Highlights from SPARK 2019

Amy Hou  |  April 29, 2019   |  Urjanet News  


Urjanet’s sixth annual utility data conference, SPARK 2019, brought an unprecedented diversity of perspectives together. Thought leaders and decision-makers across energy management, bill payment, and financial services shared a surprising amount of common themes, as they dove into the future of innovation in their industries – and how utility data plays a key role in driving that innovation.

Innovation arises from solving messy problems

One common theme: the best ideas often come from the worst headaches. As CheckFree founder and fintech visionary Pete Kight said in his fireside chat, the size of the moat that’s created by “messyware” is the key to success. Finding the messy problems and figuring out how to solve them will always be valued.

Likewise, Jay Koh, managing partner at the Lightsmith Group, said one of the top factors he looks for in a successful venture is whether it is solving a real pain point. Early-stage investor and founder of Commerce Ventures Dan Rosen agreed; sometimes he searches for new investment opportunities by way of “fanatical deep dives into the problem” at hand.

Speaking of messy problems: climate change was top of mind for many at SPARK 2019. It’s certainly no longer ignored by business at large – as EY Executive Director Chris Hagler pointed out, only eight percent of investors said they would change their minds about an investment due to climate change risk last year. This year, 48 percent of investors would.

48% of investors would reconsider an investment due to climate change risk alone.

A positive result of people taking climate change risk more seriously is the innovation that comes out of it. Cox Automotive changes more tires every year than General Motors. Faced with such an overwhelming problem of waste, the company rose to the challenge. Utilizing a new technology to break used tires down to their elements and produce a usable fuel, Cox broke the “take, make, waste” cycle and added value to boot.

People want convenience – and they’re willing to pay for it

“The only thing advancing faster than technology is consumer expectations,” said Patrick Howard, VP of Product Management & Strategy at Fiserv. According to Howard, we’re entering a new era of the “connected consumer,” where companies like Apple, Lyft, and Amazon are setting the new norm for digital-first engagement.

“The only thing advancing faster than technology is consumer expectations.”

Industries outside of tech need to step up and pay attention to consumer expectations, too. Guppy CEO Sanjib Kalita found that 37 percent of consumers want their bank to be more like Amazon. Consumers want speed, transparency, and ease of use, no matter what they’re buying.

With convenience and digital engagement in mind, Urjanet’s VP of Product Matt Kuo announced a new product capability at SPARK 2019: Urjanet Connect for energy management and bill payment. Through the secure web interface of Urjanet Connect, end users can link their utility accounts to the Urjanet Utility Data Platform quickly and easily, streamlining a formerly arduous process.

The industry is moving toward a single source of truth

No one at SPARK 2019 came in doubting the importance of data. But while data access has improved over time, centralizing data into one place still poses a challenge. Sarah Diegnan, VP of Customer Success at Lucid, described the transition: “Ten years ago, the push was: ‘We have no data.’ Then we entered this realm of ‘What do we do with all this data?’ Now, we’re turning to ‘What platforms can take in all of this data and make smart decisions with it?’”

Of course, simply having more platforms doesn’t solve the information problem. Cobb Pearson, Americas Energy Delivery Lead at Accenture, argued that the digital marketplace has become saturated. Commercial energy users don’t have the time to visit a platform for every utility account; they need a platform that can show them all of their bills. Today, Urjanet and its partners are the way to make that happen.

Energy management isn’t the only market demanding a single source of truth; bill payment suffers from many of the same siloes. At SPARK 2019, AvidXchange CEO and co-founder Michael Praeger shared how before his company partnered with Urjanet, one of their larger customers highlighted a key pain point: “I have 300 sites, 312 banking accounts, and seven different accounting softwares. I want them all under one system.”

SPARK 2019 ignites innovation

And so, SPARK 2019 came full circle. Industry executives across energy management, bill payment, and financial services showed how they use the power of utility data to tackle messy problems, improve customer engagement, and build actionable sources of information. All the while, they proved their undeniable value to and impact on people, planet, and profits.

To learn more about the conference, visit the SPARK website. Stay tuned for presentations and recordings from SPARK 2019 sessions!

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About Amy Hou

Amy Hou is a Marketing Manager at Urjanet, overseeing content and communications. She enjoys writing about the latest industry updates in sustainability, energy efficiency, and data innovation.

Tags   Climate Change   |   FinTech   |   Online Lending   |   SPARK   |   Technology   |   Urjanet   |   Utility Bill Management   |   Utility Data   |