Omnidian: How to conquer buyers’ fear of storage

BY ROBERT MALTHOUSE

  • Omnidian will use recent capital raise for storage market push
  • Big challenge is winning over ‘risk-averse mass market’
  • Omnidian’s software platform aims to ‘bring confidence’ to storage purchasing

Are your potential customers still struggling with a fear of storage?

While the popularity of energy storage is on the increase, it continues to face the challenge of how to win over more risk-averse clientele.

This is a challenge of which Omnidian, a Seattle-based solar system performance plans and guarantees provider, is acutely aware.

In September this year, the company secured a $33 million Series B capital raise, with part of the proceeds earmarked for investment in the energy storage market. Investors in the funding round included: Activate Capital, Avista Development, Blue Bear Capital, Centrica, City Light Capital, Congruent Ventures, Energy Foundry, Evergy Ventures, IA Capital, Liberty Mutual Insurance, National Grid Partners and WIND Ventures (the venture capital arm of Copec).

Omnidian says its software platform provides the industry’s “only end-to-end performance assurance, including proactive service alerts and field service for the life of residential and commercial solar energy systems, battery storage and more”. 

The company believes the platform will help to give storage system buyers’ confidence that they will be provided with long-term ‘after-sales’ support to enable them to optimise the performance of their system.

Energy Storage Report spoke to Omnidian’s CEO and founder Mark Liffmann, head of product Cedric Brehaut, and CMO and co-founder Brad Davis to find out why the company wants to expand in the storage market, what it sees as the biggest opportunities in storage, and what it views as the biggest obstacles to the wider adoption of storage. 

Why do energy storage assets suit Omnidian’s expansion strategy so well?

Mark Liffmann: If you think about it from the customer perspective when they’re deploying these assets, what they really want is a single provider. They’re long-lived assets. Storage can last ten or more years and solar is up to 25 years meaning users really want a long term, stable partner to work with across multiple assets. We’ve seen this in solar. One of our clients previously had 20 different [operation and maintenance] providers, across their solar systems until we came along and proved that our technology could work across their entire portfolio. And it’s the same story for solar-storage assets. Asset owners just want their assets to work as efficiently as possible so they can continue to run their businesses or homes and that’s what we can provide.

Cedric Brehaut: The only thing I would add from the homeowner’s perspective is that it’s not even two separate products. It’s sold to them as a solar-battery and the general customer won’t even understand that these are two separate systems, making it extremely important to make sure they have a unified experience.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities in energy storage?

Mark Liffmann: I think the biggest opportunity right now is to mature the space. Storage on the distributed side is really early in its adoption curve. So, it’s still a little wild west and I’ve been in solar for 20 years, so I remember when solar was there. So right now, it’s about improving the customer experience and maturing the products. The [original equipment manufacturers] have figured out how to manufacture and make great products, but they’re still figuring out how to get those products serviced and allow people to connect with them. At the same time [application programming interfaces] are still evolving with storage providers, so it’s about maturing the industry and allowing us to get to the mainstream customer like how solar is starting to do now.

Cedric Brehaut: I also think that maturity will get there in pockets of the market quicker than others as has been the case for solar. There are certain states and even parts of states, where power shut offs, power outages, weather events, natural disasters and so on, have caused a higher consumer demand and appetite for storage and so, in these areas, we’re going to see faster growth. This will lead us to that tipping point quicker, where we move from early adopters to the mass market. And it’s in those states that we’re going to see the greater need for that transition in terms of the user experience towards risk-free, easy-to-use and no hassle, which is where our industry needs to be in order to reach and satisfy those customers.

What do you see as the biggest obstacles to the wider adoption of energy storage?

Brad Davis: I think some of the biggest obstacles to adoption right now really are mental. It’s like I often say to people, the customer today looks very much like the customer five years ago – whether they’re sitting across the dining room table or a corporate boardroom – they look the same, but what they actually have is a different mental perspective. As the market shifts from early adopters to the risk adverse mass market, they’re basically fearful. And that’s where we come in and help bring confidence to the purchasing experience.

Do you think we’ll be seeing more of your competitors moving into the energy storage market?

Mark Liffmann: Yeah, I think we’ll see more of that shift over time. We’re pretty unique in terms of competitors. We usually say that we compete with the status quo and the status quo is that the after-sale experience for long-term assets like solar and energy storage is the owner’s problem. It’s usually up to them to find operation and maintenance when and where they need it. Of course, some of the original equipment manufacturers do offer more aftermarket products on the storage side, but it will be interesting to see how that evolves over time as it’s difficult to manufacture a product, then distribute it, and then be responsible long term for the customer’s experience.

Image (left to right): Brad Davis, Mark Liffmann, Cedric Brehaut

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