Founder and CEO of Anacle Systems
YEARS IN OPERATION: 11
THE TECH: Tesseract is a smart metering device enabling users to manage their energy consumption efficiently. Its capabilities can be expanded with the installation of additional apps.
An innocuous-looking 92mm cube – so inconspicuous that you probably won’t even notice it in your apartment. Yet it can change the way the world uses energy. This is Tesseract, the latest product developed by Anacle Systems, a Singapore-based start-up that specialises in property and energy management for buildings.
An industrial meter that records power consumption, it is the first of its kind in the world to boast 64-bit computing power and 10GB in-device storage encryption capabilities. What the technology translates to: smart energy management like no other.
“It is a ‘living product’ that can evolve with your needs,” says the company’s 44-year-old founder and CEO, Alex Lau. It’s akin to the smartphone that also acts as your e-wallet, health tracker and more, depending on the apps you download onto it.
Now, imagine Tesseract as that all-rounder device when it comes to everything related to energy consumption. Lau projects that – when outfitted with the right apps on its Android operating system – the Tesseract can perform functions such as switching off dormant devices and analysing power consumption patterns to detect malfunctioning equipment.
A prototype of the Tesseract was unveiled in July this year and Lau is currently working to have it installed in buildings in Singapore. “This will, hopefully, be to the energy management landscape what Android phones are to the smartphone industry,” he says. Like Android phones, the Tesseract is an open invitation for developers to create applications that will upgrade the data collecting device’s functions. By doing so, it is creating a whole new R&D landscape previously non-existent.
“While it is easy to design and build a new green building, it is difficult – and expensive – to retrofit old buildings for energy efficiency.”
Perhaps it is the fact that Lau got into the facility and asset management field by chance that he is able to think out of the box. He started out as a spacecraft engineer for Singapore’s Defence Science Organisation. When his Stanford classmates asked him to join their Silicon Valley company in 1999, he jumped at the opportunity and was put in charge of designing a software for procuring construction materials online.
Thus began his journey into the world of energy management. Through client feedback, he realised the need for an affordable energy management system – the Tesseract is priced at US$400 (S$545) per unit. “While it is easy to design and build a new green building, it is difficult – and expensive – to retrofit old buildings for energy efficiency.” It was a huge market to be exploited.
However, his return to Singapore in 2006 to set up Anacle (with his army mate Charles Ong) saw Lau being thrown into a whole new environment. Where the start- up industry in Silicon Valley was abuzz with eager investors, the local market was conservative. He worked with an initial capital of $300,000 – most of which came from his own pocket. It took five years of development and two years of field trials before Starlight – a self-managing energy system comprising meters, data servers, as well as management and analytics software – was launched.
The wait was worthwhile, for, today, his clients include names such as Singapore Airlines, Capitamalls and Taipei 101. According to a Frost & Sullivan report in 2015, Anacle has a 17 per cent market share in the local building energy management systems sector. And last year, when the company successfully listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange’s Growth Enterprise Market, it was valued at $52 million. With Tesseract, the company is expected to ride a new wave of growth.
“It has been a roller-coaster ride,” says Lau. “In the beginning, it was about keeping the company afloat. But as the company grows bigger, there’s shareholder pressure and quarterly reports. And once you are 130 employee-strong, the ship no longer steers so easily. Starting up and maintaining growth are equally difficult.
“The best part about it all is that you have no idea what’s ahead. The future is full of possibilities.”
IN 60 SECONDS
When I was younger I was an introvert. But as an entrepreneur, I can’t be that. I’ve learnt that if I try hard enough, I can change myself.
I read about anything that is not related to technology: natural sciences, human history, recipes. So many ideas on how to change things come from unrelated reading.
I am an atheist, and I believe that this is the only life I will have. If you don’t leave a legacy in this life, I would have made no difference.
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