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Scott Lang, president and CEO of Silver Spring Networks

Silver Spring Networks CEO speaks on investing in energy tech

By Aubrey Henretty

2/14/2008 - The landscape confronting the energy business today isn’t exactly a stroll in the park, according to some in the field.

First, said Silver Spring Networks President and CEO Scott Lang, the energy sector had to contend with the NIMBY contingent: the people who understood and even contributed to growing demand for energy, but did everything they could to keep new power plants out of their backyards.

“Now we have BANANA,” he said. “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.”

Lang spoke Feb. 12 at the Kellogg School, the latest expert to appear as part of the Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, an event sponsored by Private Equity and Entrepreneurship at Kellogg (PEEK). A 2001 graduate of the Kellogg School’s Advanced Executive Program (AEP), Lang addressed students in the Donald P. Jacobs Center, sharing his insights regarding the challenges of bringing new technology to the energy industry.

Silver Spring Networks works with utility companies and their customers to streamline operations, communication and energy delivery. Before joining the company in 2004, Lang was director of Perot Systems Corp., the Texas-based technology firm founded by former presidential candidate and billionaire Ross Perot. “I thought going to raise capital [for Silver Spring] in the Silicon Valley would just be a cakewalk,” he said. “A hundred venture firms later, we had 100 noes.” Lang said the firms liked the ideas his team presented, but none were willing to take the plunge.

Their tune changed quickly. With the ever-rising energy costs and increased awareness of global climate change, more venture firms began looking for a stake in efficient and renewable energy, Lang said. “We started to see a lot of the things we talked about hit The Wall Street Journal.” He added that representatives of the firms he first approached for funding “have all called back since 2006 asking, ‘Is it too late to get into the company?’”

Lang, whose company was founded in 2002, advised Kellogg students to be mindful of new and disruptive technology to stay ahead of the curve as they built their careers. “Don’t underestimate where you want to be 20 years from now,” he said. “Give it a lot of thought.”