By Brenda Bouw
Pulse Energy co-founder and CEO David Helliwell has a mission to help businesses around the world become more energy efficient.
It’s a ambitious goal, and one Mr. Helliwell and his Vancouver-based company are determined to reach, one region at a time.
Unlike some businesses that try to tackle multiple international markets all at once, Mr. Helliwell says he plans to take a slow, more strategic approach with Pulse Energy, whose software is used by utilities to help their customers improve their energy performance. The Pulse Platform uses analytics and cloud-based technology to help commercial clients manage their energy more efficiently, which enables their clients’ customers to see in real-time where they are using the most energy and how they can increase efficiency and save.
Pulse’s first foray outside of North America came in the spring of 2014, when it announced a major contract with British Gas, the United Kingdom’s largest utility, to serve 600,000 commercial customers across 900,000 supply points. A few months later, Pulse announced Australia’s Ergon Energy would use its platform to serve small and medium sized customers across the state of Queensland.
Helliwell’s goal is to approach markets where there is a recognized need and understanding among utilities focused on engaging customers in energy conservation. That includes North America, as well as the United Kingdom, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.
“These are companies looking for customer loyalty, with a strong appetite to improve energy efficiency,” he says.
Pulse Energy’s International Push
Helliwell started Pulse Energy in 2006 in B.C., with customers such as the University of British Columbia, BC Hydro and the town of Hartley Bay, which was looking to become the greenest First Nation in Canada.
Their first U.S. client was the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which opened the world’s most advanced energy efficiency test bed for buildings.
Helliwell was then introduced to the U.K. market through the company’s work with Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics, where it launched a program to track energy at various venues. British Gas heard about the program and contacted Pulse for more information, which eventually led to the two parties signing the agreement.
“That was our first big international push,” says Mr. Helliwell, who credits co-operation from the Canadian High Commission in London, which since 2011 has been headed by former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell.
Pulse since hired Rolf Fyne of U.K-based market development consultancy Accordo Partners, and a former director of business development for Trade and Invest BC, to look at other opportunities across the U.K and Europe.
Find an Anchor Company First
Fyne says Pulse Energy has been methodical in its international expansion and wise to land an anchor customer first, before going deeper into the market.
“They put all of their resources into landing the British Gas business, stuck to plan and didn’t do anything else until they were pretty sure were going to sign a contract,” Mr. Fyne says.
That strategic approach is helping Pulse Energy open doors in the U.K and other European markets, Fyne says.
Pulse Energy’s Helliwell has some advice for other businesses looking to expand beyond their borders: First, be deliberate about where you want to expand. Second, pace yourself.
“You can blow your brains out if you try to do too many places too quickly,” Mr. Helliwell says. “We are happy with our method of not actively doing too much business development, but responding to inbound interests.”
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