Software duo chase US sales

Utility billing company Wel Technology and internet software company InfoLink have joined forces to enter the deregulating US energy market.

Utility billing company Wel Technology and internet software company InfoLink have joined forces to enter the deregulating US energy market.

Auckland-based InfoLink aims to capitalise on the high levels of customer “churn” frustrating Wel’s customers, as the US market opens up state by state and energy customers become free to move retailers.

One of its products is a web-based messaging system that allows energy retailers to swap customers at the push of a button.

The two companies say their relationship, which is not a formal joint venture, has a one-up on US products struggling to adapt from a regulated market. They join local company Peace Software, which recently completed a major installation at Nordic Electric in Michigan. It has 14 sites live around the world, and is heading for a Nasdaq listing.

Both Wel and Peace, which don't consider themselves competitors, are aiming for the lion's share of the $US36 billion to $US40 billion US utilities spend a year on software.

Wel Technology chief executive Gavin Mitchell says he plans to recommend InfoLink to all his customers.

“There is potential for us to promote this in the US market, where we can take a lead in selling the product,” Mitchell says.

Wel Technology, owned by Spectrum Resources, has 80% of the local energy retailer market with its time, tariff and incentive-based billing and CRM product, PV2. In the US, a market it says will account for half its revenue this fiscal year, two deals made public include licensing PV2 to Lucent – which has an option to acquire a 20% stake in the company – and one with MidAmerican Energy. The two sales total $2.5 million.

It also counts as customers over 70 lines companies in Ontario.

Wel and InfoLink share a link through Voyager founder John O’Hara, the former chief executive of Wel Tech and now chairman of InfoLink.

NZ Post-backed InfoLink will still set up a US office because the energy market is only one of many it is targeting, says marketing manager Phill Dagger. InfoLInk’s core product, InfoShare, is a messaging system that is also an internet portal to watch the progress of orders.

InfoLink has held talks with government ministers who have publicly condemned the amount of time it takes for retail companies to switch customers.

At the moment in New Zealand, where InfoLink is soon to announce more customers, the Maria (metering and reconciliation industry) agreement sets out a process and an electronic format for information to be swapped. But handing over the information and notifying all parties, such as meter readers, is convoluted, much of it done by hand.

Mitchell says after the electricity and gas markets Wel plans to target the water and telco markets.

Spectrum has bought the source code for E-Force’s Power Choice software to help build a planned thin client development of PV2.

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