Uptake has had a busy couple of months, and no one could argue the company is still in stealth mode. Recent notable events include:
- February 2018 - Hires Ganesh Bell as President, formerly Chief Digital Officer at GE Power
- April 2018 - Holds first annual analyst summit at HQ in Chicago
- April 2018 - Announces acquisition of Asset Performance Technologies, Inc. (APT)
Bringing on Ganesh Bell was certainly a bold move – but not out of context for either Ganesh or the founder/CEO Brad Keywell. I was at a GE dinner last year at Hannover Messe when Ganesh gave a speech bidding goodbye to many of his top GE colleagues. At that time, it was clear he was staying committed to the space in general but wanted to join a more entrepreneurial outfit.
For Brad, this is just a continuation of how he approaches being a highly successful serial entrepreneur. Identify big unsolved problems, build a company from scratch that disrupts the status quo, hand over the reins of the company to a similarly passionate and disruptive leader.
At the analyst summit, Brad and Ganesh highlighted their vision for the company over the coming years. The company has a singular focus, to use artificial intelligence (AI) to disrupt how industrial companies manage asset performance and provide step change performance improvement. The company takes an industry-focused approach, seeking out market leaders, selling the vision to these CEOs, and build industry applications on top of the company’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform to quickly roll out to others in the industry.
The strategy is one that has yielded impressive results to date, with the company claiming 50+ customers live, four industry solutions ready to go for rail, wind, transportation, and dealers and four others in the process of being built out now for manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, and chemicals.
After the high-level strategy and vision talks by Ganesh and Brad, Greg Goff – Chief Product Officer dove into the details. From the presentations, Uptake is building an asset-centric IIoT platform with industry-specific applications as the main go-to-market approach. The platform is multi-cloud and built upon a combination of open-source and proprietary technology. Some of the applications are workflow, transactional, or optimization in nature; but most of the apps are AI-centric, with the main value proposition being proprietary algorithms that benefit from information sharing across value chain participants.
Overall, LNS was impressed with what we saw but identified several areas in need of focus over the coming years:
- Lack of industry expertise within the company (many of the data scientists come from other industries like financial services)
- Lack of an asset class-centric approach (pumps, drives, motors, bearings, etc. span many of the industries Uptake targets) but the subsequent acquisition of APT mitigates this.
- Lack of 1st principles-based failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) models as a starting point for AI algorithms and cultural connection with existing engineers in industry
Fortunately, the acquisition of APT has the potential to address many of these concerns with successful integration of the two companies. As noted in the upcoming addendum to LNS’ APM 4.0 Solution Selection Guide (SSG) “The APT acquisition gives Uptake the dominant asset strategy library in the market today with approximately 800 equipment types, over 5000 PM tasks with intervals, over 55,000 FMEA rows and over 175,000 reportable conditions. Additionally, APT adds extensive domain expertise in nuclear power, mining and steel, and petrochemicals/oil and gas which complements Uptakes existing expertise in rail, wind energy, and the services sectors. Its partners/licensees include GE Digital (Meridium), Bentley, EPRI, Oracle, Silcar, and Rolls-Royce."
LNS Research Take
We currently track nearly 20 early stage software vendors targeting the advanced industrial analytics space, and most of these companies highlight AI and asset performance as the top use case. Uptake, along with C3IoT, are a order of magnitude ahead of these competitors regarding money invested and ability to sell the vision of AI at the executive level. Most of these companies count their investment dollars in the $10s of millions, Uptake and C3IoT count in the $100s of millions. The recent moves Uptake has made, and the initial story shared at the analyst day early this month impressed both analysts that attended (Matthew Littlefield and Dan Miklovic). We believe the company has made many of the right moves in its early days and is well positioned to succeed in the space.
But most importantly, we don't believe Uptake - or any of the other advanced industrial analytics / IIoT platform players – has cracked the code to AI for industrial assets. There is still much work left to be done for all these companies; and the final, most successful solution, may look little like what current solutions do today. To that end, the culture and vision that has been developed thus far at Uptake may well be the most agile and adaptable of any we have seen; and these capabilities will be tested over the coming years.
If the company is successful in integrating acquisitions, taking on new industries, and moving quickly to ramp up new customers; there won’t be much that stands in its way.