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Power-grid software maker lands $7M in venture capital

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Blue Pillar Inc., which makes software to manage electrical grids, has closed on $7 million in funding from four venture capital firms, it said Monday.

The Indianapolis-based firm, located at 9025 N. River Road on the northeast side, said it may double its 12-person local staff by year's end and seek additional office space locally.

Among the investors was Allos Ventures, with offices in Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Other investors are Claremont Creek Ventures, Arsenal Venture Partners and OnPoint Technologies—the U.S. Army’s venture capital fund. Allos principal John McIlwraith, Paul Straub from Claremont Creek and Jason Rottenberg from Arsenal all will  join Blue Pillar’s board as part of the deal.

The $7 million investment will help Blue Pillar with product development and let it go after a bigger share of customers who generate their own electricity. These include college campuses, hospitals, manufacturers, telecommunications providers and, increasingly, military bases.

Many of these campus-based generating systems are powered by natural gas, solar and wind generation, for example. The world market for such “microgrids” was $4.1 billion in 2010, according to Rockville, Md.-based SBI Energy.

Blue Pillar CEO Kevin Kushman said these on-campus generating systems often consist of a mishmash of equipment brands and vintages not networked to a central data-control system. Blue Pillar makes software touted at more efficiently managing and analyzing those generating assets. Clients include Tenet Healthcare and Duke University Health System.

Kushman previously worked at Cinergy, the Cincinnati-based utility later acquired by Duke Energy. His team includes Scott Prince, who’d worked in sales for Silicon Valley companies and most recently was executive director of the clean-tech venture firm EnerTech Capital.

Blue Pillar said its annual sales are under $10 million. Kushman said the company also is looking at expanding its customer base in developing countries, where public power grids are often unavailable or unreliable.

Early last year, Blue Pillar moved its headquarters from Alpharetta, Ga., to Indianapolis. It said it planned to add 70 employees by 2015 mostly in software development and sales. The average wage for those jobs is expected to be more than $40 per hour.

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