Johnson Controls, Siemens, and Honeywell (along with their subsidiaries) target facilities greater than 50,000 square with system costs of greater than $50,000. While their brand recognition and reach is significant, these companies have been historically unable to move downstream to the small commercial market.

  • Small Commercial competitors like Pelican Thermostats, Verdant, Ecobee, and others, are smaller, regionalized and do not adequately serve small commercial sites.. Many of these companies have established footholds in markets Serious will enter (such as CA), but their products are often borne out of specific market incentives and thus do not “travel well” to customer classes or markets where those incentives are unavailable.

Another reason for Serious’ focus on the small commercial sector is its importance to electricity intermediaries and renewables companies. Utilities and distribution providers will continue to seek the optimal mix of demand side resources as grid constraints extend from the transmission, to the distribution, to the substation level, further highlighting the need to include small commercial resources.

There is also a gap in the renewables market for these customers. Inverters and other Distributed Energy Resource (DER) equipment costs only barely justify small commercial projects, and the unwillingness of DER companies to adopt protocols like OpenADR means that revenue streams and savings opportunities are often neglected.

Value Proposition and Differentiators

The Serious value proposition is twofold. Serious will bring a world class controls product to the small commercial space, driving energy savings and operational transparency to a class of end users unable to meet the price point of traditional controls systems.  And to electricity intermediaries, Serious will help bring the demand side to the forefront of the modern electric grid by integrating to on-site DER’s, electric markets, and utilities.

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