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Houston company acquired by private equity​ firm, plans to expand support of energy transition

The deal and financial support will help Saber to expand its services within the energy transition, including the ability to build out renewables and battery resources amid the electrification of the U.S. economy. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-based infrastructure services platform has been acquired by an energy industry-focused private equity firm.

Saber Power Services announced last month that it has been acquired by an investor group led by Greenbelt Capital Management from funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management. The acquisition was in partnership with funds managed by Schroders Capital, StepStone Group, and Wafra Inc., according to the company's news release.

Saber, founded in 2010, is an electrical services firm that provides design, construction, testing, and maintenance services and solutions across the energy spectrum — renewables, battery storage, utility, industrial, and energy infrastructure markets. The company's customers are located throughout Texas and the Southeast.

“With over a decade of experience, the Saber Power team has demonstrated its ability to provide a safe, reliable and high-performance service offering that excels in complex environments," Brian Bratton, CEO of Saber, says in the release. "We are excited for Saber’s next chapter and believe this investment from Greenbelt demonstrates the market leading position of our business and our customers’ trust in the quality of our work."

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but some of Saber’s management team will maintain ownership of a significant stake in the company, according to the news release. Greenbelt, the acquiring party, secured debt and equity financing from Blackstone Credit.

“We are excited to partner with Greenbelt and look forward to supporting Saber with the next phase of its growth," say Blackstone representatives in the release. "Blackstone Credit invests in market leading energy-transition companies and believes Saber is well-positioned to play an important role in this space.”

The deal and financial support will help Saber to expand its services within the energy transition, including the ability to build out renewables and battery resources amid the electrification of the U.S. economy.

“The energy landscape is rapidly evolving as electrification trends continue to impact commercial and industrial end markets," Sam Graham, principal at Greenbelt, says. "Both physical assets and power markets will need to adapt to support load shifting, bi-directional power flows, and meaningfully increased power demand, all of which require increased grid complexity and strengthens demand for Saber’s specialized engineering, design, construction and maintenance services.”

Chris Murphy, partner at Greenbelt, adds that modernization of the grid is an important sector focus for the company.

"We believe Saber’s end-to-end service platform is critical to facilitate the growing penetration of distributed energy resources across the grid, as well as meet the increasing demands of mass-scale industrial electrification," he says. "We are thrilled to partner with Saber’s experienced and talented executive team and believe our history of investing across the new energy economy will allow us to help accelerate the Company’s growth.”

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A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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