Monday, December 6, 2010

Pike Research, a worldwide toddler

In less than two years, Pike Research in Boulder has grown legs in the clean-tech analyst industry, and toddled off to Washington D.C., London, South Korea and other parts of the Asia/Pacific.

Clint Wheelock, founder and the sole principal of the firm, says the company is doing that with about 40 people, 25 full-time employees and another 15 contractors. That's a small business that the new governor's economic-development administration should keep an eye on.

"Things have really been moving quickly," said Wheelock, after announcing the opening of the Washington office last week. "Faster than I orginally thought," and despite the national and global recessions.

But clean-tech, a worldwide industry that itself is in its infancy, is like that. Reaching out, growing fast, and learning quickly, without much help from any particular mentor, unless the Chinese government can be considered some kind of rich uncle.

Pike Research, according to its own press releases, "is a market research and consulting firm that provides in-depth analysis of global clean technology markets ... [including the] Smart Energy, Clean Transportation, Clean Industry and Building Efficiency sectors."

Wheelock said the opening of offices in Washington and London adds the fuel-cells sector to the firm's expertise. It's "a big new focus for us, and although fuel cells have been around for a long time, we really think the industry is on the cusp of some real growth -- for probably the first time, despite a lot of (earlier)talk."

"We have specialists in smart-grid and renewable energy, and in energy-efficient buildings and in clean transportation, including electric vehicles and other alternate-fuel vehicles," Wheelock said.

The analysts write research reports that include market size for a particular area of clean-tech operations, like software for smart-grid electricity distribution, Pike's latest research report. The reports estimate current and future market size and segmentation. That latest report, for example, predicts software and services for smart-grid technology will increase from a "relatively small" $356 million annual market in 2010 to $4.2 billion in annual revenue by 2015.

Pike sells that kind of advice in a single report -- "What we call a basic license and which is essentially one to five users within an organization," Wheelock said -- for $3,500. "There's also an enterprise license for large companies that want to post it on their corporate intranet, and that's typically 1.5 times the basic license, so in a typical case it would be $5,250" for an enterprise.

Pike sells its large clients subsciptions that allow access to its analysts for consulting and custom research. Wheelock said the "bulk" of the firm's revenue comes from subscription sales.

"A lot of the larger clients," he said, "are the large multi-national technology and energy companies that have an ongoing need for this, and so they'll sign up for a subscription or multiple subscriptions."

Opening the Washington office has been on Wheelock's radar since he started the company with his own savings. A London office is also in the future, and probably South Korea, Wheelock said.

Big market-research firms have retrenched during the economic downturn, he noted, but that has given Pike an opportunity to establish itself as a brand name for clean-tech analysis.

"The level of competitive intensity is very low, and much lower than I expected," he said. "One of the key things that we're trying to do is take advantage of that competitive vacuum and really assert ourselves as the authority on several of these key emerging areas....

"I absolutely anticipate that there will be a lot more intense competition in a couple of years, and I think we're just trying to get ourselves in a good position as the leader in the States before that happens," Wheelock said.

"It seems to be working very well."

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