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Seattle utilities startup acquired by South Korean company

July 11, 2016

A Seattle startup that builds software for utilities to efficiently manage the electricity grid has been acquired by a South Korean power-generation company.

1Energy Systems is announcing Monday that it is joining Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction and changing its name to Doosan GridTech. The company will keep its headquarters in Pioneer Square.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. A 1Energy executive said the price was in the “double-digit millions” of dollars.

1Energy was started in 2011 to create software that helps utilities incorporate and manage the flow of all types of electricity in the grid — whether the power comes from solar, wind or other sources.

New energy sources are causing utilities to implement broad changes on how power is delivered and managed, said Rogers Weed, vice president of product management at the company.

“Demand and supply have to be in perfect balance all the time,” Weed said. “It was relatively easy to manage that when we had giant generation plants. But now distributed technology has made the job of balancing the grid much more challenging than it used to be, and software can help with that.”

1Energy has worked with a few local utilities, including Puget Sound Energy and Snohomish PUD, and has worked as a sub-contractor on state and national clean-energy grant-funded projects.

Weed, former director of the state Department of Commerce, and two other 1Energy employees — CEO David Kaplan, a former consultant at Commerce, and Daniel Malarkey, former deputy director of Commerce — were investigated by a state ethics panel after anonymous complaints were filed last year.

The complaints pointed to ties between the former Commerce employees and grant dollars awarded to the private company.

The ethics panel dismissed the complaints in January, saying they were “unfounded or frivolous.”

1Energy said its 25-employee team would all be joining Doosan, and the company will start hiring more staffers quickly. Weed said the company will likely double or triple its workforce in the next one to two years.

“Doosan gives us a bunch of size and stability,” Weed said. “Startups always battle with experience, especially when you’re trying to sell to utilities like we are.”

The deal will also help 1Energy expand internationally, he said.

Washington state has a growing clean-tech industry, much of which focuses on energy storage and distribution. A storage company, Energ2, was acquired by German materials company BASF last month, and Mukilteo industrial battery maker Uni­Energy raised a $25 million funding round in December.

1Energy’s Kaplan will stay on with the company as chief operating officer, and Daejin Choi, a Doosan vice president, will become CEO of the new Doosan GridTech.

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