Kiran Bhatraju, founder and CEO of Arcadia, joined Episode 38 of the Factor This! podcast to discuss the role of data in upending the energy industry's long-held power dynamics. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Kiran Bhatraju's path to founding and leading Arcadia, the billion-dollar climate tech darling, didn't begin with a deep-seated passion for environmentalism.
Bhatraju grew up in the heart of Appalachia. Coal mines and power plants reigned supreme in his hometown of Pikeville, Kentucky, both as its economic lifeblood and a power source. But it was the utility sector's unmatched power, not the polluting smokestacks, that drew him to the energy industry.
Early in his career, Bhatraju worked as a legislative aide to then-Rep. John Yarmuth, who represented metro Louisville in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2023. In that role Bhatraju learned how deeply intertwined energy is with politics.
"I saw that from working with utilities that this was one of the more corrupt industries in America," Bhatraju said on the Factor This! podcast.
The utility structure bothered Bhatraju. A monopolistic business model fueled by a regulatory rate-of-return-on-dollars-invested paradigm was the toughest to grasp, especially as new, distributed options presented cheaper and cleaner solutions to the same problems.
"I just felt like this was an industry I could work on," he said. "It was obvious that this was going to be one of the biggest economic transitions in history, and I was all in."
Bhatraju realized that meter-level data held immense value. And that data, held tightly by distribution utilities, would be "paramount" to deploying distributed energy resources (DERs).
He noticed a similar evolution in the financial sector. There, technology companies like Plaid were connecting third-party apps (Venmo, Robinhood, etc.) to institutional bank accounts, while providing an enhanced user experience.
"Someone had to build that