Clairvest Wins 2023 PE Global Dealmaker Award for AlsoEnergy
In 2007, Robert Schaefer and Holden Caine set out to apply best practices from their experience in the computer industry to the then emerging renewables sector. Later that year they co-founded AlsoEnergy, a company that would become a leader in edge-to-cloud portfolio management and optimization solutions that make clean energy more resilient, manageable, and scalable.
“AlsoEnergy empowers businesses so that they can scale and optimize their utility, commercial and industrial, and aggregated residential clean energy assets,” says Schaefer. “Our value proposition is simple; our software and systems increase the aggregate output of our customers’ clean energy assets, make repairs of those assets faster, and save customers’ time.”
In 2015, Schaefer and Caine met the team from Clairvest Group, Inc., a leading private equity management firm with over C$3.3 billion of capital under management. “Holden and I are both technologists at heart,” says Schaefer. “After conducting an internal gap analysis, we wanted to find a partner who could bring new capabilities to the team and help us grow our business domestically and abroad. Clairvest had a great track record of delivering that and more to the companies they work with. We were particularly drawn to their partnership approach and proven playbook of executing consolidation strategies.”
For a firm as meticulous as Clairvest, meeting Schaefer and Caine was just one step in a multi-year deep dive they had been doing into the solar industry. “Like with many of our investments, we wanted to be associated with the servicing component of the industry,” says Angus Cole, Managing Director at Clairvest. “Once you build an asset like a PV solar facility it has a lifespan of 30 or more years. Someone has to provide the data and intelligence necessary to operate those assets efficiently. Bob and Holden had built an integrated system that provided real time insights to customers. In addition, they had assembled a fantastic management team to execute on their vision for the company.”
In August 2017, Clairvest invested in AlsoEnergy, which kicked off what would become a period of rapid growth for the business. Within less than a year, they had completed three acquisitions, for example, and expanded their footprint into the United States, Germany, India, and Japan which enabled the Company to service over 50 countries. “Clairvest played an integral role in those acquisitions that went well beyond just the capital they provided,” says Schaefer.
“We consolidated AlsoEnergy’s core market through M&A and expanded into new markets, all within the first three quarters of investment,” recalls Cole. “We used to joke about how Bob had laid out his five-year plan in our very first board meeting only to have all the items on it checked off by the third one. The amount of transformation that first year was incredible.”
Over the 54-month partnership, AlsoEnergy continued its rapid growth, more than tripling revenues, growing head count from 91 to nearly 350, and expanding the number of unique sites monitored from 20,000 to over 180,000 in more than 50 countries.
“It was great working with Ken, Angus, Riley, and the entire Clairvest team,” says Schaefer. “We had great chemistry and the kind of mutual respect where you can disagree, hash it out, and ultimately reach a better outcome.”
Cole agrees, saying “Diverse perspectives make for good teams. We all came from very different backgrounds and it was our breadth of experiences and respect for one another that allowed us to make strategic decisions quickly.”
One of those big strategic decisions came in 2022 when they collectively agreed to sell the business. “Our biggest competitor had recently been sold and it led us to start exploring our own exit options,” says Cole.
In February 2022, AlsoEnergy was acquired by Stem, Inc. a global leader in AI-driven energy storage software and services, for $695 million. To date, the deal has yielded a 9.7x multiple on invested capital (MOIC) and an 87 percent internal rate of return (IRR), helping to earn it the CVCA PE Global Deal Maker Award.
“I always used to tell my team that all energy production on the grid will be renewable one day, and driven by the lowest cost and resilience,” says Schaefer. “We were a pure solar play and felt that the future would be solar plus storage. The natural evolution for us was always to either acquire or be acquired by a storage company so the deal with Stem was a logical extension of our vision.”
For the Clairvest team, which has been backing owner operators in proven industries for more than 35 years, the ultimate goal is always to build assets of strategic significance. “We definitely accomplished that with AlsoEnergy,” says Cole. “I am very proud of everything that the team at AlsoEnergy has achieved.”